And Ghostsniper succeeds very well in persuading me that I don’t really need one of these myself.
I bought a Harley, of sorts, back in 1974 and I was 19 at the time.
Hanging around a marina waiting for them to finish up welding a lower unit for an Evinrude inboard/outboard engine my dad and I were rebuilding I spotted a cardboard box in a fenced in area in the back lot. Inspection showed it to contain Harley parts and a frame close by. I asked the owner about it and he said $500 and I could take it home. I went to the house and told my dad and he got all wobbly and handed me 5 crisp C-notes from his wallet. Back at the house we found the box, and 3 other boxes that went with it, contained parts from 3 old Harleyâ€™s with most of the parts going to a 49 Knucklehead. So thatâ€™s what we built. Took about 3 months from boxes to running but still had a ways to go.
With my dad next to me on his 69 Harley and me driving the 49 we headed down Gladiolus Blvd to the state inspection station to get it inspected, registered, and tagged. Going into the first curve just east of Harlem Heights the 49 locked tight at about 60 mph. If it had been the front wheel things would have gotten nasty quick but since it was the rear wheel a skid spontaneously started about the same time 20 mph were knocked off causing me to slide up onto the tank and losing my balance. The sides of the road curved down steeply and thatâ€™s where I ended up, at the bottom of the easement with both me and the bike tore up. Leaving the 49 there I rode home with my dad and got patched up then we took the truck back and picked it up and brought it home.
Under close inspection we found the engine had seized. We had spent I donâ€™t know how many hours putting that engine together the right way. A machine shop was commissioned to blueprint the crankshaft, plane the block, barrels and heads, port and relieve the valves, etc. The barrels were bored .30 over and new pistons and wrist pins were installed. It ran really good.
As we tried to determine what went wrong, I discovered that in the bottom of the external oil tank was a small pipe leading to a pipe that fed the engine. In the bottom of that tank was a double edged razor blade that I presumed a previous owner had used to scrape off a gasket and it had fallen it. The slot in the razor blade was where the oil flowed through and in itâ€™s limited quantity it had quickly caused the engine to heat up, swell, and seize. As this happened very quickly and was shut down very quickly the damage was minimal. No galling of the piston skirts or any of that stuff. All gaskets were removed with close attention spent on gasket removing tools and materials, and replaced and several trips around the block after assembly showed everything was alright. We got the thing registered.
I’m not a motorcycle guy. Some biker friends taught me to ride one a bit, back when I was a teenager. But I only ever owned one once.
I had a mad mathematical genius friend at Yale. He was the wealthy scion of a Southern family, but he lived by choice a life of Thoreauvian simplicity. He owned nothing beyond two shirts, two pair of jeans, and one of those unadmired little Italian cycles mendaciously labelled “Harley Davidson.” (I just looked it up. It was an “H” really made by Aermacchi.)
He roomed with some druggie friends of mine in a beach house in Milford and commuted (with difficulty) into Yale every day on that unreliable bike. We used to draw considerable amusement watching him start it. Kick (the routine would go), sputter, silence, kick, sputter, silence, kick, sputter, LOUD CURSING. Yet somehow, mysteriously, he would finally get that sucker running.
For some reason I’ve never understood, he decided I needed his bike. He had graduated and was going off to grad school, and he announced that he was selling me his Harley for $150. I don’t want it, I replied. You need it, he insisted. I’m not buying it, I said firmly.
But he simply left it at my door, when he departed town, so I concluded I owed him $150, payable when Hell froze over or the swallows came back to Capistrano or whenever.
I finally took a notion to try to ride the thing. I got my best mechanically-minded friend to help, and I climbed astride. Kick, I went. Sputter, it went. Then, silence. We kicked some more. We fiddled with it. We monkeyed with the beast for hours, but we just did not have our friend’s magic touch. We could not start it at all.
I finally successfully traded it off for an ancient shotgun to a cousin of mine, and sent my friend his $150. I concluded that Fate just did not want me owning a bike.