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.
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.
November 26, 2011
I have been so busy with work-related issues and family stuff I have not had much time to work on my 1926 Harley J motorcycle in a while. So I took some advantage of time off on the long four-day Thanksgiving weekend to spend some time in the garage.
Quick recap to date. I got the dirty old 1926 Harley J which had been sitting for many years. Down at Wheels Through Time we got it running, sorted and then stripped it down as a racer.
Then, after I brought the bike back home and parked it in the Connecticut offices of American Iron Magazine, we heard the Motorcycle Cannonball was back on for 2012 and the cut off year was increased from 1915 to 1929 motorcycles.
We figured this old Harley, which a previous owner had updated with a front brake and newer drop center wheels, would be a great Cannonballer. So now I had to start reassembling all the parts we had just taken off.
Back home I reattached the luggage rack, bolted on the headlight and tool box and then found and installed an old-style motorcycle mirror from my old collection of various motorcycle parts I have accumulated over the years.
Next up was to reattach the rear section of the back More on 1926 Harley Motorcycle Cannonball Project – Thanksgiving Weekend Update
I just got off the phone with Motorcycle Cannonball promoter Lonnie Isam, Jr and confirmed that I will retain Rider Number 15 that I had in the first Motorcycle Cannonball in 2010. I picked that number because I was riding Selma, my 1915 Harley on that cross-country ride, which was open to 1915 and older motorcycles.
Selma treated me better than I treated her and she carried me safe and sound most of the way across the United States with a perfect score. Most of the way from North Carolina into and through Texas before having to deal with mechanical issues. There we tore down and rebuild the top end and we replaced a few magnetos along the way.
After a good rest we (Dale and Matt Walksler, Jim Sims and I) rebuilt Selma (again) and she is back on the road running even stronger than before.
Lonnie announced the second Motorcycle Cannonball recently and I have signed up for it. This one will run from Newburgh, NY to San Francisco, CA and it open to 1929 and newer motorcycles. I signed up and am pleased to get my Rider Number 15 again.
This time I will be riding a 1926 Harley J motorcycle for Team American Iron, which I plan on rebuilding over the winter. I will follow my progress on line and in print in American Iron Magazine as I did last year. My goal is to have at least a thousand miles on the rebuilt old Harley long before we gather in Newburgh for the next ride of a lifetime. So I know I am going to be busy with this classic Harley over the winter. The good news is it already has a front brakes (Harley didn’t offer front brakes until 1928) and newer style wheel rims for modern tires. Wish me luck!