Custom Builder Eddie Meeks Quantum Leap

November 30, 2010
Bryan Harley
Bryan Harley
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Our resident road warrior has earned his stripes covering the rally circuit, from riding the Black Hills of Sturgis to cruising Main Street in Daytona Beach. Whether it's chopped, bobbed, or bored, metric to 'Merican, he rides 'em all.

It took four years and 2200 man hours to build this one-off custom since most of its parts were designed and milled by Eddie Meeks.
Quantum Leap scoffs at conventional custom motorcycle design with its front wheel drive and rear wheel steering system. Even the standard wheel arrangement has been swapped out as a mammoth Vee Rubber 360mm tire leads the way while a slim 160mm tread rudders the back end.

Eddie Meeks is a modern day renaissance man. Acoustic guitar maker, painter, sculptor, engineer, architect, custom bike builder – Meeks is a man of many talents. Not bad for a guy who walked away from his commercial art classes in college after the very first day. Being self-taught or learning through apprenticeships makes the many skills he demonstrates even more impressive.

Meeks started doing custom paint jobs on electric guitars right out of high school for Roscoe’s Guitars in Greensboro, North Carolina. After years of perfecting his art form on guitars, Meeks moved up to a larger canvas – custom painted motorcycles. Not complacent to simply paint bikes, Meeks decided “If you want an Eddie Meeks paint job, you’re going to be getting it on an Eddie Meeks’ motorcycle” so he started building them as well and along with partner Simon Solomon formed Hardly Civilized Inc. in 1994. It didn’t take long before he was fabricating everything himself, from sheet metal and tanks to custom exhausts and seats. This lead to cover shots on magazines like American Iron, Biker and Easyriders.

After about ten years of building custom bikes, the allure wore off. For Meeks, bike shows became full of the same old, same old, so he channeled his energy into other challenges like architecture and designing houses to creating sculptures from copper and aluminum. Soon after, the TV boom and motorcycle-related programs like Biker Build-Off and Motorcycle Mania started gaining in popularity. The flame began to burn in Meeks again after assisting fellow North Carolinian Kendall Johnson on a Biker Build-Off project. The project inspired him to do something extraordinary, something that would “blow people’s minds.” Thus, the idea for Quantum Leap, a front wheel drive, rear wheel steer motorcycle was spawned.

It would take four years for the project to evolve from concept to construction. Meeks kept his project a secret as he meticulously designed and fabricated almost every

A series of shafts  ring-and-pinion gears and universal joints transfer the power from the Baker Right-Side Drive transmission to the front wheel of Quantum Leap.
A series of shafts, ring-and-pinion gears and universal joints transfer the power from the Baker Five-Speed Right-Side Drive transmission to the front wheel of Quantum Leap.
Features like an internal throttle and clutch  air suspension and 360 brakes constitute a clean and tidy custom motorcycle.
Features like an internal throttle and clutch, air suspension and 360 brakes keep Quantum Leap’s lines clean and tidy.

piece of the puzzle in his spare time. The list gleaned from the AMD World Championship spec sheet is long – pipes, oil tank, gas tanks (it has two), all sheet metal, handlebars, grips/pegs, brake/shifter components, all drive components/gearboxes/shafts, axles, seat base and wiring harness all by Eddie Meeks. Quantum Leap required 2200 hours to build based on logs kept of time spent on the project.
 
In switching from conventional rear wheel drive dynamics of a standard motorcycle, Meeks began by sourcing a behemoth Vee Rubber 360mm tire to anchor the front end. Believing that a fender would look dumb over such a wide swath of black rubber, he had to design the frame and sheet metal over the tire to get the look he wanted. The front tire doesn’t turn, which allowed him to form the sheet metal directly over the tire while maintaining a streamlined look.

So just how do you switch up the dynamics to get the power to the front? We’ll let Meeks explain it in his own words.
 
“Originally I was going to design a custom-made transmission. The original layout was going to be an over/under gear set-up instead of a side-by-side arrangement like a Harley. I was going to make a custom transmission housing that was going to sit in front of the engine with a direct drive straight out of the transmission straight into the driveshaft, just like a BMW motorcycle, which would have eliminated all of the problems of getting the power to the front wheel.”

But he lacked a gear machine or a case-hardening machine needed to make the necessary gears, shafts and splines, so he scratched the idea and redesigned the bike to use a Baker Five-Speed Right-Side Drive transmission.

“I figured out I could take the right-side drive transmission and mill out a plate that I could attach to the transmission. I had them send me the housing and remilled it, trap dooring everything to accept the plate I inserted it into. This plate was going to hold another bearing housing and shaft which I made and ran the chain from the Baker up to another sprocket that was going to drive a shaft under the seat. That shaft is parallel with all the gears in the transmission and is run to a ring-and-pinion gear, just like on the front swingarm. In fact, it uses the same gear set as the one I milled out for the swingarm. I used an oil bath gear housing hidden under the sheet metal so that the shaft that runs into the ring-and-pinion gear now turns the power perpendicular. That gear housing has now converted my power from what’s needed to turn a rear wheel into going straight forward. At that point, all I needed to do was to get that power shafted down with vertical joints to the swingarm. The whole drivetrain is basically a Right-Side Drive Baker that has a sprocket instead of a pulley. I had to remill out their housing because it shoots the chain out the back and I had to have the chain shoot out the top.”

“With the power turned forward, I ran that spline to a ring-and-pinion gear that is fixed and that particular universal joint is pinned. The shaft at the bottom of the swingarm is

Under Quantum Leaps bodywork is a tubular frame with a touch of flat steel that houses a 101 cubic-inch Patrick Racing V-Twin fed by a Mikuni carb.
Under Quantum Leap’s bodywork is a tubular frame with a touch of flat steel that houses a 101 cubic-inch Patrick Racing V-Twin fed by a Mikuni carb.

a greased, sliding spine shaft that’s O-ringed so it slides up and down so when your front suspension moves, it can move up and down and slide in and out as it needs to, much like a car’s driveshaft. That goes into another driveshaft you can see in the drilled-out pocket in the swingarm which goes into another pinned ring-and-pinion gear which turns the power back to the way the transmission wants it to be. This is splined and goes into a 40mm stainless steel shaft and a 10-45 axle deal that’s got a one-piece hub that’s threaded and bolts to the front tire.” Got it?

Now that the Quantum Leap’s got power to the front, the next major piece of the puzzle is its rear-wheel steering system. Once again, we defer to the engineer to explain the logistics.

“The steering is all hydraulic fluid. There are two dual-action hydraulic piston cylinders up front which the handlebars are attached directly to. They have two oil reservoirs with the piston in the middle so when the piston is pushed it’s pushing the oil on the backside and when it’s pulled it’s pushing the oil on the front side. They’re large and have a short throw, around 1 ¼ inch. They go down through hydraulic oil lines into another set of hydraulic push/pull dual-action cylinders which are attached to the rear triple trees. They have about a four-inch stop from all the way in to all the way out since you need to move the rear more than the handlebars. When you turn the handlebar to the right, it’s pushing fluid on that right-side piston on the far end of it. On the left side of the handlebar, the right hand piston is pulling the oil on the backside through a line that is going into the opposite side, on the push side of its cylinder. The left cylinder that is pushing the fluid, it’s pushing it to the other cylinder and to the rear cylinder on the push and the pull. So you’ve got four actions going on at all times. Fluid is constantly pushing and pulling on both sides.”

Admittedly, Meeks said he went overboard on the engineering of Quantum Leap. He could have simplified the steering with solid mechanical linkage if he would have

Quantum Leap features rear wheel steering via a series of hydraulic pistons.
Quantum Leap features rear wheel steering via a series of hydraulic pistons.

opted not to use front and rear suspension on the bike. But it does have Custom Cycle Controls’ air shocks, front and back, so he devised the intricate hydraulic steering system because the mechanical linkage would bind up every time the bike turned and the suspension compressed. If he would have made it a rigid, Meeks said he could have eliminated about 350 hours of design work dedicated to working on the suspension alone.

Quantum Leap sources 360 Brakes hidden in the hub which allow the full luster of the RMD Billet Wheels to shine through. Under the sleek bodywork is a tubular frame with a touch of flat steel that houses a 101 cubic-inch Patrick Racing V-Twin fed by a Mikuni carb. The plating of the bodywork is nickel in three shades – shiny, black and copper. There is a notable absence of chrome. Meeks envisioned Porsche 911-style bodywork at first, but didn’t like that much. He wanted something more streamlined and flowing. He painted a water cooler painting of a sketch he did on an illustration board which would ultimately serve as the template for the final design. Once it was approved by Simon Solomon, Quantum Leap’s eventual owner, Meeks began working on the bike.

To add to its clean design, Quantum Leap is equipped with an internal throttle and an internal clutch. Since a Baker racing clutch requires such an iron pull, Meeks designed a mechanism attached to the frame under the seat whereby the pull cable from the internal clutch goes into a pulley system that turns different size pulleys and cuts the leverage ratio needed to operate the clutch by approximately 40%. With his system, it’s much easier to turn the grip on the internal clutch.

Meeks is the only person to hitch a leg over Quantum Leap and experience the dynamics of his front wheel driven creation. This was done under the controlled conditions of

Quantum Leap has sleek  streamlined bodywork made of nickel plating.
We first saw Quantum Leap at the 2010 AMD World Championships of Custom Bike Building in Sturgis where it took 7th place in the Freestyle Class.
We first saw Quantum Leap at the 2010 AMD World Championships of Custom Bike Building in Sturgis where it took 7th place in the Freestyle Class.

a parking lot at low speeds.

“The bike’s so expensive, it’s a concept that’s going to be shown and to ride it and to take a chance of chipping or scratching it, it’s not worth it. All we wanted to do was make sure it worked, which we did.”

Meeks said the steering felt “kind of weird” explaining that when you do something for the first time totally different from what you’ve done your entire life, it naturally is going to feel odd at first. Learning to steer it definitely takes a learning curve. The bike was built as a show piece and will ultimately end up in a private collection after it makes the bike show rounds. It is titled in North Carolina, though, has undergone state inspection and has been granted a serial number and frame sticker.

Quantum Leap ranks as one of the most intriguing custom motorcycles we’ve come across in a long time. We first saw it at Sturgis where it took 7th place in the Freestyle Class at the AMD World Championship of Custom Bike Building. Meeks recently entered it in the Easyriders Bike Show in Atlanta where it took “Best of Show” honors and afterwards was photographed through the lens of Michael Lichter. Meeks said people mobbed around it at the show, heads four to five deep with camera’s flashing.

His next project is already on the drafting table. It won’t be as radical as a front-wheel drive, rear-wheel steering motorcycle, but Meeks said it will be impressive nonetheless. He plans on making a bike completely out of carbon fiber with the goal of making it as lightweight as possible while sourcing a very unique yet undisclosed powerplant. It will be designed with sights on a possible limited production run rather than the almost impossible-to-duplicate design of Quantum Leap, an engineering marvel in the guise of a custom motorcycle whose design da Vinci could appreciate.

* Horst Roesler photos courtesy of Eddie Meeks and the AMD World Championship of Custom Bike Building.

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