Sturgis Rally
Sturgis Rally
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By Buck Lovell        photo by Buck Lovell

Way back in the good old days when Panhead was king…still is as far as I'm concerned…..I performed a primary cover swap from the old dinged up tin item to a new inner and outer. I also replaced the motor sprocket with new unit as the existing part was showing some mileage. A new primary chain was on the agenda as well. I installed the new inner, tightened the bolts. Then I installed the new motor sprocket and primary chain, and tightened the left hand thread clutch hub nut. After adjusting the primary chain by sliding the transmission rearward until proper chain tension was present, the five bolts on the bottom of the gearbox were then tightened. It seems I was tightening everything properly, with one exception. I had neglected or had forgotten to tighten the motor sprocket nut. I installed the brand new, super shiny, chrome outer primary (Diamond) and tightened the small bolts all the way around the perimeter of the cover.
At the time, I was married to a woman who shall remain nameless here, who wanted to go for a motorcycle ride. A description of the bike follows; Panhead powered rigid frame chopper…..the frame being a 1954 HD unit, the motor was and EL with 74 inch (FL) flywheels installed, the heads were 1962 Panhead (outside oilers). Only one brake was present on this motorcycle, the rear, the front wheel was a star hub laced to a 21-inch rim, with and Avon Roadmaster tire mounted. Not worth a crap on rain grooves. Like driving drunk, I'm telling you! A 24-inch sissy bar held the rear of a King and Queen seat which was then in style…..OK OK a few year ago it was in style, but it was comfortable when packing. End of the bike description.
We put on our leathers, and I kick started the bike (one kick) and took off South bound from San Jose on highway 280 towards highway 17 (it's named something else these days) with the intention of riding to the pacific Coast town of Santa Cruz. As we road the transition ramp from 280 North Bound to Highway 17 West bound in fourth gear (top cog) I heard and felt the motor rev way up and immediately realized that the motor sprocket and come off the shaft. Why? Because I had only tightened the motor sprocket nut with my fingers. I the big freaking hurry to go riding I had forgotten to tighten that nut. I reached down (jockey shift) to try to get the gearbox into neutral, but the sprocket locked up the drive train so fast that didn't happen. What did happen is the rear wheel locked up at about 60 miles per hour. The screeching noise of the tire on concrete was as scary as the fact that as I corrected the steering to compensate for the slide I was apparent that I was going to lay the bike down on one side or the other. I didn't want to lay it down on the left side…..I had just installed a new primary cover. I didn't want to lay it down of the right and wreck the dual upsweep mufflers, because they too were relatively new. As I struggled to keep the motorcycle going in a straight line, gravity made the decision for me. The 15" extended wide glide was no help either, we went down hard on the left of the motorcycle. My bell bottomed pant leg was caught on the left side passenger peg and the bike was dragging me along on the freeway in the number one lane (closest to the center). By this time the speed had come down to about 45 MPH. I was actually skidding along the pavement riding on my Buck knife, which was in a leather case on my belt. As I looked over my left shoulder, I could see my passenger spinning around on her butt, and the palms of her hands. It was almost funny at the time, for me anyway! The bike finally stopped sliding, but my left leg was still under the motorcycle. I was laying in the number one lane of West Bound highway 17, watching the cars skidding towards me in full wheel lockup mode. My passenger, a petite woman, managed to pick the bike off me enough for me to free my leg. I jumped up and stood the bike up and parked it on the side stand, the cars had managed to stop without hitting us. The ass-end of my pants were gone, my ass was hanging out in the breeze. My passenger had strawberries for palms, and her ass was hanging in the breeze. A Highway patrol unit showed up and stopped traffic so I could the bike over to the right shoulder. The bike was trailered the bike home to make repairs. All I did was mangle the new outer primary cover, and bend the transmission main-shaft. The moral of the story? Do not get in a big ass hurry so much that you forget to tighten all the nuts and bolts you loosened. But that's a given ain't it? I have never ever left a bolt or nut loose to this day, I swear to Buddha. I really wish I still had that Panhead. Foot clutch, jockey shift and all that. It had more class than most any two motorcycles I see today. Tune in next week and I'll tell ya the story of how I was busted for attempted murder.

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