classic motorcycle

December 7, 2013

The Harley Cycle Tow – Precursor to the Servi-Car

Originally posted on Riding Vintage.

CycleTow01

Harley-Davidson had been very successful in the commercial market with it’s Package Truck, but there was a need for a “towable” motorcycle that had not yet been filled.  An enterprising Californian company took it upon themselves to fill that gap with what they called the Cycle Tow.

CycleTow02

First available in 1930, the Cycle Tow system could be added to a standard Harley-Davidson VL or DL motorcycle.  The two additional rear wheels were deployed when the motorcycle needed to be towed and then folded up and forward when the motorcycle needed to be ridden solo.  The system worked well for towing, but the motorcycle was awkward and unstable when ridden solo.  Although not a success financially, the Cycle Tow inspired Harley-Davidson to design the Servi-Car.  In 1932, the first Servi-Car went into production and they were continuously produced until 1973.

Filed under Classic Harley History, History, Panhead Jim's Blog, Trike & Sidecar by PanheadJim

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October 10, 2012

AMCA Southern Coalition National Road Run

Day 1

A large storm system that had brought days of rain was just working it’s way out of central North Carolina as I pushed my 1964 Panhead outside to begin my ride to Maggie Valley.  I planned to meet up with another rider at 7:00 AM, down in Pittsboro, about a 45 minute ride from my house.  The roads were still wet as I made my way toward the old courthouse located downtown.  Within a few minutes, Steve showed up on his 1947 Knucklehead and we were headed for the highway.

Early morning departure from Pittsboro, NC

Early morning departure from Pittsboro, NC

The plan was to ride secondary highways all the way to Maggie Valley, about 250 miles total.  We stuck to the plan for the first 100 miles of the ride, which took us through a few small towns separated by rolling hills and green fields.  At our first gas stop we checked the map and realized that we could save some time if we got on the interstate.  We figured traffic would be light, so we could just cruise at 55 mph without interfering with the flow of cars.

As we expected, there weren’t many cars on the road and the miles passed by easily.  That is until Steve’s bike started to backfire and cut off.  We rolled over onto the shoulder and began troubleshooting his Knucklehead.  Turns out that his points had broken and he did not have a spare set on hand.  It took about an hour and a little ingenuity, but we were able to repair the points and get back on the road.  If your curious, here’s how we did it:  Click Here

Roadside repairs

Roadside repairs

With Steve’s bike back in running condition, we rode the last 75 miles to Maggie Valley.  The headquarters for the road run just happened to be at the Wheels Through Time museum, which was the perfect choice for a group of about 150 vintage bike enthusiasts.  Dale and Matt Walksler were great hosts as always and even allowed us to pitch our tents on the museum grounds.  After getting our run packet which consisted of daily route maps, a pin, a license plate medallion, a t-shirt and a name tag, we unpacked the bikes and started setting up camp.

Camping at Wheels Through Time

Camping at Wheels Through Time

Once the tents were in place, it was time to hit the parking lot and start checking out the other bikes.

Parking lot at Wheels Through Time

Parking lot at Wheels Through Time

Dinner was served under the white tent around 7:00 and soon after most folks started heading back to their hotels.  Dale kept the museum open until 9:00 which gave us something to do besides sitting in the tents.  Then it began to rain…

Day 2

The second day was a complete wash out.  Twenty-four hours of steady rain.  No one seemed to mind as we were able to spend a solid 8 hours going through the museum.  I’ve been to Wheels Through Time on several occasions,  but this was the first chance I really had to take it all in.  There are so many bikes, parts, memorabilia and other things that it can cause a bit of sensory overload.  When you really can take your time, you start noticing unusual things, like a Knucklehead with homemade rear suspension or a Flathead with tankshifters on both tanks.  Odd bits sitting on shelves or hanging from the rafters catch your eye and require closer inspection.  I honestly cannot think of a better place to spend a rainy day.

A variety of flatheads on display

A variety of flatheads on display

Hillclimbing exhibit

Hillclimbing exhibit

A fire was built in the outdoor shelter and the evening was spent talking about bikes and telling lies.  A couple of guys from Australia were also camping at the museum and I enjoyed hearing about their adventures in the US.  Turns out they were on a 6 month long motorcycle trip across the country.  Talk about a vacation!  Around midnight, I finally slogged back to the tent to try and get some sleep.

Day 3

We had pitched our tents next to a small stream that ran around the edge of the museum’s grounds.  Initially it had seemed like a good idea to set up next to the stream, it made for a very peaceful location with the water gentle running through the rocks.  This all changed after an entire day of rain, soon the stream had turned into a minature raging river.  Between the sounds of the rain on the tents, the wind whipping the tarp and the water crashing on the rocks, I was up half the night keeping an eye on the water level.  By morning, the water had not risen past it’s banks, but it was really ripping past our campsite.

Rapids at the campsite

Rapids at the campsite

Finally around noon the rain started clearing out and we prepared for our first group ride.  Plans were altered slightly and we chose to ride the Blue Ridge Parkway up to Mt Pisgah.  The roads were still a little wet, with water running across them in some places and plenty of wet leaves, but it was great to finally get on the bike.  We made one stop at the highest point on the Parkway, before continuing on to Mt Pisgah.

Parking lot at Mt Pisgah

Parking lot at Mt Pisgah

Returning back to Wheels Through Time, another dinner was being prepared and everyone was glad to have a warm meal after a cool ride in the mountains.  The route for the following day was close to 250 miles of mountain roads, so most folks headed back to the hotels early to get some rest.

Day 4

The last day of the run actually started out with something I hadn’t seen all week, warm air and sunny skies.  People arrived early at the museum to get a start on the long ride and to make sure that they were in front of the chase truck.

Preparing for the ride on day 4

Preparing for the ride on day 4

The route for the day was supposed to take us over the Cherohala Skyway, then loop around to the Dragon and back to Maggie Valley.  Of course there were a couple wrong turns added, which kept us from completing the planned ride, but we still logged over 200 miles and had a good time.

Dinner for the last night was BBQ sandwiches, followed by an awards banquet.  Plaques were given out for the oldest and youngest riders, longest distance traveled, etc.  Once the banquet was over, people headed out to start packing up bikes and trailers for the return trip home.  The next morning I did the same, finally getting on the road by 9:00 AM.  Steve and I had an uneventful ride back to central NC and I was home by mid afternoon.

This was my first AMCA road run and I hope to attend more in the future.  If you like riding old bikes or even just looking at them, then an AMCA road run would be worth considering.  You have to be an AMCA member to attend, but that’s it.  They are already scheduling runs for next year, so check out their website for more information.

I posted some additional pictures of individual bikes here:  Click Here

Filed under Events, Panhead Jim's Blog by PanheadJim

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August 19, 2012

1961-1964 Panhead 12 Volt Motorcycle Coil Upgrade

The 1961-1964 Harley-Davidson Duo-Glides used a dual circuit breaker ignition system (often referred to as a dual points ignition) with a manual advance.  This arrangement meant that each cylinder had an individual circuit breaker that was timed to fire that cylinder’s spark plug.  This also meant that there were two 6 volt ignition coils, one for each circuit breaker.

One common upgrade for motorcycles from the 1960’s and earlier is to change the electrical system over from 6 volts to 12 volts.  When I purchased my 1964 Duo-Glide, the original owner had already made this conversion, but had used a set of 12 volt ignition coils from a Volkswagen.  This arrangement worked fine, but the larger coils needed a “custom” oversized cover to hide them from view.

Original "Custom" Cover

"Custom" cover made from stainless steel by the original owner of my bike

In keeping with my goal of creating a bike that retained as many correct parts as possible, yet was a reliable rider, I decided to try and install the correct coil cover.  I quickly purchased the cover on eBay and then started looking for the right size coils to fit under it.  The original 6 volt coils were 4″ high and 2″ in diameter and looked very  much like a minature version of the More on 1961-1964 Panhead 12 Volt Motorcycle Coil Upgrade

Filed under Classic Motorcycle Maintenance, Panhead Jim's Blog, Tech, Wiring & Electrics by PanheadJim

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