October 19, 2011

Motorcycle Cannonball 2012 – Another Vintage Motorcycle Adventure Of A Lifetime?

I spent an amazing amount of time and money in the last couple of years preparing for the first running of the Motorcycle Cannonball last year. Looking back I wonder how I managed to buy and build a 1915 Harley for this crazy cross country ride on pre-1916 motorcycles. I documented this in the pages of American Iron Magazine.

I had to find and buy the basic bike (actually it was two 1915ish Harley), all the needed parts and spares, and then organize myself enough to spend about two weeks on the road riding from Kitty Hawk, NC to Santa Monica, CA without being run over, exploding or getting seriously lost.

Me, Fred and Dave on our 1915 Harleys at the Texas state line. What a ride!

I am so thankful to have friends with more mechanical skills than I ever will have – guys like Dave Fusiak, Fred Lange and Dale Walksler. Fred designed the basic engine layout, Dave did a lot more work on my 1915 Harley than I did prior to and on the actual cross country ride, and Dale helped in countless ways, including basically rebuilding the entire top end of Selma, my 1915 Harley somewhere in New Mexico after it over-oiled and built up massive amounts of carbon on the pistons.

Rebuilding the top end of my 1915 Harley at night on the Motorcycle Cannonball. Too much carbon build up!

It was quite an experience riding all day making sure the bike is running properly and trying not to get lost. Then we spend much of the evening wrenching on the bikes. Some nights the riders did not get to bed until almost sunrise. It was pretty gruelling but most of the riders bonded over the experience.

A great photo of me and Selma, my 1915 Harley the second from last day of my perfect score - but I didn't realize that when we took this photo. The next day was very tough on the engine.

In spite of burning through a handful of magnetos (pretty much everyone on the ride did too), a set of Avon tires (thanks Avon!) and more Spectro oil than I could have imagined (thanks Spectro!) I was holding a perfect score well past the halfway mark across the US.  But, even with the solid support of my pals I got only as far as Albuquerque, NM before I had to drop out and fly home for a family emergency. Selma, my 1915 Harley was trucked the last 3 days to Santa Monica and carried to the Santa Monica pier on a sidecar rig without me.

The original Motorcycle Cannonball is a little over a year behind us and the second one has been announced for next year. The Motorcycle Cannonball 2012 will leave from Newburgh, NY on September 7, 2012 and roll across San Francisco, CA’s Golden Gate Bridge on September 21. The first Motorcycle Cannonball was for motorcycles from 1915 and earlier. The next one has been expanded to 1929 and older. The next one will run longer distances every day, adding to the pressure.

At this point in time I am planning on riding the next Motorcycle Cannonball with the goal of finishing it. While I love Selma, my 1915 Harley I do not think it would be the best choice to ride the extended route next year.

The 1926 Harley J as I purchased. I had removed the incorrect horn and broken Corbin speedometer. It had not run in many years.

I have a 1926 Harley J that might be better suited. Unlike Selma, the ’26 Harley has a real oil pump (Selma used a gravity feed oil dripper system) and a real coil and battery ignition (Selma used a magneto).

This 1926 Harley J is not correct but might be just the ticket for a cross county ride on the next Motorcycle Cannonball.

A previous owner had already upgraded the clincher wheels for rims a bit more modern and he also installed a 1929 Harley front brake (Harley did not offer front brakes until 1928).

More info on this bike and my possible second Motorcycle Cannonball to follow.


Filed under Buzz Kanter Classic Motorcycle Blog, Cannonball Motorcycle Diaries, Random Ideas by Buzz Kanter

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