'77 Harley Ironhead 6000 miles across Oz

Discussion in 'Epic Rides' started by Reryder, Nov 24, 2009.

  1. Reryder

    Reryder Onward through the fog...

    Joined:
    Sep 11, 2007
    Oddometer:
    1,399
    Location:
    Cairns, Oz
    I made this ride about this time last year and have been meaning to post some pics etc so thought I better get around to it.
    I think it qualifies as an adventure ride for a couple of reasons; one, I completely rebuilt the bike from the ground up in the previous year so whether my workmanship would hang together for the duration was a big question mark hanging over the whole trip.
    The other is I owned the bike since new and travelled around Australia on it in the late 70s, so it was a bit of a personal adventure of rediscovery. And at the destination in Adelaide I rode into the annual Christmas run with my old riding buddies from 30 years ago.

    And its like that poster that says, adventure is taking inappropriate equipment places it was never intended to go. You probably could not get a more inappropriate touring bike than an old Sportster.




    This is the route I planned on taking, roughly:
    But in the end I cut across on the inland leg north because it was getting too hot for the old bike (and me), well over the 100 degrees all day long. So I turned east at Bourke and went over to the coast at Port Macaquarie and rode around the New England mountain country for a few days, then sort of angled back inland when the heat wave subsided to a flat 100 degrees. It added 1000 miles to my trip but was lots of fun.
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    Here is the tools I took, plus a small box containing a spare voltage regulator, generator brushes, float needle and carb o-rings, spare chain link.
    After having just rebuilt the bike completely I was just all too aware of how much I was relying on some pretty dodgy technology to keep going.
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    I got all the creature comforts sorted out: sheepskin seat cover (over that very skinny 1975-style cobra seat), with a bit of high-density foam from a camping sleeping pad slipped under it.
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    And I put some bicycle handgrips on my highway pegs so my feet don`t vibrate off all the time.
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    With that lovely bright red Ventura top bag (robbed off my Honda) in place against the sissy bar it makes a perfect back rest. I put a sheet of that camping sleeping pad down the front of that bag too so it is nice and comfy. Got my tent and sleeping bag inside there, with a bag of tools. The throwover saddlebags are not good for much weight so mostly clothes in there (lots of warm clothes for the frigid south when my tropical-bred ass gets there)
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    So the big questions on my mind as I took off were
    Is an Ironhead as reliable as an Evo? (Of course it is)
    Can you long distance tour on a Sportster? (Of course you can. I did it before)
    Will that 30-year-old fatigued iron hang together? (Will my even older fatigued ass hang together???)
    Is my workmanship good for the duration? (700 hours of my labor in the rebuild, damn I hope so.)
    Should I know better by now? (Definitely)

    [​IMG]
    #1
  2. Reryder

    Reryder Onward through the fog...

    Joined:
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    Oddometer:
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    Location:
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    Here's me with the bike in about 1980 after spending a couple of years travelling around most of Australia on it. I went to every state on it except Western Australia. I would have had to ride about 2,000 miles of dirt from Darwin to about Perth in those days so I gave it a miss. Although, I ended up doing plenty of dirt road riding in Queensland and the Northern Territory. The old Sporty actually slides pretty well, basically they were designed as a desert racer originally.
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    And here is the old girl when I dragged it out of my Dad's shed Christmas 2008, after it sat there for more than 20 years. I never ran a speedo back in those day but estimated it had done something like 50-75,000 miles. So, aha, I thought, a quick freshen up and it should be ready to ride. After all the last time I rode all those years ago was from Brisbane to Adelaide, about 1200 miles in two days, so she should still be good to go.

    [​IMG][/QUOTE]


    WRONG!!!!
    Once I got it up on the bench I found one thing after another that needed fixing. Every piece of plastic (not many but critical things like wiring connectors) and rubber (oil tank mounts, seals etc) needed replacing. And I found a few hand grenades ready to go off. Clutch hub nut had come loose and the clutch was ready to fire out through the cases. Front rim was trashed from all that dirt riding. Kicker mechanism was trashed and required the gearbox casings welded up and so on and on.
    $3,000 of parts and 700 hours of my labour and she was ready to go.

    Anyhow, one thing led to another, and this "minor freshen up" ended up with the bike looking like this, except I had the swing arm and shockers off too and put in new bearings just before I remembered to take this pic.
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    The motor came down as far as the bottom end. The flyweels and rods felt good so did the top end, the transmission and primary.
    IT was all done on a shoestring in my garage. This my "special tool" for holding the rods while reaming new small end bushings. You can see my homemade clutch compressing special tool hanging in the top left of the pic.
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    Note those shiny cases - another lost weekend with the electric drill and some buffing wheels and compound.


    And here is the bike when I first finished the rebuild last year. It has the stock 2 gallon tank on it. I put the three gallon Super Glide tank back on it so I could go a whole 150 miles between refills instead of about 90.
    [​IMG]
    #2
  3. Reryder

    Reryder Onward through the fog...

    Joined:
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    Oddometer:
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    Location:
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    Took off mid-November last year as the tropical summer heat was building, racing to get south before the monsoons hit.

    The speedo as I left home was 7km to go to 7700km on this 77 model. If I was superstitious, I would say those were good numbers. This is the original speedo, found still in a box in the roof of my Dad's shed where I threw it after peeling it off the bike in the first few weeks I had it. That guy never throws anything away!
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    Out playing with the big dogs. Road train outside Marlborough road house between Mackay and Rockhampton. I got so excited about the ride I did not get any pics the first day. I camped at Mackay the first night, right by the beach. It was a 700km ride (420 miles) and I arrived late, found the campground was full, rode around exhuasted in the dark until I stumbled on a beach campground and put up my tent just in time for a huge rainstorm. Some German tourists took pity on me, gave me beer to drink and food to eat.
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    I was not the craziest person on the Rocky road. These two german lads were travelling from Cairns to Sydney, almost 1700 miles, on a bicycle and skateboard. They do 40km a day, about 25 miles. Cops kept giving them tickets for riding the skateboard on the highway!!
    They carry three t-shirts each, one extra pair of shorts each and two spare tires. They are probably still on the road now, a year later.:D
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    Crossing the Tropic of Capricorn at Rockhampton. Officially leaving the tropics and heading to the frozen south. Temps were 95-100 degrees F for most of my trip.Bike running hot as anything, rattling like crazy but going like a rocket.
    This is the southernmost point wherethe sun is directly overhead at noon. And the start of Australia's hottest parts, which are building up to the monsoon rains this time of year.
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    By this time my clutch had started slipping and I was really sweating it. I had put the old clutch plates back in because they looked ok and Harley does not specify any minimum thickness. Now I was really kicking myself because every time I gunned it the clutch would slip. If I kept a steady throttle at 55mph it would just cruise along ok.

    Lucky I have an uncle who lives in Rockhmpton so I figured I could pop the primary cover off there and take a look, maybe get my buddy Prong to send me some clutch plated down from his shop in Cairns. I had all the tools I needed to do the job in that lovely bright red top bag on the back.
    #3
  4. nachtflug

    nachtflug infidel

    Joined:
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    Harrys place
    cool stuff. I worked at a Harley dealer in 1977 and remember the sportsters that year. lots of different colors with pretty cool lettering and a big exhaust can too. might have been 2 into 1?

    I remember rows of the stock exhaust hanging from the ceiling.

    everyone who bought a new sporty had them taken off and replaced.

    My cousin bought a new 1976 for $2200, Superglides were $2700.

    and of course the choice of kick or electric start...
    #4
  5. Greenflyfarmer

    Greenflyfarmer I'm better now.

    Joined:
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    Location:
    Hungry Mother, Virginia
    Sounds fun!
    #5
  6. Reryder

    Reryder Onward through the fog...

    Joined:
    Sep 11, 2007
    Oddometer:
    1,399
    Location:
    Cairns, Oz
    I arrived just in time for Sunday roast. Mmmmm. Considering I had not stopped for dinner the day before and had only a quarter of a chicken at a Red Rooster, I was soooo ready for that roast dinner.

    Arriving at my Uncle's place outside Rocky:
    [​IMG]

    His shed.
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    After a roast dinner and a few beers in the afternoon I got a good night's sleep in a real bed. I needed it too. Every muscle in my office-worker's body was aching from the long days in the saddle, and that lovely cobra seat.
    In the morning I had a "eureka" moment and decided that I should eliminate the simple stuff before tearing into the clutch. Checked the tranny oil level, all ok, no cause of clutch slip there..

    Checked the clutch actuator mechanism and Eureka!! the little adjusting screw was tight, propping the clutch plates apart that tiny bit. I had forgotten that as the plates wear, or bed in after a rebuild, that gap closes up.

    But I could not get a wrench into the tight space to back off the lock nut. I had not brought a socket large enough with me and the open end wrenches would not fit in there.
    Dug arounnd in uncle's salubriously appointed workshep there and found nothing. Until another Eureka moment and I realised my spark plug wrench was the perfect tool.

    Took it for a blast up and down the dirt road in front of uncle's house, doing big rooster tails trying to make the clutch slip. All good. No more slipping.
    I only realised when I got back to the house and uncle and aunt were staggering out on the front porch in dressing gowns that it was about 6.30am. Being that much further south than where I live, it gets light that much earlier, something I had forgotten. Dunno what the neighbours thought but I was jacked, my first problem on the road solved so easy.
    The gods of motorcycling are smiling down on me.





    Leaving Rocky, typical Aussie back road. That is why I always prefered the Sporty over a Big Twin - they slide better on the dirt.
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    Typical Aussie main road, and terrain.
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    Lunch in beautiful downtown Monto, through fantastic winding roads in beautiful farm country.
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    Big old art deco shire hall is classic.
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    Camped down the road at a town called Goomeri, a small campground behnd a truck stop. Mostly permanent residents and just a couple of travellers. A guy and his wife in a camper trailer came over looking at the Harley, along with all the other residents. They ended up feeding me and giving me beer and massive amounts of white wine. A great night had by all.
    [​IMG]
    I wasnt the only person travelling on old machinery. This guy is going around Australia in the old school bus.
    [​IMG]

    Okay, I got to go do some work. I have a millon more pics so will post more later/tomorrow.
    #6
  7. Reryder

    Reryder Onward through the fog...

    Joined:
    Sep 11, 2007
    Oddometer:
    1,399
    Location:
    Cairns, Oz
    Yep, mine had that godawful two into one system. It lasted exactly until I got it home and I put some second hand matt black homemade drag pipes on it until the current exhaust system arrived.

    I paid A$3,200 for mine. Electric start was $3600. Superglide was well over $4,000. This was at a time when a Honda Four was $1695.
    #7
  8. rockjohn

    rockjohn Been here awhile

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    Mar 7, 2008
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    VA
    Love it keep it coming. :thumb
    #8
  9. SGrider

    SGrider 376 miles to Chicago

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    May 29, 2006
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    MN
    I am definitely looking forward to reading more.:clap
    #9
  10. OldOzy

    OldOzy Banned

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    :lurk
    <input id="gwProxy" type="hidden"><!--Session data--><input onclick="jsCall();" id="jsProxy" type="hidden">
    #10
  11. Quickv4

    Quickv4 Pro Turd Polisher

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    Location:
    Dickinson, Nort' Dakohtah- Orig. from Wiscowsin
    keep it comin, i love seeing old harleys getting ridden and not polished ( a rarity here in wisconsin)
    #11
  12. Reryder

    Reryder Onward through the fog...

    Joined:
    Sep 11, 2007
    Oddometer:
    1,399
    Location:
    Cairns, Oz
    I rode on from Goomeri a short day's ride to the Sunshine Coast via some scenic backroads that I was so stoked to be riding on I did not stop to take pics.
    I stayed with my young nephew Mad Mick,at Maroochydore on the SunshineCoast. Here he is with his Buell, which I guess makes him a fourth generation Harley rider. He does all that stunt riding stuff and has written the thing off twice in six months. One time pulling a big mono off the lights while sitting on the gas tank with his legs sticking out etc. (PS, any cops reading this, I am lying, he was riding safely and sensibly when he suffered a traction loss due to diesel on the road).


    [​IMG]


    Then when his broken neck just got done healing, some dumb cager pulled a u-turn in front of him. Lucky he always wears full leathers with armour etc and a full face $1,000 Arai helmet. I reckon he needs it. Lot to be said for ATTGATT, specially for young blokes prone to playing silly buggers.

    Had a great day of rest at his place, gave the bike a quick checkover, pushrods needed no ajustmment, both chains were fine (Diamond O-ring rear chain had not been ajusted since Cairns. Love it). Oil was down the dipstick a little below full so I bought quart of Harley 50w at the local stealership, who showed no surprise or interest that a bloke needed it for his 31 year old Harley he was riding across the country. I think their hair jell had gotten to their brain cells. If it wasnt an Evo or Four Cam they didnt quite know what was going on. Anyhow, turned out it only need a cupful of oil, about 200cc. Not bad for over 1,000 miles in sapping heat most of the way. Looks like I bedded those rings and valve guides in ok.

    Lucky I gave her a last kick on the muffler for good luck. Damn thing sort of vibrated back and forth like a giant tuning fork.
    I found the rear muffler mounting bolt had fallen out, so I fitted a new one, with spring washer and Loctite. I swear by those aircraft header pipe clamps, it had held that pipe and muffler on for who knows how many miles. My own fault, I had the pipe off before I left to put a new oil tank mount rubber on and must have not cinched the muffler bolt up enough. Can't really blame the Sportster vibration for that. Paint shaker? What paint shaker?


    Lunch at Esk in the Sunshine Coast hinterland. Beatiful winding mountain roads up through near Maleny, over by a big reservoir and down towards Gatton, but it rained all the way. Fark it rained. Heavy and continuous. So much for sunshine. But the temperature was in the 80s so I just put on my waterproof yellow gumby suit and rode through it. The bike got filthy and started to look like it had been on the road for a while. It was slow going through the twisty mountain roads in the wet, visiblity was bugger all but the new Metzeler Marothon tires I had fitted grip brilliant in the rain. So much better than the old skates we used to run back in the day, Avon Roadrunners and such.
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    On the road from Gatton to Warwick. One of those unknown backroads no one goes on and just spectacular. This took me down into the New England area (yes we have one here too) which is rich green farming country full of painfully quaint old cottages etc, which I mostly thundered past without stopping to take pics. Fcuk that, the rain had stopped and I was out for the ride not the scenery.
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    And across the border from Queensland into New South Wales.
    At this stage I had ridden for days and done well over 1,000 miles and was still in my home state of Queensand. Finally got out of state here.
    NSW has the reputation of somewhat Nazi-like enforcement of speed limits and the road inside the state line is lined with all sorts of warning signs about how strict them are. Fcuk em. Gave each sign the finger as I rode past and wound her up to 75mph. (Regressing to teenage behaviour already. Must be the Harley's outlaw influence. :D )
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    Ok, now I gotta go and do some more work. I seem to be succesfully avoiding it this arvo but the rent has gotta be paid...
    #12
  13. Tom48

    Tom48 Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Jul 22, 2004
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    510
    Location:
    Fremont NH
    Thanks for your post. I really like H/D's riders that ride the country side. I wish you well. The Willy G around here are just that, they have H/D's but have no thouth to ridde around the country.

    Take care and keep the posts coming.
    #13
  14. Dirt Diver

    Dirt Diver Dirty Adventurer

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    Southern Tasmania
    If i had a Harley, that's how i'd ride it too.

    Well done!
    #14
  15. HOT DAMN!

    HOT DAMN! ♪ ♪ ♪

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    :lurk
    #15
  16. jetjackson

    jetjackson Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Nov 4, 2009
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    Location:
    Somewhere in Europe on a Motorbike :)
    I'm in.. keen to see pictures from the return inland leg.:D
    #16
  17. pugsley

    pugsley Little Man

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    Groovy!
    #17
  18. StubbsyAU

    StubbsyAU Adventurer

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    Sydney
    Awesome thread.:lurk
    #18
  19. auRoscoe

    auRoscoe Cerebral Failure!

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    Jan 12, 2007
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    Melbourne, Australia
    :ear:ear:ear
    #19
  20. Haroon

    Haroon RIDE for PASSION

    Joined:
    Jan 20, 2008
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    Location:
    Jeddah, Saudi Arabia/ Bangalore, INDIA
    Firstly, a full round of applause for restoring that bike into mint condition and secondly full marks to your grit & determination to do a long trip on a 31 year old harley. You sure make some of the modern day big-bore harley posers look like pussy riders. Liked the dig on the 'stealership'

    Great trip and enjoying the pics. Pls keep it coming.
    #20