Archive for September, 2010

A close look into Gary’s Road King Classic mirror

Posted in Harley-Davidson with tags , , , on September 29, 2010 by bleiglass

One problem with writing about Gary France again is that some readers may get the impression I am a stalker. I am not, I just enjoy his daily blog reports on his trip through the US.

And as I like to take pictures myself, the quality of visual impressions he publishes is stunning, educational and entertaining.

Not only does he plan his ride, ride the ride, take pictures, edit them, write and post his reports every single day, but he also finds time to edit his blog appearance, recently changing his header again to this great shot:

click on picture to go to Gary’s tour report

This made me think of what Gary is not showing us, what he sees in his mirror and is not able to take a picture of. Here a small collection of a wild trip:

Have a safe trip Gary


Harley-Davidson Golf Cart and a Porsche Tractor

Posted in Harley-Davidson with tags , , , , , on September 25, 2010 by bleiglass

Harley-Davidson and Porsche are 2 iconic brands, in these times well known for their products. Known by not just the enthusiasts who may own a Harley or a Porsche, but to know that one is building heavy motorcycles and the other one fast cars is kind of general knowledge and a mandatory question in every driver license test.

On thing these 2 brand names share is a very long history, and here the general knowledge gets questionable.

Porsche tractors

Porsche tractors attracted attention with their modern design, technical innovations and affordable prices. As early as 1915, Ferdinand Porsche had been working on a plough tractor at Austro-Daimler and on a “military train”, a gasoline-powered tractor with a series of electrically-powered trailers. Development and production of several “people’s tractor” prototypes started in 1937.

Four years after the start of series production, innovative technical developments made the new Porsche diesel tractors into universal agricultural machines beginning in 1961. The Porsche Junior, Standard and Super tractors soon became the best-selling tractors in Germany. In the same year, Porsche-Diesel Motorenbau GmbH took over tractor production from MAN. 120,000 Porsche tractors were supplied by 1962.

I always liked tractors, driving them from young age, this is me in 1965, although not on a Porsche tractor…

What motivated me to write this post was news involving a Harley-Davidson Golf Cart. First I thought it is a joke, somebody glued a Harley Bar&Shield Logo on a golf cart, but the news was about a 60 year old guy who died while falling of his Harley-Davidson golf cart.

This led me to Google the terms, this is what I learned:

The Harley Davidson Motorcycle Company started making golf carts the same year William “Willie G” Davidson joined the company, some say to get a single handicap.

That was in 1963, when a three-wheel Harley Davidson golf carts were introduced, with a four wheeled version following shortly there-after. These carts could be seen all over golf courses throughout the 1960’s and 1970’s.

In 1969, American Machinery and Foundery (AMF) bought the company and continued production of the golf carts until 1982 when they sold their cart division to Columbia ParCar, who is one of the major manufacturers of gasoline and electric golf carts.

I must say: not enough chrome, and this engine picture of a Harley-Davidson Golf Cart doesn’t resemble anything close to the V2 Harley-Davidson we all love:

Here the original Harley-Davidson Golf Cart logo

The Harley-Davidson summer is nearly over in the UK

Posted in Harley-Davidson with tags , , , , , on September 25, 2010 by bleiglass

Its officially autumn, and this morning the temperatures were for the first time seriously below 5 degrees Celsius (~40F).

The ride-outs will become less frequent, time for more tuning and chrome refinement, the activities on and with my Road King Classic will change, time spend reading the accessories catalog will increase.

I am confident to find enough interesting “stuff” to write about, to take pictures of, and to post on this blog. But this week, this blog, is 6 month old, and looking back at the ride I want to say to you my readers:

Thank you for reading, for commenting,  for staying in touch. Although I do not like hit counters on websites, it is your visit that motivates most to continue. Here the history for the last 6 month in views per week:

Nothing earth shaking, but important to me. Thank you coming back and have a safe ride in the wet.

The Empress with the Big Boobs : Part 2 of my DIY chrome accessory

Posted in DIY, Harley-Davidson with tags , , , , , , on September 20, 2010 by bleiglass

OK, the title tries to be catchy, but finishing my first self-made chrome accessory, I may start to call my bike the Empress with the Big Boobs. Actually its all about Maria Theresa.

Maria Theresa (1717 – 1780) was a Habsburg by birth and a Holy Roman Empress by marriage, Archduchess of Austria, and Queen of Hungary and Bohemia from 1740 to 1780. She was the eldest daughter of Charles VI whose sole male heir – his son Leopold – died in 1711. In 1713 Charles issued the Pragmatic Sanction which guaranteed his daughter the right to succeed to the throne on his death. While many European monarchs agreed to the Pragmatic Sanction when it was issued, on Charles’ death (1740) the War of Austrian Succession began. More on her later…

Now, lets not get distracted and go back to the final production steps of my first self-made chrome accessory. As you may have remembered from Part 1, its about a chrome cover for the quite ugly Garmin Zumo 660 connection unit. Your Harley-Davidson should look nice specially if you do not have your navigator attached. The prototype is build, the next steps now are polishing and chroming.

Step 3: The Polishing

Prior to Chroming, you need to polish your metal, and although this is also done by the company you select for chroming, I wanted to try it with my own gear in a 3 step polishing process. To use “my own gear” was a bit premature to say, I had no gear, so I bought some. Here is what I found and used:

Actually quite handy to have for many other jobs, even cleaning rusty tools

Step 4: The Chroming

That was the most challenging part, or at least one where one of my weaknesses was most tested: my lack of patience. Do not try to build your own chroming bath, that’s not worth it, its complex, toxic and expensive. I searched the internet and came up with 3 local “chromers” who I asked to submit quotes, sending them a picture and measures of my prototype. 2 answered and Ashford Chroming got the job, mainly due to their very informative web-presence. They even have a blog and are on Twitter.

I am very please with the result. The picture of the chrome bath above is from their website. The test in my patience was their somewhat slow turnaround time, I send the units mid June, and got them back mid September, I consider 3 month to chrome 10 small metal pieces quite long. But let me say it again, the result were very good and I would use them again, in the hope of their turnaround time improving for loyal customers.

chromed unit and a simply polished prototype

I ended up chroming 10 units, as the price quoted by Ashford Chroming to chrome 10 pieces was just double from the price of chroming 1 single unit. I was vain enough to hope that some bikers like this chrome accessory and are willing to pay a fair price for it, contributing to the overall costs. We will see, write to me if you are interested.

Step 5: The Fixation

I spend quite some time thinking on how to fix a simple metal chrome cover to a quite complex electronic connection unit, when back in May I saw the solution in one  detailed picture of Gary France’s Road King Classic, The Leading Ladies. He posted this on his blog:

See the orange arrow? I did not know such a “rain cover” made by Garmin existed, and it was the perfect solution, as all I needed now was to glue the chrome cover on top of it. This is how the setup now looks inside the chrome cover:

Once you take the red adhesive cover-tape off, you can glue it into position and firmly connect the Chrome Cover with the plastic Garmin Cover. This is how it looks finished inside:

and now:

The Final Results

the naked connector:

here now with the plastic Garmin “rain cover”

with a plain chrome cover:

with a Harley-Davidson logo:

and here is The Empress with the Big Boobs! My very own self-made GPS Zumo 660 chrome cover:

yes, that’s how I hoped it to turn out

Here together the actual collection of 4 units, the other 6 units are all plain chrome with no logo, coin or figure. I am looking for a small chrome thermometer to glue above the Empress, as I have already a clock attached to the handlebar.

Many ideas and possibilities, you may have your own, go wild, be creative.

Note also: the first unit is heavily pixelated in Photoshop, as it is supposed to remain a small surprise for Gary France, to whom I am trying to send it while he is still on his epic tour of the US (see his daily reports here).

The Maria Theresa Thaler is probably one of the most famous and well known coins of the world.

Originally struck in Austria from 1740 to 1780, the Thaler was the currency of the Austrian Empire. It was very important for trade with the Levant (parts of Turkey, Lebanon, Syria). Over time, the Maria Theresa Thaler became the best known and most popular silver coin in the Arabian world. After the death of Empress Maria Theresa in 1780, Joseph II permitted the Austrian mint to continue striking the coin with the 1780 dies in order to meet demand from the Middle East. The 1780 taler was the only silver coin that the Arabs trusted and would accept. Since then, the Maria Theresa Thaler has been restruck for trade purposes at Vienna, Austria with the 1780 date frozen in time. The taler became the unofficial currency in some areas of Africa and Asia, and may still be in use today as a “trade silver dollar” in some Arabian bazaars.

The coin I use on my Road King Classic, aka as the “Empress with the Big Boobs“, is a Modern Restrike, of which more then 300 million have been produced over time. It can be found on ebay (see intersting guide here) and is worth around 10-20 GBP. Note to all potential thieves: this one is now worth much less, as it has sticky non-removable superglue on one side and can not be considered in mint condition anymore.

Make your own Harley-Davidson Chrome accessories – Part 1

Posted in DIY, Harley-Davidson with tags , , , , on September 18, 2010 by bleiglass

When asked about the fuel consumption of my Harley-Davidson Road King Classic, I usually answer: “As long as I pay more for chrome polish then for fuel, I do not care to know!”

I decided early to have as the 2 main colours of my bike: black and chrome, and looking at the numerous catalogues selling bling for a Harley-Davidson, you need a strong “She-who-decides-what-to-buy” in your family for not to ruin your finances completely.

Black and Chrome

Enjoying my DIY, I started a small project back in May, when I bought my GPS Navigator, a Garmin Zumo 660, a project to build my first own real chrome accessory.

Not because its cheaper, it never is, but because it is fun to design a piece of accessory, build it yourself, and at the end having a quite unique piece of metal on your Harley-Davidson. One that nobody else can have, one that is not build in large quantities in China and shipped world-wide, but build locally, one that I can claim to have build myself.

Step 1: The Idea

Having “Chrome” as the basic theme of my Road King Classic, I did not like the cheapish plastic look of the Garmin ZUMO 660, and specially not the connection unit when the navigator is not attached. I did not want to put the expensive electronics unit into a chrome bath, although I was tempted, but that would have been fatal, instead planed to improve the looks of the naked connection unit:

Step 2: The Construction

Building accessories from sheet metal is not very difficult, as long as you keep straight lines. All you basically need is a metal cutter and a metal bender. This is the part where the project turns a bit expensive, specially if you do not have the right tools, and do not want to rent them for a day, but buy them. Using the word “expensive” I do not mean that it will ruin you, but if you buy tools for 200 GBP to build just one single unit, the price of that unit will be… 200 GBP.

If however you build 100 units, that will become boring, but your tooling-costs will spread an lower themselves miraculously to just 2 GBP per unit. Simple economics, no need to go to university for that. As I did not plan to build 100 units, just 1, I braced myself for a really unique, but expensive piece of chrome. At the end I build 10 units, to achieve unit costs that would feel at home in the retail price lineup of Genuine Harley-Davidson Accessories.

Here you can see the Sheet Metal Cutter and the Metal Sheet Bending Brake I bought over the internet:

Cut & Bend, and your prototype Ver1.0 is ready:

Cutting the metal sheet…

Bending the metal…

and there is your nearly finished prototype Ver1.0:



Try, learn, analyze, and ask friends what they think of your new “invention”, and you quickly bin your first proof and adjust some features. Then Cut & Bend again, and soon you will have your Prototype Ver2.0 .

Here a picture of the units nearly build, pre-chroming:

And this is packing them for mailing to the chroming factory

In Part 2 of this report I will talk about: small setbacks and adjustments, the unexpected help by the Leading Ladies of Gary France, Polishing and Chroming, why I build 10 units, and finally how my first self-made chrome accessory looks on a Harley Davidson Road King Classic.

Wisconsin Harley workers approve contract to stay in Milwaukee

Posted in Harley-Davidson with tags , , , on September 13, 2010 by bleiglass

Good news for the history books, it would have been a shame if tradition would have been sacrificed so easily for simple profit margins. I hope the workers have a safer future with this result, and Harley-Davidson can concentrate on what they do best: build our favorite toys.

AP reports today: Harley-Davidson workers in southeastern Wisconsin approved a labor contract Monday laden with steep concessions after the company threatened to move hundreds of production jobs out of the state.

The proposed deal freezes employees’ pay, slashes hundreds of jobs and assigns large volumes of work to part-time workers. Some 1,140 union members who work at the Menomonee Falls plant in suburban Milwaukee voted on the deal, approving it by a 55 to 45 percent margin.

Harley-Davidson Inc. executives had said they would move production out of Wisconsin if the contract were rejected. That would have eliminated about 1,350 jobs.

How heavy is your Harley-Davidson? The lighter Road King is heavier!

Posted in Harley-Davidson with tags , , , , , , on September 9, 2010 by bleiglass

How heavy is your bike? Well, that depends a bit on the model, but mainly on where you fix the scale.

Take my Road King Classic, it weights according to the technical description 355 kg. Now that is heavy, 3.5 times my own weight, and if I sit on it with a normal sized passenger, I move around half a ton on 2 wheels.

But then, 355 kg are light, compared to my previous bike, a Honda Goldwing. This one weighted 417 kg, 62 kg, or nearly 10 stones, more. Just lifting 60kg is a tall order, and I never dropped the Goldwing nor the Road King, so have no real experience in getting them upright. I dropped my lighter ST 1100 Pan European a couple of times, with 297 kg still not easy to lift, but feasible.

I will let you into a secret, something I maybe should not say: my Road King Classic feels more heavy then the Goldwing. Not so much when driving around, just when standing at red lights, or pushing it around the garage. One reason may be simple psychological fear, knowing that my Road King does not have a reverse gear – I loved that reverse gear button, and it saved my face a couple of times.

Really, when driving very slowly at pedestrian speed, the Road King feels more heavy, and that is not psychological twisted perception, but pure physics. Let me try to explain: when you stand at a red light, you are controlling hundreds of kilo, but you are not actually holding them up or lifting them, you could not. When leaning at a slight angle, every bike becomes more heavy, and from a certain point onwards, you can not hold it anymore.

It all has to do with the lever

If you now look at these 2 pictures, a Honda Goldwing next to a Harley Davidson Road King Classic, you will see 2 important elements responsible for the weight, the engine and the fuel tank.

Or phrased more correctly: the center of gravity of these items. They are higher for a Harley-Davidson, and lower for a Goldwing, with its flat 6 cylinder boxer engine, and a fuel tank under the driver seat.

The Harley Davidson V2 in contrast builds quite high, and the fuel tank is located above the driver seat.

If we now measure (roughly) the distance of the combined center of gravity from the ground for the Goldwing and the Road King, the 2 key numbers are 40 and 54.

And if you multiply these “distance values” with the weight of the bikes, you see that the result is about 15% greater for the Road King then for the Goldwing, which means the Harley feels 15% more heavy to keep in balance then the actually 62kg heavier Honda.

Like my math teacher always required us to write below a calculation:

Q.E.D. (quod erat demonstrandum), the lighter Harley is heavier.

… and maybe this is also the reason why you see more Harley’s with ape handlebars