Khodrocar - When you are traveling on an 84-year-old motorcycle, you have to be prepared to make an adjustment or two along the way.
Whether it is a tweak to the carburetor, tightening the rear chain or changing the spark plugs, you'd better make sure you have the necessary tools and parts in your bag – or an easy roadside fix can quickly turn into a long ride home in a trailer. Of course, sometimes things go wrong that you can't just fix, no matter how many tools you shove in your tool roll, but that is just part of the adventure of riding old iron. On my last trip to Chattanooga, Tennessee, I got to put my skills to the test in a uphill battle to get my 1933 Harley-Davidson VL over the Blue Ridge Mountains and back. As always, there was a bit more "adventure" than I had planned for.
My preparation for the 400+ mile ride to Tennessee was typical of my rides this summer. I started by spending weeks waiting on parts, only to have them arrive just in time for me to spend a few sleepless nights frantically trying to get everything put back together, like I was on some kind of reality TV show. This time I needed to swap out two cams and tappets, a job that requires pulling the motor out of the frame. Probably not the best choice for tackling the weekend before a 5-day run. Regardless, I got the motor back together, mounted it back in the frame and had everything running with about a day to spare.
Thinking ahead, I had allotted two days for my ride from North Carolina to Tennessee. That way I could take my time and not push my motorcycle too hard on the highway after just doing some major engine work. The ride started out great. I headed out on a cool Tuesday morning, rolling on the throttle as I shifted through the gears (Read more about how to ride an antique motorcycle here). I hit the Interstate and was soon cruising at 60 mph in light traffic. Everything was going according to plan and I was looking forward to a uneventful ride into western NC. That blissful ride lasted all of 5 miles before my motor started acting like it was starving for fuel. It wasn't long before I could no longer maintain the speed limit and had to pull over to inspect my fuel system. After a quick check, I found out my fuel strainer was filled with rust. That was a bit odd since I had new fuel tanks and fuel lines, but I just shook my head, dumped it out and got back on the road.
Another 10 miles rolled by before I was having the same problems again. This time I was right around the corner from Down Home Harley-Davidson, so I pulled in and took up some of their shop space for several hours. Wanting to make sure I thoroughly cleaned my fuel system, I drained the tanks, blew out the fuel lines with compressed air, and disassembled/cleaned my carburetor. Through it all, I found no additional rust, so I figured I had this problem beat and was rolling again by early afternoon.
Well, everything was great for about 10 miles and then the motor started breaking up at high speeds again. I pulled over and once again the fuel strainer was filled with rust, this time more than ever before. For the rest of the afternoon, I had to pull over ever 5-10 miles and clean out the fuel strainer. At one point I even removed the carburetor and totally stripped it down in a gas station parking lot to make sure it was still clean, too.