Monday, November 17, 2014

How We Got the Knucklehead Chopper

The Panhead Came First, but it Didn't Last Long

Back in the early 80's my husband got his very first Harley Davidson motorcycle. It was a 1949 Panhead, but it only ran for a few weeks before it blew up, so I really consider the Knucklehead to be the beginning of the story.
newly rebuild 1947 Knucklehead motor in Panhead frame
It was through riding the Panhead that he met Donta, who was an old Knucklehead rider. Donta became his good friend and helped him learn the ropes when it comes to working on and riding vintage Harleys.

It was 1981, and they were in the process of rebuilding the Panhead after it blew up, when he went down to the motorcycle swap meet in Costa Mesa looking for parts. He ended up coming home with a 1947 Knucklehead motor (all in pieces of course) for the bargain price of $546.
The Panhead motor was soon set aside and over a period of months the frame that was going to hold the Panhead was prepared for the knuckle motor. The first time he built the Knucklehead, it was a chopper in a pan wishbone frame, it had a glide front end, a suicide clutch, jockey shift, and mechanical brakes.

Wrenching on the Sidewalk

Harley Knucklehead motor parts on kitchen table
When the Knucklehead was first built we were living on 80 acres down in the San Bernardino Mountains, but in 1984 we moved to a small town in northern California.

We rented a little house right in town. At our first house in town, there was no shop, not even a yard in front, just a sidewalk. In those days it was not uncommon for us to have Harley parts on the kitchen table for extended periods of time. Then my sweetie would work on the bike out on the sidewalk in front of the house.

There Was No Helmet Law in California Then

couple on knucklehead chopper with homemade bedroll
When we first moved up north, we took a lot of day rides exploring the surrounding area. It was was a good way to get the lay of the land and cheap entertainment for us.

In those days we made do with what we had. Since there was no money for hotels, and we had no sleeping bags, if we would be spending the night on the road we would just grab my homemade quilt off the bed and bungee it on to the front of the bike.

Roadside Repairs

Making repairs to flat tire on a panhead motorcycle on the side of the roadtwo men on knucklehead chopper passenger holding a spare wheel and tire
We were on our way to the Redwood Run up in Humboldt County in these photos. I think it was maybe 1984. The Redwood Run was an annual tradition with us for about 15 years.

When you're traveling on these old motorcycles it's almost inevitable that someone will have an issue with their bike.

Some people like to travel with a "chase truck" to carry their gear, and you can load a bike into it if it breaks down. But we never did, we carried whatever we needed on the bike.

This time it was just a flat tire, so the problem was easily solved.

Those were some good times. Now I like to take things a little easier, but it was all part of the adventure back then.

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