November 27, 2011

I dropped my classic 1926 Harley Motorcycle Cannonball bike in the garage

This is not something I recommend you try and I am not proud of it, but yesterday I was working on my 1926 Harley J and I dropped it on the garage floor – twice.

This is the classic 1926 Harley motorcycle we stripped down as a racer before signing up to ride it across the US on the Motorcycle Cannonball next year. So, after stripping it all down I now have to reassemble the bikes to street standards. I had most of the parts back on except the large front fender. To remount the front fender I knew I had to at least remove the front wheel and possibly more. It was not a job I was looking forward to doing but it needed to be done.

My 1926 Harley before I took it off this lift to mount the front fender

I had some time yesterday so I put the old Harley on its rear stand (with a bungee cord to keep it in place) in my small and overcrowded garage. I jacked up the front end and removed the front axle and pulled out the wheel. The bike was good and steady so I tried to slide the front fender up onto the fork legs. That is when I discovered the fender is too big to fit with the bike set where it was. I needed the bike and forks up at least 4 or 5 inches higher to give me the needed clearance.

So, with the bike stable, I looked around the garage and found another stand that would jack the bike up higher. It was one of those simple ones that slide under the frame and pop it up. Again. all seemed OK and the bike seemed pretty stable. As I tried to slide the fender up I realized I’d have to disconnect the brake stay from the fork and removed the brake cable to get enough clearance. As I was unbolting the brake stay the bike sort of rolled to the side at a funny angle and I could see it was going to far over. I jumped out of the way and watched it fall over to the left side in what appeared to be slow motion.

My heart was pounding triple time as I carefully took the bike (with no front wheel) by the handlebars and gently pulled it back upright and onto the stand. I still don’t know how, but I was able to stabilize it without the front wheel. The rear stand has collapsed and it was wobbling front and back on the stand. With one hand stabilizing the bike, as best I could, I used my other hand to get the rear stand back down and holding a load.

Once it was stabilized and upright I took a moment to catch my breath and let my rapid heartbeat slow down. I know I will not make the best decisions when panicking. While not as heavy as new bikes this 1926 Harley classic is no featherweight, especially when lying flat on the garage floor. And I was all alone with no help nearby.

As I went back to work trying to slide the fender in place the bike did a second slow topple frustrating me to no end. Here I was with an unstable bike with no front wheel. But I managed to get it back upright again and then I braced it better than before. I knew I was in a tough spot where it would take less effort to finish the job than go back to where I started.  To make a long story short I did finally get the front fender mounted, the front wheel, including brakes, stay and cable all back on. What should have been a fairly simple job became quite an ordeal as I realized, too late, that I did not have the proper tools and equipment to do it right.

Other than my ego, scrapes and worn muscles, the damage on the bike was minimal. Minor scrapes on the handlebar, mirror and brake lever. Plus some tiny dings and scratches in the already dinged and scratched gas tank paint. All in all I guess it could have been a lot worse.

And no, I did not take any photos as my hands were more than full with this one.

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

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