Old Harleys & Even Older Harleys
A lot of my riding time these days is focused on prepping and getting real-world shakedown miles on my rebuilt 1929 Harley-Davidson JDH before the 3,800-mile coast-to-coast Motorcycle Cannonball in September. But I keep reminding myself what Dale Walksler of Wheels Through Time advised me, “Get the bike running right and then leave it alone. The more miles you put on it before the Motorcycle Cannonball, the sooner you will wear out stuff on the ride.”
I’m occasionally on the various new bikes we have at the office for review, but most of my riding time is on my older bikes. One of my favorites is the blue and white 1936 Harley EL. I have always had a soft spot for Knuckleheads, which is one of the best-looking American motorcycles ever produced. I rode my ’36, which is a first year Knuck that runs as good as it looks, on the first Motorcycle Kickstart Classic last year.
I agreed to show my ’36 at a local high-profile car event and wanted it in the best possible condition — mechanically and cosmetically. The first thing I did was make sure the bike would start and run well as I was planning on riding to the event (we don’t need no stinkin’ trailers!). As expected, it fired right off on the first kick (gotta love that!) and I rode it a few miles to get everything up to operating temperature. Then I rode over to a gas station to top off the gas tanks.
I find many people are attracted to classic motorcycles and like to ask questions about them. And most owners are happy to answer questions about their pride and joy. This was the case at the gas station where a number of people walked over to admire the bike. Two of them asked if they could take photos with their cellphone cameras. One of them, I didn’t catch his name, was obviously fascinated by the bike and admitted he rode a Harley, too. We chatted for a few minutes, and I asked him if he read American Iron Magazine. He said he did, and I told him I’m the editor-in-chief. He stared at me and finally said, “Wait, you’re Buzz?” He told me he thought my bike looked familiar, and said he had just read about the first Motorcycle Kickstart Classic and thought the bike looked great in the photos.
He told me he was a truck driver here in Connecticut and that his subscription to American Iron Magazine had just expired. Meeting me and seeing the Knuck motivated him to resubscribe. I thanked him for his support. His buddy, also a Harley rider, asked me if I was also involved in Motorcycle Bagger, which he subscribed to. I told him we publish three motorcycle magazines — American Iron Magazine, Motorcycle Bagger, and RoadBike — right here in Connecticut.
After a nice visit with these two, I headed back to my house, where I spent the next couple of hours cleaning and prepping the bike for the show. I lubed the chain, checked the tire pressure, adjusted the foot clutch rod, and conditioned the leather bags and saddle, and then I washed and waxed the motorcycle, top to bottom, front to back. When I was done, the old Knucklehead looked great. I wonder if that is why it rained all that night and into the next morning when I rode it to the show?
Motorcycle Cannonball 2012 & Team American Iron T-Shirt
the first motorcycle cannonball endurance ride was in 2010. Many of our readers told me they wished they could have seen some of the action and ridden along with us. Well, you have another chance in September. We will be riding pre-1930 motorcycles 3,800 miles from New York to San Francisco. See page 122 for the route and dates, or go to
I’d like to invite you to be an honorary member of the Team American Iron Support Staff. For $20, you can buy our official T-shirt featuring my 1929 Harley on the front and #15, my competitor’s number, on the back. Please visit GreaseRag.com or call Rosemary at 203/425-8777 x114.
Ride safe, ride smart, have fun.