When Harley-Davidson created the Knucklehead V-twin back in the 1930s, they knew they had something special on their hands. What H-D didn't know was how far its customers would run with the thing. From the hill to the track to the street, the Knuck has been ridden hard and put away wet for decades. It also sired a line of other motors comprising Harley's Big Twin family as we know it today. Each generation, from the Knuckle to the Twin Cam, evolved over the years, creating a lineage of American history any company would be proud to call its own.
It's a story both written by Harley-Davidson and the people who ride its motorcycles. Not only as stock iron, but also through countless hours transforming old Knuckles into choppers, racers, and everything in between. Here at Hot Bike, we're happy to have been a part of that, telling the stories behind a lot of these bikes to our readers.
We've come across some real Knuckleheads in our time, and here are some of the better ones.
It’s not only the monochromatic essence of Joe Kerivan’s Knucklehead but the pure simplicity of the overall bike that really sets it apart from its colorful counterparts. Basic. Minimalistic. Perfect. Get the full story here.
Shaun Revelle's passion for scoots goes back to his parents' days in motorcycle clubs. Old Harleys went hand-in-hand with his life. When he found this
47 Knuck in El Paso he wasn't letting it slip by him like he had with that50 Pan at the dealership. We'll let him tell it, though.
Leo Perez grew up watching many of his friends riding old Knuckles, Pans, and Shovelheads in the neighborhood of Northeast Los Angeles, better known as the Elysian Valley. He started riding minibikes, dirt bikes, and always had a strong passion for old cars: Impalas, Fleetlines, and old Chevy trucks. As he grew older, and more established, he was able to turn his childhood dreams and eventually own several of those dream rides, like this one.
There seems to be a hypothetical handbook for building choppers. In that book, somewhere it carefully spells out the rules of “do” and “do not,” that if violated cast your bike to the fringe of the chop world, banned like a bad porn site behind a firewall. Bike builder Paul Whitehurst too seems to break the mold of the typical chopper bike builder. Check it out for yourself.
Originally intended to be a chopper, the plan was all laid out on paper and ready to go. Then a Panhead made itself available for chopper duty, "forcing" Jason Craze to make it something else. Namely, this Knuckle-based racer.
Scott and his four sons represent the Southern California lifestyle at its core with a triple threat of skating, surfing, and building bikes with traditional values. Scott explains, “The Cycle Zombies are just a family that loves building, riding, swap meet digging, and generally being together. The love of digging through old boxes and garages or barns to find these bikes and parts is really exciting. This is what describes what we are about: The Cycle Zombies, bringing old dead bikes back to life!” See more of Scott Stopnik's chopper here.
This bike was purchased as an assembled basket case in the '70s. It was purchased from Richard Schultz who said it was likely out of a dealership inventory bought up in South Dakota. He bought the "Lil Go Go" while he had a couple other running bikes with the intention of going through the whole thing. But it wasn't until about the year 2000 when the bike was finally completed.
The way in which many custom bike builders—big and small, far and wide—have approached the game all changed here roughly six years ago with the advent of Born Free. Like it or not, the initials “BF” have forced an upping of the ante, pitting home-grown little-known names against a populace of known-name talent. Take this chopper for example.
People pay tribute to their heroes and legends in different ways. This Knucklehead custom is one of them.
Back in 1937, midget race car tuner Dale Drake redesigned a Harley Knucklehead he could race in those little cars that had gotten so popular at the track back then. Drake had given up on the air-cooled two-cylinder opposed twin he was designing in favor of converting the Knuck to water-cooled cylinders instead. Fast forward to now. Dan "Bacon" Carr takes a set of Drake cylinders and uses them on a chopper.