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.