It is the dream of a motorcycle editor to ride a vintage Harley cross country and share it with his audience. As the Editor-in-Chief of the world’s best selling Harley magazine I was fortunate enough to buy, rebuild and ride Selma, my 1915 Harley motorcycle on the first ever Motorcycle Cannonball. This event was a coast to coast ride for pre-1916 motorcycles. No, that’s no typo – a cross country ride on pre-1916 motorcycles.
Nothing like this had ever been tried before and none of the 45 riders really knew what to expect before we rolled out of Kitty Hawk, NC for the Santa Monica pier in California. I was committed to ride my 1915 Harley twin as hard and far as I could, as was the case for all the other riders, and as a Harley magazine journalist I also wanted to document and share the experience.
I have documented that ride (I held a perfect score for most of the ride before mechanical gremlins appeared) in the pages of American Iron Magazine, on various on-line forums and with several Youtube videos. To enjoy some of these videos, type in “Motorcycle Cannonball” and “Buzz Kanter” in the Youtube search box.
In spite of rumors to the contrary, there was no Motorcycle Cannonball ride in 2011, but plans for one in 2012 have been announced. See www.motorcyclecannonball.com. This time the route will be farther but in about the same amount of days. It will go from Newburgh, New York to San Francisco, CA. To accommodate the greater distances ridden every day (approx 300 miles a day on average) the cut-off year for motorcycles has been raised from 1915 and earlier last year, to 1929 and earlier next year.
I love Selma, my 1915 Harley and still ride her on occasion, but I think I need something newer for the 2012 Motorcycle Cannonball. Looking around at my options I think I already have a great bike to work with.
This is basically a 1926 Harley J that has been modified and updated by various owners before me. When I bought it, this classic Harley had not been started in many years. Working with Motorcycle Maestro Dale Walksler at Wheels Through Time, we got it running in less than an hour.
I won’t go into all the details here as we will be running a comprehensive article on this project in future issues of American Iron Magazine. I can tell you we got it running strong and then we stripped it down as a racer with plans for me to compete with it at Mountainfest (also in the pages of American Iron Magazine).
It was not until weeks after stripping down the 1926 that I realized I could add most of the parts back on, freshen up the powertrain and campaign it on next year’s Motorcycle Cannonball. Odds are I will be the only Harley magazine staffer on the ride again. And that’s fine with me.
So what do you think about this twice-in-a-life adventure? Does it deserve the kind of coverage in the pages of American Iron Magazine that the last one did? Please share and comment on this post so we know how you feel.