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What We Learned from the MYTHBUSTERS Transformers Special

What We Learned from the MYTHBUSTERS Transformers Special

No, not that Transformers. But still awesome.

Aside from being myth busters, Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman are master engineers. And they have created some bizarre vehicles over the years. Adam has ridden in a JAWS mech mouth and both the guys have sailed in a duct tape boat. This week’s episode was dedicated to two myths harnessing that transformative engineering — an amphibious bicycle that could still get you to work and a motorcycle that was once a car stranded in the desert.

Warning, I am going to spoil the results of these myths. You’ve been warned!

The Myths

MB#5 _PIC1Can you (cheaply) transform a bicycle into a paddleboat?

According to some viral internet photos, a man found a way to easily transform his bicycle into an amphibious water craft and back again with some drinking water jugs and steel. Adam tried his hand at replicating the craft down to the nuts and bolts.

MB#5_PIC2Can you transform a car into a motorcycle?

The story goes that a French man was stranded in the desert with a broken-down Citroën. Using nothing more than some hand tools and engineering ingenuity, he converted the 4-wheeled car into a 2-wheeled motorcycle. Then he traveled 20 kilometers to safety.

The Results


The internet tells the truth sometimes. Not only was Adam’s replica bike steerable, somewhat efficient, and transformable, there was almost no downside to the craft aside from some instability and a wet backside.

Jamie decided to try his hand at making an amphibious bike too, which beat Adam’s in a head-to-head water race, but he only further showed that the original bike’s design was sound.


The first iteration of the duo’s bike looked suitably Mad Max, but it was totally undriveable. With the engine all the way at the back and jury-rigged controls, it needed two people to run and constant support. After that, the guys looked at pictures of what was supposedly the actual bike the Frenchman used to escape the desert. Adam and Jamie went back to the shop and rebuilt the bike. But even with the same transformed car that the myth specifies, the “vehicle” was still dangerous and unusable.

What We Learned

Buoyancy: Why don’t ships that weigh a few million pounds or bicycles loaded down with steel sink in water? The buoyant force. This force is equal to the weight of water (or another liquid) an object displaces when placed in it. So while steel is much denser than water, if a steel shape can move more water out of the way than the shape weighs, it floats! That’s how Adam could add a few dozen pounds to the bicycle but still get it to float with large drinking water jugs.

The buoyant force is also what Link needs to fight to get his iron boots to work.

Assorted Thoughts

Wow, I was really hoping that the Mad Max motorcycle was going to work. When the guys first starting disassembling the Citroën, the entire car was down to just the engine and wheels in 60 minutes. But as any rider will tell you, a motorcycle can’t just move on two wheels — the weight has to be correctly positioned and the bike has to be able to reach a certain speed to stay up. Adam himself said he went back and forth about six times considering the fate of this myth, but both experienced riders had to call it busted.


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IMAGES: Copyright Discovery Communications; Screenshots and video used for the purposes of education, considered fair use.

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  1. df says:

    What episode is this?

  2. Natter says:

    The mythbusters took one day to try and do what a guy with a PhD in mechanical engineering took twelve days to do. His end result was also more compact than the mythbusters second failed attempt. I’m sorry, but this is a case of the mythbusters simply not having enough skills to pull off the job.

  3. Charlie says:

    hate to tell you guys this but there are several bikes out there that are in fact a transformed car AND some with engines far more powerful that most trucks….  afraid this Myth Buster episode busted itself for false advertising.  By the way a simple google and youtube search can not only show you some models built but also some shows that have highlighted these.

    • Jim says:

      You’ve utterly missed the point. NONE of the cars transformed into a bike you are talking about were made by a Frenchman stranded in the desert using hand tools. That was the myth they were busting. Not that you can’t build a functional motorcycle out of car parts. Read the article before you comment next time.