We think we’re roughing it rolling through a rainstorm on our well-worn adventure bikes while wearing a complete riding suit and full-face helmet, our hands curled around heated grips and a counter-balanced single ticking us down the road.

Don’t think so.

Try covering over 3,700 miles in 16 days on a raw, pounding single-cylinder 110-year old machine, with a rear wheel driven via a tensioned belt, no suspension, a rock-hard seat and PEDALS, all while manning a throttle, oil pressure, spark advance, barely-there brakes – and never knowing if you’re even going to make it to the next gas stop.

That’s real old-school adventure riding, even if it is all on pavement, and it’s the ride Dave Currier of Fargo, N.D., 68, recently completed, coming in first in the 2021 Motorcycle Cannonball, a cross-country ride/race for vintage machines that takes place every two years or so, depending on viral pandemics (the last run was in 2018).

And we do mean vintage bikes: Currier took the checkered flag on his single speed, single-cylinder 500cc 1911 Harley-Davidson 7A, riding from Sault Ste Marie, Michigan to South Padre Island, Texas, with 88 other hardy vintage enthusiasts in tow, all on production bikes from 1911 to 1929. That’s right, Currier’s bike was one of just TWO model year 1911 bikes in the race, making it pretty much the oldest bike in the outing. The list of bikes involved is impressive, but that rider on the luxurious 1929 Indian Four may as well have been on a Gold Wing, comparatively.

Currier said the ride was intense, telling the Grand Forks Herald that “I think this has been the toughest ride of my life.”

Currier talks about his ride and the big win on WDAY.

Spending eight hours a day keeping the ancient Harley iron moving forward with no suspension even sounds tiring, but Currier said the long hours in the saddle gave him time to think, especially about his father, who was also a rider and racer, as well as a motorcycle dealer, selling Harleys and Indians in the 1940s and 50s. He passed away in 2020 at the age of 94. “He was a very big part of my life, and that’s why I called it ‘the last ride,'” Currier told WDAY. We’re sure he’s proud, Dave.

While some bikes in the Cannonball have had some major work done, Currier told TV station WDAY that his bike is pretty much stock, with original engine cases, carburetor and cylinder still ticking over 11 decades after it was assembled in Wisconsin. Check out their news story on Currier and his winning bike.

In 2018, the Motorcycle Cannonball ended in Portland, Oregon and I had a chance to see  many of the bikes and riders on the road as we local riders gathered to escort them into the city. It was quite an experience, and those were definitely the”adventure bikes” of their time. Interested? Go round up grandpa’s old Henderson and saddle up!

 

 

 

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