GIVE TIL IT HURTS

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Daredevil done RIGHT

Evel Knievel shows us the way.


A Sportster, of course, the model he did all those crazy-ass jumps on. Harleys are notoriously difficult to wheelie on, but it’s by no means impossible, as my own Fakebook profile pic demonstrates:

Wheelie

Taken by my then-girlfriend Evelyn, on a visit to her mom; that’s the street one row back from Ocean Blvd where her Myrtle Beach crib was, a mere couple of blocks from the grand old Myrtle Beach Pavilion, long since tragically defunct.

The trouble with wheelies and older, factory H-Ds is multifaceted: excessive weight, lack of power, and a low center of gravity all add up to make the crucial balance-point quite high in comparison with the rice-grinders. The exception to that rule would be the also-long-defunct Buells; as with my extremely-modified 06 Sporty above, with those you actually had to go out of your way to keep the front wheel DOWN. Picking it up and carrying it a ways was almost the default..

Which, with the 06, was definitely the case, to my continual delight. When I romped down hard on the throttle in 1st gear, the front wheel would start to dance lightly as the motor “came on the pipe” and really started making horsepower; hit 2nd, and it would lift off the ground, daring you to keep it up as long as you could. Same in 3rd, incredibly enough.

Even my old boss Goose, who hated all Sportsters with a blazing passion, would jump on mine to give it a good, vigorous flogging now and then, eventually bringing my baby back to the shop not merely “rode hard and put up wet,” but “drenched in sweat, with its tongue hanging out,” as he liked to say.

I swear, it was the most fun bike I ever did build, no foolin’.

So yeah, for a bone-stock Harley, the wheelies can be a real trick. But as this guy shows, it’s always best not to make any assumptions when you’re out on the street.

Yep, that fella definitely knows what he’s about.

Update! Well, how about that: turns out Buell is NOT defunct after all. They’re still available, hand-built bikes orderable directly from the Buell factory.

15 thoughts on “Daredevil done RIGHT

  1. So the first bike acrobatic show was at a new service place a teacher I liked in High School worked as a side job. This dude was cool. I grew up when there were still MEN teaching and mentoring. This dude taught shop 2, electronics 2, auto shop, photography and yearbook. I remember him cutting us loose in photography on lab day as he tried to figure out a fuel injection system for his KZ900, the instructions to which were in japanese.

    I can still see him at his desk fiddling with wires and a black box.

    Dude had a KZ1000 he rode every day.

    In the show, they rode Triumphs, of all things. First time I’d seen one.

    Dude told me he had enough parts to build a Kawasaki triple for me for around $400. That was a princely sum that back in the day I didn’t have.

    I remember doing yearbook shit on a weekend with one of my friends when we were arguing what was the best first bike to get.

    He said a small CC bike. I said, get what you want and learn to ride it.

    Our teacher, taking a break from hotrodding his Dodge pickup, told us a 1000CC – a litre bike. Why?

    Because you’d have some respect for how fast and how heavy a bike is.

    Those were the days.

    Dude’s long gone now.

    Our kids don’t know what they missed.

    1. they rode Triumphs

      Best bikes ever IMO (not the new stuff). Bonneville especially, and I keep looking for the right one at the right price. Every time I find it, it’s across the country and too far away.

      I had a Honda Sport 65 that I purchased as a total loss for $15 bucks back in in 1966 when I was 13. I tore it down and straightened the bent frame, replaced the un-repairable front forks with a set from a Honda 50 (they were identical), and put a big bore kit on the motor to go to 75cc, IIRC. I rode that bike everywhere and all over the trails behind my house. No license yet (13) and never got pulled. No tag either.

      Next bike was a Yamaha 175 dirt bike I bought that was chained up to a metal stairs outside with a crankcase full of water.Tore it all down and replaced a handful of bearings and she was fine. I think I paid $25 for it.

      And then the thumper, a 1966 BSA 441 Victor Special. It needed nothing, bought it from a friends dad that couldn’t get the hang of the single cylinder dirt bike. I loved that bike. Don’t recall the price but it was reasonable.

      And that was it. Cars took over. I lust for a Triumph Bonneville, mid to early 60’s. One of these days…

      1. Actually, I can’t knock the new Trumps at all, Barr. A close friend of mine had one, damned near got hisself kilt on it a few years back. But before he dumped it to go slide off the pavement and bounce off a few Jersey walls for a while, it was a really sweet machine.

        And those old Beezers were something else, too. Way too many moons ago my friend brack had, what was it, a BSA Hornet, I think they were called. That little sucker would flat FLY, too.

        He put the Beezer in a now-defunct Brit bike shop on Monroe Rd for a complete rewiring job–a shop whose proprietor was famous for droning endlessly on and on about mostly nothing, any and every time some poor sap made the mistake of walking in the door. The guy had a rep as being a damned good wrench, but man ALIVE. I got caught up in his toils a cpl-three times myself, it was excruciating.

        That wiring job ended up taking several years to complete, for some strange reason. Hell, there ain’t that many wires on those old bikes in the first damned place. I’ve done front-to-back rewires myself that took me no more than a single afternoon. Then again, I spent most of my time in the shop turning wrenches, not jawjacking endlessly. I dunno, could be that may have had something to do with it…;)

        1. Mike, I just don’t know anything about the new Triumph’s to say. I do know they have a nice, almost original look for the ones that go by “Bonneville”. Price (used) is decent too. But I’m stuck on owning an old one…

          Heck, an old car doesn’t have that much wiring, an older bike is nothing. Taking more than a few days means somebody just isn’t.

          1. Years ago I was considering buying an old Trump Daytona a local car dealership had up for sale, cheap, but decided not to after a brief test ride, wherein I learned that riding goofy-foot (ie, shift on right, brake on left) was definitely NOT for me. At that point, a career as a flat-track racer was right out.

            The new Triumphs–known by waggish types as “Thai-rumphs, since a good many are made in Thailand) are quite nice, I think; models like the Bonny have a very nostalgic repro look, but outperform their older, classic siblings by orders of magnitude, particularly when it comes to brakes, suspension, and overall handling. The very Buell-ish Speed Triple is supposed to be a real mover, or so I’ve heard.

            1. Thai-rumphs
              Ha, haven’t heard that one before.

              riding goofy-foot

              Double Ha, have never heard that either, but I get it. I well recall my first trip to Ireland (mentioned over in the beer thread) where I got off the plane and into a rental car. They drive on the wrong side of the road and sit on the wrong side of the car. I managed 🙂

              At least the throttle, brake pedal, and clutch (car) are same position.

              1. Heh. Goofy-foot is my own adaptation of a venerable old skateboarding term, referring basically to skating left-footed–ie, facing in the opposite of the usual direction.

                1. 🙂
                  Never heard it applied to skateboarding either. Learn something new every day, including words.

                  Anyway, it’s an apt term for sure.

  2. 1970 Norton Commando… that sumbitch flew. And Norton had babes in its ads, to boot. Dear Lord I’m old, but I feel pity for folks who missed those years. I used to cuss because we aren’t the same country anymore, but hell, we’re not the same planet anymore.
    The Norton had to go when kids started arriving. Then the Corvette. Now that the kids and wife have left, I realize I should have kept both. Got a new(er) Harley, a big one… never did want a Sportster, ever since hearing a grizzled ol’ fucker call ’em “girls bikes”. Oh wait, that was me…

    1. Didn’t Norton hold some kind of record for fastest production motorcycle back in the early 70s or thereabouts? I seem to recall that they did, but I might be wrong.

      As for the girls’ bike, dirt bike, half-a-Harley stuff, I always reveled in that myself. I’ve owned just about every kind of Big Twin there is over the years, but always somehow gravitated back to Snortsters, I just love them nimble little things. Hey, if they’re manly enough for Evel Knievel and Sonny Barger, that’s good enough for my wimpy ass. 😉

      1. I love the Sportster myself. If I were going to have a Harley it’s what I would have. 4 of them plus a couple of the biguns pulled into the gas station I stopped at on the way east today. All looked like very new models, and all 4 had flat paint jobs, two black and two burgundy, and they all looked pretty damn nice.

    2. I well remember the Commando. It was a fine English bike. 750 IIRC, and it was a fast MF. I rode one once down I-385 outside Greenville SC, our old test bed for speed (now all built up). Don’t recall just how fast, only that I was breaking the century mark.

        1. Damn. That thing is beautiful. I’m not sure I could survive riding a bike like that. Even at 70 the temptation is great…

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