Tuesday, February 7, 2012

#109 (June 2011) Using the BEST!

I think most of us go about building our bikes with the best possible components we can afford at the time.

There are obvious tightwad exceptions, of course, but those people usually end up spending twice as much as they planned replacing the crappy item they skimped on in the first place. But, unless we have really good jobs, most of us can’t afford to use the very best for these things. The only way people like me (and probably most of you) can obtain these items is to scrimp and save and keep your eye out for a bargain. Back in the day, I got a second job playing bass guitar in a bar band on the weekends. I would put those earnings aside and look around for parts I needed for the Shovel project. That’s why it ended up taking five years to build!
There was a time when being an editor of the best-selling chopper magazine in the world would mean that potential advertisers would send goodies over for us to test and hopefully write favorably about, but those days appear to be gone. Just about the best we can expect is a price break along the lines of dealer cost. Still better than full retail, for sure, but it puts a lot of stuff out of my reach.
That doesn’t mean things aren’t worth striving for though. Case in point: the springer on my 1971 Triumph Tiger project that I dragged out forever in the magazine a few years back. It eventually was completed and made the cover of #74 back in January of ’08. I didn’t ride the bike much because it simply wasn’t pleasant to ride. The steering was so hard because of the 10 inches plus of trail it had, it was literally a pain to haul around the backstreets. It should have been super-stable on the freeway, but even minor corrections were tough. I determined that the only way to fix this would be to remodel the DNA springer by way of extending the rockers so the axle was about six inches farther forward than its current position. I posted something about it on The Horse’s online forum “Back Talk” and a couple of guys agreed it was the way to go. This prompted Sugar Bear to give me a call. He explained why this wasn’t going to work. If I extended the rockers to move the axle forwards, the resulting additional leverage would lower the front of the bike significantly. So, not only would I need longer rockers, I’d need to extend the whole springer at the same time.
I’ve known Sugar Bear for a few years now. He was nice enough to give me a cool interview at the second Cottonwood Smoke Out West, and since then, I’ve been proud to call him a friend. Of course I knew about his springers, the man is a legend for God’s sake! Anyway, he informed me that the best way to fix my problem would be to install one of his springers. Of course I already knew that, but I also knew that his work doesn’t come cheap, and it shouldn’t! It costs more to chrome one of his springers than an entire new DNA, and then you add on the quality of the build (all hands-on by the man himself, none of that outsourcing parts stuff).

To be perfectly honest, I had never rode a bike with one of his springers until Sturgis, last year. I was on the Sugar Bear/Michael Lichter ride and one of Mr. Bear’s friends was riding a longbike with an STD Panhead and a long Sugar Bear springer. He asked if we could switch bikes for one of the “legs,” as he was curious about riding a rigid suicide clutch Shovel. “What’s the worst that could happen?” I thought to myself, so I swung a leg over the Pan and took off down the road. I had a hard time at first; the front end responded so quickly to any input, I felt like I was fighting myself to stop from wobbling. At the next stop, Sugar Bear and a few of the others that saw me were having a fun time at my expense. “You’re holding on too tight!” they explained, “Just relax!” The next leg was a lot better. The few curves we did take were very easy, and I was getting the hang of hanging loose while riding. I liked it a lot by the time we had to switch bikes back.
So it was with that experience in mind that I decided that it was time to go with the absolute best. I would have a Sugar Bear springer! This was happening in August, and it took me until now to make it happen.

I was like a kid at Christmas when it arrived at the house; I made arrangements with Brian, out at Manx Motors (my Triumph mechanic of choice) to go out to his shop and install it there. The bike was out there having the ARD Magneto rebuilt in the hopes of keeping it running more than a few minutes at a time. Soon, the DNA was extracted and the class was installed. It was a simple swap, other than the riser bolts were a different size. I still have to mess with the axle spacing a little more and extend the brake anchor arm a couple of inches, but as soon as I get that done, it looks like it may be warm enough to ride! I plan on having it in Sturgis this year and can’t wait! Watch this space for the riding report in the very near future!

www.sugarbearchoppers.com 310-768-4158
www.manxmotors.com (248) 475-4733

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