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Cabana Dan’s ’13-’14 Builds

From the Hidden Black Hills of Sturgis, SD

By Bandit with photos by Wrench
1/17/2023


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Here's Dan at Matt Olsen's shop working on a frame.
Here's Dan at Matt Olsen's shop working on a frame.



Moving to Sturgis is like moving to motorcycle nirvana in the Black Hills Region of South Dakota. It’s either Western or Two-Wheeled in this area. The wild life runs from Moose to Elk, to Knucklehead, flathead and 4-valve heads.

There are long distance riders, artists like Scott Jacobs and his entire family, to Antique Motorcycle Club guys, custom builders like Irish Rich and a master of all Cabana Dan. A Hamster and union retiree Dan builds drag bikes, customs, choppers, bobbers, long bikes and is now building, by chance three stock antiques in the 1913-1914 range. He’s a humble scraggly-bearded biker whose wife worked for the factory as a dealer rep and now is the executive director of the Sturgis Motorcycle Museum.

He took this beautifully restored 1926 Peashooter home to his shop.
He took this beautifully restored 1926 Peashooter home to his shop.



Dan, with vintage history, already built two of the most magnificent Peashooter, singles from the ‘20s and a 1914 restored Harley on display at the Sturgis Museum currently. He knows what he's doing and where to find the shit. So, hang on. We are going to touch on his three current builds and then over the months ahead we will follow their progress, if we can stay in his good graces.



Let’s kick off with his 1914 H-D twin. It’s ready for paint and his first batch of nickel-plated pieces just arrived from D&J Plating in St. Paul. D&J handled everything except the tiny pieces. Dan met a family who plates antique handles and knobs for rare furniture. They offered to nickel his little fasteners and brackets, but when he stopped by with a mag wheel, they cringed. That chopper stuff scared the staff with notions of drugs and outlaws. He had to take the mag somewhere else.



In the case of the ’14 twin, he purchased the frame and the frontend from Dewey Rice EarlyHarley.com. He had the early H-D twin motor from an Ebay score. The frames in those days were very spindly and were often discarded, whereas the engines were used for water pumps and saved.



All three bikes are 1913-‘14 vintage for several reasons. The motocycle industry was flying at the time with new innovations and technology daily. For instance, the ’13 H-D was the first chain drive model, but still no transmissions.



They jumped from pedal start to two-speed rear hubs, low and high gear in ’14 to three speed transmissions in 1915. Floor boards were introduced in 1914. Before that you kept your feet on bicycle-style crank pedals. Early footboards were steel sans pads. The next year footboards came with holes for rivets to hold rubber pads in place.

“Gotta go,” Dan said to me and kicked me out of his shop buried in the hills behind a cemetery. “Going to meet with my painter.”

He's building the tanks from patterns.
He's building the tanks from patterns.



Later we shifted to his 1913 Excelsior-Henderson. ?“The older the better,” Dan said. The more the bikes developed the more complicated they became and the more parts are required. This will be another shiny restoration but a racer twin.



In this case he had to build the frontend from castings made in Illinois. Each piece had to be sweat brazed together and, in this case, controls were made operable with linkage and not cables like the Harleys. This motor is being used for mock-up and fitment.

Excelsior-Henderson was still using linkages for controls, sexy but expensive. Harley stuck with cables.
Excelsior-Henderson was still using linkages for controls, sexy but expensive. Harley stuck with cables.



He had complete clincher wheels, but he was carefully tearing them down, rebuilding the hubs and painting the hubs and rims, then Tim, an AMCA member in Spearfish, SD, will pinstripe them. He will then re-lace them with Buchannan stainless spokes.

This wheel will be completely torn down, rebuilt and relaced.
This wheel will be completely torn down, rebuilt and relaced.



Booted out of the shop hidden in the hills once more, we made a plan. For the final 1913 Harley twin we had a local pretend he needed neighborly help, then quizzed Dan with our pre-written list of questions. The neighbor knew nothing of early bikes but was a rider with an M-8 Softail. Remember what I said. Folks in these parts have horses, cows, goats or motorcycles.


Dan mentioned how much easier the older bikes are to build now, after his first 1913 single cylinder chain drive that is also currently on display in the museum. “I now have connections and know of manufacturers all over the world,” Dan said, but he wouldn’t give them up and shoved his neighbor out the door. “I’ve got shit to do.”



His final vintage project has a twin engine Dan found in Milwaukee, but it needs a rebuild. He has a single brake and brakes are another story, how they transformed from bicycle brakes to outside drum, and then inside drums, hydraulic and finally disc. He has a complete drum brake for this bike and if he decides to build an antique patina bike, this puppy will work like a champ just the way it is.



We will learn more about this riveting process in the near future.
We will learn more about this riveting process in the near future.




All these bikes used 28 by 2.5-inch diameter rims. The 28X3 configuration is considered a 22-inch rim. I’m confused, but getting there. If you go to the Coker tire web site you can search Clincher tires.



There’s more critical, early tire info at the Occhio Lungo website.



Dan called me one day about a racer he was building and needed a 1913 H-D engine. “I hang my denims on one,” I said. He darted over to my place to find a 1913 Single on top of my gun safe, holding my pants on a hook designed and mounted to the top motor-mount.

Actually turned out to be a 1914 Harley Single with a 1916-'17 oil pump cover for better circulation. Now I need the guts.
Actually turned out to be a 1914 Harley Single with a 1916-'17 oil pump cover for better circulation. Now I need the guts.



It didn’t work out for his project, but the next time I was in Dan’s secret shop he mentioned selling a patina race roller to someone for, well I won’t mention the price. I said I could put my engine in his roller and suddenly he offered me a “Killer Deal.”





I needed another motorcycle project like I needed a hole in my dented head, but I also needed an excuse to sneak into his shop from time to time and bring you updates on his exclusive projects. I offered to buy it. What a fuckin’ nut.



We moved it into the 5-Ball Racing shop and I took the ’13 single off the gun safe again for the final time, after trying to make a ’24 twin fit, but that’s another story.

We were able to stuff this '24 Harley twin into the frame, but the early tanks weren't happy. They were hand built by Lonnie Jr. We were not about to mess with them.
We were able to stuff this '24 Harley twin into the frame, but the early tanks weren't happy. They were hand built by Lonnie Jr. We were not about to mess with them.



The 1914 Single is place after much grappling. We will need to modify the frame...
The 1914 Single is place after much grappling. We will need to modify the frame...




Hang on as I attempt to sneak into Dan’s stellar shop to report on his vintage projects, another custom for his wife, Leah and score a piece or two for our ’13 racer project.

--Bandit


Click for more info.
Click for more info.



Sources:

Sturgis Motorcycle Museum

Coker Tires



Occhio Lungo
 
Matt Olsen's Blog

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