Buzz Kanter & Motorcycle Cannonball 2014 Classic Ride Diary

Motorcycle Cannonball – an exciting event in the life of any classic motorcycle enthusiast. Looks like we are going to do it again in 2014.

I helped rebuild and then I rode a 1915 Harley most of the way across the US on the first Motorcycle Cannonball in 2010. It was physically, emotionally and financially exhausting. I rode from Kitty Hawk to New Mexico before I had to drop out of the event for personal reasons. I had already seized the engine a couple of times, swapped out three magnetos and helped rebuild the entire top end once in the back of a trailer in a parking lot.

A stop at Wheels Through Time on the first Motorcycle Cannonball. Cute locals dressed up and greeted us.

On the other hand, I made some lifelong friends along the way and came back with some amazing experiences and stories. I wrote about it in the pages of American Iron Magazine and shared videos of the event on Youtube. We had no idea if anyone would make it all the way across the US or not or if this would be the first and last Motorcycle Cannonball.

When the second Motorcycle Cannonball was announced to go from Newburgh, NY to San Francisco, CA in 2012 I wasn’t too keen on doing it again, even with newer motorcycles allowed all the way up to 1929 models. But the thought of the event happening without me was more than I could bear. So I hauled my 1929 Harley-Davidson down to Wheels Through Time museum where Dale Walksler and crew did me right.

Opening page in one of the articles on Motorcycle Cannonball 2012 in American Iron Magazine

I rode the 1929 HD all the way across the US other than one day in the truck when I picked up a tank of water and suffered some carburetor issues.  I also wrote about this in the pages of American Iron Magazine.

Motorcycle Cannonball 2012. Near the end at the Golden Gate Bridge with my 1929 Harley JDH

Now, less than a half-year later Lonnie Isam, Jr, the man who runs the Motorcycle Cannonball has announced the third running sometime in September 2014 across the United States one more time. He is still working out the details but has announced it will be open to motorcycles made in 1936 or earlier opening the field to first year Harley Knuckleheads and all Harley V series flatheads.

After a brief chat with my partners from the 2012 Motorcycle Cannonball, Paul Ousey and Jim Petty, we all contacted Lonnie to say we wanted back in for the next one. That was the easy part. Entry fee is $2,500 per rider, we all need to get and prep a bike for another 4,000+ mile ride, including spares, tools and gear. Then we need to get the time off work to do the actual ride (and prep the bikes) and more. WOW!

Granted, we have almost a year and a half to prep for this, but we can’t start too soon for me. The first thing was get on the rider list, and all three of us (and 45 other returning Cannonballers) have already done that. Next I have to decide what to ride. I am fortunate enough to have a few great old motorcycles to choose from. All would need to be totally rebuilt and overhauled before considering a ride like this.

Each of the motorcycles I am considering are rare and wonderful. I have it narrowed down to the following:

My 1929 Harley JDH that I rode in the 2012 Motorcycle Cannonball. I know the bike well and have lots of spares. It would need a full rebuild before another coast to coast ride.
1936 Harley VLH 80-inch flathead that would need a total mechanical overhaul. We featured this cosmetic project bike in American Iron Magazine.
My last choice is a 1936 Harley EL first year Knucklehead. I love riding this bike but would also have to totally rebuild it for a coast to coast ride.

Yes, I know it’s a tough choice and these are all great bikes. It has taken me over thirty years of motorcycle buying, selling and trading to have such a great fleet of machines. And please know that I do ride each and every one of these bikes – no trailer queens here.

However I go on this I know we will follow the build, prep and ride in the pages of American Iron Magazine so you can follow along on the highs and lows.

Right now I am leaning towards either the 1929 JDH again, or the 1936 Harley VLH. Both would need a total overhaul and freshening up. Your thoughts?

Team American Iron Magazine Motorcycle Cannonball 2012 Support Staff T-shirts for sale at www.greaserag.com

We still have a decent selection of the Team American Iron Motorcycle Cannonball 2012 Support Staff T-shirts for sale at Greaserag.com. Click here for more information or to order yours.

This entry was posted in Big Twin Flathead Harleys, Classic Harley Events, J Model Harleys, Knucklehead Harleys, Motorcycle Cannonball and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Buzz Kanter & Motorcycle Cannonball 2014 Classic Ride Diary

  1. Dennis Orellans says:

    My thoughts? These guys are outta their fuckin’ minds. All thank goodness for that! I saw you guys arrive at Dudley Perkins in 2012 was struck dumb. Such beautiful bikes, such crazy riders! Cannonball Ride is the Super Bowl of motorcycling. Where’s the reality show? Mebbe if you guys got Kim Kardashian to hop aboard…

  2. David Belles says:

    My thoughts on what bike you should use in 2014? I’ll cover the bikes in the same order you did: The 1929 JDH would not be my first choice. You already used it last year and should move on to another model. The 1936 VLH flathead would be my first choice for the ride. The flathead design is reliable and tough as nails and with 80 inches of power you should be able to keep up with the rest easily. The 1936 EL knuckle head would be the last choice. First year machines are always problematic an the 61 inch engine was underpowered even then. Of course, you know much more about these machines than I do so this is just my unqualified 2 cents worth. Whatever you choose, I’m sure you’ll have a blast.

  3. I like the Knucklehead, but I’m prejudiced.

  4. Ron Westervelt says:

    Buzz,
    Spoke to you briefly at Newburgh 2012. Hope you made it to Milwaukee for the H-D 110th on the EL. Re:`36 VLH for 2014: The `36 VL and VLH were available with optional constant mesh 4-speed using one-year-only “shifting actuation through a rotary plate or disc instead of through a cylindrical cam.”* Have no idea how it worked out or if any trannys with this set up survived, but you know better than I of the advantages of a constant mesh over a sliding gear trans. You also know that VLH brakes were not up to the performance these machines were capable of — a 25 tooth motor sprocket, and you could go like the wind. Anyway, much success on the 2014 Cannonball! Ron Westervelt *(Inside Harley-Davidson, Hatfield, p148)