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Mudflap Girl FXRs, part 11: The First Road Test

Screaming Through the Mojave Toward Sturgis Runners

By Bandit, Paul Cavallo, and Dr. Hamster, with photos from Peter Linney, Erik Lundmark, and the Janitor

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Mudflap Girl, chapter 10:

This shot was taken a couple of weeks ago by Eric Lundmark.
This shot was taken a couple of weeks ago by Eric Lundmark.

I can’t make it to Sturgis this year. We are focused Bonneville builds, like mad starving dogs, and the two events are only separated by two weeks. Ray is tuning and I still don’t have an engine, but we’ll cover that later. The engine could be running today, in Richmond, Virginia, at Departure Bike Works.

One excellent reason to stay focused on Bonneville. Photo by Peter Linney.
One excellent reason to stay focused on Bonneville. Photo by Peter Linney.

Okay, so what’s a poor bastard to do, when he planned to make the run to the Badlands with his brother Hamsters? They ride out from the West Coast every year. Some of the members, including Arlen Ness are in their 70s and riding custom Victory bikes. Some rode from Spearfish, South Dakota, out to Mammoth Lakes, California, to ride back to the Badlands with their brothers. So, what’s the least I could do? Meet them at their first stop in Mammoth, just east of Yosemite? 

We reached out to a couple of LA-based Hamsters and started making plans. When I say we, I mean my main man, Dr. Hamster, or Christian Reichardt, a chiropractor to the stars in Santa Monica. Dr. Hamster and I have been friends since my third wife, about 25 years. He’s German, the best chiropractor you’ll ever run across, and one of the best friends I’ve ever had. If he says he’ll be there, he’ll be there. So the good doctor and I said, “Yep, we’re going.” Others signed on and dropped off, but the doctor stuck with the initial plan, made reservations, and we peeled out from his Santa Monica office at 1:00 Friday afternoon.

My son had his own excuses for not making the run.
My son had his own excuses for not making the run.


The good doctor has owned several motorcycles, including a 1934 VL I helped get running, but one motorcycle stuck with him, a 1989 FLH. He had clocked over 200,000 miles when he decided to rebuild it. Bennett’s Performance handled the semi-stock Harley engine (the rebuild was covered on Bikernet). With a couple of thousand miles on his rebuild, and 50 on mine, (another 80-inch semi-stock Harley engine, assembled by S&S, with headwork by Branch O'Keefe), we rolled out of Los Angeles.

About 15 million folks know rolling out of Los Angeles is the biggest challenge to any weekend excursion to someplace less congested. It’s amazing, like no-man’s land at the front of any war zone. Just try to slip out of Los Angeles on a Friday. Try to peel by noon or before. If you don’t you could be faced with serious bumper-to-bumper malady, or a lane-splitting conundrum. We recently published a report about splitting lanes and the benefits. They actually made a case for increased safety in areas supporting lane-splitting.

I’ll make one case for the freedom to split lanes, maybe two. Well actually, the published study pointed out the benefits of keeping motorcycles moving during high-congestion back-ups. My point included any rider’s sense of alertness. When splitting lanes the rider’s acute awareness is on high alert. Even while putting past a myriad of parked cars, a brother never knows what could blink, so his senses are hot wired. He or she is aware of anything that moves, from a slight wheel shift, to a nod, or a turned head.

So, I split lanes as soon as I hit the 405 freeway, off the 110, the oldest freeway in the US. It runs directly into the heart of Los Angeles, downtown, from my digs in the Port of Los Angeles. As I pulled out of Wilmington, two concerns stirred my humble sense of motorcycling comfort. First, I discovered my rear chain smacking the Spitfire hand made oil tank. There was always a bothersome noise bugging me, and I finally discovered the treacherous origin, the rear left corner of the FXR-styled, rubber-mounted oil bag.

Fortunately, the Spitfire team had welded a threaded bung into the corner, and a tab off the frame. I ran across the problem during assembly and removed the tab for more clearance, but evidently not enough. So the night before the run, I removed the chain, cleaned the threads with a tap, and made a countersunk Teflon bumper to protect the tank, but would it last? Or would the chain disintegrate my protective barrier, cut a hole in my oil tank in the middle of the Mojave Desert, dump all my oil onto the highway, seize up the engine, and leave me to be tarantula bait, after I baked under the 107-degree blistering desert sun?

I'm sure this Wire Plus electronic speedo works like a charm, once I figure out what I'm doing wrong.
I'm sure this Wire Plus electronic speedo works like a charm, once I figure out what I'm doing wrong.

I also made one final adjustment to my Wire Plus speedometer sensor stuffed into the JIMS Screamin’ Eagle over-drive 6-speed transmission. I had tried everything. I was at a strange juncture. It’s been so long not working, if it worked I would have been shocked. As I pulled away from the headquarters, I wasn’t disappointed. It still didn’t work. Now, I have another idea. I didn’t connect the wire from the sensor to the speedo wire directly, but to a connection board. Maybe a direct connection would be the trick.

Somewhere in the sizzling desert, with the afternoon sun baking my feeble skull, the notion of this road test article was spawned. The Mudflap Girl FXR contained only 50 break-in miles so far; this 700-mile jaunt would be the iron test. I had followed the Eddie Trotter break-in regime, almost to the tee. With each longer and longer ride, I returned to the headquarters to make corrections, repairs, and adjustments. It was time for the acid test, a long road into one of the hottest regions in Central California, a total round trip of perhaps 700 miles in 2.5 days. That’s a big deal for this old guy.

There I was, splitting lanes across the LA airport toward Santa Monica and the good doctor’s office, where he was leaning over his knockout secretary and adjusting a tall tattooed redhead. Tough job. Sticking around his office near the coast, with a bottle of something, would've made my weekend.

Oh, one more concern disturbed my peace of mind. I started to write peach. I was still with the girls in the office. I hand-made the two mounts holding the single RockShox to the girder. My mind whirled with 80mph impact, a bottoming out shock, and the stress on the mounts. Would they last or toss me into the fast lane of a crowded Los Angeles freeway? Ah, for the days when we would build a bike, smoke a joint, down a shot of whiskey and ride some half-wired together chopper across town at breakneck speeds to her house. Hell, we felt so good, it didn’t matter if we made it our not.

While parked at the good doctor’s office, I inspected my Teflon pad. It was sliced severely, in just 40 miles, but the next 40 or 100 would finalize the experiment. My shock mounts hung tough, but what about the next 100 miles? We gassed up and peeled out onto a crammed 10 Santa Monica freeway. Splitting lanes and dodging merging traffic we weaved onto the 405 Freeway. It peels over the notorious Sepulveda Pass, into the San Fernando Valley, and beyond toward the 5 Golden State, high-speed direct link from Los Angeles to the bay area and San Francisco.

We just needed to cut across the 101, to the 5 for a five-mile stretch, and then off on the 14 toward the Mojave mile airport landing strip and land speed trials location. I felt every bump and groove in the crappy road as I leaned into the fast lane and poured the coals to this 80-inch beast. It ran sweet. I set up the dual-fire, Compu-Fire ignition according to instructions, and installed the Trock modified CV carb, but never adjusted any aspect of it, except the idle.

Eric Bennett tuning my Trock-modified CV carb.
Eric Bennett tuning my Trock-modified CV carb.

The week before we peeled out I rode to Bennett’s Performance and Eric popped the cap off the air fuel adjustment behind the float bowl, and adjusted it—it was too lean. Trock removed the cap, so the adjustment screw was operational. I rode the bike, noticed an intermittent cough, and called Eric. He recommended backing out the needle one-quarter turn. She seemed happy, and in Mojave we refueled and checked our mileage against Christian’s trip meter. We had covered 90 miles and I reloaded with 1.82 gallons for 49.45 mpg. It pulled well in any gear, even in sixth gear. The JIMS Screamin' Eagle Overdrive transmission shifted like butter and never missed finding neutral. I geared it slightly high for a 6-speed with a 23-tooth trans sprocket and 51 on the rear wheel. 

Dr. Hamster at our first Taco stop in Mojave.
Dr. Hamster at our first Taco stop in Mojave.

So far, we flew along big wide freeways through the Soledad Pass, Palmdale, Lancaster, and then into Rosamond. At over 90 degrees, the freeway started to die and turn into a two-laner along-side the Pacific Crest National Trail leading into the Sequoia National Forest. It looked sorta bleak and hot to me, as I pondered the welds that held my chopped Spitfire bars together. So far, the riding position was a dream. My legs were stretched out nicely. I could move around on the very comfortable gel-impregnated Saddlemen seat with the spine relaxing channel, and just a touch of lumbar support. The bike handled well, as I adjusted to the long bike vibe.

Another rambling rural 50 miles in the desert with only rolling hills in the distance, and the 14 Highway disappeared to be replaced with the well-kept Highway 395 in Indian Wells Valley. We passed more deserted truck stops, than active ones. They were extreme sun-dried out buildings. Chipped paint was sandblasted by desert winds, and busted windows gave the dilapidated structures, gradually turning to dust a war zone appearance. I set the bike up to be a chopper for the long road, with rubber H-D pegs, old styled thick rubber Knucklehead grips, and Custom Cycle Engineering rubber-mounted traditional dogbone risers. Since the drive train was rubber-mounted, it all worked to minimize vibration.  

We followed one billboard to an old gas station turned into jerky sales headquarters. It bragged “Good jerky.” It was actually so-so, and small packages were priced at nine clams. I wanted to support their sticker-scattered cause. The smiling Hispanic broad behind the counter gave me the okay to plant a Bikernet sticker on the building, yet I couldn’t cough up nine bucks, plus tax for a bag of so-so jerky. We peeled out.

Just a handful of small towns peppered the highway with reduced speed signs, some as slow as 25 mph, perhaps a fund-raising effort. We rolled into Lone Pine and the Dow Hotel, which was packed with tourists and bikers heading to Sturgis. The Dow, built in 1923, was specifically constructed to house movie crews, since a large number of westerns were shot in the region. What a roll of the dice, but it paid off. We topped off and compared notes this time. We had sliced through 111 miles and I took 2.3 gallons, for 48.3 mpg. The doctor grabbed more fuel between stops, so he crossed 38 miles and took 1.2 gallons for 31.6 mpg. He was disappointed, and we discussed options for the future.

The good doctor noticed some drops of oil on the pavement next to my bike. My oil cap isn’t correct for the screw-in bag bung, so I found a press-in rubber cap, with a small dipstick. It worked, but loosely, and a small amount of oil seeped onto the roof of the Spirfire steel oil bag, then some trickled down the right side, onto the frame and dripped onto the pavement. I pressed the oil cap deeper into place and check the oil level, and then it dawned on me. I noticed a softening in my rear GMA brake action. That was the cause.

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Reader Comments

Awesome. My only beef is Buster and I were not there in the wind with you. Have a great run to Sturgis and let's catch up when you're back. Oh, half the HD riders in the US want your fuel ecomomy!

Saddlemen seats

Avery "Doctor: Innis
Corona, CA
Friday, August 3, 2012
Editor Response Hey Avery,

That Saddlemen seat made the motorcycle, and saves my ass while I dial in the suspension. The bike keeps getting better.

So what are the final numbers of HP and Torque after the engine rebuild?

Luis Rene Ventura
Miami, FL
Wednesday, August 1, 2012
Editor Response We haven't run it on a dyno yet. I'll check it out, now that it has about 800 miles on the clock.

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