Sturgis Rally
Sturgis Rally
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Originally posted by Buck Lovell on Friday, 28 October 2011 in Buck Lovell's - American Biker Blog


Why did you start riding motorcycles? Depending upon how long you've been riding motorcycles you may have heard this question more than once, or even multiple times. If you've been riding more than ten years you probably don't even think about why you started riding, you just look forward to the next time you are able to go riding. I started riding motorcycles because it was counterculture, anti establishment, and cool beyond words. Riding a motorcycle is still the most fun a person can have with their clothes on.

In 1972 or thereabouts, when I was living in Campbell, California, and was working at Daybrite Lighting in Sunnyvale, California I commuted to work every day, rain or shine, on a rigid frame, Panhead powered, 12 inch extended fork, no front brake chopper. Why was I riding this scary beast? I got it real cheap, that's why, and I didn't chop it myself, I bought it in that condition.

When I bought it, I wasn't looking for an already been chopped motorcycle, I was shopping for an Indian Chief. The first bike I ever owned was a Chief. I thought I was an Indian motorcycle person until I bought this Harley-Davidson I going to tell ya about. I saw a classified listing in the San Francisco Chronicle for a 1947 Chief for sale in Petaluma, California. I drove up to Petaluma, through the city of San Francisco, then crossing the Golden Gate Bridge on the way to Petaluma. The car I was driving I wish I stilled owned, a 1966 Mustang (289 V-8 with a C6 automatic transmission.) I only paid $500.00 for this car, but that's another story to be told later.

When I got to Petaluma I discovered the Indian had been sold the previous day. I bought another newspaper, and found the Panhead listing. I called the phone number, yep, the bike was still for sale. I got directions and headed to the owners business address, a paving company yard in Petaluma. The bike wasn't in exactly the condition as advertised. The transmission was missing. The owner had taken the transmission to the local Harley-Davidson dealer for a rebuild, but didn't have the cash to pay the dealer. I drove to the dealer, and paid to get the transmission out of hock (the mechanics had to re assembly it while I waited) and took it back to the yard. The owner quickly and expertly reinstalled the 4-speed transmission and stock primary chain drive. The bike was jockey shift with a foot shift lever used as the clutch pedal. There was no air cleaner on the brass bodies M-74 Linkert carburetor. I kick started the thing, told my wife to "follow me" and off I went, damn near hitting both sides of the ten ffot wide gate on the way out. That front fork was floppy like nothing else I had ever ridden. I was somewhat accustomed to the foot cutch having ridden Indian motorcycles for years, but that no front brake, spring loaded clutch (termed suicide-clutch at the time) took some getting used to.

I had asked my wife to "follow" me but evidently she was impatient to get home to Campbell, just South of San Jose. She passed me right about Oakland, and I ran out of gas on the freeway about three miles later. She had the gas can in the car. I can't repeat the names I called her, and the other cuss words I used, spell check would just reject them. Prior to running out of gas the bike would suddenly, without warning, just quit running. I would coast to the side of the road, and kick start it. It would always with start one kick. Turns out my pant leg (bell bottoms) were getting sucked into the venturi every time I unknowingly let my pant leg get too close to the carburetor hole at 65 MPH. Yeah, I smelled like a gas station by the time I got home.

So there I am on the freeway off ramp staring at the Oakland skyline, out of gas, no old lady in the car, and no cell phone (hadn't been invented yet). I started pushing the bike up the ramp. I hadn't gone more than 25 feet, when somebody in a car stopped and asked me what the problem was. That person went to the closest gas station got some gas for me and it was smooth sailing the rest of the way home. The gas tank, a Sportster tank mounted high on the top frame rail in the style of the times, only held 2.2 gallons of gas, about enough to go about a hundred miles at 65 MPH. I knew that, but wifey-poo it seemed, had to rush home, taking with her my full 5 gallon spare gas can.

So that's the story of me getting my first Panhead way back in the good old days. I had a lot of serious fun on that bike. Serious fun is when you sometimes gotta call 911. Laid it down on the freeway once or twice, out-maneuvered a motorcycle cop once or twice, and drag raced like speed demon with that bike more than once or twice. Oh yeah….got a bunch of traffic tickets…..once or twice. I could pull the front end off the ground in three gears, and with a fat passenger on the back I could get the front end off the ground in fourth. The bike weighed almost nothing (without a fat passenger.) It was a Zen bike fo-sho, nothing but the bare essentials or even less. Motor, transmission, wheels, tires frame, fork and gas tank. A Real Deal chopper. More for ya later, I have an appointment to shoot a Mustang…….custom car not a horse…..with a camera of course!


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