Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Meet Team Carson Classic Motors, Part I

Happy New Year to all:

After the insanity of the Motorcycle Cannonball ended in 2012, I stepped away from the event thinking "Wow, I just had the most incredible opportunity afforded to a motorcyclist, and took it to the fullest. I'll never be able to get the chance to do anything like the Motorcycle Cannonball again." The event itself has earned a very large place in motorcycle history. Twice now, a group of intrepid adventurers proved to the world that old motorcycles can do a lot more than sit and look pretty in a museum. For me, the chance to participate in the second running of the event was beyond incredible, and I was glad to help earn the event its rightful due.

Fast forward to January 2014. Here I am, 232 days away from the start line in Daytona Beach, Florida. The "once in a lifetime" trip has returned and needless to say I am more than a little shocked at the chance to show the world yet again what crazy folks and old motorcycles can do together. I can't really say that the "realness" of the event has hit me yet; I still have a hard time believing that the 2012 event is over. Yet here I sit, with a motorcycle, a route, and a plan. More details on my own personal preparations are forthcoming.

For followers of my journey in 2012, you may remember that I raced for the Carson Classic Motors team on my 1927 BSA S27 "Elizabeth." Carson Classic Motors is a private museum collection of antique motorcycles that my father, Mike Carson, and I have put together over a span of more than fifteen years. Our collection follows the development of two-wheeled machines from the early 1900's through the 1970's, and pays homage to marquees from both sides of the pond. Such brands include BSA, Triumph, Norton, Ariel, Harley Davidson, Indian, BMW, NSU, and many more. Currently, the CCM Museum is home to more than 90 machines, all of which are in running order. Between my father and I, the passion for vintage motorcycles is incredibly strong, which has always helped to keep a very tight-knit bond between the two of us.

In 2012, Carson Classic Motors played host to three other riders from across the globe for the Motorcycle Cannonball. Hailing from England, Mike Wild and Ken Ashton both entered English-made Rudge single cylinder motorcycles, a 1924 and 1925. From Australia, Chris Knoop came aboard with a 1925 Australian-made Invincible JAP sidecar outfit. Between the three of us, team CCM represented some of the best designed motorcycles that the rest of the world had to offer to compete against Harley Davidson, Indian, Henderson, and the like. Thanks to the camaraderie and willingness to help that our team shared, Carson Classic Motors gained quite a lot of attention in the motorcycle world. After winning the coveted "Spirit of the Cannonball" award, my father and I both knew that should another similar racing event come up that we might have a few folks ask to join.

Shortly after Cannonball promoter Lonnie Isam, Jr. of South Dakota hinted that there would in fact be an event in 2014, he found himself with a completely full list of people looking for motorcycle glory. In fact, where Lonnie had suggested that he would be looking for about 75 people that would be interested in making the run, he had several hundred contact him over the course of a few days. My father and I had jointly decided that we would both enter and ride motorcycles in the event, conforming to whatever the cutoff year would be. After we announced our intentions to the public, the phones and emails started to come in. Where we were under the impression that one or two of our previous fellow Cannonballers would want to join under our name, we were inundated by almost 40 requests spanning five different continents.

The reason I have yet to introduce our official team is due to the fact that until this week, it has been in a stage of upheaval. The original team for 2014 was set to be six riders, with a crew of backup drivers, and a spare mechanic/machinist. In October of 2013, the group was approached during the first official team meeting by a very prestigious group of men, well known throughout the motorcycle industry, who were interested in conjoining our efforts. Finally, my dear friend and companion on the 2012 Cannonball, Mike Wild, had been signed up to return under the CCM name from the very beginning. It wasn't until two weeks ago, which also happened to be mere days before the entry fee deadline, that Mike contacted Lonnie and us to break the bad news. Due to serious business commitments in the months of August and September, he will be unable to attend this year's run. While that dealt a serious emotional blow to our team, and we lost a rider, machinist, skilled mechanic, and excellent all around person, everyone agreed that business comes before pleasure and that it was understandable. Now that the entry fee deadline has passed, and our team is focused on preparing, I feel comfortable in announcing the 2014 Carson Classic Motors Cannonball Riders. Stay tuned for a follow up post introducing the all-important support crew. Without further adieu, here are the riders in their numbered order:

  • Rider #3: Buck Carson
    • 1929 BSA Sloper "Evelyn"
  • Rider #6: Steve Simpson
    • 1928 Harley Davidson JD "Dark Horse"

  • Rider #25: Scott Byrd
    • 1931 Harley Davidson VL "Kimberly"
"I became interested in motorcycles at the ripe old age of 6.  A neighborhood friend had a mini-bike, and offered to let me ride it.  Upon telling my parents, I was immediately forbidden to ride it, or any other motorcycle, again “as long as I lived under their roof”.  I was married about a month before I bought my own motorcycle……

I bought my first Harley Davidson motorcycle through the PX while living overseas.  I was in heaven.  None of my other bikes even came close to the feeling I got when I rode it.  As I progressed through different bikes, I found myself becoming intrigued with “the older stuff”.  I eventually bought a 1929 D through ebay, and I was officially an antique motorcycle owner.  Little did I realize where that purchase would take me.
Through the 11 year restoration process on the 29, I met people like Bill Rodencal and Johnny Sells.  Because of them, I met countless others, and I was officially infected.  Hopelessly infected.  It really is a small world, and the world of antique motorcycles is no exception.  It’s a world like no other, and the people involved in it are priceless, as are their machines and their stories.

I became interested in the Cannonball in 2010 when Bill Rodencal announced that he was riding in it.  We were able to play a very small part in his journey, and I was thrilled.  The prospect of ever being able to be involved at another level was mind boggling to me.  When Lonnie announced that there would be a 2012 Cannonball, I briefly entertained the notion of entering on the 29.  Then reality set in, and I knew I couldn’t do it by myself.  I had to sit on the sidelines and watch.  It was that year that I met Buck Carson, and began following him.  Through a fortuitous set of events, Buck and I became good friends. 

When Buck asked me to join his 2014 Cannonball team as a support crew member, there was little time spent on thought.  I immediately said yes, and preparations began.  I never considered that I might be a rider in it.  Once again, fate intervened, and the opportunity to be a rider was placed in my lap.  After a consultation with my wife (which lasted about 30 seconds), I accepted the rider position on the Carson Classic Motors team.  My opportunity of a lifetime was officially here, and I would be riding my 1931 V Bobber in the 2014 Cannonball.

My bike was built by John Cullere.  I purchased the bike from him in November 2012, never imagining that I would be riding it in the Cannonball.  I have named her Kimberly, after an older sister of mine that I never had the opportunity to meet.  Kimberly Ann Byrd only lived one day, and is buried in a small, rural cemetery in north central Arkansas.  I have often wondered how my life would have been different if Kimberly were here.  I felt that it was only fitting to name the bike after her, and see where she takes me.  This ride is for you Sis."

  • Rider #54 David Lloyd
    • 1919 Harley Davidson J "Lisa"

"When Lonnie Isam dreamed big and unveiled the 2010 Cannonball Endurance run, I desperately wanted to be part of it. Several days into the 2010 event, a group of us followed the Cannonball riders when they arrived in Helena Ar. We were on late model Harleys and we followed Dale Walksler, Wayne Stanfield & David Kleptz for several days. Being the Coordinator for the Barber Vintage Festival “Race of the Century”, I already knew many riders in the 1st Run. It was awesome to witness “up close” the event. I have been mesmerized with the Cannonball since 2010.
In September of 2011, I signed up for Lonnie Isam's 2012 "Coast to Coast" Cannonball Antique Motorcycle Run. I had a 1919 Harley Davidson F model that was under construction, and the deep desire to ride it from New York to San Francisco. I had NO team, extra parts or even any idea how much time, money or resources it would require to actually make this dream a reality. It only took a few weeks, or maybe a month to realize I had put the wagon in front of the horse! My motorcycle was no way near ready to compete in an event like this, nor did I have the resources, parts, team or money to continue. All I had was the heart and deep desire to be part of this truly amazing event. I withdrew my name just about as fast and I had entered it…then I met the guys at Carson Classic Motors at the Barber Vintage Weekend when they 1st raced the 1911 Triumph at our Barber Century Race.
Buck Carson became my outlet to stay deeply involved with the second Cannonball event. He had the drive, the time available, the Dad willing to help him make a dream come true and the machines to do it. Then I watched him start his precise planning and resources. The Confederate Chapter became one of Buck’s biggest fans.
Jump ahead to 2013, everyone waited for Lonnie to announce if there was going to be a 2014 Cannonball Motorcycle Run, I knew I wanted to try again– Somehow to be involved – The day Lonnie announced the 3rdCannonball, I called Mike and Buck Carson and expressed the desire to be part of the 2014 event. My dream was to ride a motorcycle in the event, but I was willing to be a tire changing / oil changing grunt just to be part of it. Mike and Buck allowed me to be one of the team riders. I have the awesome opportunity to be part of the Carson Classic Motors - 2014 Cannonball Team from Livingstone Texas. A coast to coast endurance run for antique motorcycles pre 1937. I am rider #54 of 100 entries that will begin on September 5, 2014 from Daytona Beach, Fl and finish in Tacoma, Wa 16 days later. I will be riding a 1919 Harley Davidson F model motorcycle. This will be a trip of a life time. I have 1 year to prepare my machine and body to participate in the ride of a Lifetime!!
What an honor to be part of a Team that has the heart, determination, drive and willingness I can relate 100% to. I see the task before us and commit 150% effort getting this Carson Classic Motorcycle Team across the USA
Thanks for the awesome opportunity!!!"

  • Rider #67 Jon Neuman
    • 1928 Harley Davidson JD

"Jon Neuman was raised in Texas and began motorcycling as a boy, buying his first one with his own money at age 13. Cycling and building bikes was always part of his life, even as he pursued a career, married and raised kids and started his own business.   In 2007, Jon began Sagebrush Cycles with the plan to specialize in antique motorcycle parts supply, specifically the Harley Davidson 1916 to 1936 era.   To-date he is the sole full-time employee. Though the era of bikes has remained the same, Sagebrush has not only been responsible for supplying parts, but also for rebuilding, refurbishing and even, when necessary, fabricating them.

 From the sidelines, Jon supported several teams and riders of the 2010 and 2012 Motorcycle Cannonballs with verbal technical support by phone, loaned parts and shipped-to-site parts.  Jon is eagerly looking forward to riding in the 2014 Cannonball during which he will be on a 1928 Harley Davidson JD, JDs being his un-official specialty. Jon is the third owner of the bike which was purchased 4-5 years ago from the second owner, a South Carolina towing company family.  That family owned the bike for 50 years after rescuing it from the scrap heap planned by the original dealer/owner.
Riding in the Cannonball with all of the people, friends both old and new, is like a dream come true for him."   

  • Rider #73 Greg McFarland
    • 1926 Harley Davidson J

"I've been involved with motorcycles since I was a teenager when I used to ride dirt bikes along the bayou in Houston, Texas.  I've acquired a handful of vintage bikes over the last 10 years and enjoy riding and working on them.  I first heard about the Cannonball in 2010 and decided this is something that I wanted to do.  The man and machine against the elements appeals me. The challenge of preparing and riding a vintage motorcycle on such trek is the ultimate challenge as a rider and as a mechanic.  I acquired a 1926 Harley Davidson J in early 2012 and began rebuilding it to run the Cannonball.  When the opportunity to participate in the 2014 Cannonball presented itself I jumped at it.  Being a petroleum geologist finding oil is what I do.  The sweetest oil I've ever found was under my old bike after a long satisfying ride."

  • Rider #77 Brent Mayfield
    • 1935 Harley Davidson VJ Custom

I'm Brent Mayfield and I live in Centerville, Ohio which is a southern suburb of Dayton.
I bought my first bike when I was a senior in High School in 1967; it was a 41 Knucklehead basket case I bought from a buddy of mine for $80.00 who had won it in a card game.
This purchase started me on an adventure that has lasted the last 46 years and I hope for many more years to come. I was a mechanic for our local Harley dealership in 1972/73, and had my own shop (Cycle LTD.) 1974/76 building choppers & customs. I now cringe at all the nice old knuckles & pans I took a torch to back then….Sold the shop in 76 and took a "normal" job as a mechanical design engineer. Since I now had a regular day job, bikes became my passionate hobby as they are today. I continued to build choppers and slowly got into doing more original restorations and bobber style bikes.

I have been a member of the AMA for 22 years and a member of the AMCA since 2003 (no specific chapter). I was one of the founding members of the Ohio Valley Vincent Owners Club in 1991 and was a member for 15 years. In 2006 I started a club in the Dayton area called "Vintage Iron Motorcycle Club" (VIMC) of which I am president.

I have won numerous 1st place awards for bikes I've built and restored, from several Concours De' Elegance events to Easy Riders invitational shows. Several of my bikes have been centerfold bikes in national magazines. My 1953 Vincent Black Shadow I restored and sold to the AMA was their raffle bike in 2004. I have sold bikes to customers in France, Australia and Japan as well as many in the US.

I currently have a total of 16 motorcycles which all but 1 are vintage per the AMCA rule.
I have 2 UL basket cases, 2 Knuckles, 3 Pans (2 are baskets), 2 K-models, 1 Sprint, 2 Indians, 1 little Honda, 1 R69S BMW, 1 Road King and soon a 1925/35 VJ (in the works for 2014 C/B). Most of my interest had been in the 1936 to 1966 range of bikes but when I read about the 2010 Cannonball I felt the first stirring for something older (probably just indigestion).

When I heard there was going to be a 2012 C/B for pre 1930 bikes I was hooked. I built a 1924/25 J model (24 motor & 25/27 chassis) and entered the race as #77. 4 days before we were to head to NY, my support crew member Bob Huffman was in the hospital having surgery for a blocked carotid artery and was going to be out of service for at least 1-2 weeks. I decided to go to NY by myself and hoped I could find someone with an extra crew member that could drive my rig until hopefully Bob could meet up with me, which is when Mike and his crew came into my life.

Mike saw my J (which he now owns) and fell in love with it. When he heard about my problem he offered to have one of his crew members, Shawn McGarry, drive my rig as long as I needed. What a bunch of great guys that I feel proud to be associated with. They really helped me out in my time of need.

Bob was waiting on me when I reached Sandusky. We worked late into the night getting ready for the Milwaukee ride. In Milwaukee we got ready for the Anamosa run but I decided to drop out at that point, which was one of the hardest decisions I've had to make and one that my family and close friends could not believe I made, as I always finish what I start. There were several factors that contributed to my decision to drop out, none of which were the condition of the bike or myself.

I still have regrets on not finishing the 2012 C/B so when I heard there was to be a 2014, I started making plans. I'm in the process of locating parts to build my 2014 C/B ride which will be a hybrid combining a Harley Davidson V series motor in a J series chassis. You may ask why would I want to do this, and my answer is mainly because these are the parts I have, it's a challenge and I think it would be cool. So far I have a 1925/27 J model frame, fork & transmission and  a 1935 VD motor and various bits and pieces but still missing a lot of stuff.
It's going to be a long build but I'm looking forward to it. Sept 2014 will be here before you know it.

  • Rider #90 Mike Carson
    • 1924 Harley Davidson JE "Black Angel"

"I am 64 years old, and I started racing motocross when I was 13, so I suppose that makes me 51 years on two wheels into the wind. My first road motorcycle was a 1968 BSA Thunderbolt purchased fifth or sixth hand when I was in the United States Navy in 1968. In 1976 I finally quit racing motorcycles and have been riding on the road ever since. My son and I started collecting antique motorcycles many years ago and currently have a collection of more than 90 machines in East Texas where everything runs and rides. I personally have many favorites in our collection, but I particularly love my 1924 Harley Davidson JE hot rod bobber that was custom built by Brent Mayfield, and also, a custom 1959 Harley Davidson FLH Panhead that we call the “Tripple B”. “Bad Bumblebee Bobber”.  In 2012, Carson Classic Motors ran an international team in the Motorcycle Cannonball and did quite well. I drove the mobile machine shop, worked as mechanic, financed the adventure, and generally had a wonderful time while the CCM International Team rode across the United States. In the 2014 Cannonball, I will be riding and will be proud to associated with some of the best people in the antique motorcycle world. Look for the Black Angel and I to be coming to a town near you."

If you'll notice, this year's Carson Classic Motors team is dominated by Harley Davidsons! After losing my friend Mike Wild, I am now the only English marquee on the team, the only BSA in the field of competition, and one of very few English motorcycles entered. However if the events of last year are any indication, it is safe to say that "giving up" is not in my vocabulary. BSA has served me very well, and while I could easily swap my machine for an American v twin, I enjoy the challenge represented by riding a single cylinder and certainly am proud to represent one of Small Heath's most interesting creations.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

The Madness Returns: Back in the saddle for 2014

It's been a while.

To those out there who have followed along with this blog, I owe you an apology. I have taken a sabbatical from writing the last few months; the book I'm working on about my experiences on the 2012 Motorcycle Cannonball hasn't been touched, nor has this blog. My life has been pretty busy since this spring.

For starters, in May I graduated with my Bachelors Degree in Business Administration from Sam Houston State University. Had I not ridden across the United States with the Cannonball, I would have earned my degree in December 2012. Following graduation, I've actually spent the whole summer doing antique motorcycle-related events and work. In May, my dad and I participated in the Motorcycle Kickstart Classic, sponsored by American Iron Magazine and Spectro Oils. Over two days, we rode from Charleston, South Carolina to San Augustine, Florida. While all types of motorcycles were welcome, bikes with electric starters had to ride in the back of the pack (to pick up the parts that fell off of the kickstart bikes, of course). He was riding a 1924 Harley Davidson J bobber, and I was on a 1929 BSA Sloper. We covered about 370 miles over the two days, without a problem from either bike.

Flash forward to June; my friend Dale Walksler, owner and curator of the world-famous Wheels Through Time Museum in Maggie Valley, North Carolina, had been on the Kickstart Classic with us. During the ride, I had mentioned to Dale that I would be interested in coming up to volunteer at the museum for a few weeks if he would have me. "I don't care if I'm sweeping floors, or cleaning toilets- I'd just like to offer a hand." A few days after I returned home, my friend called and we set up a time for me to come volunteer. On the second week of June I loaded up my Harley Sportster and rode the 1,100 miles to Maggie Valley, where I worked for two weeks doing a variety of things from wrenching to construction. I had a blast, even though it was a ton of work. What I thought would be a short stint of volunteering turned into something else- I made some great friendships with the folks at the museum and found myself planning my next trip. Sure enough, two weeks after returning from North Carolina I was loading up to go again. This time, however, I hauled our mobile machine shop with six bikes up to Wauseon, Ohio for the annual Antique Motorcycle Club of America's swap meet, bike show, and vintage races. From there I followed the Wheels Through Time crew back to North Carolina. I have only just returned over the weekend, from volunteering a whole month. All in all, I spent 33 days on the road and covered 4,110 miles through seven states.

One of the reasons I am restarting this blog, and getting back to work on my book came while I was on the road. Rumors have been flying for months that there would indeed be a follow up to the 2012 Motorcycle Cannonball, but no one could get an official response. That all changed on August 6th, when my "New Email" chime went off at close to midnight. Needless to say, after reading the following, I couldn't really sleep.

"Welcome to the 2014 Motorcycle Cannonball

 110 years ago one man set out to become the first person to cross the North American continent on a motorized vehicle.  George Wyman's bold sense of adventure took him and his small motorcycle from one ocean to the other, forever setting the standard of endurance for rider and machine.  The perfect measure of worth for two-wheeled contraptions and the people who built them.   
We would like to invite you to join us for an adventure across America.  On September 5, 2014, one hundred Motorcycle Cannonball riders will start a two-week journey across the United States on motorcycles built before 1937.  This run will be coast-to-coast.  The route will start in Daytona BeachFlorida, and end in Tacoma,Washington.  While planning a relatively direct route, we also made sure to take in some of the best scenery this country has to offer. This route will be scenic, yet more challenging than any that has come before.  Averaging 300 miles per day and topping out at 11,990 feet, this will be a true endurance run.  This route will not be easy by any means.
The run will start at the world’s most famous beach on the east coast of Florida.  Daytona Beach is rich in motorcycle racing history and will be a fitting Official Start.  The route will then take us through the lakes and forests of northern Florida and into Georgia and the Great Smoky Mountains.  In ChattanoogaTennessee, we will be treated to a fantastic hosted reception at Coker Tire World Headquarters and Museum.  Traveling through the heart of Tennessee we will visit the Cyclemos Museum in Red Boiling Springs.  After riding through the "Land Between The Lakes" region in Kentucky, we will cross the Mississippi River at Cape GirardeauMissouri. Crossing the Ozarks in Missouri will bring us to the wide-open plains of Kansas, where we will have our one rest day.  Our riders will meet the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains at Colorado Springs where we will be stopping at the Rocky Mountain Motorcycle Museum.  Famed motorcycle artist David Uhl will be hosting a big event for us at his studio in Golden, Colorado, the night before we climb 12,000-foot Loveland pass to cross the Continental Divide the first of three times. The entire route through Colorado promises to be spectacular.                   Entering Utah through Arches National Park in the Moab region, we will make our way to SpringvilleUtah, where riders will be treated to a private tour of Jeff Decker's personal studio where he creates his motorcycle masterpieces in bronze. The newly opened Legends Motorcycle Museum of Springville will also be hosting a reception for our riders.  As we leave the shores of the Great Salt Lake we will travel out into the desert with a brief stop at the world famous Bonneville Salt Flats.  The High Desert of Utah and Nevada will give way to the mountains and forests of western Idaho as we follow the Little Salmon River all the way to the Washington border.  From the Columbia River Basin we will enter the Cascade Mountain Range and Mount Rainer National Park.  The Grand Finish of the Run on the shores of the Puget Sound in Tacoma will be at the world-class LeMay Museum
Our preliminary schedule will be 17 days, with 16 days on the road and one day off in Junction CityKansas. The event will start on Friday, September 5, 2014, with registration, motorcycle inspection, and an optional Practice Run on Wednesday and Thursday, September 3 and 4 in Daytona Beach.  The day off will be September 12, a Friday when shops are open.  The Grand Finish will be in Tacoma on Sunday, September 21. There will be a Welcome Dinner in Daytona Beach on Thursday, September 4 and an Awards Banquet in Tacoma on Sunday, September 21.  There will be a hosted event and reception at many lunch stops and nearly all of our overnight stops.
This diagonal route across the country could certainly include all types of weather, from tropical storms and 90-degree temperatures in the South to freezing temperatures and snow in the mountains and the North.  With 12 hours of daylight, we will average around 300 miles per day, culminating in approximately 4100 miles.  All bikes will run the same route in an allotted time schedule.  Motorcycles will need to maintain at least 50 mph on straight, flat roads.  We estimate less than 300 miles will be run on interstate highways, and less than 10 of those miles are urban interstates.
The 2014 Cannonball will be a competition endurance run.  The competition will involve correctly navigating the route using each day’s Course Instructions.  The winners will be the motorcycle/rider teams that cover the most on-route mileage over the 16-day run, within each day’s specified time schedule and in compliance with the Event Regulations. Their will be three classes of competing motorcycles:  Class 1, motorcycles 700 cc. and smaller; Class 2, motorcycles 701 cc. to 1000 cc.; and Class 3, motorcycles over 1000 cc.  The winner will be chosen based on miles traveled within an established time schedule.  Ties will be broken by class of motorcycles, then age of motorcycle, then age of rider. 
The entry fee will be $2500.  This year with the help of our travel agent we hope to keep hotel cost under $2000 for 18 nights.  Hotels are chosen based on the proximity to the route as well as number of rooms and parking available.  With a group our size we are able to negotiate a fairly decent rate at some of the better hotels in each city.  Breakfast is often included at the hotels and most nights will include a dinner at our hosted stops.
Currently the 2014 event has more interested riders than we can accommodate.  If you are receiving this e-mail then you are being offered a spot in the event.  To better help us in our planning, we would ask that you please respond to this e-mail within 48 hours and answer the following questions.
1.         Please confirm whether or not you will be entering the event and that you would like an entry form to be sent to you.
2.         How many people will be on your team including the rider?
3.         How many hotel rooms will your team require during the event?  Two beds or one?
4.         Will you have a support vehicle?  With or without a trailer?  The length of the trailer?
This information, though tentative and subject to change, will help us ensure that our entire group be accommodated. 
Once you have confirmed your entry we will send you the Official Motorcycle Cannonball Entry Form.  The completed entry form and entry fee must be returned before January 15, 2014

 A detailed route and riders list will be added to our website within the next week. 

Lonnie Isam Jr.
Motorcycle Cannonball promoter "
With that, stay tuned as the developments continue in the coming days. I've got a lot of information to relay, so I'll be updating this blog quite often.
Buck Carson
Cannonball Rider #3
Carson Classic Motors Race Team

Friday, November 30, 2012

"What's in store for Elizabeth," continued...

Hi guys,

I'm still feeling under the weather with my sinus infection...but on the bright side I have plenty of good medication to help me get rid of this crud. Hope to get healthy quickly, because we're having some warm weather this weekend and I'd love to go for a ride.

A sight that I'll soon be seeing again- my engine in bits
on the floor of Wedco Machine Shop in Jackson, Wyoming

 Anyway, in my last post I talked about diagnosing the problem with Elizabeth, which was determined to be extreme heat and lack of lubrication to the top end due to a sketchy oil delivery system. Now the question remains; what could be done to improve on this design flaw? While there are several possibilities for the rebuild, I feel that it depends on the intended use. Am I building a high-tech, redesigned race motor that can withstand great endurances, or am I building a reliable, every day machine? For the sake of conversation, let's say that I went with the former; what would a motor like this entail?

My dear friend Mike Wild and his heavily modified
Rudge Four Valve that he named 'The Bastard'
Now that everyone has had a bit of time to sit back and unwind from the race, there has been a small bit of talk on how the machines could have been improved- hindsight is 20-20, after all. I've recently been in touch with my speed demon friend and riding partner, Mike Wild, about how my motor could have been improved. Mike's own bike, a "1925-ish" Rudge combined a 1928 overhead valve engine and gearbox with 1925 frame and front end, and was heavily modified for the event. Mike modified his lubrication system to a direct feed oiler; instead of the crank and big end relying on "splash oiling", the big end is fed a constant supply of oil. Both he and I feel that this would have been a very important feature to have on my motor (considering that my crank seized the day before Yellowstone National Park due to lack of oiling). A direct feed oil set up wouldn't be that difficult to do, and would provide a much larger comfort shield around the big end. When my crank seized, I was able to buy a spare from my pal Jim Crain; designed by Atlas, the new crank pin operates smoothly and uses a sealed bearing cage. It required very little modification to fit in the crankcases (light sanding on the studs).

Fred Ham on his 1937 Harley EL. In a 24 hour period, Ham
rode 1,800 miles on this machine around a 5 mile track at
 Murdoc Lake. This Harley was mostly stock, with the
exception of polished engine internals and air filter snorkel

The next design improvement actually comes from my friends Dale and Matt Walksler at the Wheels Through Time Museum in Maggie Valley, North Carolina. In 2007, Dale built a 1937 Harley Davidson EL Knucklehead as a replica of Fred Ham's record breaking machine. For those not familiar with Fred Ham, on April 8, 1937 he took his 61 cubic inch Harley Knucklehead and set a new riding record: 1,800 miles in 24 hours around a 5 mile track in Murdoc Lake. This record stood for 70 years before Dale hooked Wayne Stanfield into riding an exact replica to beat the record. Well, they almost beat it... The thing that stood out to me was that in building the motor, Dale had the crankcase interiors and outer circumference of the flywheels polished to a high sheen. By polishing these internals friction would be reduced, thereby allowing the oil to flow smoothly throughout.

With these ideas swirling around in my head, I contacted my fellow BSA-er Jim Crain to get his two cents on what could be improved upon in the motor. One thing that we both agree on is that there is some valuable space in the combustion chamber that is being wasted; our flathead engines contain a hemispherical combustion chamber---yes boys, it's a hemi. Both of us used newly manufactured pistons from JP in Australia, but like the original, they have a flat top instead of a crowned shape. If you'll recall the new piston was also a bit heavier than the original NOS piece that was removed from my engine. So with all that being said, we both feel that having a piston designed and manufactured in line with the original dimensions and weight would be effective. These new pistons would be designed with more of a crown shape to take advantage of that hemispherical combustion chamber and would include narrower ring groves and provisions for a larger gudgeon pin. I also wonder if some modifications to the length of the piston skirt would be of good use.

In addition to modifying the piston design, another point that Jim brought up was that the connecting rod could be improved as well. Rather than using the steel connecting rods in the motor, Jim proposed that a replacement aluminum or titanium rod would reduce the weight and vibration. For the most part these modifications wouldn't be too costly, however the variances, tolerances, and measurements would need to be pretty much dead on, lest we face higher costs in R&D.
Titanium connecting rods and re-designed pistons....
both of these would probably shed considerable
weight from the inside of the motor.
Just as an overview, if the idea was to build this same motor for the same trip, I would build mine with a redesigned piston, titanium crank, Atlas crank pin, direct feed oil, and highly polished crankcases and flywheels. Okay, so what about for a classic that won't be subjected to such torture? Since I'm not going to push this bike across America again I'll probably rebuild it in this fashion, so I can't say whether or not I will go through with a newly designed piston and con rod. One thing is for certain; I will have a new piston manufactured to the weight of the original, and highly polish the internal cases. Who knows, I may even convert the big end to direct feed oil.

The Texan and his trusty steed
I intend to get Elizabeth back up in running order over the next month, though it will probably feel much different to have a proper workshop and workspace to rebuild it, rather than a parking lot. Recently I received new bronze bushings from the McCaster-Carr Company that will be machined to form the new small end bush. Once I receive a new piston and set of rings, it's down to pressing in the small end bush, balancing the crank, building the lower end, adding the piston/rings, putting on the cylinder, timing it, and viola! Not too much, right?  We will be back on the road shortly...look out everyone, Elizabeth's graceful self will be touring the countryside again soon!


Buck Carson
Carson Classic Motors Race Team

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

What's in store for Elizabeth? (Pt. 2 of "Looking towards the future")

Hi all,
The Cannonball Rig has found a new home..sweet memories
The holiday season has arrived, though it doesn't much feel like it here in Texas. Yesterday, temperatures were over 80 degrees Fahrenheit (upwards of 26 C). It's hard to get in the mood for Christmas when you're wearing shorts and a t-shirt just 29 days before the big day. Last week was Thanksgiving, and it was nice to spend time with friends and family. As usual, we gorged ourselves on turkey, stuffing, and all the fixings. My dad and I took a couple days and put in a new driveway at the shop. Now instead of having our giant trailer from the Cannonball in front of the building, it's tucked away on the side. A little thing in retrospect, but it brought back plenty of memories when it moved to its new home. Since returning from the road in September, we've all been pretty focused on finishing up the addition to our shop and getting things re-organized. Right now it's kind of like a bomb went off on the inside; things were a little messy from when we left in August but got progressively messier when we had central air conditioning and heating installed on our return. With everything nearing completion it's time to update you fine folks on what lays in store for our 85 year old beauty, Elizabeth. I suppose that I probably should have broken this part into several posts, and probably will.

A very special thank you to our family in the Confederate
 Chapter of the AMCA for this extremely special award

Our Cannonball bike has enjoyed a warm reception in the several motorcycle shows and events that she's been displayed at. Our very first event was the 2012 Barber Vintage Festival, where our extended family at the Confederate Chapter of the AMCA invited us to display our bike and mobile machine shop for the public to see. We were honored when the club presented my dad and I with the "Atta Boy" award for our service to other teams during the race. Next up on the docket was a local car, truck, and bike show where the BSA won the coveted "Ladies Choice" and first place trophy in its motorcycle class. Finally, my friend Joe Sparrow, who was a roadside savior many times during the Cannonball invited me to bring Elizabeth down for display at the J&P Cycles Storefront during the 2012 Lone Star Bike Rally in Galveston, Texas. Joe and the gang took very special care of her for the duration, and she received plenty of
attention from the crowds. Now that winter has arrived, I can finally give the bike the much-needed rebuild that it deserves.

I knew when I saw this sign that Elizabeth was in good hands....

On display in front of the J&P Cycles storefront during the 2012 Lone
Star Rally in Galveston, Texas. Special thanks to my friend Joe Sparrow
 for the invitation, and for taking such special care of my lady.

With the end of the race, Elizabeth lay pretty torn, tattered, and beaten. Over the course of 2,557 miles we burned through two pistons. The first of these pistons, a NOS original that was sourced in England, was removed in Sturgis, South Dakota. Excessive mountain grades, hard running, and high temperatures in the cylinder melted the oil ring and led to multiple seizures in under three miles. We replaced that piston and rings with the brand new machined setup from JP Pistons in Australia. An interesting note: the second piston was actually quite a bit heavier than the NOS unit, and JP rings haven't had the best reputation. When removed and examined, we discovered that this piston had gotten so hot that the gudgeon pin partially melted to the small end bush and the side of the piston skirt had been badly scored.
  • Motorcycle Mechanics 101- 
    • Question: "What causes a massive failure with the piston and gudgeon pin like this?" 
    • Answer: "Heat, obviously."
Piston number one: Note the melted oil ring...ouch!

Okay, so this kind of extreme heat can come from only three major areas. Firstly, a motor that is incorrectly timed will either detonate the mixture too early or too late, creating vast variances in the heat. A fuel and air mixture that is too weak can easily be a source for major heat, often leading to holing the piston. Finally, and the problem with Elizabeth, lack of lubrication is major no-no. That being said, what caused the oiling to be incorrect? Here's the long and short of it. Part of the blame probably lies on me, but a major reason comes from a design flaw.

And piston number two: Check out the small end bushing
on the gudgeon pin

 Lubrication systems on these 1920's Brit bikes aren't exactly up to snuff for a happy motor, and definitely don't like to be beaten up over 4,000 miles. Most early four stroke motors relied on "splash oiling," where the flywheels dip into the pool of oil at the bottom of the crankcase and splash it up. Not opportune. If you'll recall, the bike has a combination of manual and "automatic" oil pumps. In 1927, BSA recommended that riders utilize the automatic pump as a primary, with the manual oiler as a supplemental. Drip rates on the automatic pump can be set with the top mounted control knob, and I usually varied from one drip every three seconds to one every 6-8 seconds. Used in conjunction with the manual hand injector, the effectiveness on the oiling was minimal to say the least. What I found was that not enough oil was making its way to the top end of the motor and more often than not, the piston and gudgeon pin were under-oiled. Aggravating still was the fact that this condition varied without me even changing the settings; one day would have the motor running at a normal operating temperature with semi-effective oiling, then the next would have it way under-oiled. To try and combat the lack of oil to the piston, I used three different methods.
  • Usually with every fuel stop I would add about an ounce of 2 cycle engine oil in with the petrol. This small amount injects oil directly to the top end of the motor through the carburetor mixture, and also provides an efficient way to keep the slides and jets of your carburetor clean and lubricated)
  • With the small oil can that I carried in my panniers, I would douse my tappets, valve stems, and valve springs with oil at every few stops. This small bit of oil would eventually make its way to the combustion chamber.
  • While riding, I periodically closed the air and fuel levers momentarily. This lapse creates a vacuum that sucks oil from the crankcase and big end to the top of the engine.
Overall, the lubrication system on these old sidevalvers is pretty much "hit or miss." Towards the end of the race, after we installed the newly rebuilt motor, I learned something new about the oiling. At times, the drip rate will actually lie to you. What looks like one drip every 3 seconds will actually be a constant flow of oil. Five minutes after an easy start with no problems, the motor will start oil fouling plugs left and right. Upon further examination, you'll discover that your brand new crankcases will be completely full of oil, and your oil tank empty. It took several times of almost ripping my hair out before we finally figured out the cause of the problem. The exterior oil pump body contains a worm drive towards the bottom of the pump, which is what stops the flow of oil when the tap is turned off. During the rebuild, the drive had somehow worked itself loose and was allowing oil to bypass the pump. Once firmly set into place, it was back to life. It's always something with these old machines...probably why they're so addicting to me- how to solve problems

Overall, the problem was diagnosed...poorly performing lubrication system. Now, how do we go about addressing it? Well, I'm down with a sinus infection, so I'm feeling pretty beat at the moment. That'll just have to wait and be the subject of my next post. Stay tuned, caped crusaders.


Buck Carson
Cannonball Rider #3
Carson Classic Motors Race Team

Looking towards the future (Pt. 1)

  Now that the greatest race of a lifetime is over, we Cannonballers must ask ourselves what's next. Like many, the preparations and participation in the event took more than a year. It's hard to believe that after all of the countless hours and late nights in the shop trying to prepare and stock up as best we could, that the whole thing was over in 17 short days. For some the Cannonball was simply another tick in their chapters of motorcycle addiction, while for others, it was the ultimate one-time adventure. Others still are now looking for bigger and better challenges with their two wheeled mistresses. Personally, I think I would fall into the latter....after all, Key West to Anchorage (or vice versa) sounds pretty nutty. That being said, what does the future hold for me?

  Well, firstly, I'm returning to finish up my last semester at Sam Houston State University in January. You may recall that I took the fall session off in order to participate in the Motorcycle Cannonball. Had I not chosen to do that, I would have graduated with my Bachelors degree in Business this December....but would have missed out on the real-world experience of a lifetime. It was a tough decision to take off time from school, but I know a chance like that doesn't come every day. Now that the race is finished, it's time to finish up my education.

  A few posts back I had mentioned that I was in the stages of writing a book about my experience. With the remaining time off from school, I've taken the opportunity to get a good start on documenting the whole adventure, as taken from my days in the saddle and nights in the parking lots. I really don't know if anyone would be interested in reading it, and I'm not really concerned with trying to make money from the endeavour. My main reason for writing a book about the race is to document what happened, so that I can give something to my family and friends. A few folks have expressed interest in reading what I have to say, which is really humbling and means a lot to me. No one has really given me any pointers or advice on how to proceed with writing, so I'm just doing what I do best: going with the flow. It's actually turning into a lot more work than I originally thought....kudos and a ton of respect to novelists and writers who do this for a living. The most important thing is that I'm having fun with it and keeping those awesome memories fresh.

  As of now, I cannot speculate as to a finishing date, or where copies would be available. Heck, there isn't even a title yet. I've had a few people tell me that they have recommendations or connections for a publisher when I get to that point, but any advice or pointers would be welcome. After all, I am a newbie with this sort of thing.

  So, back to school, and writing a new book...what else? Recently, I also mentioned my new involvement in the Antique Motorcycle Club of America's Youth Program. If you haven't figured out by now, I'm really into vintage motorcycles.....actually, addicted is probably a better word. The opportunity to help get other young people involved is a really exciting one for me. Since I was asked, I've been trying to come up with a plan of attack on how to get other youngsters involved. Mrs. Brittney Olsen, Youth Director, has been wrangling kids into the club by raffling off and giving away vintage bicycles and motorcycle parts. Personally I think that's an awesome thing to do, and would like to expand that. If you're interested in donating old motorcycle parts or vintage bicycles to the AMCA Youth Program, please contact Brittney at her email:

   That about covers it for me...stay tuned for the next post about the future of Elizabeth.


Buck Carson

Friday, November 16, 2012

Motorcycle Cannonball Photography

This seems to have become a perpetual pose for me
throughout the race...hammer down at 40 miles per hour
Now that the great endurance race of 2012 is in the books, Cannonball riders and teams have gotten a chance to sit back and unwind from the event a little. Most teams, mine included, spent the greater part of a year to prepare themselves, their machines, and their teams for a 17 day adventure across this great country, so having some downtime takes some getting used to. With almost two months passing since the Grand Finale in San Francisco, we have all turned our eyes and ears to the rest of the motorcycle world to take in the firestorm of publicity surrounding the event.

Hanging out in the Black Hills while my overheated motor ticked and
cooled...ever the gentlemen, Michael Lichter and Dave Przygocki gave
 me a helpful shove to get her started again

A major part of the publicity around the Motorcycle Cannonball relies heavily on photos and videos, as many people probably wouldn't believe that a group of 70 Pre-1930 motorcycles would be capable of crossing a continent by simply reading an article. Luckily our group was fortunate enough to contain some of the most talented photographers and filmographers in the motorcycling world, who have now graciously begun to share their artwork with the world. It is my plan to compile as many of these beautiful photos and videos as possible, to share with my viewers here. So with that being said, be patient, and please keep checking back for more. As of now, two of the photographers have posted most or all of their Cannonball collections online.

Making new friends in Spirit Lake, Iowa with some fellows who
wanted to know "why in the hell anyone would do this."

Michael Lichter, who is well known throughout the motorcycle world for his beautiful work over the decades, was wrangled in by Lonnie Isam, Jr. to be the official event photographer. Michael has worked as one of the principal photographers for Harley Davidson for years and can be found at many of the legendary biker rallies and events here in the United States. What made his photos unique for this event is the platfom from which they were taken; most of his road-going shots were captured as he rode as a backwards-facing passenger on a 2012 Victory piloted by Dave Przygocki. While 19 entrants completed the full 3,956 miles, we riders joked that Michael compiled a -3,956 miles....trophy-worthy for sure. Posted here are a few of the wonderful shots taken by Michael, but for the full collection of more than 2,000 photos check out his website at

Fueling up with my pal Mike Wild outside of Graettinger, Iowa, where
the town closed up to provide us a welcoming paty

A smoky start in Mountain Home, Idaho with my dad giving me the "thumbs up"
Paul d'Orleans was also one of the great photographers on the event, but for a different reason. Paul runs a blog here called The Vintagent, and it is truly one of the masterpieces of vintage motorcycle journalism. His blog is primarily sponsored by Bonhams and Butterfields Auctioneers, and on more than one occasion Paul can be found lending a hand with detailing the history of rare and unique motorcycle marquees. For the 2012 Cannonball, Paul entered his 1928 Velocette 350cc single cylinder; a machine not to be has been performance tuned and has been clocked at speeds of more than 100 miles per hour in the past. Riding the Cannonball was definitely a huge interest, but Paul also was gnawing at the bit for the chance to document the event in a very different kind of way. His all-female support team brought along a vintage 1800s "wet plate camera" and they could be found photographing on a daily basis. His collection of prints is currently being uploaded to his newest website, but I've included a few here that he took on my 21st Birthday in Murdo, South Dakota.

A 21st birthday I'll never gift- a one dollar bill ripped
 in half by my dad..."You get one half now, and the other when
 you get to San Francisco"

Checking out the beautiful countryside in Badlands National Park

Waiting for our police escort to dinner in Sheridan,
 Wyoming...I figured I should fog for mosquitoes
while we waited.
In the coming days, I'll be adding more photos from some of the other great artists who dug in with the rest of us for 17 grueling days across 3,956 miles from coast to coast. To check out some of the excellent video footage, visit

A very cool shot from Paul d'Orleans' vintage "wet plate" camera of me
enjoying a cold (and legal) beer on my 21st birthday in Murdo, South Dakota.
The rear stand on Elizabeth broke, so we leaned her against the nearest thing
we could find: a trailer that carried a pink elephant statue/fountain.

And now for your greasy, oily close up...


Buck Carson
Cannonball Rider #3
Carson Classic Motors Racing Team