Chronicle of the Rubber Shovel Project: Alice
Black 1981 Harley-Davidson FLTC - Tour Glide Classic
Chapter 2 - Daytona Bike Week 2017
After pondering it for a somewhat excessive length of time, I finally decided to pull the trigger on the driveline stage of the project. So the wife and I headed over to Daytona Bike Week with the project funds and a shopping list in hand ... With the hopes of either catching a sale and/or getting lucky at one of the swap meets. Hopes == Fail! ...But at least the guy at the JP Cycles parts counter was nice enough to mention that their Gold Club membership was an option.
March 11, 2017
Trip to JP Cycle:
|RevTech Close-Ratio 6-Speed Overdrive Gear Set
|Paughco 2-into-1 Head pipes
|Paughco 29" Megaphone Universal Muffler
|James Inner and Outer Primary Cover Gasket and Seal Kit
|JP Cycles Gold Club Membership
Current Project Cost: $6,228.16
|JP Cycles Gold Club Discount
|Plus Tax... (bastards)
Current Project Cost: $6,186.38
The Jam-On Products Swap Meet proved to be a bit of a bust in the shopping for Alice department, as I had zero luck finding the 83 inner primary and 87 trap door I was after. And everybody online seems to want ($600 - $1,000) Stupid money for a part that sold new for $200, and only fits a model that nobody even liked in the fucking first place. It's big, square, ugly, looks Japanese, and you can't make a chopper out of it ... Yuck!! That's what I heard constantly back in the day when I had my 82 ... But now all-of-a-sudden they're a God Damn Cult Classic?!? Really?!? Fuck me...
But I did at least find a few things I needed for Trixie (my 2010 FLTRX) who is also getting converted to a hydraulic clutch, so the Swap Meet wasn't a total loss.
Next weekend we're going to try a different Swap Meet...
While this next picture has nothing to do with project Alice,
I thought I'd include it here for its Norman Rockwell's Americana feel,
and because it means a great deal to me.
March 12, 2017
A bit of a tangent to explain the above photo:
My brother's now Ex had left his bike sitting in the woods for a year while he was out on the road (he's a long haul trucker). The wiring was trashed, the brakes didn't work, the primary was trashed (drag race), and had been left open, and nobody had been able to figure out how to get the compensator off. It was also covered in mud, moss, tree sap, and bird shit. When a mutual friend dropped it off at my house that afternoon, he said there is no way in hell it would ever make it anywhere in a week.
My brother and I had not seen, or even spoken to each other for over 3 years. But when he asked if I could get it ready for him for bike week ... It was a silly question ... He's my brother (my blood). It was going to happen. It was going to happen, because I was going to fucking make it happen...if it god damn wanted to or not. I was in the garage past midnight that night, and (after my day job) every night that week. The word of the day that week was Necromancy ... I Command You to Rise!!!
March 18, 2017
The Softail made it to Daytona just fine ... But I was a friggin zombie. However I did perk up a bit after a few beers at Destination Daytona, and managed to survive the entire day. The wife and I made it home about 1:00am Sunday.
We never did make it to the second Swap Meet, but we did have a lot of fun failing to get there.
So now I have to resort to stalking my prey on eBay..
March 23, 2017
Found a hell of a nice guy on eBay that had one of the inner primaries I was after,
that was actually willing to part with it for less than a kings ransom.
Online at eBay:
|60626-83 Inner Primary Housing
Current Project Cost: $6,336.38
March 25, 2017
Trip to H&B Cycle:
|35075-87 Tranny Case Bearing Housing (New Round Style - Black)
Current Project Cost: $6,406.38
March 26, 2017
So now that all the other ducks were in a row ... I decided it was time to pull-the-trigger on that hydraulic clutch slave cylinder I'd been eyeing for quite some time. Given the difficulty I'd had finding certain items I'd been hedging a bit on whether or not that part of the project was going to make it into this phase of the project. But... The stars alligned at the last minute, so it looks like Alice will shortly be one of the only Shovelheads in existence with a hydraulic clutch.
Online at eBay:
|PartsPro Hydraulic clutch release cover kit for Big Twins
Current Project Cost: $6,513.53
March 27, 2017
All of the parts from the March 11th JP Cycles order have arrived, except of course for the - Super Critical - 2-into-1 Header pipe which is still listed as 'Pending Vendor Arrival'. Fortunately - for them - I've been riding Alice to work all week and damn if she doesn't leave me grinning like an idiot far to much to stay in a proper fowl mood for ranting on the phone.
April 1, 2017
Okay... So, since the exhaust finally showed up it's now time to spend some quality time in the garage.
First thing that gets noticed, is that the brand new Paughco exhaust comes complete with only the brand new Paughco exhaust ... And not a god damn bit of mounting hardware. Shit...
Trip to H&B Cycle:
|65555-80A Right Lower Exhaust Bracket
Current Project Cost: $6,533.53
So much for the easy part, now I have to make a one-off flexible rear mount for the muffler.
Which is actually fun come to think of it...so I won't bitch too much.
Trip to Lowes:
|1/8 x 1 x 4' Aluminum bar stock
|Miscellaneous other hardware
Current Project Cost: $6,557.79
And... While I'm out, I might as well pick up a few things for the later - transmission - phase of the project.
Trip to AutoZone:
|Satin Black Engine Paint
|Lucas 80W-90 Heavy Duty Gear Oil
Current Project Cost: $6,573.77
More on the Paughco Exhaust: While the fit to the heads is perfect, the exhaust does run awfully close the the cam cone cover. Also while the chrome is quite nice out-of-the-box, the finish on the welds is terrible. They needed much more cleanup and buffing before they were chromed.
So in the interest of preventing the new pipes from turning blue. I used an old school trick, which is to paint the inside of the pipes with a high-temp paint which smells a bit funny for the first few miles...but creates an instant layer of protective carbon inside the pipes.
I also cut 4" off the new header so the slash cut megaphone muffler would align with and complement the angle of the saddlebag.
And here's a few closeups of the handmade flexible rear muffler bracket. The loop that is bolted to the top of the muffler contains a rubber bushing that allows it to flex with the engine's movements.
So now I gotta sort out some more wiring issues on my brother's Softail.
April 26, 2017
Did a bit of shopping in preparation for the 6-speed transmission upgrade. Now - everything is here - I just need the time to get it done.
Trip to Harley Dealer:
|Main Drive Gear Seal
|Main Shaft Bearing
|Trans Top Gasket
|Trap Door Gasket
|Counter Shaft Needle Bearing
|Trap Door Bearings (2)
Current Project Cost: $6,657.23
Okay... So time is - at this point - not my friend, and the My Brother's softail project got way more involved as I unwittingly inherited the sins of the past and had to coax a broken primary bolt with a snapped off Easy-Out in it out of a 5/16 hole in the engine case. And that little wrinkle took several days to contend with. In the interest of simplicity, I'll just add some picture of the carnage.
|End of broken bolt...
|...And the hole it came out of.
In closing... I will simply state that while I am unsure if there is an actual official record
for the number of times someone has said 'Fuck' in a single day...
I am quite sure - if it exists - that I broke it.
May 8, 2017
Back to the matter at hand, after spending a good bit of quality time riding Alice it was quickly becoming clear that she was still a bit loose. On/off throttle transitions were announced with a clunk that could be felt through the frame, stuffing her into a corner hard elicited a rather spastic form of resistance, and she had a rather odd habit of wiggling. Not wobbling mind you. Just wiggling...like a happy dog. This behavior was both rather cute, and mildly terrifying...depending on when she decided to do it. This rather quickly made it abondantly clear that her still all original HD engine mounts were completely fucking shot.
Online at PhatPerformanceParts.com:
|Glide Pro Stabilizing System for 80-01 FLT
Current Project Cost: $7,077.23
To say that the difference in handling made by the Glide Pro kit was night and day, would sadly be an understatement. It was more like taking a rocketship ride to the 20th century after trying to ride a drunken ostrich across an ice rink. And the entire install took less than 2 hours!
May 28, 2017 - Memorial Day Weekend
My brother's girlfriend did not want to ride his Softail all the way to Daytona, so they coerced me into letting them ride Alice. They promised to stay out of heavy traffic, Alice needed a good clearing out after a decade of collecting dust, and we were all going... So hay... What could go wrong?
Now my original intention was to get some kind of really cool pic of Alice sitting on the beach in Daytona. But that was quickly kiboshed when she really didn't want to start after we stopped for lunch somewhere north of Flagler Beach. It seems that even after running all the way there, the brand new battery was still - rather oddly - almost dead. Can I get a Hell Yeah from the Voltage Regulator?!? ... Crickets ...Fuck.
So Alice's first voyage outside the county in forever had taken a bit of a turn for the worse, and then things got really interesting when we had to stop in Barberville for gas on the way home. But since my brother had run all the way from Flagler with the headlight off, we'd hoped she would have maybe come up a little bit enough to pop off one more time. However as history has many times proven, I totally suck at optimism - The battery was fucking dead, and she wasn't about to start for shit.
Click. Click. Click. Click...
Bump-starting a bagger is not fun. It's also not something I've had to do in about 30 years. And it's even less fun if the person manning the throttle doesn't know what position it's supposed to be in... So for the next half an hour me and several other folks that volunteered pushed my brother and Alice around the parking lot in the hopes that the bitch would finally light. After which point we took a short break to discuss whether we should consider calling a tow truck or an ambulance, because I've been a smoker for the past 35 years, I've been flying a desk for the past decade, I've just spent the last half an hour trying to push half a ton of dead weight around a parking lot, and it is currently 90 fucking degrees in the shade of which there isn't any..
We finally decided to switch places and she popped off for me on the first try (with the throttle closed..).
The rest of the ride home was uneventful ... Thankfully.
She ran like a top as always - albeit with the lights off.
Alice is currently running a 22 amp system.
June 3, 2017 - Transmission Day
So after having to wait the better part of an entire metric eternity... It was finally Transmission day. Which should have been a good thing... Should... Except for the Fickel Finger of Fate slowly taking careful aim...
Step 1: Assess the damnage.
Since we were to be going right past most of the parts in question on the was to the tranny, it seemed appropriate to take a quick look at the state of what was left of the charging system. The battery had been on charge over night, so it should be no big deal to throw a volt meter in the stator, start her up and check for smoke ...Er... I mean output voltage. But it appears that the strain of the previous weekend had been far too much for the (most likely still) factory original 35 year old starter to bear. She wouldn't turn ... The relays clicked, the starter groned, and that was all she wrote.
Plan B: Switch voltmeter to OMS, and take a few readings on the stator. It checked out so we will now "safely" assume that it is indeed the voltage regulator that has gone awry...as they're contemptuous evil things. And I finally have Alice alone in the garage, with a plethora of devices at hand, and the intent afoot to have my wicked way with her...God Damn it...I will not be denied!
Added to Shopping List: Cycle Electric CE-204 (Made in the USA) Voltage Regulator.
Step 2: Remember Step 0.
The new (to me) trapdoor and inner primary cover both needed to be painted black to match what's left of Alice's current paint scheme. So I knocked the old bearings out of the trapdoor, cleaned it up a bit, gave it a quick shoot, and thought "Hay this is going rather well" ... And that, was a mistake...
Cue the Fickel Finger..
While doing the paint prep on the inner primary I'd searched high and low for - And thought I'd got a great deal on - I discovered a bit of a complication...as it seems that part of it is (Um...) missing.
Checkmate. Now I either have to $hit another primary, Conjure up a way of modifying the old primary, or simply resign myself to contending with the rather wonky early 80's style shifter...that kinda sucks.
Note: In the interest of fairness, I will point out that the "defect" in the primary did - in retrospect - rather clearly show up in the photos (I checked...) from the eBay listing. I just flat-out missed it in my hasty quest to find one for a reasonable price.
But, in for a penny...in for a pound. I came this far...so I might as well keep going. The trapdoor is drying nicely ... So I might as well finish the teardown so it doesn't go to waste.
As has been a reoccurring theme with this project, much butchery was found in the process. The case looks like someone tried to rip it open with a claw hammer before removing all the bolts. And what's left of the gear set appears to have been assembled out of parts that were stolen out of a dumpster. Some gears are back cut, some are stock, and some are rounded off enough to use as a speed bump. I would dare say that the only thing that they actually shared in common was the fact that they obviously didn't come from the same place, time, or manufacturer... [Insert joke about Johnny Cash's Cadillac here]
June 3, 2017 - Transmission Day 2
Step X: Scrap the plan, and just try to concentrate on not fucking anything else up royally...
So... After some strategizing - and a bit of quality time with a propane torch - I knocked the rest of the old bearings out of the tranny case and rolled her outside for a much needed bath. Then tidied up the bench a bit in preparation for the transmission assembly part of the story.
And a quick Thank You to the guy on the JP Cycles website that was complaining about the
extensive amount of cutting necessary to get the main drive gear to fit ... He wasn't kidding.
Unfortunately, I did not remember this fellow's rant in time to save the brand new main bearing I'd already pressed into the case... Until after I'd also already pressed in the new main gear and noticed it didn't turn ... At all.
So the rest of the day was spent playing Hide-The-Salami with the main gear and completely mutilating the main bearing's corpse in the hopes of having some of the ridge left to hold the (replacement) bearing in place after most of it had been removed to make room for this strangly huge assed fucking main gear.
At this point - since I really didn't have the right grinding equipment available ... A main bearing, or a single ounce of fucking patience left - I decided that it would be safer to call it quits for the weekend ... As absolute nothing had quite gone right from the start..
June 10, 2017 - Transmission Day 3
New Plan: Think Happy Thoughts! ...Or I'll fucking kill you.
As of late, during the week my job is far too draining to attempt anything at night. So... now it's Saturday, and I have a new finger grinder with an 80 grit belt to have a go at the case with. This new contraption - which was my brother's suggestion - quickly made short work of the case modifications. And got the project moving again in a direction that actually bore a striking resemblance to forward.
End of Saturday, and nothing has gone wrong ...Yet.
June 11, 2017 - Transmission Day 4
The word for the day is Hydraulic Clutch!
Or at least the word for the day was going to be Hydraulic Clutch...right up until the project hit the wall (again..). It seems that the 1981 style inner primary bearing does not fit on the new main shaft ... At all. The 1996 style inner primary bearing I have left over from my brother's Softail is way to wide. And the ("Complete"?) transmission kit had not come with an included really wierd assed specialty bearing that you'll never be able to fucking find. So... It was going to be one of those parts book research days trying to figure out WTF I was supposed to stick in there.
But not to be daunted...(research can be done in the evening)...I proceeded with working around the issue and focused on getting the master cylinder, slave cylinder, and hydraulic line figured out and installed. The hydraulic line proved to be quite a pain in the ass, but it's not like anybody makes a direct bolt-on item for an 1981 Shovelhead..
And for the primary bearing, I did manage to discover about 85 things that would not work...
End of Sunday, and this is obviously going to take quite awhile to finish.
June 16, 2017
Trip to Harley Dealer:
|Inner Bearing Race
|Inner Primary Oil Seal
Current Project Cost: $7,125.95
June 17, 2017 - Transmission Day 5
1 week, 2 trips to Grainger, and 3 trips to the Harley Dealer later..
We have what appears to be a workable plan. All we have to do is cut 0.100" off of a case hardened 1985 style inner bearing race, and it should fit. Oh yeah... All I have to cut the bearing race with is a 36" Harbor Freight belt grinder. Fortunately I used to be good at this type of shit...I just hope I haven't lost my touch.
But... First things third. I gotta figure out how short this thing will need to be. So with the primary off, I slide on the clutch hub and snug it down enough to seat on the taper. Then I spray paint the shaft behind the hub so that when the paint dries I can slide off the hub and have some way of measuring how much space is available for the bearing race.
Much to my suprise...this actually worked perfectly. I had 0.920" of room, in which to put a 0.985" long bearing race. Yepper... Some (more) cutting was going to be required. Not to mention that the half inch wide bearing, and its almost quarter inch thich seal, needed to somehow fit inside of the (only...) half inch deep hole in the inner primary ... Because it originally took - and was designed for - a sealed bearing. ...El Fuck-O strikes again!
So... Short version - Belt grinder also has a 6" disk. Square up the deck, square up the guide, attach fresh 80 grit disk. And keep turning the bearing race as it touches the disk, measure frequently, and cool often. This shit goes on for about an hour an a half...
Now for the acid test. Which is to heat up the newly shortened inner bearing race, press it onto the main shaft, and then temporarily torque down the clutch hub to see if the inner race will stop before or after destroying the seal in the end of the main gear.
It worked with about 0.018" to spare.
Next part was to cut out the ridge in the inner primary so I could push the bearing all the way through and - literally - make room for the seal where the ridge wasn't anymore.. This also allowed me to push the bearing through a bit extra, and "borrow" some of the "extra" space behind the clutch hub. Pressing the bearing in was an extremely tight fit, so there shouldn't be any issues with it moving around later.
End of Saturday. And despite having had to torch, cut, grind, and hammer
everything I touched today ... Things have overall gone rather well.
June 18, 2017 - Transmission Day 6
It's finally time to put the guts back in the primary, and find out (if...) how well my mad scheme for having a hydraulic clutch on Alice is really going to play out. So today's step one was to contrive some sort of line to get master and slave connected to each other.
Somewhat unsuprisingly this required yet again more cutting. I had some leftover brake lines from the frontend conversion. But the long piece I needed had an oddly shaped head on it, that needed to be cut down to a more banjo bolt in a tight space friendly shape. And routing the line along the backbone under the tank aforded me a handy location under the seat to hide an 8" loop of extra line...so everything visible looked nice and tidy.
When I got done bleeding the system, I had a rock hard lever...and a clutch that didn't move at all. This was a tad disconcerting...
After popping off the slave cylinder, it quickly became clear that there wasn't enough clearance for both the hydraulic piston and the throwout bearing to exist and move in the same space. So... something need to be shorter. And the only thing available what had "extra" space in it was the mainshaft. I taped up the end of the transmission, cut the mainshaft off flush with the nylock nut, and vola!
And that was the end of the good news...
June 25, 2017
So now the question is, will the bitch start? ...And the answer to that is simply, Hell to the Fuck No!
Poke, prod, test, check ... Long story short:
The starter is Completely, Epically, and Totally Fucked.
June 29, 2017
Trip to H&B Cycle:
Current Project Cost: $7,225.95
Now in fairness, brother Red Dog did volunteer a donation of a working starter -- Which I believe he took off of an active project bike. But unfortunately it was a Hitachi starter. And when I went to get the Starter Shaft Housing to convert from Prestolite to Hitachi ... The replacement (good used) Prestolite starter was actually cheaper than the conversion.
So thank you brother, but we gotta get your Shovel back up too. And Alice gets a new(ish) Prestolite starter...which unfortunately also just so happens to be chrome..
I fucking hate chrome ... But it works great, and I ain't got time to paint it black so...shit.
The charging system however, is still a problem...
July 1, 2017
New starter installed, Alice starts for the first time in a month. So I take her around the block, and all six gears are indeed present and accounted for. She shifts so smooth and easy it's almost a bit spooky. A very, very... good kind of spooky. However... Charging, is still an issue... So for now I can only go around the block. Damn Voltage Regulator screwing up my fun..
Now, since my brother is in town...today's trip to H&B is destined to be a bit more eventful than usual. Because he has been bitten, smitten, and completely succumb to Alice's power. He has decided...cash in hand...that it is time to get a bagger. I can't stop laughing...
On the first trip -(yeah, it took two trips)- We picked up a few things for his Softail, Alice's voltage regulator, and spotted a nice 85 Evo FLTC ... That he couldn't quite commit to, because it would leave him a tad low on cash for the - Granted extended - weekend.
So... Then we get home and tell the wife what we'd seen...and failed to did about it - under the guise of being responsible - And she looked at us like we were fucking retarded. Then she simply said, in a calm and level tone, "Just go buy the fucking motorcycle".
Yepper... That's why I married her..
A loud pop was then heard as the air closed behind my brother and I, just moments before the sound of two Harley's tearing WFO up the road on our way back to the shop. Cash in hand, mission a go, it was a flat-out balls-to-the-wall race all the way there.
All she needed was a battery, and a bath. He was out riding in an hour.. He plans to repaint her cobalt blue with black accents, to better match the chosen name of "Nightmare". And as the name implies, she won't be a stock Evo for much longer.
Alice however was not so lucky... After installing the "new" (used take-off) voltage regulator, her charging voltage was still shit. So there are obviously additional (stator) issues with the - almost 40 year old - charging system. Curses... Foiled Again!
July 4, 2017
Alice is still down with charging system issues. But it's the 4th of july...an American holiday; Alice a Harley Davidson...an American motorcycle; we need fireworks, and I've been drinking... Fuck it, WE RIDE!!!
Alice and Nightmare at the fireworks tent
She made it there and back just fine, and the new transmission was an absolute blast on the open road. Shifting was crisp, smooth, and impossible to miss ... Even running flat-out trying to keep up with my brother's Evo. The gearing is spaced out so well, that I actually gave him a pretty good run.
July 8, 2017
Trip to H&B Cycle:
|32 Amp Charging System Conversion Kit
Current Project Cost: $7,445.95
Hay if all else fails, replace everything ... That'll fix the bitch!
And... We're charging.. Finally... Yay!
After riding Alice to work all week, I can happily report that I havent missed a gear yet. The transmission is wearing in nicely and I think its actually gotten a bit smoother. The hydraulic clutch works perfectly and has the friction zone right in the middle of the lever travel. She's finally ready for some serious power. Which - unfortunately - is going to take some serious time to pull the cash together for. But in the mean time she is still an absolute blast to ride. She's light (compared to Trixie), nimble, sticks in a corner even with the old tires that I still need to replace, and stops on a dime. Yepper...it's time to go fast!
This part was way more interesting than it needed to be..
Chapter 3 - Faster Damnit!!
Project Alice: It's Time to Have a Go at the Engine..
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