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Custom Builder Eddie Meeks Quantum Leap

Tuesday, November 30, 2010
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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Comments
Jack -fastest land vehicle ever had rear wheel steering  December 7, 2010 04:23 PM
That was Richard Noble's fabulous Thrust SSC. The rear wheel steering worked so poorly that after the sound barrier was broken, Andy Green, the very brave driver, said that they would not be attempting any more runs. I was there. It was way cool. You could see the shock wave when the car went supersonic. At the same time, the 10 ton vehicle was lifted right off of the ground, riding some six inches above the ground on the shock wave for the whole time the thing was going faster than sound. It was when it was off of the ground that it had no way to steer. The only reason it went in a straight line was because the heavy bits were in front, like an arrow. Hey it had more wheels than two, but it also had rear wheel steering, which everyone involved decided did not work for that particular application, which is why I brought it up. Thanks, you all.
ca -known to be unstable  December 7, 2010 03:01 AM
so guys. Such an attempt was made for bikes at past, and rear wheel steering is known to be unstable
Groundhog -HA!  December 6, 2010 02:17 PM
Thank god he hasn't designed any aircraft, it probably would have one wing and just taxi in circles inside a hangar. But maybe it would have a nice paint job. Stick to guitars ace.
Racer1 -Let me get this straight...  December 3, 2010 12:45 PM
All the work, imagination, engineering skill and creativity that went into this bike has resulted in a bike that has been ridden once - slowly, in a parking lot - and will never be ridden again in case it gets scratched. It is clearly a totally folly regarding being a functioning ride and would be a total deathtrap on the road. No problem though - it's was never meant to be ridden anyway and won't be. So why bother? Why engineer anything? Why not make it out of plastic with a non functioning engine and no moving parts and just call it "art". A 20 year old Vespa is a more fun and practical ride than this. Spare us the mechanical masturbation - it's only satisfying the creator.
GR -Finish it!?  December 3, 2010 05:20 AM
The machine is a very nice concept but needs to go a little further! If you wanna make a 1st gen Tron Light-Cycle then do it already! Instead of the copper color, an electric blue or pearl yellow would make it stand out even more! But F-it, I'd throw a leg over for a spin in a control area!
Chrome -castor wheeling  December 2, 2010 04:39 PM
...or someone NEEDS some engineers on the payroll. First, hats off to amazing build quality. Second, the trouble with making "quantum leaps" is that in an effort to be substantially different, you often end up places you dont want to go. Unstable, for instance, is a place this bike could take your rapidly. But its heavy enough and damped enough that you could probably hold it steady to much higher speeds than you could if you had a rear wheel steering 250. Which means you will be doing 60 when the back end decides to exit stage left.

.. at first i got all excited about hub center steering. Now THAT is a place I would like to go...
Donkeymansteve -7th?  December 2, 2010 08:54 AM
If that thing took 7th in the Freestyle Class I'd sure like the see the first 6!
andy -hmm..  December 2, 2010 08:41 AM
..one word: FUGLY....and what the engineering...all on this bike is soo 70ths its not even funny!!
Jaymz -Now for a sport version. . .  December 1, 2010 07:30 PM
Got to wonder how it handles. Just going to show my youth for a moment, but that thing looks like an Xtreme G III bike, and if they made a sport version, I might have to pee myself in excitement, and then start saving *excitedly rubbing hands together with driven, somewhat destabilized crazy look in eyes*.
Jack -the only laws we all must obey are the laws of physics  December 1, 2010 04:11 PM
Wow, that is one imaginative scoot! However, I think the steering system would not work at riding speed. Much as I admire the effort, the appearance and the sheer audacity of this machine, I believe motorcycles turn by gyroscopic precession (push a handlebar forward and your scoot will turn toward the pushed side because precession makes your push lean the whole bike towards that side) and not by the wheels tracking different lines. This does show how poorly understood are the physics of riding on two wheels. The kicker is that no one will ever know how it does ride, because it's too expensive to risk dumping at speed, an all too inevitable consequence, in my humble opinion. Prove me wrong. Double dare.
Scoot -Art on wheels?  December 1, 2010 02:07 PM
If it does not have 3 foot tall handle bars on it and a moron dressed up like the Village People riding it then milwaukee mike will not like it.
Tim B -WTF  December 1, 2010 11:00 AM
milwaukee mike - Look up "sarcasm" in the dictionary.

This thing is surely a showpiece and nothing else. Physics are 100% against this machine. It's plain stupid and the biggest trailer queen I've ever seen.
Chris -Very nice  December 1, 2010 10:25 AM
Someone has a couple engineers on their payroll.
milwaukee mike -Nick-Wow  December 1, 2010 07:13 AM
Sorry to have to tell you this,...but it is a pushrod V-twin.
Now as far as I'm cocerned, it looks more like a stinking crotch rocket (but to each, his own).
Mitch -Hmmm  December 1, 2010 06:25 AM
It's an impressive piece of engineering to say the least. I am a little skeptic of it's ride-ability though. Would love to see it in action.
Shaitan -Damn that's sweet  November 30, 2010 03:57 PM
I don't generally dig customs, but I'M DIGGIN' this. The attention to style, yet function just works; the whole shaft drive assembly for example.
Nick -Wow  November 30, 2010 02:59 PM
At last! A good-handling custom cruiser powered by something other than a pushrod V-twin!!