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.

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