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When people talk about early motorcycle racing legends, one of the first names that comes to mind is Jim Davis.  His racing career span...


When people talk about early motorcycle racing legends, one of the first names that comes to mind is Jim Davis.  His racing career spanned more than two decades, riding bikes for both Harley-Davidson and Indian as well as a few British manufacturers.  He won titles under the Federation of American Motorcyclists (FAM), the Motorcycle and Allied Trades Association (M&ATA) and the American Motorcyclist Association(AMA).  By the end of his career, he had won over 50 national events under the FAM and M&ATA, plus another 21 under the AMA.


Racing was in Jim Davis' blood since his birth on March 23, 1896 in Columbus, Ohio.  Davis' father was a former bicycle racer and passed the love of two wheel competition down to his son.  Davis attended his first motorcycle race in 1913 while accompanying his father on a business trip to Savannah, GA.  Davis was so enthralled by the race, that upon returning home he convinced his father to by him a Yale motorcycle.  This soon led to competing in his first motorcycle race in Lancaster, Ohio at age 14.  Davis won his first victory there on a borrowed Indian twin.  His prize was a pair of rubber goggles and a quart of oil. Davis continued to enter amateur events and was doing rather well.  In 1915, he had a chance meeting with Frank Weschler, the head of sales for Indian.  Davis just happened to be at the Columbus Indian dealership when Weshler was visiting.  The owner of the dealership bragged to Weschler about Davis' racing prowess and recommended that Davis be given an Indian factory race bike.  The owner must have been pretty convincing because Davis received a brand new eight-valve closed-port Indian factory race bike within a few weeks.


Davis spent the rest of that year competing in local events around his home state of Ohio.  In 1916, Davis left Ohio for his first national event, the FAM 100-Mile National in Detroit.  Weighing in at a mere 120 lbs and only 20 years old, Davis must have looked out of place when he lined up against the other 25 - 30 seasoned racers.  Any doubt in his ability as a racer was soon dismissed as Davis lead the entire 100 mile race and came away with his first national victory.  Immediately following the race, Davis headed to Saratoga, New York and won his second national race.  With back to back victories under his belt, Indian soon placed Davis on their payroll and he began traveling the country to compete for the Wigwam.

Just as his career began to take off, the world was heading into World War I.  Motorcycle racing took a backseat to the war effort and like many young men, Davis was drafted into the Army.  Luckily, his commanding officer recognized him from the race circuit and got him assigned to motorcycle escort duty.  Davis spent the war transporting officials stateside and I bet he got them to their destinations in record time.

Davis' position as an Indian factory racer ended in 1920 after he faked a telegram from M&ATA president A.B. Coffman which he used to gain entrance into an invitation only racing event.  Within 24-hours of being kicked off the Indian racing team, Harley-Davidson signed Davis onto their team.  Davis raced for Harley for the next 5 years, winning many notable events.  The first of which was the Dodge City 300 miler.  For this race, Harley-Davidson chose to run a pocket-valve version of their new Ottaway inspired "banjo 2-cam".  This change came about because H-D management thought that there would be a public relations benefit to running a motorcycle which at last resembled something that was available to the general public.  Up until that time, both Harley-Davidson and Indian had run purpose built race bikes, only available to factory racers.


After a successful run with Harley-Davidson, Davis was back over to Indian for the 1926 season.  He won three national titles that year racing both dirt track and board track events.  Davis went on to double this one year record in 1928, winning a total of 6 national titles and was named the AMA national champion.  The following year brought more national titles and second AMA national champion title.  Davis' last AMA victory came in 1930 at Syracuse, New York.  Although he never won another national title, Davis continued to race competitively until 1936.  All told, he raced 1500 events and covered 30,000 competition miles.

Even though he was retired from racing, Davis continued to be active in the sport.  Ironically, he received his only serious motorcycle racing injury during this time, when he was hit by Don Evans in 1948 while waving the checkered flag.

In 1984, Davis received the Dudley Perkins Award, AMA's highest honor, for his life-long contributions to the sport.  He was also inducted into the Motorcycle Hall of Fame in 1998.

Jim Davis died on February 5, 2000 in Daytona Beach, FL.  He was 103 years old at the time of his death.  Who says that riding motorcycles shortens your life...


The event announcements for 2017 are already starting to roll in and while most of us are sitting around the shop staring at our dusty ...


The event announcements for 2017 are already starting to roll in and while most of us are sitting around the shop staring at our dusty motorcycles, Zac Gibbons is hard at work putting together an event he calls the "Twin Rivers Chopper Camp Out".  Held August 18-20th at the Twin Rivers Campground in Crumpler, NC, it promises three days of riding through Appalachian Mountains followed by nights camping on the banks of the New River.  Take note that this is an event for choppers, so while technically you don't have to have a chopper to attend, people might look at you strange if you trailer your new Ultra Classic to the campground.


Unless you live in western NC, you've probably never even heard of the community of Crumpler, but if you look on a map you'll see it's located in the northwestern corner of the state.  Basically you just ride north until your almost in Virginia then hang a left and ride west until your almost in Tennessee.  This puts you right in the heart of the Appalachian mountains with great roads to explore, literally in every direction.  Currently there are not any scheduled runs or routes for the weekend, which leaves you free to grab a couple buddies and strike out in any direction you please and ride as long and as far as you want.


When you get tired of riding, there will be plenty to do back at the campground, starting with a slew of chopper games.  I suggest you go ahead and start practicing your low speed skills now and make sure your bike is in good tune by August.  There will also be raft races on the 2 mile long horseshoe bend in the river that encircles the campground.  Tubes are available for rent at the main office, but you are encouraged to bring your own inflatable.  As the sun goes down, the bonfires will be lit and DJ Biggins will be handling the music and announcing raffle prize winners.

To help minimize the about of gear everyone has to bring, food trucks will be stopping through the campground throughout the weekend to provide meals, leaving you only responsible for additional beverages.  Keep in mind that people go to bed early out in the country, so make sure you stock up on whatever you'll need to make it through the night because the nearest 24-hour Walmart is in the next town over.


This will be the second year that the event has taken place at the Twin Rivers Family Campground and although the word "family" conjures up thoughts of early bedtimes and no noise after 9, the campground is so large that the event is located a mile away from the main office. Plus all the primitive campsites have been pre-booked, so you won't be mixed in with a bunch of mini-vans and uptight folks who can't appreciate the sound of a set of drag pipes after midnight.  That means you've got the whole night to tell stories about building choppers, riding across the country or whatever lie comes to mind, the louder the better.


With 7 months until the Twin Rivers Chopper Camp Out, you've got plenty of time to finish that chopper project you started on this winter.  That also means there are seven more months of planning and I'll be updating this page to reflect new details as they are available.  You can also follow along on Instagram @twinriverschoppercampout, on Facebook at Twin Rivers Chopper Camp-Out and hear Zac describe the event in his own words on the Riders on the Norm podcast available on Stitcher and iTunes.

Sponsorship opportunities are available and those interested in finding out how they can help support this event can contact Zac directly via email at:  zakgibbons@yahoo.com

One of the first upgrades I made to my 1964 Harley-Davidson Duo-Glide was to change my primary drive from a chain to a belt. This upgr...


One of the first upgrades I made to my 1964 Harley-Davidson Duo-Glide was to change my primary drive from a chain to a belt. This upgrade provides two major advantages over the stock chain drive, less vibration at higher speeds and less maintenance. My main motivation was less vibration to make highway riding a bit more enjoyable. The less maintenance is also a big plus because adjusting the chain drive is a long process. If you haven’t adjusted a chain drive on a vintage bike, it’s hard to imagine it is a big deal, but on these older bikes there is not a primary chain adjuster like on late model bikes. Instead, you have to adjust the position of the transmission to adjust the primary chain. After you finish adjusting your primary chain, then you have to readjust your clutch and rear chain.

On a stock bike, the primary chain is lubricated by engine oil that is sprayed into the primary by an engine breather. To keep excess oil from building up in the primary, there is a drain at the bottom of the primary which allows the oil to drain out and down a tube onto the rear chain, thus lubricating it as well. This is one of the reasons old bikes seem to be constantly leaking oil, but it’s actually not a leak it’s a self oiling chain system.

Since you cannot just block off the engine breather, I decided to reroute it around the new belt drive, using a variety of copper plumbing fittings that I picked up at the local hardware store. If you know how to solder copper pipe, this is a very easy way to make a breather bypass. If you’ve never soldered copper pipe, then I would suggest checking out some of the “Do It Yourself” type websites before starting this project.

To get started, you’ll want to pick up the following:
1′ length of 1/2″ ID copper pipe
two 1/2″ ID copper 90 degree elbows
two 1/2″ to 1/4″ ID copper reducers
6″length of 1/4″ ID copper pipe
2′ length of 1/4″ OD copper tubing
6″ length 1/2″ ID rubber hose
two hose clamps
Plus standard tools and materials for soldering copper pipe.

Now comes the fun part, getting all of this to fit inside your primary cover. It took a lot of trial and error until I got everything to fit just right. Before you start cutting pipe, you’ll want to remove the small elbow on the end of the engine breather, so that you are left with just a straight piece of pipe running into the primary.

The first step is to cut about 1/4″ off the large end of each reducer. Without this step, the reducer plus the 90 degree elbow will be too long to fit inside the primary cover.

Trim reducers by at least 1/4"
Next I cut two pieces of the 1/2″ ID pipe to fit in between the reducer and the 90 degree elbow. You’ll want the reducer and elbow to fit together flush to elminate as much extra length as possible. Once ready, you can solder the two joints together and set them aside to cool.

At this point you can save a little time fitting the main length of pipe, if you can get someone to give you a hand. Basically just hold the two finished reducer/elbows at the correct locations and have your helper measure the distance between them. Once you have a rough measurement, you can start fitting the pipe, trimming as necessary, until the top reducer lines up with the engine breather and the lower reducer lines up with the drain hole. Make sure you do not solder the main pipe to the reducer/elbows until you finish the next step.

The last piece to fit is a short section of 1/4″ ID pipe. This will fill the gap between the lower reducer and the drain hole. It is essential that this piece fits exactly. If it is too long, the lower elbow will not clear the primary cover. If it is too short, the inside of the lower elbow can contact the belt.

Here are all the pieces, cut and ready to assemble
With the last two pieces of pipe cut, dry fit everything together and mark the rotation of the elbows on the main pipe. Fit the primary cover back on the bike and make sure that nothing is coming in contact with the belt and that you can screw the cover down. I used a pair of channel lock pliers to slightly crush the lower elbow to gain more clearance between it and the belt. When you are satisfied that everything is going to fit, solder it all together.

Soldered and ready to install
Bending the length of copper tubing which will go from the primary drain to your rear chain is the next step. It took three attempts for me to bend one that I could cleanly route to the rear chain.

Copper tubing used to route oil from the primary drain to the rear chain
Keep in mind that the copper tubing will have to be soldered to the lower reducer after it has been installed on the bike. I chose to maximize the distance to the first bend, so that I could have the copper tubing stick a few inches outside of the primary for assembly. Make sure you use something to protect your belt while soldering this last joint. I covered mine with a welding glove and made sure to work as quickly as possible with the torch.

Copper tubing positioned to oil the rear chain
The last step is to cut a short piece of rubber hose that you will use to attach the upper reducer to the engine breather. The distance here is critical, so make sure that the reducer butts up against the engine breather when fitting the rubber hose. A couple of clamps will hold it all together and then your breather bypass is complete.

Engine breather bypass installed and ready for primary cover to be mounted

For those of us who live on the East Coast, we've had to put up with years of hearing about the "custom bike scene" in Cal...

For those of us who live on the East Coast, we've had to put up with years of hearing about the "custom bike scene" in California.  Everything cool always has to come from the West Coast with the rest of the country playing second fiddle to the trends and builders out in Cali.  Well finally someone has decided to put together an event that showcases the talent on the other side of the country.  Zac and Jake from Prism Supply have teamed up with Harley-Davidson and Dice Magazine to put on a one day show in Charlotte, NC aptly named "The Congregation Vintage Motorcycle Show."  This isn't your typical ride and shine dealership show where anyone can throw down $20 to have their bike participate, but an invitation only event which will show off the work of 50-75 top builders who hail from eastern seaboard.

The event will take place the Saturday before Memorial Day in the original Ford Model A plant.  Located in uptown Charlotte, it is a massive brick building, lined with tall glass windows and an open floor plan, making it the perfect venue for a collection of more than 6 dozen vintage motorcycles.  If you get tired of all two-wheeled eye candy, there will also be a selection of hot rods and custom cars provided by the Iron Lords Car Club.

Follow Prism Supply on Instagram (@prismsupply_) to keep up with the latest information on the event as well as listening to the Riders on the Norm podcast available on Stitcher and iTunes.  Of course I'll be updating this page as well, so check back as the event draws closer.

The fuel valve on my 1964 Harley-Davidson Duo-Glide, tends to leak a little now and then. It’s not a major problem, but I decided it wo...

The fuel valve on my 1964 Harley-Davidson Duo-Glide, tends to leak a little now and then. It’s not a major problem, but I decided it would be a good idea to fix it before it dumps a couple gallons of fuel on my garage floor. The original valve uses a metal tipped rod that is tightened down against the lower tank fitting to shut off the fuel. This tip has to be carefully lapped so it seals perfectly with the brass insert inside the lower tank fitting. Use and age slowly wear out the tip and brass insert until fuel can start seeping past the valve, even when it is tightened down.

 If your not interested in learning the fine art of fuel valve lapping, then I suggest you do what I did and call up Carl’s Cycle Supply. They have a new fuel valve that uses a tip made from Peek. For those chemistry buffs, Peek, which is short for polyether ether ketone, is a semicrystalline thermoplastic with excellent mechanical and chemical resistance properties that are retained to high temperatures. The bottomline is that this tip will seal better and last longer than the original without the need for periodic lapping.  Besides the difference in tips, the two fuel valves are identical in construction. Every hole, thread, etc, matches up perfectly to the original.


The first step to installing the new fuel valve is to drain the fuel tanks. An easy way to do this, if you don’t have a siphon, is to detach the fuel line down at the carburetor and add a length of rubber tubing to the end of the metal fuel line. Then you simply route the rubber tubing to a gas can and open the fuel valve. Make sure you pull the knob all the way up so that it is on reserve. Once the fuel is drained, remove the crossover line where it connects to the right side tank. At this point I went ahead and removed the tanks, but that is an optional step. If you do plan to remove the tanks, it’s a good idea to loosen the lower tank fitting while the tank is attached, so you can get decent leverage on the fitting.


To disassemble your old fuel valve, first use a 1″ socket or wrench to remove the lower tank fitting. Next unscrew the knob that operates the valve, at the top of the tank. My bike has an “accessory knob” which isn’t listed in the parts manual but is held onto the fuel rod via a short threaded stud.  The factory set up just uses a single screw.  Whatever set up you have, you first need to unscrew the accessory knob or single screw. Once either of these is removed, you will be left with two knurled fittings.  The top fitting is pressed onto the end of the fuel rod and should pop right off. The lower fitting is screwed into the tank and may need some careful persuading with a pair of pliers to loosen. With the lower knurled fitting out of the way, you can remove the spring, washer and seal that are on the top end of the fuel rod.


Once all the parts are removed from the top end of the fuel rod, it can be dropped out of the bottom of the tank through the hole left by the lower fuel fitting. To install the new fuel valve, just reverse the above steps. Take note, that if you have the "accessory knob" there is small length of threaded rod which screws into the end of the fuel rod that needs to be reused.  Everything else will be replaced with the parts from Carl’s Cycle Supply, including all the necessary seals. As an added precaution, I used a dab of loctite blue on the threaded rod. I hate to loose that knob on the road!


Before installing the new parts, I took a few minutes to compare the new and old fuel valve. My original fuel rod tip, had plenty of wear as well as some pitting. No wonder I was getting the occasional leak.


After everything is reassembled close the fuel valve before tightening the lower tank fitting.  This will insure that the fuel rod is seated properly in the lower tank fitting.  Also don’t forget to reattach the crossover line to the right side tank.  My last step was adding a genuine Carl’s Cycle Supply sticker to my oil bag…

The 1961-1964 Harley-Davidson Duo-Glides used a dual circuit breaker ignition system (often referred to as a dual points ignition) with...


The 1961-1964 Harley-Davidson Duo-Glides used a dual circuit breaker ignition system (often referred to as a dual points ignition) with a manual advance. This arrangement meant that each cylinder had an individual circuit breaker that was timed to fire that cylinder’s spark plug. This also meant that there were two 6 volt ignition coils, one for each circuit breaker.

One common upgrade for motorcycles from the 1960′s and earlier is to change the electrical system over from 6 volts to 12 volts. When I purchased my 1964 Duo-Glide, the original owner had already made this conversion, but had used a set of 12 volt ignition coils from a Volkswagen. This arrangement worked fine, but the larger coils needed a “custom” oversized cover to hide them from view.


In keeping with my goal of creating a motorcycle that retained as many correct parts as possible, yet was a reliable rider, I decided to try and install the correct coil cover. I purchased an OEM cover on eBay and then started hunting for the right size coils to fit under it. The original 6 volt coils were 4″ high and 2″ in diameter and looked very much like a miniature version of the 12 volt coils used on most cars in the 70′s and 80′s. I searched the web for part numbers for a correctly sized replacement, but information on this upgrade seemed to be non-existent.


Next I decided to give Bosch a call, figuring they could just look up what I needed in their vast selection of ignition coils. This turned out to be a waste of time, because they could only search for coils based on the make and model of a vehicle. A couple more calls to Bosch Racing and some of their distributors also yielded nothing, so I contacted Dynatek.

Dynatek did not have a coil that was the same profile as the original 6 volt unit, but they did make a pair of compact 12 volt coils with 5 ohm resistance that would work with my dual circuit breaker ignition. Realizing that this was probably my best option, I decided to take a chance and ordered the Dyna DC10-1 coil set.


Once the new Dyna coils arrived, I removed the “custom” coil cover, the old blue coils and the coil bracket from my motorcycle. I played around with positioning of the new coils until a found a way to mount them which would allow the stock cover to be used. Basically, I positioned the coils using the original mounting bracket, but with the spark plug wires exiting behind the bracket.


Since the front spark plug wire exited very close to the rear cylinder and the rear spark plug wire exited very close to the oil tank, I added a nut and washer to the mounting studs of the coil mount to space it out ~1/4″ from the motorcycle.


I also felt that the coils did not mount as securely as they should and was concerned about vibrations causing one of them to slip out from under the coil bracket. Using some 1″ aluminum bar stock, I cut two brackets to bolt the upper and lower mounting tabs on the coils together. This really made a big difference in how the coils felt when mounted in the stock bracket


With the mounting complete, I rewired the ground and power connections, attaching them to the coils with the included ring terminals. I soldered these connections which should help them stand up to vibrations better than just crimping on the terminals.

The final step was to cut two custom length spark plug wires. A quick tip on making custom spark plug wires is to check with your local auto parts retailer. In my case I stopped by Autozone and picked out two of the longest single spark plug wires which had the correct ends for my application. The cost per wire was only $5.99. When I got home, I carefully removed the terminal from one end of the spark plug wire, cut it to the length and crimped the terminal back on.


The final touch was to install the correct coil cover and fasten it in place.

Thanks to an over zealous repaint of my cylinders, I needed to remove the intake nipples to clean some of the excess paint off the ...


Thanks to an over zealous repaint of my cylinders, I needed to remove the intake nipples to clean some of the excess paint off the threads.  The front intake nipple came out easy with just a strap wrench, but the rear was stuck fast.  After trying a number of tools, penetrating oil, etc. I decided the only way to grip the intake nipple without destroying the threads was to use a tool that held the intake nipple from the inside.  The cheap solution was a small tailpipe expander that I picked up from Amazon for $15.


Your standard tailpipe expander has eight sections which are forced out by two cones mounted on a threaded shaft.  I found that it was tough to get a good grip on the tool with all eight sections, so I just removed every other one.


Once the extra sections were removed, I inserted the tool into the intake nipple so that the front O-ring was just past the end of the nipple.


Using a 5/8" wrench, I tightened down the tailpipe expander until it was snug.  Then using a 10" pipe wrench I slowly unthreaded the intake nipple.  I did have to loosen, rotate and retighten the tailpipe expander several times to keep it at the right orientation to get a good turn with the pipe wrench.


Note in the picture above that the rivet has been removed that holds the intake nipple in place.  This must be done before trying to unscrew the intake nipple.  I was lucky and just pried mine loose, but you may have to drill it out if it is stuck fast.  Also make sure that the threads under the rivet are not damaged as damaged threads could ruin the cylinder threads as you unscrew the intake nipple.  Also don't try using vice grips to hold the tailpipe expander as they have a tendency to crack the sections (good thing I had four spares).


I'll be using the same tool to reinstall the intake nipples once the paint is removed from the threads.  I also plan to use Block sealer and to drill/tap the rivet holes so that screws can be used in place of the rivets for easier removal in the future.

Last year when I was preparing to ride across the US, I decided it was time to check out the current line up of motorbike helmets an...


Last year when I was preparing to ride across the US, I decided it was time to check out the current line up of motorbike helmets and order something to replace my aging Suomy helmet.  I had gotten stuck with the Suomy when my brand new Shoei was stolen in the parking lot of a Ducati dealership while on a trip to the mountains.  Forced to buy a replacement on the spot, my choices were either spending $100 on a Suomy or $600+ on an Arai.  Not wanting to skip meals and sleep outside for the rest of the trip,  I plopped down $100 bucks, grabbed the Suomy and hit the road.

Vents at located at the chin and on top of the head allow the rider to control airflow through the helmet.
Before that mishap, I had owned a Schuberth modular helmet, which I really liked until it got run over in a parking lot (me, parking lots and helmets don't seem to mix) and decided to give their S2 model a try.  It was supposed to be light, quiet and aerodynamic, which sounded like the perfect mix for riding across the country without a windshield.

Warm air exits through large rear vents, providing plenty of flow and keeping your head cool.
The outer shell of the S2 is made of a proprietary glass fiber and resin composite that is formed under high pressure vacuum, providing superior strength and lower weight.  The interior shell uses multi-zone foaming (whatever that means) to provide optimal shock absorption and distribution.  Covering the EPS foam interior is a removable and washable liner made using a combination of COOLMAX and Thermocool fabrics.  The inner liner also has retroreflective material around the neck to provide increased visibility at night.  Overall, I'd say the construction is top notch and most importantly passes both DOT and ECE 22.05 safety standards.  The low weight was definitely a plus because even after a day of riding I never rolled into camp with a sore neck.

The drop down sun screen will instantly have you humming the theme song to "Top Gun".
Aerodynamically, the helmet has been designed for motorcycles in which the rider is in more of an upright position.  Wind tunnel testing shows that the helmet has virtually no upward lift at both low and high speeds.  In practice this means that there is little buffeting when riding without the protection of a fairing or a windshield.  Although most of my riding is not what you would call high speeds (averaged about 50 mph crossing the US), I can say that I had no issues with the S2 buffeting in any wind or traffic conditions.

The Pinlock system works just like a double paned glass window, using a layer of air to keep the inside surface of the visor from fogging up.
Schuberth is also very proud of how quiet the S2 is at speed.  Their tests show only 85dB at 100 km per hour on a naked motorcycle, which "sounds" really good.  In reality, I found the S2 to be no quieter than my cheap Suomy and often times found it difficult to listen to music while riding (via earbuds) when on the highway.  I have read that the addition of their communication system remedies this as it adds additional wind protection around the neck.  Unfortunately that system sells for close to the price I paid for the helmet, so I will probably just stick with cheap disposable ear plugs.

The chin strap is easily removed by pulling down on the red fabric tab located just after the Schuberth logo a on the locking mechanism.
Some of the other nice features are the Pinlock  visor which eliminates interior fogging. Something I really appreciate anytime I am caught in the rain or on a cool morning.  It also has an integrated sun visor which slides in front of yours eyes using an easy to operate lever on the side of the helmet.  This is nice because you don't have to bother with wearing sunglasses under your helmet or switching between clear and dark visors.  Probably my favorite feature is the chin strap.  Instead of your standard D-rings, the S2 uses a micro-lock ratchet lock.  It operates similar to a car seat belt and is easy on and off, even with gloves.

The S2 has been out for a few years, but the good news is you can often find it at much lower prices than its original retail price from online suppliers like www.motoblouz.co.uk.  It might not be the quietest helmet I've ever tried, but if you are looking for comfort and safety, then you can't go wrong with the Schuberth S2.  After a year of constant use, I'd wouldn't hesitate to buy another one, but this one has held up so well I hope to get another couple seasons out of it at least.

Buzz Kanter's 1929 JDH.  Photo by American Iron Magazine . Nowadays the thought of riding a motorcycle in the winter months h...

Buzz Kanter's 1929 JDH.  Photo by American Iron Magazine.

Nowadays the thought of riding a motorcycle in the winter months has almost become completely unheard of, especially among vintage riders.  Most of us are lucky enough to have other forms of transportation and can safely leave our motorcycles in a warm garage all winter.  This certainly wasn't always the case and a quick web search will yield hundreds of old photos of vintage motorcycles being ridden in all sorts of inclement weather.  So for those that want to keep riding all year long, our old motorcycles are definitely up to the challenge with the proper preparation.  Here's a few things to consider this fall to make sure your vintage machine is ready to hit the snow and ice this winter.

1. Service Your Braking System

Antique motorcycles already suffer from poor braking, so riding in wet conditions caused by snow or slush does nothing to improve their performance.  Unfortunately, checking your braking system can be a bit of a hassle since it usually requires removing the wheel to see what's going on inside the brake drum.  Check your brake shoes for even wear and replace or reshape them as necessary.  Also make sure to properly adjust and lubricate any linkages/cables to get as much slop out of the system as possible.  While adjusting your linkages, keep an eye out for any excessive wear to bushings, clevis' and cotter pins.

Once you get the brake apart, check the shoes for even wear and overall thickness.

2. Invest in Studded Tires

If you are going to be riding in really extreme conditions, its probably worth considering mounting a set of studded tires on your motorcycle.  Most US States permit their use but you should verify make sure that your state is one of them.  Tire studs can be installed in most tires with just the use of an cordless drill and a couple hours of time.   
Tire studs come in a variety of sizes, make sure to get the right length so you don't damage your tires.

3. Upgrade Your Lights

The daylight hours are considerably shorter in winter and if you are going to ride you can be sure you are going to end up having to do so at night.  6 volt electronics don't always make for the brightest lights, but luckily with the advent of LED technology there are some new options for low power lighting that makes riding at night tolerable.  Also keep in mind that it just as important that other drivers see you, so upgrading your tail light to a brighter LED bulb is also a good idea.

The warm glow of a 6 volt headlight might be fine in town, but on a dark winter's night the added brightness of an LED bulb makes a big difference.

4. Protect Your Electronics

Riding for hours in wet conditions can be detrimental to even the most basic electrical system.  Make sure all your connections are tight and add a little dielectric grease to your connections to help keep the moisture out. 

A little dielectric grease on your electrical connections will help keep them dry and corrosion free.

5. Rust Prevention

A major issue with riding in the winter is the amount of road salt that will work it's way into every part of your motorcycle.  Luckily my old motorcycles have a nice protective layer of oil on most of their parts, but for those rare clean areas a liberal coating of WD-40 helps to fight off the corrosion.  I recommend a thorough rinse after each ride on salty roads followed by wiping down and/or spraying with WD-40.

The "WD" stands for "Water Displacement", use liberally on metal parts after a thorough rinse.

6. Have a Jump Starter Ready

Motorcycle batteries are significantly smaller than the ones on cars so they are more likely to die when left out in cold weather.  However most antique engines do not need that much power to start (especially if your motorcycle is kick only) which means a small jump starter will work wonders. To be more specific, there is an entire range of jump starters / power banks that you can use to power your phone, your laptop and in an emergency jump start a car. You may or may not believe that they are strong enough to jump start a car, but they have certainly more than enough power to jump start a motorcycle, so have one ready.  Reviews Academy recommends the PowerAll model, but honestly, any portable jump starter will do.  Just make sure you get a jump starter with the appropriate voltage for you motorcycle or adjust the voltage with an inline voltage reducer.

A small jump starter will easily fit in your saddlebag, just make sure to charge it first.

7. Grease, Grease, Grease

The best way to keep salt, water, sand, etc out of your external moving parts is with the application of a good quality grease.  Currently I am using a marine grade grease from Mercury on my 1933 VL which is heavy weight and resistant to salt water.  There are over 20 grease fittings on a VL, so make sure to take your time and hit every one with some grease.

A high quality grease will help cut down on corrosion and keep your moving parts working smoothly.

These tips should put you on the right track to getting your motorcycle ready to log some miles over the winter.  Just as you've spent extra time preparing your machine, make sure to spend some time going over your riding gear.  Warm hands and dry feet go a long ways in making winter riding a pleasant experience...

Now that you are ready to ride all winter, maybe you should plan for some winter camping too...