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Cabana Dan’s Never Ending Projects

Mostly Early Harleys before Transmissions

By Bandit with photos by Weed

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This piece speaks to so many things. This brother is retired, but he’s not turning the motorcycle flame down. When we started this series, he faced three restorations of 1913-’14 Harleys and one Excelsior-Henderson. I could be wrong. There could be a 4th. Since then, he’s scored more early bikes, sold bikes, restored Museum bikes and is currently trying to buy another JD-model V-twin.

So, don’t mind me if I get crossed up from time to time. The other day Dan sent me shots of lacing and truing early wheels, so here we go. All early wheels are laced with the hub centered over the rims. All early motorcycle wheels came with clincher rims and tires, which are tough to mount and even tougher to install the tubes. All the early bikes had 28-inch in diameter rims.

All the early bikes came with 36 spokes until 1912 when Harley engines grew more powerful, so they switched to 40-spoke wheels. They’ve been the same ever since. Sure the rims changed and widened and the spoke thickness became more substantial.

Let me see if I can get this straight. Dan lays towels down and starts to connect the hub to the rim with spokes. While carefully watching the position of the nipples, he installs a spoke in the hub and counts four dimples over on the rim and installs it. If he was lacing a hummer wheel, it would be three-over.

If you wondered if you were doing it right check the length of the spoke sticking through the rim. If it’s way long or short, you’re off and need to correct.

He laced the inside group and then the outside group crossing four spokes of the inside group with each new spoke. He flipped the wheel over, did the inside group and handled the outside group of spokes before installing the wheel in the truing stand.

In the stand, he applied masking tape to the four, 90 degree corners. Then he started to tighten the nipples up and down and side to side while watching his truing gauge. He has the old cool tightening tools for the job. He can now lace a wheel in just about 10 minutes. Truing takes patience, bourbon and time.

Remember to check the length of the spoke sticking through the rim and nipple. If one is way off, you might have a problem.

Once close to completion, Dan punched each nipple from the outside because of the thickness of the paint. After final tightening and truing, he checked and ground any protruding spokes to prevent tire puncturing. He made sure all the surfaces were smooth and wiped clean before applying the rim strip.

His tolerance for early wheels, which are more forgiving is .060.

Here’s a sidebar story. Russell Mitchell was involved in a TV series. If the contestant could build a bike within 30 days from the ground up, he could keep it. Lacing wheels became the toughest hurdle to the competition. More guys lost because they couldn’t lace and true a wheel in time.

Here’s an adage direct from Dan, “If you can’t find a part—you make it!” Here’s a Magneto cable control sleeve he fabricated.

Okay, that’s it for this episode. Dan is currently restoring a ’13 and ’14 from the Mecum auction donated to a museum by E. J. Cole for Dan’s makeshift shop display. Tom Faber is building Bars for these rollers and with new paint for the tanks and fenders, they will be complete and ready for display.

See ya next time.


Our Dayrolls are all leather now, with four pocket including a tool flap. They are the shit. Click for action.
Our Dayrolls are all leather now, with four pocket including a tool flap. They are the shit. Click for action.

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