Trial and error

By Julie Sammarco

Fabricator Bryan Stalcup starts anew with his second hand-built bike, the Transformer

August 2012 - Discovery Channel recently visited Bryan Stalcup, a plumber and fabricator of Big Hubless, to catch a sneak peek of the Transformer, the second hand-crafted motorcycle he is building.

“The Daily Planet,” a Discovery Channel show, documented Stalcup—winner of the People’s Choice Award for his work on the Big Hubless—working on the bike and making adjustments. The show covered the bike’s initial engineering plans, which included adding hydraulics to a donated bike. Building the bike with hydraulics was a challenge because, as the video states, hydraulically driven bikes are unheard of.

The coverage showed the bike nearly complete. But after experiencing engineering difficulties—the hydraulics proved to be too heavy and created an unstable shift when extending the wheels away from the bike—Stalcup decided to scrap the work he’d done on the Transformer and start over, this time with hopes of winning a Builders Choice Award.


Today, the Transformer is being built from scratch and is designed to stretch the front wheel out 8 in. in front of the bike, and stretch the rear wheel out 8 in. behind the bike, lowering and elongating it and ultimately transforming the bike. Building this project from scratch is a first-time experience for Stalcup and a necessary feat to win the award.

“The only thing that won’t be made from scratch will be the engine. But everything else, including the frame, is going to be made by hand from scratch,” he says.
 “The bike needed to be lighter,” he continues. “I’m still using hydraulics for the back wheel, but I decided not to use the hydraulics to transform it. I’m going to use electric linear actuators instead. I didn’t know I could get the power out of them. They’re a lot lighter. So when I realized that, I decided to start all over.”

Starting from scratch
Using ¼-in. steel, 2-in. tubular steel, pipe, angle finders, laser levels and handheld welders, Stalcup is building this bike from the ground up.

“I started with the frame. I literally just went out and bought some pipe. That, along with the equipment and skills I got from Sturgis helped a lot,” he says. The frame and body covering the internal engineering are being welded together using hand-held welders and grinders. Using tubular steel and pipe also helped Stalcup give the bike the rounded attributes he wanted.


Building the frame was the most-challenging part of the project for Stalcup. Not having a frame jig forced him to create the frame using freestyle methods, “welding the frame to a plate to keep it straight. Angle grinders and laser levels helped keep measurements accurate. Having never built a frame before, Stalcup called it a “pretty interesting” experience and says there are perks to starting from scratch. “I can build it exactly the way I want to,” he says. Big Hubless, his first bike project, was built around a donated bike.

Because this is Stalcup’s second time building a custom motorcycle, he is recalling many of the techniques he used on Big Hubless. He also has learned more about welding. “Since building the Big Hubless, I’ve learned how to weld a lot better,” he continues. “The Lincoln Electric guys helped me out a lot. It made a big difference this time around.”

Because the bike is still in its beginning stages, “it’s hard to say what it’ll look like when it’s done,” Stalcup says. “It’ll definitely look like a sports bike, but it’ll be narrower and more rounded. Everything will be tubular and rounded.”

The debut date also has not been set. Stalcup plans to ride it at this year’s Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in Sturgis, S.D., but says he won’t be done with it. “I’m not going to rush this one. In order to win the Builders Choice Award, everything except the engine has to be made from scratch. And that’s the award I’m going for this time.” FFJ


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