It’s the end of Day 6 in our cross-country journey, which started inauspiciously for team Vintagent/Sinless/Revival and our two Brough Superiors. In an effort to gain more life and safety on the 1926 SS100, we tried automotive tires for its ‘clincher’ rims, as car tires are the only highway-rated tires available, and other Cannonballers use them, like Shinya Kimura on his 1915 Indian v-twin. The Brough Superior is a different kettle of fish to the little Indian, and we had 3 blowouts in the first 24 hours of the Cannonball. The cure? Removing the paint from inside the wheel rims, glueing the tires to the rims, then drilling sheet metal screws into the tires through the rims! Problem cured – the Brough has simply too much horsepower not to secure the tires to the rim.How much horsepower? On Day 2, we stopped at a Harley-Davidson dealership in Falconer, New York, who offered free dynamometer testing for our bikes. Revival’s Alan Stulberg couldn’t help but try the SS100, but the comparisons are telling: a 1923 Triumph 550cc single-cylinder made 4hp, a 1913 Thor v-twin made 10hp, a 1922 Indian Chief made 14.3hp, a 1928 Indian 4 made 18.5hp, and the Brough SS100 had 57.5 ft-lbs of torque and made 30hp before a misfire set in at 2800rpm. No wonder the tires spun.
The Cannonball started cold and wet, and Day 3 was even cancelled for rain and flooding along our backwoods route ever westward. But the roads were dreamy, following rivers and mountains, passing through tiny communities, with a lot of vacant industrial buildings in the larger towns of rural New York, New Hampshire, and Ohio. To a Californian, a city block sized old industrial-glazed warehouse looks very tempting, but there isn’t a lot going on in these towns. S0me renovation and rehab is apparent in a few towns, and we were constantly on the search for a good lunch or dinner spot. Our rule is to always choose local businesses, and the food is usually good if not great.
We loved coming across the Amish communities with their horse-drawn carriages and immaculate farms, and even stopped to chat with a few men repairing a barn who’d waved at us. With no electricity, power tools, or vehicles with motors, it was strictly skilled manual labor that built their houses and barns, although we weren’t allowed to park our bikes near them, or photograph the gents in question. They were happy to answer questions, though, and greeted us cheerily. The countryside from Vermont to Iowa is dotted with Amish communities, and coming across their horses and carts was a highlight.
The roads were hilly, winding, and fun through Pennsylvania and New York, but started to smooth out as we reached Ohio, eventually becoming entirely flat, with long stretches of straight roads. We’re still in that fix in Iowa as we push onwards, and today’s ride included 60 miles of freeway, which is rough on old bikes. The SS100 has proved well up the task, often arriving first at our lunch or finish for the day. Our SS80 had some trouble and is hors de combat for now, after a loose valve cap led to a piston seizure, which seems to have bent a rod as well. Alan was riding at the time, and we were 23 miles from our destination in Anamosa, Iowa, in the tiny hamlet of Oxford Crossing.
While waiting for the chase truck, a young local pulled up on his yellow dirt bike, asking all sorts of questions about our bikes. He (Alex) seemed good company for Alan, so I left them and motored on. As they chatted on the sidewalk, a shirtless, bedraggled homeowner emerged with a double-barreled shotgun, shouting ‘get off my flowers!’ Alan replied he was in fact on the sidewalk, but the man repeated his demand, and pointed the shotgun at them, at which point Alex exited, but not before Alan told him to call the police. At that moment, the chase truck arrived, and Alan was rescued from the scene. But the fellow had a visit from several police cars, and was arrested, saying in his defense ‘I thought they were both black guys’.
With the SS80 out, I’ve been riding solo, and my SS100 keeps a pace no other Cannonballer can match. We have small issues, like trouble starting, and chain oiling, and modest vibration making for the occasional loose bolt, but mostly, the bike is a peach. Well, more than a peach – it’s a masterpiece of 20th Century design, and an absolute pleasure to ride, with bags of smooth power, a gorgeous exhaust note that’s more a vintage speedboat burble than a v-twin bark, and absolutely stable handling, barring the many road heaves that momentarily aviate us.
It’s a 7:30am start time for Class III, and a 314 mile ride tomorrow to Pierre, South Dakota, where it’s expected to hit 92degrees. What a contrast to our first days in the East when it barely hit the 50s, and Fall was definitely in the air and on the trees. Onward, towards Sturgis.