Matt practicing his mudding skills aboard a '36 Knucklehead.
This is no watered-down putt. The topography of the Cannonball Run includes navigating the Appalachians Mountains, climbing Magazine Mountain in Arkansas, and negotiating Sitgreaves Pass in Arizona, but it eases up as riders cross the fairly flat pass at the Continental Divide in New Mexico. The route was chosen for both its scenery and history including several National Parkways, sections of historic US 66 as well as an overnight stop in Hot Springs National Park, visits at museums and a big end of run dinner splash in Los Angeles on September 26.
Riders from the United Kingdom, Canada, Germany, and the United States will be taking up the sea-to-shining-sea challenge while piloting a who's-who list of famous machines including the Flying Merkels, Excelsiors, Hendersons, Indians, Triumphs, BSAs, Thors, Yales, Popes, Sears' and Harley-Davidsons. There are three Classes of motorcycle: Class 1- Single cylinder, Single Speed: requirements are belt-drive or chain, and single speed. Class 2-Twin Cylinder, Single Speed: Primarily the big boys, the V-Twins, but also four cylinder/single speed bikes, all with either belt or chain drive. Yes, more power, but the V-twin motors of the time were still new to the game and had their teething problems as opposed to the more durability singles of the era. Class 3- Multi Cylinder, Multi Speed: This class features bikes with a transmission, two- or three-speeds and the engines can be single, twin, or four cylinders, basically a class unto themselves and running a faster race. Wait...this is not a race, it's an endurance run. The definition, as in most competitions, could get a bit blurred once in motion.
Preventive maintenance is the best maintenance.
Call it a gathering of eagles...and of egos. As no both rider and machine will be ridden (rather than pushed) to the limit, it should make for a most interesting event to follow. But as usual, preparation, strategy, and he-who-makes-the-fewest-mistakes-wins will be the name of the game.
"As far as his physical preparation, Matt's been lifting weights and doing a lot of cardio."
Spotlight on the Competitors
To provide a sampling of the diverse group of Cannonballers we'll focus on a quartet of vintage bike movers and shakers that bring both youth and experience to the event.
Matt's dad Carl started Carl's Cycle Supply, the Aberdeen, South Dakota, shop specializing in vintage Harley Knuckleheads and Panhead restorations. Matt literally grew up with a silver wrench in his mouth and motorcycles hardwired into his brain. At 18 he rode a 1948 Panhead to the West Coast and the next year a 1946 Knuckle to California again. In 2009 he rode not one but two Iron Butts in one month, one aboard a '39 Knuckle, the next week riding a '36 Knuckle, with a passenger no less.
At 24 he's the youngest rider entered in the event, but used to getting a headstart. Matt's also the youngest board member for the Antique Motorcycle Club of America. His choice of mounts for the Cannonball is a S194 vintage Sears, a twin-cylinder, single-speed machine. "When I heard from Lonnie about the run I went hunting for a bike. I knew my best bet would be a Spacke-engined bike so I ended up with two Sears, a 1913 and a 1914." These bikes were originally sold through the famous Sears and Roebuck mail order catalogs popular throughout the early 1900s.