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5-Ball VL, XA, FL 2022-23 Build, Part 1

With a Knucklehead Engine from S&S

by Bandit with photos by the Redhead and Atomic Dice illustrations
11/28/2022


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Irish Rich and my son Frank in his shop.
Irish Rich and my son Frank in his shop.



It’s all started on a Sunny winter day when I met with old friend Randy Simpson and he declared, “I want to buy the Dicey Knucklehead.”




I didn’t want to let it go, but I also wanted to honor Randy’s wish. His co-builder, Gary Woodford, passed away and he wanted a tribute to him.

The frame and tank at Rich's shop.
The frame and tank at Rich's shop.



For the first time in 20 years, I didn’t have a shop. I had to do something or chase women and drink whiskey. Irish Rich, from Shamrocks just moved to Sturgis from Denver and had a couple of rusting VL frames. At least I could find parts and start planning. I reached out to Matt Olsen. The last time I saw him he mentioned coming into some stock springers.

I also worked with Bob at Atomic Dice paint and tattoo on a concept drawing. For a cartoonist, he's very detailed about the process. Watch the progression...
I also worked with Bob at Atomic Dice paint and tattoo on a concept drawing. For a cartoonist, he's very detailed about the process. Watch the progression...



His score hadn’t arrived but he did have a slightly modified stock XA front end, 2 inches longer. I jumped on it and ordered a set of stock styled rockers from Paughco and an axle. I discussed wheels with Steve Massicote from Paughco.



What I had in the shop was a 19-front capable of dual discs. It has an aluminum rim, race style with an aluminum hub. The rear is an 18-inch Metal Sport wheel with a brand-new Avon tire. Steve and I discussed, and I liked the spoked classic Paughco wheels, probably black rims, stainless spokes and star hubs. I’m thinking about a 21 up front.

That brings up brakes. On one hand I would like to go all class and mechanical brakes. One the other, this could be a mountain hard-riding fast bike and maybe disc brakes would do the trick. Or, I could go disc in the rear and mechanical in the front. These decisions will impact the wheel order. Let me know your thoughts.



Then there came the next challenge, a Knucklehead engine. My first source said, “A rebuilt Knucklehead engine goes for $17,000.” Holy shit. My next conversation with Domenic went like this, “I just bought a rebuilt Knucklehead engine for my girlfriend. It cost $19,000.” WTF, over?

Since those conversations the price elevated to $20,000. You know those adages like, “What is meant to be, is meant to be,” and, “Keep an open mind.”
 
 
I did and ordered a new Knucklehead engine from S&S for several reasons. Sure, the price played a major part, but then this engine is upgraded significantly, and 93-inches. Plus, I could order it with an alternator left case, splined shaft so I could run a belt drive, a 5-speed trans and an Evo styled starter. Finally, the S&S Knucklehead engine comes with an electronic ignition system, intake manifold, S&S super E carb, air cleaner and a spin-on oil filter bracket, which fits into the generator hole, beautiful.

In addition, there’s a choice of finishes and the list goes on with S&S, but there is a wait list…



In the meantime, while the shop was being built, I had to make shit happen. In the corner of my upstairs garage, I created a welding bench and Laban from Legendary Electric was kind enough to wire the upstairs garage with a 220 outlet. I could weld. I mounted a vice to the wooden bench, and I didn’t stop collecting parts and working with Irish Rich of Shamrock Customs to see what the puppy would look like as a roller.



Irish Rich is a pro and builds bikes for customers all over the country, plus modifies frames. We took a look at the wild 5/8-inch coarse studs sticking out of the rear legs on the front end. I went to Clausen’s machine shop in Spearfish and ordered two varieties of extensions. I ordered some riser clamps for 1-inch bars online, which I might modify in the future.








Rich ordered neck Timken bearings, developed a sleeve so both Timkens could be the same size. He also had a fork-lock system which he made work with the front-end neck and the forks.






I still needed to machine a shorter crown nut. Matt sent a top crown with risers carefully built in. It’s cool but I faced a number of questions. If I use it, I will need to shave off the riser studs. I didn’t know the welder who did the work or whether I should trust the welds on the crown. I needed a set of stock dog bones and clamps and I didn’t like that swept back style. They would likely smack the tank.






I decided to go with the massive riser studs and my Clausen built riser extensions. At Rich’s new, home, tin building, shop we installed the front end with a 21-inch front wheel and a 19 rear, both spoked. Rich had already set up the rubber-mounted peanut tank. It was looking good and I took all the pieces home.
 

 



I kept my mind wide open, since the source of antique shops in the Sturgis and Black Hills area are amazing. You can find wild shit and the historic elements are still strong in this outlaw region. I found this foot warmer from the early 1900s. It was used to keep you warm with hot water on cold winter nights. I am going to train myself in copper-pipe soldering and try to make this my oil bag with brass fittings soldered to the body and leather straps made to hold it in place.



I also found these cranks for operating old equipment. At first, I considered using them for foot pegs and foot controls, but if it’s going to be a solid canyon rider I will need rubber Harley pegs. We will see. I also though about Louie Falcigno in Florida. I hope he’s still around. He built amazing classic chopper in his tradition. They were narrow and light. I’ll try to find a photo. He was a big Hells Angel fan and lived in the center of Outlaw MC land. I met an Outlaw leader who went to visit Louie as one time and asked him to tone it down a notch.




So, the Bikernet Sturgis, or Black Hills, or Boulder Canyon shop was finally finished just before the rally by Jason Alexander Construction. His crew helped move crates and position equipment. I went to work, organizing and making the shop work. I purchased a Smithy Lathe and we positioned it, but I had electrical issues to deal with.



Of course, the rally hit, then relatives came to visit and I bought a ’48 UL in Carson City, but it needed modifications. My goal was to free up a lift, then I could start the VL. It’s November and I finally pulled the UL off the lift. I was free to start my winter project, sorta. I still had plumbing, electrical and organizational issues.




I brought the shit home and finally cleared a lift.
I brought the shit home and finally cleared a lift.



Actually, there are always projects surfacing around the new digs. So, between snow, resource hunting, parts, and deadlines I was able to cut some time loose to start to make it a roller. A brother, John, came over who lives is Sturgis, his wife is a city commissioner and he is on the zoning and planning commission. But he also owns two 45 trikes, I believe a ’46 and a ’47. He also drives a ’47 Willies Jeep and his wife rides an Evo bagger from the ‘90s.






I had attached the front end to the 19-inch wheel, worked the frame into position without dinging the tank, dug through the spacer drawer and set up the rear mag wheel. With the redhead we were able to muscle the S&S 93-inch Knucklehead into place. That’s where it stood when John arrived.




The Redhead and I were able to position two of the engine mounting bolts in the rear but the front ones didn’t come close to alignment. When John arrived, we discussed the problem. Rich told me to run a drill up from under the frame through the engine cases. I thought John could help with that operation, but something bothered me. With the engine loose in the rear it slipped left and right almost 3/8 of an inch. I didn’t want to guess where to start drilling.


I received this starter with my Crazy Horse/Evil deal. It didn't look healthy, so I took it to Terry Components in Spearfish, SD. They can test and repair any starter. It received a major thumbs up, good to go.
I received this starter with my Crazy Horse/Evil deal. It didn't look healthy, so I took it to Terry Components in Spearfish, SD. They can test and repair any starter. It received a major thumbs up, good to go.




Plan B called for installing a primary system and ultimately a transmission and rear sprocket, align them all, then drill. Sounded like a plan. I recently bought a Crazy horse engine, and an Evil primary system. I usually work with BDL and have a lot of confidence in their products.




I had the Evil, so I decided to give it a shot. John and I discussed the peg position, foot controls, rear brakes and shifting. We found a piece of thick wall tubing and positioned it in what was the crossover tube for brake linkage. This frame has no forward footboard or peg mounting tabs. Generally, that would have been handled from the front motor-mounts.



Okay, so we decided to give the bike a shot with low, mid controls and see how it might fit me. We ran the tubing through the frame and then tried to position the thick aluminum Evil primary and pray the foot positioning wouldn’t clash with the belt, it didn’t. We were golden from that perspective. Cornering will be another issue since these pegs will be low and won’t fold.

I'm trying to find just the right highbars and I'm struggling. I bought a set, but the risers are too wide. I may need to modify them. I'm thinking about adding this bend from my gym stationary bike.
I'm trying to find just the right highbars and I'm struggling. I bought a set, but the risers are too wide. I may need to modify them. I'm thinking about adding this bend from my gym stationary bike.



That was another vote for a 21-inch wheel up front. John and I bored the primary, ground one of the tabs on the inside rear to clear the frame and it bolted right up. During the build process, I use never-cease on the bolts into the new engine cases to prevent any wear or damage to the threads.



I’m working with Randy Cramer at Dakota V-Twin in Spearfish, SD for my tranny case. JIMS builds a 4-speed mounting trans case that will house a 5-speed transmission. Hope to have it in three weeks.



Plus, I hope to have all the components to build a 5-speed trans. We will see. More and more I think I’m going to go with a 21-inch front wheel for better ground clearance. Rich said it’s 26.5 inches in diameter with a tire. I need to keep discussing the front brake. If I go with a star hub and a mechanical brake, I need to change the left rocker, spacer and axle. It’s already set up for a disc brake system. Would that eliminate the Star Hub?



Next, we will cover the trans build, the oil tank soldering. I need to order some fittings from McMaster Carr. I was looking for a 4-wheel-drive truck, but I would rather buy fittings from McMaster Carr and stay focused on the VL, XA, S&S FL build…



Wait, there’s more. Most of my shit stayed outside in crates last winter and there were some rust issues. We started a process of dealing with rush, including a Paughco oil bag. This was our first attempt as dealing with corrosion. We took a glass container, lined it with tinfoil and soaked some shafts. It did the trick in a couple of days. You’ll see more in the next report.






Hang on, still working on a name.


Don't tell the Redhead.
Don't tell the Redhead.

 
--Bandit 


Sources:
 
Click to Reach the Master on Face book.
Click to Reach the Master on Face book.


Atomic Dice
 
Clausen’s Machine Shop
 Spearfish, SD 

Dakota V-Twin
Spearfish, SD

JIMS Machine
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McMaster Carr

Paughco
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Shamrocks Customs
Sturgis, SD 

S&S
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Terry Components
Check on J&P Cycles 
 
Quick, join up. Just click and go.
Quick, join up. Just click and go.


 
 
 





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