Sunday, August 5, 2012

Veteran Motorcycle Adventures (Part 3)-- Fuel and seating modifications

My pal Dale Walksler and his 1915 Harley. He suggested that
 I do something similar for extra fuel
With Elizabeth chugging away once again, it was time to continue prepping her for some long days of touring again. In Part 1 of this series, I mentioned how the main fuel tank would give me enough supply for 45 miles between fill ups. The days of riding on the 'Ball will already be long enough without stopping every hour or so for gas. My dad and I have been trying to decide the best way to add extra fuel capabilities. When I spent some time with Dale Walksler in June, he recommended that I follow his lead from the pre-1916 Cannonball. His entry, a 1915 Harley Davidson, had the same problem that I face in fuel consumption. Rather than tying a jerry can on the back, Dale installed a 1960's Harley Super Glide fuel tank on the rear and plumbed the fuel lines directly into the carburetor. While this idea is very utilitarian, I wasn't too fond of having a huge fuel tank strapped up high on the luggage rack. Enter Rotopax.

Made in the USA, Rotopax fuel cells were
developed for off-road vehicles

Following along with the conversations on our Motorcycle Cannonball Facebook page, I noticed that several of my fellow riders were going to use Rotopax fuel cells as a spare jerry can. Rotopax were developed for off-road enthusiasts, and several different models for gasoline, diesel, and water were offered. The innovative mounting system for the cells allows for easy removal. After discussing it, my dad and I ordered two of the Rotopax to mount on both sides of the BSA. Rather than having all of the weight up high, like Dale did, our packs would be mounted low.

Then came the thought: "Instead of pulling each one off and filling up the main tank, why couldn't we tap the bottom of the cells and install a petcock?"   Bingo. With a little Texan ingenuity and elbow grease, we installed two petcocks, then reamed out a 45 degree banjo fitting for plumbing the lines into the carburetor. A little black plastic furniture paint, and Elizabeth had two extra gallons of fuel added that would be very functional, but disguised well. Even better, the two saddlebags that we bought for her would cover up the majority of the cells.

Re-designed fuel system...check out the petcock and
 fuel line coming out of this puppy!

Already pretty well disguised, my Rotopax will be
 hidden further by this gorgeous set of hand-tooled saddlebags
The search for saddlebags was long--finding the "right" one was fairly involved. The first set of bags we bought online were actually vintage World War I German cavalry saddlebags that were entirely too big. Shortly thereafter, my dad found a great set of brown leather bags in Oregon on eBay. These bags were hand-tooled with some western influence. We had to say that we're from Texas somehow, right? This set will work beautifully, and is off at the local leather shop being altered. The bags also match the custom seat we installed.

Rotopax and custom seat..check out the Touratech route sheet
 holder that is alst mounted to the front
It didn't take too long of riding with the original, horsehair-padded seat to decide it was time for a change. I took a look through our pile of seats and found a brand new brown leather sprung seat for a custom bobber or chopper. Surely that doesn't sound like a very good idea---but after laying it on the frame, we all knew it was meant to be. The brown leather compliments the black frame and green gas tank very appropriately. Upon installing, we found that the springs were too long, and instead bought a pair of 3 inch brass springs. When we put them in, everything clicked. More importantly the comfort of the ride improved greatly, and putting miles on the bike didn't leave a dull pain in the rear.

In addition to installing a new seat and springs, I also ordered an Airhawk seating cushion. My friend Cris Sommer Simmons rode her 1915 Harley Davidson across America in the Pre-1916 Cannonball and used her Airhawk all the way. Originally I had considered using a gel pad, but was advised by Cris that the gel can get extremely hot in the sun. Steering me towards the Airhawk, she told me how easy it was to install and adjust the unit. Unlike gel pads, the Airhawk has multiple neoprene rubber air cells that are interconnected. With a mouth valve, the AH can be adjusted to any rider. All of the air cells double as shock absorbers, which is much appreciated by my rear end. Another great feature of this cushion is that it is ventilated and doesn't absorb heat.

Airhawk Cushion will make my ride quite a bit more comfortable

More soon,

Buck Carson
Confirmed Cannonballer #3
Carson Classic Motors Race Team

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