Dick Allen - Locomotion Rebuild
This project started out by accident when Dick Allen's daughter, Darcy, contacted me about working on the remnants her Dad's old bike if she could buy the wrecked frame and parts from the current owner. As it turned out the person who currently has the parts, based upon the most reliable information, isn't willing to sell or even let anybody see what's left of the bike or explain how he came to be in possession of the remnants to begin with. The whole 'story' kind of made me wonder if the remains of the bike actually still exist but that's another story for another time as this gets to be really a convoluted tale.
They say that hindsight is always 100% and looking back now I wish I had done a lot of things differently when I first started to put together information for our Dick Allen page back in 2005. Back then all I had to do was pick up the phone to get answers directly from people involved with Dick's building activities and two of our primary sources, Phil Ross and Chuck Pilkington have now passed on and are riding that long highway in the sky.
When we started the Locomotion rebuild project I had to start all over again since were looking for very specific information that we didn't think was important a few years earlier.
After making a ton of calls to folks who had worked with Dick we also found out that there was a rumor going around, even back in the late eighties, that the bike involved in the 1981 accident wasn't really the original Locomotion but a complete rebuild put together in the late seventies specifically to do some show tours and magazine articles. There may be some reality behind this old myth as we did find a bike photographer (from Germany) who had taken pictures of the so-called 'new' Locomotion for an article that was never published. He will not give us permission to use the photos however without compensation and at this point in time we just don't have any money but we're working on getting rights to those negatives. Over the past year I've interviewed several of Dick's close friends, four in person and seventeen over the telephone. Some people for whatever reason (sometimes long-term legal ramifications) don't want to be identified. Some folks just don't want to get mixed up into the mess going on in Southern California with the promotion of Dick Allen stuff that isn't really Dick Allen stuff but the majority of people I've spoken with will go on record when Darcy publishes Dicks biography. So far three people claim to have the original Locomotion frame (and five if you count in the rumors going around). As is typical in a situation like this nobody can back up their story for a whole variety of reasons but my guess is that nobody actually has the old original 1970 frame anymore although somebody may have the frame that was involved in the 1981 crash.
The general consensus is that the old original frame basically self-destructed at some point in time roughly between 1974 and 1978. I'm not to surprised to hear that since the frame I measured was already looking pretty 'long in the tooth' as they say way back in 1969. If it finally fell apart I'm guessing it was closer to the early seventies.
Not finding anybody willing to let her buy whatever frames were claimed to be 'survivors' Darcy basically gave up ever seeing her Dads bike back on the road.
Having come to this apparent dead-end she decided to have the frame rebuilt to the original specifications and I agreed to help her along this road since I did have a few sketches and dimensions from some work that Dick did to a frame that a lot of people think was the original Locomotion.
Notice that I said 'a' frame and not 'the' frame as nobody knows for sure what frame laying around the shop ended up being used for the Locomotion. Six of Dick's old friends will tell you six different stories about the actual origins of the bike and the two guys who did know the true facts are no longer with us. Virtually anything else you hear about the Locomotion now comes from 'third parties' so to speak.
Even Joe Hurst, one of Dick's close friends, is somewhat vague on the exact technical events that took place in the shop when Locomotion and White Bear were under construction. There are no pictures of either bike under construction. This isn't an uncommon situation. None of us back then were 'shutterbugs' and for most of us building bikes wasn't a big deal. We built stuff from a pile of parts and nobody much cared about the specifics and details of what was going on.
As mentioned above when the Locomotion was being built Dick was also working on 'White Bear' that belonged to Joe Hurst and Joe has stated on his personal experience at the shop that an old frame most folks called the 'Rat Bike' was the foundation of Locomotion. What is confusing to me is that different people who hung around the shop have told me that the 'shop bike' called the 'Rat Bike' was a black wishbone frame and we have some pictures of Dick riding that bike and in the magazine articles it is indeed called 'Dick's Rat Bike'.
The snapshot below, the best we've seen so far, came for Joe's personal collection posted at the MC-Art site and was labeled as 'Dick on the Rat'. As you can see this is a wishbone frame with virtually no stretch or rake.
Most of the people I've talked with however tell me that Dick's 'Rat Bike' was actulayy an old Panhead that had Nez's fuel tank mounted on it and I'm pretty sure that bike is pictured below in a snapshot taken by Bruce Parrish in 1969.
The nice thing about this photo is that's it's an old Polaroid and it's dated November 1970 (expiration date, not photo date) and clearly shows the origins of the original Locomotion on the right in the snapshot. Reliable sources involved with the Cobra Trike project have told me that this bike was indeed Dick's 'Rat' and that it became the original Locomotion.
(As a side note, when I evaluate these old pictures against the stories folks have provided I look for a few key elements to see if I can get the snapshots to correlate with the verbal information in some kind of chronology. Some of these key elements are whether or not Dick has a beard in the photo and how much hair he has. Dick was loosing the hair on top of his head rapidly and by 74 had a pretty good 'chrome-dome' and a huge bushy beard. Dick started to grow his first beard in 67 and then shaved it off in 71. (Info from women). There are almost no photographs in anyone's albums of Dick after around 1975 for some reason).
Several of Dick's old friends have also told me that this photo does indeed show the Locomotion as it set back in the late sixties. It has the original Panhead motor, straight leg frame with sidecar hoops in place, his final front forks, (early version) the fuel tank that Nez gave him and the Zee bars he rode with from day-one. Note the crude 'rod' clutch pedal. I'm pretty sure that this is the bike that I took measurements from in 69 or 70 when I went down to the shop to buy some parts. This was a running bike at one time that Dick drove on a regular basis from late 68. To my personal knowledge this is the bike that Dick used to build the Locomotion but others have disputed this saying that Dick didn't start the Locomotion project until 1971 after he finished building White Bear for Joe Hurst. I don't know how that story got started in the first place since Dick was already riding the Locomotion in late 69 as stated above which was before he even started working on White Bear for Joe and he had already lost the shop on Artesia after his little 6-month jail vacation. Prior to that point in time the Locomotion was his daily rider.
Fortunately or unfortunately depending on how you look at it Dick's little Federally paid 'vacation' in 1971 is an excellent benchmark in his historical timeline. Dick had finished Locomotion before he went to prison in June of 1971 and was riding it again when he was released in December of the same year. In 1972 he opened the shop on Normandie and by then both White bear and Locomotion were already completely finished.
What's somewhat ironic is that Joe Hurst posted a picture of him 'jamming' at another site when the bike was in the 'prototyping' stage while the White Bear project was underway. If you look closely at the photo you can see that this was the bike with a reddish frame and Nez's old tank mounted, complete with the chrome trailer fender everybody hated. Joe was quoted at another site as calling this the shop 'Rat Bike' at the time. What's interesting is that this photo shows the bike with the 'short' Springer installed that was running a 17-inch rim and one of Dick's close friends has told me that this was the way the bike was set up around late 69 to early in 1970 before Dick started to run a spun aluminum disk wheel. Note that the Polaroid is expiration date stamped April 1971 so we're fairly sure the photo was taken between 1969 and 71.
To be fair with everybody who has called or sent emails I have been told that this particular snapshot represents Joe riding on White Bear when it was in what he calls it's 'Ratty Stage' but I strongly disagree as the differences between the Locomotion and White Bear frames are significant and the bike pictured here was certainly not the White Bear frame. In addition the bike pictured here has Dicks old original sissybar and fender on it and the clip-on passenger pegs. (Just as a side note I've been told by some of Dick's old riding buddies that White Bear was just a re-do of Joe's old 'Hustler' bike but I have no way to verify that).
(When I was at the shop to measure and document the raised transmission modification there was another frame in the shop that had the same reddish-orange paint but it was in good shape, that's to say that It hadn't been hacked up. It was sitting on top of one of the workbenches. It is possible that frame was White Bear during the early build phase). I did talk with Joe Hurst about this and he did confirm that there were two frames in shop with almost identical paint color, one became Locomotion and one became White Bear.
The White Bear frame was almost a 8-inches longer than the locomotion frame. White Bear did not have a raised transmission. The White Bear frame had 2-degrees less rake than Locomotion. The White Bear frame was 'molded' and had the sidecar hoops removed and the neck was fully molded in. Side by side the Locomotion looked like a Dwarf against White Bear. The best picture I can find of the two bikes next to each other is this one from the net.
It's hard to discern since the bikes aren't perfectly side by side but you can see from the angle of the tank on Locomotion how rapidly the backbone drops to the seatpost which is indicative of a very short frame with a short seatpost. The comparison of the angles of the tanks tells almost the whole story about the bikes since there is about an 8-degree difference between the two and this can't happen unless there is a huge difference in the basic frame geometry and dimensions.
Another old snapshot of the Locomotion comes from Irish Rich as shown below and this one, probably from some magazine article, was also taken at the Artesia Blvd. shop (note the Barber sign in the background) around late 69 to early 70.
The old single 'rod' clutch pedal has been bent and modified into Dicks trademark Swastika pattern. The Panhead has now gone away and by the amount of 'road-rash' on the frame paint this bike has already been ridden hard. Unfortunately this is a black and white photo but someday I'll track down the original.
Just when I thought I had pretty much everything covered I get a picture from Darcy taken from the album of Indian Dianne and it supposedly shows the original locomotion in full primer with Nez's old polished Knucklehead installed.
There is no attribute on the back of the photo so there is no way to date it but this snapshot brings up a whole bunch of questions. First of all Dick is wearing one of his old shop shirts from when he ran the shop on Artesia so we know the photo is from 1967 to 1971. He's got a beard and a lot of hair, relatively speaking, so this is an older photo for sure. There is no doubt that this is a Panhead frame for sure so I'm about 100% confident that this photo is actually a picture of Nez's original Loco-Motion before it was painted. If so then it's a pretty important piece of Chopper history as it helps to illustrate how close Dick and Nez were involved in building bikes back in the early days of their relationship. Many of Dicks older friends have told me that he and Nez jointly developed many of the concepts that Dick put into his development endeavors and the two of them shared a drive to push the envelope as far as possible with respect to getting performance out of the Harley motors.
Many of the hallmarks of Dicks version of the Locomotion are visible in this old snapshot, the dished tank, the cobra seat, the trailer fender and the Knuck power plant.
Having presented what little evidence I have I'm virtually 100% confident that the butchered frame I measured back in 1969 was Dicks original Locomotion frame so this is what I'm going forward with and I have the support of several of Dick's old riding buddies that have told me that I'm correct in making this assumption. Note that I said 'original' Locomotion frame as I've had a bunch of folks tell me that Dick actually had a couple of frames that ran with the old purple fuel tank and even a much later built bike with an identical tank that wasn't the original he got from Nez. One individual, who had a lot of credibility from my standpoint, had told me that the bike involved in the 1981 crash wasn't the original Locomotion but a rebuild done in the late seventies.
The frame I measured was sitting on blocks, minus a rear wheel and forks. The motor and tranny and all of the stock mounts along with most of the seatpost had been removed to make room for new raised tranny mounts to be installed. The fuel tank was on a nearby bench, already painted black with purple side-panels. The reason I measured the frame to begin with was to document the installation of a raised transmission so I didn't spend a lot of time measuring every small detail but I'm confident that I got all that was need to reproduce the frame to a fair degree. Will my efforts be a perfect 'reproduction'? The simple answer is no, based upon the data and photos we have at hand, but I think that we'll come very close to the proportions of what the original bike would have looked like. What I measured and what has been published in some old magazines doesn't always jive. I've seen it stated that the bike had a 45-degree rake but I only measured it as having a 42-degree rake. The difference is because the mag writers measured the rake with the long forks installed and I measured the frame as it sit 'on the flat' so to speak.
To get the project under way we started out by trying to find an original straight-leg Panhead frame which is what Dick was said to have originally used as a basis for the bike but what we found was far to expensive for either one of us to afford and besides it seemed almost like a sin to chop up a perfectly good stock vintage frame. We took a look at using one of the 're-pops' coming in from overseas but after looking at one in person I wouldn't give you 2-cents for it. I know that folks build bikes from these imported frames all the time but to be honest they aren't built well enough to stand up to being 'chopped' into the configuration we needed to do.
This left us with the option of building from scratch and thankfully we could call upon the expertise of John Grant from Hardtail Choppers. (Visit the website here).
John has been making quality factory reproduction casting of the old Harley frame parts for years and in the spirit of what we were about to undertake he agreed to support the project and over the course of the past year has gone far and above what he originally agreed to do.
Before going much further I need to explain that Dick used a very very 'old school' method of chopping frames. His method had actually already gone out of favor even in his own time but he insisted that it produced a superior chopper frame. I explain a little about the process in another page on the site so click this link to see how Dick Chopped stock frames. (The one caveat here is that Dick never told me that he actually did any work on the frame I measured so to be honest this old frame may have just been something he bought from somebody at some point in time). So far nobody I've spoken with can actually can say for sure where that frame came from to begin with. It just 'appeared' in the shop one day. The frame was in the process of getting the raised transmission mount when I measured it, which was one of his hallmarks, so it's pretty sure that he did work on this frame at some point in time for somebody if not for himself.
What makes this project even harder is that we needed to decide on which 'iteration' of the Locomotion we were going to build. Were we going to try and do the old original 1970 version of the bike or one of it's many revisions? Keep in mind that the bike originally ran a Panhead, then went to a Shovel for a short period of time and finally ended up with a Knucklehead installed. It ran with wire wheels of various diameters, aluminum disk wheels, spoked 'mag' rims and later aluminum spoked rims and even 'spun' aluminum rims. It had mechanical drum brakes, juice drums, and even disk brakes which were decades ahead of their time. The bike ran with two different rear fenders and two different sissy-bars. About the only thing on the bike that never changed was the old fuel tank that Nez Nesmit gave him in 1969 and the Zee bars. Even the Springer was changed out at least twice during the bikes lifetime.
Another minor stumbling block is that the frame I measured may have been A Knucklehead frame and not a Panhead.
Almost everybody that I've ever talked with believes the Locomotion was built around a severely chopped straight-leg Panhead frame but there's a problem with this thinking since there are subtle differences between the two frame types. One difference is the upper motor mount but on the frame I measured that mount had been completely cut off and a new one fabricated in it's place. However one of the easiest ways to tell the difference between a late Knuck frame and a Pan frame is that the upper wishbones, where they start to bend back into the backbone tube have what's called a 'compound' bend in them as seen in the photo below. It's actually a pretty large and obvious (and ugly) 'bump' in the tubes.
The factory made this change in the Panhead frame so that the rear 'Pan' would clear the wishbones. On a knucklehead frame the wishbone tubes are 'straight' and don't have this 'bump' or compound bend. This is one reason why you can't get a Pan or Shovel into a nice Knuck frame without major surgery.
Unfortunately Dick used a method of chopping frames that involved heating this 'bump' and getting rid of it when the tubes were 'raised' for a raised transmission bike.
The frame I measured did not have this 'bump' but being a novice back then I honestly can't tell you if that's because the tubes had been heated and re-bent or were straight to begin with as from the factory.
(Update:) I always suspected that it was a Knuck frame and Joe Hurst confirmed this with me during a phone conversation we had on July 31, 2015.
The only reason I brought this up is because in some of the oldest pictures of the Locomotion the wishbones are definitely straight while in some later photos you can discerned this 'bump' and that tells me that Dick had more than one frame on this bike over the years. This kind of makes sense to me since this bike was basically Dicks rolling research and development project. Another clue that there have been more than one frame in use over the years is because the oldest images of the bike clearly show the use of a raised tranny but in later snapshots the transmission mount position appears to be stock.
As far as I know and from what others have told me the bike was in a constant state of flux right up until it was stolen in the late seventies. Like most Dick Allen history this is another story that has about 10 different versions depending on who you talk with. Most folks say that the bike was stolen at the Denver airport after the annual 'Dick Allen Dash', a cross country race sponsored by Super Cycle Magazine. The bike was completely stripped and parted out but Dick managed to recover everything except the custom made stroker flywheels. The story goes that he used a 12-gauge as a bargaining tool in the negotiations involved in getting the parts back from the thieves. We do know that the bike was rebuilt after that incident but nobody so far has been able to tell me with any degree of certainty how extensive that rebuild was. Most people I've talked with say that it was a major reconstruction and it was that 'new' bike involved in the 1981 accident, not the old original bike. There are even different stories about that accident going around, many even published in the Chopper Mags of the day who published conflicting accounts of the events. Personally I don't find that too surprising as most of the rags back in the day simply made up stories, if need be, to fill pages. In fact some of the magazines back then wrote completely fictional stories to go along with whatever bike photographs they happened to have on hand. I've read one old magazine story about 'incidents' in the 'upstairs' apartment above Dicks shop but none of Dicks shops ever had a second story.
The one thing about the bike that you never see mentioned on the Web in the numerous articles that have been published is that the original bike was as much a part of Nez Nesmit as it was of Dick. His close friends have told me that Nez and Dick worked on this project together from 1969 to 1971 and that's how and why Dick chose to run that old fuel tank that Nez gave him along with the namesake for the bike that came from Nez. While Nez was developing his ideas for the Phase III belt drive system, with Dicks help based upon his own pioneering work on drives, the two men were inseparable.
That's probably enough background on the bike. You can find more info in other sections of this site, and a host of other sites, about Dick Allen, his work, his projects, inventions and biography plus some info on his Springer forks but for now we need to get into building this frame.
With all of the disclosures and preambles aside we found that we needed to build a reproduction of the bike from scratch so I began with factory reproduction castings from John Grant as mentioned earlier.
Our initial idea was to basically build a stock frame using John's parts and then chop it up the old fashioned way but to be honest there was so little left stock on the Locomotion that we elected to just build it to the specifications that existed back in 1971 when the bike took it's most recognized form.
The picture above illustrates a stock Harley neck on the left and the custom neck John made for the project on the right that is based upon photos of the original bike provided by Dick's daughter Darcy. This not only saved us a lot of work but I think it'll make for a much cleaner and stronger frame.
As mentioned earlier the original frame had gone through several iterations over its lifetime and very little remained that was stock including the motor and tranny mounts that had been hacked, modified and redone several times based upon the amount of old steel and old weld that I saw so we had to rebuild the lower section of the bike to match the dimensions I had on hand for the mounts that accommodated the raised transmission.
The first thing we did was to build a new 4-speed tranny plate that actually works. Most of the aftermarket plates are very poorly made, inaccurate substandard import pieces.
The next thing was to fabricate a new lower seatpost cross-member and seat-post based upon the dimensions we had. The original cross member was long gone on the frame I measured and replaced with a piece of rectangular tubing and from the remnants of old weld beads it looked to me like that cross member had been moved/removed and replaced/rebuilt several times in the past.
In this photo I'm just using one of the jig rails as a temporary holding fixture so that we can verify the angle and length of the new post.
One of the problems I've been faced with during the course of the work is that I'm using old sketches I made over 40 years ago. I'm confident that all of the angles I measured are accurate since I was using one of Dick's Starrett angle-finders but I'm not nearly as confident that the distances were taken with any great degree of accuracy since I was using an old beat up tape measure and not really taking a lot of time since we were in a hurry.
Naturally I made a new Cad drawing for this project based upon my earlier original sketches but you can only get so much from a drawing as a lot of what's done when building a frame is done by 'eye' and by 'feel'.
Here's the Cad file I developed and it served as my control drawing for the course of the project. The dimensions were removed at the request of the family as they consider the information to be proprietary at this point in time. Eventually we'll publish the complete build files.
To make it easier and faster to develop the frame in 'real life' based upon the drawing and the dimensions I had what I've done is to mock up the frame parts on a quickie frame table made from a 1x12 as shown below.
This system allows me to cut the tube runs to nearly their final dimensions and then check them, in the castings, against the angular measurements I took. It's a quick and dirty way of doing things but about three times faster that loading/unloading everything into the jig.
Working back and forth between the linear and angular distances it's easy to fine tune everything a little bit at a time. As the parts get closer to being perfect they're switched over to the welding jig (seen in the background) and we make a fixture to accurately locate each individual part.
Notice the brass rod running through the sidecar hoops. This is my 'benchmark' for the frame since I remember measuring the hoops on the original bike with the steel rule on the Starrett and I tied the center point of those hoops back to both the steering neck and the axle plates so I have three 'good' known points of reference. All I have to do is fit everything else inside these points which is easier said than done.
The photo above was taken early-on in the course of the project and most of the tubes shown here were actually just 'place-holders' made from drops I had laying around the shop.
Normally I won't build a frame unless I have the motor and tranny sitting on the bench but in this case we didn't have that luxury and I can't afford to buy a knuck just to use as a mock-up. This makes the project a little harder but it is what it is and we'll work around not having a case to use as a reference in the welding jig. We thought we had a motor lined up from a supporter but he bowed out a few months ago and sold the engine out from under us.
(Darcey has invited everybody who knew Dick to help in this project by donating his old parts to the project and to the foundation set up in his name (Dick Allen memorial foundation). The proceeds from the foundation go to downed bikers and war vets but so far nobody has stepped up to the plate to help her out which just blows me away as so many of us owe Dick for a lot of work he did for us back in the day. Dick did a ton of work for me and I think the most he ever charged me was twenty bucks and some beer. The least I can do is to try and build this frame for his Daughter. I guess some of his other friends have decided to hang on to their parts stash waiting for the prices of DA stuff to get a little higher on eBay. In some respects I'm directly responsible for that situation since after I stared the Dick Allen pages on the site the traffic has gone through the roof so there is indeed a tremendous interest in what Dick Allen did but sadly not a whole lot of support for what his Daughter is trying to do).
Anyway that's just my personal observation about the current state of affairs but it doesn't make much difference with respect to putting a bike together so back to the welding table.
In some ways I'm kind of 'fudging' this project since Dick never actually used a welding jig for his frame work until he bought a very rudimentary jig from Dennis Watson in 1972. In the true old school spirit Dick did almost all of his original work by 'eyeball' and I seriously doubt if he ever actually used the jig he bought. So far I've been trying to stay on the path of building this beast using the techniques that were commonly used back in the late sixties and early seventies. This means using levels, plumb-bobs and steel squares. This might sound crude by today's standards but most of these old hand-built frames are just as straight as anything coming out of the high-tech welding jigs that most builders use today.
Since I first posted this page a few weeks ago people have been sending messages asking about what the differences are in the Locomotion frame as opposed to a stock frame. To be honest the differences are both minor and major so I made the composite drawing shown below that shows a stock straight-leg frame superimposed over the frame I measured.
The stock frame profile is shown in red while the Locomotion frame is shown in blue. The most obvious difference of course is the 'raised' axle plates to accommodate the raised tranny mount. What I didn't expect to see is that the backbone had been raised and the seat post extended. In fact the entire engine bay has been enlarged by at least an inch in every direction which actually surprised me.
To be honest this is the first time I ever bothered to do this kind of overlay comparison so I'm as surprised as anybody about the enlargement of the motor bay. To me this says that the frame was modified to accept a larger motor, perhaps a 'stroker' of some kind. The original bike ran a Pan and later a Shovel and in it's final stages a Knuck but it's pretty obvious that the frame was tweaked to handle something way bigger than any of these power-plants in stock form. Dick was always looking for power so it doesn't surprise me that he modified the frame to handle strokers but there are other possibilities. By the way, even though the frame looks 'enlarged' it would still be pretty hard to get a stock Evo motor to fit in it.
This brings up the issue of the so-called 'Vincent' experiments.
Like everybody else I just normally 'go with the flow' and I've never seriously questioned the pictures I've seen of the Locomotion but I've always wondered why that Knuck motor always looked like a 'toy' in what everybody says was a 'stock' frame. But it only looks small in some pictures and not others. Now I'm beginning to wonder if there's more to the story. More accurately more than one frame with the Locomotion namesake and probably more than one motor. I've been told his last motor was a stroked Knuck displacing 93 cubic inches.
I do know that it was fast since I followed him home one night from Searchlight and he was more or less cruising at 100 and when I'd try to pass him in the Corvette he'd gun it and leave me in the dust. I was behind him at one point on a long straightaway and my speedo was showing 120 and he was still pulling ahead when I decided to back off. Dick probably enjoyed high speed running more than anything else and few people could ever beat any of his bikes, especially on long distance runs. The Locomotion was noted by everybody I've talked with as an exceptionally fast scooter.
As far as I know there is only one picture of the 'Vincent' project and that one comes form the collection of Joe Hurst posted at the MC-Art site as shown below.
Joe Hurst has claimed on another site that's it's him in the background of this snapshot but a lot of people tell me that's actually Nez Nesmit standing behind the bike. It's pretty obvious that this frame's been hacked in more than a couple of places but it's also obvious that it's a Dick Allen frame as evidenced by the fender and sissy bar. In fact that's the very same sissy bar that was mounted on the Locomotion. Is the frame in this picture just another iteration of the locomotion with the extended seat post and raised backbone? Some people say it is and others say it isn't. It doesn't make much difference at this point in time but I'd sure like to find out more just to satisfy my own personal curiosity. Joe Hurst says it was a different frame but to me it looks virtually identical to the frame I measured except that it's been painted black.
The frame work is moving along. Here's another snapshot showing the rear wishbones being fitted to the axle plates.
The only modifications I've made from my original sketches is to shorten the rear of the frame by one inch since Darcy will be the primary rider and even though she's tall, she's not as tall as Dick was. I also made the angle of the rear wishbones, where they intersect the backbone much shallower. I've been told by several professional seat-makers that this makes it possible to build a much more comfortable saddle, especially for female riders. The angle I used was 21-degrees and it just so happened that this is the very same angle used in the forward quarter side-walls of the old oil tanks.
Most of the time when I build a frame I get to 'wing it' but I have the owner on call for 'fitment'. I also typically have the motor, tranny and at least the rear wheel in the shop. On this project I have nada so I'm more or less forced to build to the dimensions I have. To be honest this is way to regimented and restrictive so this has been a somewhat frustrating project. The frustration is compounded by the fact that none of Dicks old friends seem willing to help his daughter move this project along and finally get it out into the light of day as running bike. Ironically we've been contacted by several magazines wanting to do a write-up but so far we have virtually nothing to write about.
Still in all it's a nice project. After I tacked the wishbones in place I lifted it out of the jig and sit it on the floor, mounted a rear wheel and fender and sit on it for the first time, making 'motorcycle sounds' while my girlfriend laughed at me. It's going to be a sweet ride someday. I've actually got a pair of DA forks in the back of my truck I've been hauling around to shows but so far not enough time to mount them up. I'm afraid that once I see the full mockup I won't be able to let it go.
This project has been hard for a lot of the technical reasons outlined earlier but it has also been hard as it brings back a lot of old memories and also exposes my weaknesses with respect to fabrication due to my age. I'm pushing 70 and my eyesight and hearing went south several years ago. Arthritis has limited my manual dexterity to a huge extent and using my hands nowadays is a slow and painful process. This will most likely be the last frame I build so a lot of emotion is tied into it from both my standpoint and the fact that Dick was the guy who got me started doing this kind of stuff in the first place. It's kind of like coming full circle in life, ending up where I started in the first place but compounded by the fact that I'm rebuilding something my mentor originally built. That's a double whammy of Karma if I ever saw it. Dick is probably laughing his ass off about this situation. I always suspected that 20 bucks and some beer was a cheap way out. Now I'm paying the shop rate.
As I mentioned earlier this is one sweet frame and I can see Darcy and a collaborative of people putting these frames, or even complete bikes together someday. I'd buy one, as in my opinion it's a way better bike than anything coming from JJ or some of the other mass marketers. This is a real 'Rider', it's meant for running on long hauls and not bar-hopping.
(Photos contained in this article have come from Darcy Allen, Irish Rich, and Chris Kallas at the MC-Art Webzine and from several of Dicks old friends)
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