It’s Alive… For The Moment!

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Cue Borat voice… great success! The ’80 Hardley appears to be functional. Possibly, ridable. Probably for not very long.

But, still.

I gimped the electrics to a state of “well, it works” … battlefield medicine, so to speak. The bike’s wiring harness was cut and re-routed and shorted out to such a Byzantine extent I focused on getting the basics straight – power to the coil and starter solenoid – so the engine would run.

Once I sorted out the carb.Great Success!

Which took some doing. Float level, especially. It was either too high – or too low. Getting it just right was tricky. The bike’s 1,000 CC Ironhead had been modified (not by me) and it sucks more gas, proportionately, than my ’76 Trans-Am’s 455 V8. So there was a perpetual lean-out condition … unless the float was set such that the bowl stayed full enough to not have the main jet sucking air when you rotated the throttle (and held it there). But a touch too high and the carb would leak fuel at idle unless you manually turned off the fuel tap. It took some doing to get it where it needed to be. The float tang on an ’80 Harley Ironhead’s Keihin carb is very tiny and the slightest bend (either way) results in major changes to the float level.

Want to learn patience? Work on one of these.

The regulator was shot. I knew this because of the acrid white smoke pouring out of it. So I got a new one. That plus finding (and dealing with) a few bad grounds and two bad breakers (the bike does not have fuses) and a gerry-rigged starter button (see above point about the hopelessly mauled factory harness) and the bike fired… and ran.Franken Harley 2

A reasonably stable idle has been achieved and the engine appears to not be overheating and is leaking fluids within normal Harley/AMF parameters.

This is probably the best that can be hoped for. One does not expect denizens of senior citizen homes to run marathons. If you can get them up and down a few stairs, you’ve achieved something remarkable.

So it is with AMF-era Harleys.

They are for the truly committed only. Hard-core Harley People. The only people who have the extreme emotional connection to the brand to deal with a bike that has its charms but rarely runs for any length of time. There is always something wrong with an AMF-era Harley.

If not, wait.

The other day, while still trying to resuscitate the Harley, I took a break to pay some attention to my bikes. All of which are Japanese and consequently, all of which work. Even though several are much older. Even though they’d been sitting for more than a month (I know, bad me). They all started right up. None leaked. I’d throw a leg over any one of them and head out on a 200 mile ride without Fear… and without a chase truck following behind me.frankie wires

I’m very reluctant to take the Harley farther than I can reasonably walk back home.

Which would be the case with a ‘1940s-vintage car. We’re dealing with the same level of technology (though the Harley does have a 12V electrical system; it’s the one sort-of modern feature it has) and so, the same level of reliability. The reason Harley – the company – nearly slept with the fishes (before Uncle stepped in) was because British and much more so Japanese bikes made riding a motorcycle viable as a way to get from A to B without the intermediary of walking or hitching a ride or calling a friend to bring his truck and some tools. The Japanese bikes had modern electrics (alternators!) and engines that boasted technical advances (such as overhead cams and four-valve heads) that car engines (excepting exotics) wouldn’t have for decades to come.

They got great gas mileage, didn’t leak. You just rode them. Until you got tired. The bike almost never did.drunk lout

Now, the Harley has its charms. Nothing else sounds like an old Ironhead exhaling through drag pipes. Such a bike produces more decibels than all four of my Japanese bikes together. If you want to upset the straights, nothing does it better than a Harley. Especially an old one, like this one.

It is rude, obnoxious.

And that’s why people – Harley People – love them. And, put up with them.

It is like having a ne’er do well son. The bastard comes home drunk and throws up on the carpet. He’s 35 and won’t move out of the house. You bail him out jail for his 5th DWI, after he wrecked your car… again.

But, he’s your boy.

What else are you gonna do?

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19 COMMENTS

  1. Sitting here in a hospital room watching Houston 2 news on mute, and now the TodayShow with Chairman Matt Lao’er. Why do we allow ourselves to cyberbullied and broadcast-beaten. We should just hit the off button.

    Illustration of the The Myth of Authority and the ubiquitous officious Government Tautology.
    http://xkcd.com/1634/

  2. When I read your article, it reminded me that the same applies to 4-wheeled conveyances as well. Replace “Harley” with “Ford/Chevy/Mopar” and “British and Japanese bikes like Triumph and Kawasaki” with “German and Japanese cars like Mercedes Benz and Toyota.”

    As the owner of old Detroit iron and modern Japanese wheels, I can say that while I appreciate the reliability and lack of leaks of my Subaru, my Olds had a certain charm about it too…and at least the problems I did have were obvious to spot and relatively easy to fix.

  3. Eric,

    I’ve really come to enjoy all those freeee YouTube videos. Waking up around 4 am each morning, and having the Vizio TV tha has the YouTube App on it; its great fun to go through them all as I consume mass quantities of infotainment, cue Beldar the Conehead here.

    It truly makes the ensuing gauntlet from Oaks Elementary to NE Memorial Hermann almost bearable, if you looney croon things like: cloooooover and saaaaaaafety as you hot solder you soul to the unibody and then fearlessly join your fourteen minute workday death metal lemmings stampede each fine Texas Bayou Morn.

    Oaks Elementary School
    5858 Upper Lake Drive, Humble, TX 77346

    Head east on Upper Lake Dr toward Oak Briar Dr
    0.2 mi

    Turn right onto Atasca Oaks Dr
    0.5 mi

    Turn right onto Kings Park Way
    0.3 mi

    Turn right onto FM 1960 W
    5.5 mi

    Use the left 2 lanes to turn left onto Eastex Freeway Service Rd
    0.8 mi

    Turn right onto Memorial Blvd
    0.2 mi

    Turn right onto N Memorial Dr
    Destination will be on the left
    312 ft
    Memorial Hermann Northeast
    18951 North Memorial Drive, Humble, TX 77338

    SetUp the Vizio App
    http://smallbusiness.chron.com/set-up-youtube-app-vizio-tv-49970.html

    Amarillo by morning, Amarillo I’ll be there
    https://vimeo.com/66536862

    • Good stuff, Tor!

      Speaking of freeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!

      I don’t know what to make of the Reddit thing. They contacted me, asked me to be a part of their “Libertarian celebrity” meme. Asked me to be “on” at a given time. I pulled back from that. I’m open to having some sort of relationship with Reddit on my terms, if it helps me somehow… assuming they are not paying me.

      Which, of course, they’re not.

      I have the feeling what they want is for me to spend my time, my effort, building up Reddit for…. freeeeeeeeeeeeeee!

      Which I’m not doing. Pay my ass or fuck off! 🙂

      • Reddit is a heavily surveilled and top-level manipulated pseudo-anarchy.

        Forthright Guy A can be over-ruled by mid level volunteer B and then a bot can be assigned to handle all further instances of spamming soapboxing, or having too much to think and being cognitively intoxicated by far to many endorphins and cerebral electrical overloads.

        Everything posted by you, Fred, Larken, Josie, etc. is doggedly followed by artificial intelligence bots of various algorithms and then observed by various panels of site “insiders.” And also, less technically, every subverse has its own quirks and taboos, which are very difficult to determine, and hence whatever you post somewhere is more likely than not to be rejected or else downvoted out of existence quite quickly.

        Under private property it “is what it is.” A = A and all that. Good luck and Molon Labe to them and all that. I have little issue with them, just advise that you know going in what you’re really doing, and how limited your freedom is likely to be, if you wander far from the orbits of nearby rocky planets out into the asteroids, gas giants, and KBOs.

        Rather like real life, I had a hey day doing as I pleased, bending, ignoring their many rules and policies with little to know consequences. Lots of traffic went mostly to your site, and maybe to a few others I’m not quite as enthusiastic about, but wanted to test the waters about or something.

        Then one day I was lit up by an “A” red text user calling itself “OfficerAdiposeAmazon” who warned me about all manner of transgression of internet conduct and acceptible user actions under the agreed to terms of service.

        I looked under the users comments and submissions, and it was all blank. So this must be a throwaway user name, or some other person I can ignore. Little did I know that red text means a paid administrator of the site, of whom there’s maybe 30 officially listed, and who knows how many users and dummy accounts they use to keep this site running and serving its angel investor funders and such.

        Big mistake, I was shadowbanned, which is a non-punishment that makes further posting to the site pointless. Everything you do is seen by you and looks like its there, but no other user can see it, you’re effectively banned, yet you have little chance of ever finding this out, or being sure this is the case.

        Sorry this all looks to be tl:dr Mumbai-style semi-intelligble english, and will remain without my usual editing, its the best I can do under the circumstances, which include using a Mac Book running Snow Leopard and other impedances to my train of thought and editing process that I won’t bore you with nor well be able to explain. Did I ever mention I only came to be trained in English at a Montessori school, after having been flagged as a musical prodigy at a very young age, and very susceptible time, and most days, I wish I didn’t even speak nor apprehend this infidel devil’s tongue any longer.

        I swear to Vishnu, this trying to stay in a folksy jargonized warrior American mindset is quite exhausting, please Ganesha have mercy.

        BingBong, real names Ganesh, walla walla DingDong

        Who’s the friend who likes to play. His rocket makes you yell Hooray.
        http://blog.onlineprasad.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/ganesh-aarti.jpeg

        And you thought you’d experienced the most sadistic mate ever!
        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e2KjC8QIHvE

        Forever your friend who likes to play – Tor Tong Tor Tong
        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1v3WCa4ttMI

      • Was this for /r/libertarian ?

        I unsubscribed from that subreddit as it became full of the immature “watch me be a rebel” types.

        You can still contact the moderators and offer to do an “IAMA” — you won’t get paid, but it’d let you do some outreach. Word to the wise, mention this site once in your introduction and *that’s all*. Too much promotion and you’ll get lumped in with Woody Harrelson and his “Rampart” fiasco. You do not want that.

  4. I had a Harley once. I think it was a ’77 or ’78 Sportster. What a POS. One of my friends reminded me that AMF’s main claim to fame was making bowling balls. AMF also has another meaning which might be more appropriate. The electric starter worked rarely, the brakes were marginal at best and the thing vibrated so much it was amazing that anything remained attached to the frame. But on the bright side it leaked no more oil than the average British bike. I sold it and got a Honda CX-500 that I put 120, 000 miles on with no more service than oil changes.

    • Hi MS,

      Ditto and amen… to all of that!

      The bike – when it runs – literally shakes itself apart. Locktite everything! It might help. It leaks fluids like vegetative-state 97-year-old in hospice. The “wiring harness” must be seen to be appreciated.

      The good news is this isn’t my bike. 🙂

      • Why is it that amateur mechanics are always so bad at wiring?

        Is it because it’s so easy to just cut wires rather than snake them out of the harness and frame loops?

        I don’t help people with their car stereo problems any more because I got tired of fixing their major screw-ups. “I heard you can connect the radio lighting wire to the ABS system so that it lights up with the brake pulses.” WTF would you do that?

        • This one led a brutal life!

          But there are things about that were designed-in terrible. For example: The breaker panel is not shielded and mounted such that it is very close to various metal things that could at any time shirt something out. Mind, this bike vibrates like Satan’s dildo on High….

          • Eric,
            An aftermarket wiring harnesses such as those typically used by custom bike builders might be in order here. There’s a main box that connects to hot and ground and a series of marked terminals.
            START OVER!
            K-

            • Hi Kman,

              Oh, heck yeah! If it were my bike. Shit, I’m many things, but not am imbecile. If this had been my bike, I’d have started by starting over. Stripped the entire wiring harness, fuse panel and re-wired every last damned thing with new parts. I do that with every old wreck I buy and resuscitate.

              But this bike belongs to my neighbor’s son – and I volunteered to get it running for him.

              Having done that, I must now get it back to him – before it stops running again!

    • AMF not only made bowling balls but complete bowling lanes, etc. and all sorts of stuff like pool tables(good ones)and pleasure boats(Slickcraft, Crestliner, Cobra, and Viper). They seemed to like to take over other brands whose specialty was some sort of figerglass product. Helmets come to mind too as well as athletic gear, lots of football stuff as well as sports balls and accessories. They owned Brunswick and all the stuff they made.
      They made recording and playback tape of various types too. Seems like they were even into oil field well-completion at one time too. Back in the 80’s they had their hand in nearly every pie around. Harley really wasn’t their forte’ but they bought it on the cheap as they did everything they owned and cheaply made mucho money with it. I think they even bought out Cris Craft at one time.

      American Machine and Foundry was basically turned into a holding company that specialized in leveraged buyouts. I’m sure if you researched deeply enough you’d find many notorious individual’s names associated with it.

  5. I’ve a 1974 175cc Italian AMF Harley 2 stroke that is wonderful to ride. Unfortunately I left it on the trailer while at the Luckenbach Classic when a hurricane blew through and it now has no electrics. I intend to completely rewire it to my own specs. These things have to be modified to work right. I already had to open up the airbox to be able to run properly, lengthen the swingarm a little, and put decent rear shocks on. Now the 32mm front forks seem a little wimpy even though they are Marzocchi. Will a modern bike with all the nice doodads, safety equipment and EPA crap be rideable at all in 40+ years?

  6. Tis all true…
    I’ve got an old ironhead (a 66 XLCH) and WHEN you get the magical combination of throttle /choke /kick based on the alignment of the planets and it finally starts it’s a fucking glorious thing to be a 20year old hoodlum again… Regular riding? Nah…. I’ve got a Yamaha for that….
    However I’ve owned the Damn thing since 1989 so I couldn’t imagine it not being here…

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