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Sep 18, 2014

Cannonball 9/18: Into Idaho!


Cannonball map

Meridian, ID—As of tonight, the 2014 Motorcycle Cannonball Endurance Run has covered 3,269 miles on its journey from Daytona Beach, Florida, to Tacoma, Washington. That's more miles than the entire 2010 Cannonball, and there are still three days and 669 miles to go.

As the miles count down, the strain is showing on some of the bikes and riders‚ even those who are in contention for class victories. Yesterday, Hans Coertse, who has held the lead in Class I (for bikes under 700cc) and the overall standings, had a serious scare when the transmission on his No. 35 1924 Indian Scout locked itself into third gear just as he reached the finish of the day's ride in Springville, Utah.

“I got to the finish, and it would not shift,” Hans said. “If that would have happened earlier in the day, it would have been a different outcome.”

By “different outcome” Hans means he likely would have dropped out of the list of riders who have maintained a perfect score through 13 days of riding, and the consequences of that are huge. He wouldn't just have moved down from first place to second or third, he’d have plummeted from first to 28th place, or even lower, in the overall Cannonball standings.

Thomas Trapp, the leader of Class II.That's what's riding on a single bad day for the top contenders in the Cannonball. With 27 riders still tied at 3,269 points, one for every mile covered, no one can afford the slightest mistake in the final days leading to the finish.

Today, such a mistake caught up with Darryl Richman, who was maintaining a perfect score on his No. 52 1928 BMW R52. This morning, his machine quit after covering just 70 miles of the 257-mile route from Springville, Utah, to Meridian, Idaho. As a result, he dropped from third in the Cannonball points standings to 45th. That moved Giuseppe Savoretti (No. 103 1931 Moto Guzzi Sport) into third place overall, behind Hans Coertse and Norm Nelson (No. 23 1928 BMW R52).

Thomas Trapp, the leader of Class II (for 700cc to 1,000cc bikes) also had a scare on the road today when the magneto on his 1916 Harley Model F started to fail. Thomas was able to limp the bike to the finish within the time limit, so he maintained his lead over Dean Bordigioni (No. 6 1923 H-D JS), and Mike Carson (1924 H-D JE). As of tonight, Thomas had installed a backup mag in the hotel parking lot, but all was not well with the replacement unit, and he looked worried heading into tomorrow's 284-mile stage from Meridian to Lewiston, Idaho.

The leader in Class III (for bikes over 1,000cc) remains Jeff Tierman on his 1919 Henderson Z. But right behind him, Andreas Kaindl (1924 Henderson Deluxe) nearly lost points when something‚ either the rear wheel bearing or the bearing on the end of the transmission output shaft‚ started to fail. As was the case with Thomas, Andreas was able to finish the day and hold off Mike Carson (1924 H-D JE) in the Class III title chase.

Then there are those who are no longer in the championship picture as a result of previous problems that caused them to miss miles. The wear and tear of the Cannonball is more obvious on their machines, since they've had to make repairs to return their bikes to the competition.

Scott Byrd's No. 25 Harley Model VSome of those repairs require re-engineering entire components of the motorcycle, often adapting parts from other machines to work on their bikes. And that means some of the Cannonball bikes are actually gaining additional parts as the ride goes along.

Scott Byrd's No. 25 Harley Model V is a perfect example. It arrived in Daytona Beach with the normal complement of batteries (one) and ignition coils (one set). By now, though, the bike has its original battery sitting in its battery box, plus a spare 6-volt lantern battery hidden in one of its leather saddlebags. If the main battery runs out of power, Scott says he can run practically an entire day on the power in his backup system.

Byrd's ignition coils.The situation with Scott's ignition coils is even more complicated. The Harley factory parts have been ejected, and Scott has two aftermarket coil sets duct-taped and zip-tied to the machine. That gives him a spare on the road in case one set goes bad.

Other Cannonball bikes show similar ingenuity. The most common adaptation is to replace the stock ignition switch, which can fail‚ with a simple plug-in wire connection. No, it's not as sophisticated as a factory ignition switch, but it works right, every time.

The other thing that is accumulating on the bikes after 13 days on the road is dirt. And we're not just talking about road grime here. Some of these bikes are now so thoroughly coated in oil and grease that their owners will never need to worry about rust. And it's clear that the 1930s was not America's cleanest decade.

Today's route covered more of the unearthly landscape as yesterday, with the riders crossing huge, sweeping valleys where you might not see a tree in a half-hour of travel. The main differences from yesterday's route were the roads remote two lanes as opposed to long stretches on the interstate‚ and the sky, which was milky white nearly all day as a result of drifting smoke from wildfires in California.

Tomorrow, the Cannonball heads straight north to Lewsiton, Idaho, and if you want to catch up with the riders, you need to stop by Hells Canyon Harley-Davidson, where riders will likely start arriving at about 4 p.m.—Bill Wood
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