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Plasma Technology

No blueprint, no problem

By Nick Wright

Bryan Stalcup’s newest bike transforms a concept into a custom creation

August 2011 - Last August, Bryan Stalcup entered his Big Hubless chopper—a fabricated-from-scratch, custom ride born from scrap yard finds—into the 2010 Sturgis Motorcycle Rally Garage Shop Fabricator Contest. After he won the competition but before he left South Dakota, he already had the idea for his next bike, the Transformer.

Lorenzo Lamas, a Hollywood actor and bike fabricator himself, was one of the 2010 judges that selected Stalcup’s Big Hubless, which boasted the most custom fabricated work in the contest. He sparked the flame for Stalcup to get rolling on his next creation.

“We were all just joking around,” Stalcup says. “Lorenzo Lamas was asking us what we were going to build next.” Stalcup floated the idea of a bike with an extending front and back end that stretches out and drops down, fully controlled by the rider. Lamas loved the suggestion, inspiring Stalcup to go from idea to ignition.

The Transformer is built on a Honda CBR600 sport motorcycle that Flying Tire Motorcycle, Fort Worth, Texas, donated to him. Stalcup’s goal is to have both the fork and back end, using a hydraulic drive system, stretch out 8 in., while allowing the neck to swivel. Fully extended, that will put the wheelbase at just under 6 ft. “You can control it to make it go out or back in, whenever you want to,” he says. Instead of the chain connecting to the rear wheel like on most motorcycles, the transmission is connected through a hydraulic line that “will flex when the back wheel extends out and comes back,” he says. The hydraulic feed and return lines are integrated into the frame and will be concealed by the bike’s body when it’s installed.

Both rims, instead of spokes, will contain Lexan polycarbonate, a clear, high-strength resin plastic that’s often used in bulletproof glass. “It’ll have metal on the outside like a regular rim, but there won’t be any center. It’ll still have hubs and everything, just in between the hub and outside of the rim it’ll be clear.”

Stalcup is about a quarter complete with the Transformer. However, he expects to be done with the bike by autumn. All of his progress is made in his garage after work or on weekends with a mix of tools, including a Hobart Handler 125 welder, Hypertherm Powermax 30 plasma cutter system and an English wheel metal former. Self-taught fabricator Stalcup, a master plumber by trade and owner of Drain Works of Forth Worth, Arlington, Texas, has no formal fabricating or welding experience. His self-taught knack for fabrication developed from dabbling with the $300 Hobart MIG welder he purchased to fix a leaky pinhole in his truck’s air conditioning line. It would’ve cost $500 to have the line fixed, so he took a do-it-yourself approach. “I took the welder home, hooked it up, put the wire in and tapped the line. I had it checked, and it was good to go,” Stalcup says.

In 2009, he decided to build Big Hubless, the award-winning bike with a rear wheel sans hub or axle that sits on an industrial machine bearing. Stalcup sourced the bearing and most of the bike’s metal from scrap yards. As a tradesman who works with his hands on a problem-solving basis, few of his plumbing skills translate over to custom motorcycle fabrication. “On the back wheel, there’s a piece of pipe in there. That’s the only thing that has to with plumbing,” he says. “Nobody in my family is in fabrication at all.”

His prior experience with building Big Hubless and now The Transformer, all done in-house, suggests that a part-by-part, vision-driven approach will realize any design. Regarding Big Hubless, “I didn’t really have a plan, kept going and building as I went,” Stalcup says. “Everyone’s like, ‘Where did you get the drawings for it, did you draw it?’ I never drew a thing.”

Tackling the details and components of a motorcycle fabrication project, Stalcup acknowledges, is a learning process—one that he shares in detail through up-close videos he posts on YouTube. “I even show my mistakes and talk about them. I’m just learning myself,” he says. “Everybody can do something. It just depends on how bad you want it.” FFJ

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