Around midnight last night Marty and I finished packing the van and off he went with Scott and my motorcycle babies. We will be breaking the bike in while in New York, and frankly, on the road.
She fired up fresh from the rebuild in a fury, and it took most of the day for Marty and my neighbor Charles to dial it in to where I could actually ride it. Damn. Sounds great, and needs a lot of fine tuning by Sept 7.
What follows is a photos from the packing. It wasn’t easy getting two Cannonball bikes in a van, but I never lost faith. When there are no options but to charge forward, there is always a way.
Both bikes get slipped into our van tomorrow, with tools etc and head off to New York with Marty and his wife Deb. We have a stretch van and hopefully we have enough room to fit it all. Happiness is…
Abi, Anni and I fly to New York on Sept 4 to meet with the Schilbers and the bikes. Chrystiano is flying in from Brazil and will meet us also on the 4th.
September 5 is check-in, bike qualifications and time, finally, for a couple of break in runs. We are putting the bike in the van with very little miles on the new build, less than ten actually. I would be beyond freaked if I didn’t have as much faith in Marty’s abilities as I do.
We should have at least 100 and hopefully closer to 200 miles on the break-in by the start on Sept 7. The first leg of the Cannonball is only 200 miles or so, and we’ll then be ready to run the length of this fine land.
Wish Team Vino luck, and drop a line of encouragement now and then.
The bike is 95% together, with the initial fire up sometime late this morning. Video to follow.
The BIG green and yellow paint job is from Absolute Customs in Petaluma, CA. They painted ’55 Gorgeous, my ’55 Chevy pickup seen in some of the barn photos. When we first evaluated the bike with Steve Huntzinger down in Pismo Beach, the first casualty were the original tanks.
They were serviceable for short rides around Wine Country, but not for the Cannonball. One of the main weak spots on these very early machines are the fuel and oil tanks. The left tank is actually half gas and half oil, and that separation is critical. The gas half is the spare gas tank and it was welded off at the petcock. It was 0bvious we either needed to open up and re-build the tanks, or order new construction replica tanks. With our time-line new was the only option, and I still have the original tanks in original condition. Replicant Metals in Lititz, PA was our first choice and they had a ’23 set in stock.
Having to paint the tank opened the door to painting the rest of the sheet metal, and a full-on Annadel Estate Winery theme was too much fun to pass up. I know some of the purists may not like it, but back in the day delivery bikes and sidecars where painted with all kinds of promotion. Why can’t we? Annadel is sponsoring this adventure, and hopefully drawing a lot of people to our winery down the road, so Annadel deserves the publicity. All is good.
Speaking of our winery, this next picture is of our “tasting room” with the ’23 under construction. We have the coolest tasting room in Wine Country, vintage bikes, Abigail’s original art and some damn fine wine.
Another end of the day start of work for both Marty and I. The final push will be this Sunday and Monday, Marty’s days off from his shop – I don’t get days off until the run. We should be running Monday and it’ll be one of my only chances to put some miles on before New York.
If I ever do the Motorcycle Cannonball again, I’m going to begin getting the bike ready a year in advance instead of three months. Mine was a last minute decision to join my friend Scott Jacobs on this adventure, and I was the last to register for the ride, and that was after registration closed and I had to beg my way in. Marty and I have been under the 8 ball ever since and getting the bike road worthy will take us to the very last day.
Instead of walking through everything we’ve done to the bike, I’m going to fast forward and catch up with this blog on current events.
The motor arrived from Marty’s home shop the day before yesterday and we installed it last night. Of course it’s beautiful and the very road worthy, however, as always, go forward one step and then retreat two. My first chore of the day is to get together with my neighbor Charles and machine a couple of custom parts to set the motor. Since this bike came with a sidecar, and has always had a sidecar, it had sidecar gearing and compression plates under the barrels. They’re about 1/4″ thick, and now removed because the sidecar is gone and we want the extra compression, and high end speed, the top motor mounts are out of position.
I did find a new use for a wine barrel. This may be a first.
Below are pictures of the motor on a wine barrel, a first I believe, the motor in and finally the close up of the top motor mount that needs to be shimmed after removing the compression plates. We’re back at it tonight, and pretty much every night until she fires.
I figure I’ll have one or two break in rides before the van departs on August 30 or 31, and then we have a couple of days in New York before the Motorcycle Cannonball begins on September 7. It’s just the way my life is. Charge it!
After firing the bike and taking her for a couple of short rides, we knew we had to tear her completely down to be ready for the Cannonball. This is an older restoration of a very original bike, which is great as a starting point, however, we’ve learned that a lot of restorations go about half way mechanically and source parts from different eras, make poorly fitting parts and generally do whatever to get the thing rolling and able to run short distances.
All of that if fine and dandy, but we are fast pacing as I am the last person to enter the Cannonball and we’re going to create our bike in three months instead of a year.
My riding partner, Scott Jacobs, had his bike built by 2010 Cannonball finisher and master builder Steve Huntzinger. Steve is one of the world’s foremost experts on very early bikes and Marty and I put the ’23 in my truck and took a day off to drive to Pismo Beach. Taking nothing away from Marty, he’s probably built 3000 engines in his career, but never anything as vintage as a ’23 and we benefited greatly from Steve’s experience.
Building a bike like this is like making fine wine, it’s more of an art than a science, and every single builder has his tricks and opinions, STRONG OPINIONS, as every winemaker I know has the same. That’s part of the fun in building a Cannonball bike, all the research and personalities.
Steve gives us a long shopping list of things to do to our bike and we’re back to my barn for the teardown.
This is our 1923 Harley-Davidson JS in front of our 1920’s horse barn. As purchased, she is a fine running older restoration of a very original bike. The S in JS stands for sidecar, and this bike and the sidecar came from the factory together and have been tethered until now.
The good in that is that sidecar motorcycles generally have lower miles and are less abused than solo motorcycles. The first time I rode her at speed, the sidecar gearing kept top speed under 55 mph and at high rpms.
The demands of the Cannonball pretty much preclude the use of sidecars, mostly since it would be a huge burden on chase vehicles to deal with one sidecar instead of the three solos they can support. Also, the gearing would have kept me way off the pace and under ambient traffic speeds. We are riding across the county on back roads and off freeways, but going at speed and keeping up with traffic is still paramount in motorcycle safety. When people are passing you, you give up a lot of control.
After deciding to enter the 2012 Motorcycle Cannonball, I found the bike in short order after calling a good friend of mine, Glen Bator, who happens to be one of the world’s foremost motorcycle curators. She fired right up, and ran great – what a hoot. She was, however, far from being ready for the Cannonball.
Now it was time to break it apart and find out what needed to be fixed, modernized and/or created. My long time friend and former Service Manager at Golden Gate Harley-Davidson, Marty Schilber, signed up as my crew chief, mechanic and van driver. An early Sunday morning, wrenches out, and it doesn’t take long to break the bike down and start evaluating and having minor heart attacks.