Author Topic: Steve Alexander in the USA Cannonball Run on his 2 3/4  (Read 1958 times)

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Offline midman

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As a USA owner of a Douglas I have been following Steve in his preparation for the cross country(USA) run on his 1914 Douglas.
You can read about the first two days on the links below. He has had a rough couple of days, along with over 20 other machines that did not finish the first two days, but it looks like he is fighting on.
As someone predicted in earlier posts his crankshaft was a weak point, and he has had belt issues, but he perseveres.

http://www.motorcyclecannonball.com/

http://www.antiquemotorcycle.org/index.php?mact=News,cntnt01,detail,0&cntnt01articleid=117&cntnt01origid=97&cntnt01returnid=97

Chuck

Offline graeme

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Re: Steve Alexander in the USA Cannonball Run on his 2 3/4
« Reply #1 on: 13 Sep 2016 at 00:31 »
I wish him all the best, but I also wish he had fitted an endless belt - they never break!

Offline cardan

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Re: Steve Alexander in the USA Cannonball Run on his 2 3/4
« Reply #2 on: 13 Sep 2016 at 04:30 »
I also wish he had fitted an endless belt - they never break!

Nor do crankshafts if the machine is ridden as intended.

Leon

Offline Black Sheep

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Re: Steve Alexander in the USA Cannonball Run on his 2 3/4
« Reply #3 on: 13 Sep 2016 at 14:29 »
On Sunday I covered 125 miles on my 1913 2 3/4 Douglas. As always, it did all that was required of it BUT throughout the day I was wondering just how one would cope with the Cannonball run. I think the answer has been forthcoming. Best of luck to Steve but I do fear for the poor old bike. 

Offline Frank Lyn

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Re: Steve Alexander in the USA Cannonball Run on his 2 3/4
« Reply #4 on: 13 Sep 2016 at 15:36 »
I wish him all the best, but I also wish he had fitted an endless belt - they never break!

I guess the topology of the 1913 is different from my 1910 where I would LOVE to use an endless belt but it just cannot be done.

Offline cardan

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Re: Steve Alexander in the USA Cannonball Run on his 2 3/4
« Reply #5 on: 14 Sep 2016 at 00:24 »

I have a non-Douglas 770cc V-twin direct drive (run and jump) bike, with a frame that unbolts to allow an endless belt to be fitted. The shift to an endless belt was transformational! If you can fit one, you should. Getting the correct length initially was the only problem, but after that no stretch, no wear, a smooth ride and absolute reliability.

I'm looking at new push bikes at the moment, and there is a new drive system that uses an endless toothed carbon-fibre-reinforced belt instead of a chain. The topology of most bicycle frames means you can't do this as a retrofit - the frames of the belt drive bikes have to have a bit that unbolts so the belt can be fitted.

BTW, I'm all for riding older bikes reasonable distances - I think about 180km (110 miles) is about my upper limit on my 1910 FN four - but at reasonable speeds. I have read a lot of original accounts of pre-WW1 riding out here in Australia, and 20 mph was considered a good speed. Walter Torode, one of the founding fathers of the Motor Cycle Club of South Australia in 1910, came to motorcycling at a mature age. In the basement of the State Library of SA are some of his unpublished reminiscences, and looking back on his successful motorcycling from 1903 to WW1 he reveals his secret for reliability: never exceed 20mph!

Cheers

Leon

Offline graeme

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Re: Steve Alexander in the USA Cannonball Run on his 2 3/4
« Reply #6 on: 15 Sep 2016 at 00:49 »
I have managed to fit an endless belt on a bike that I thought would be initially impossible (my 1912 Precision 3 1/2hp). The usual trouble is in not being able to separate the rear forks due to a brazed in cross-tube that the mudguard clips to, plus many have the lower end of the rear forks brazed up. What I did was saw this tube through at the position of the clip, and then with the fork unbolted at the top where it attaches to the seat tube, I could spring the fork open enough to get a belt squeezed through the gap. Bolted back up, the mudguard clip hides the saw slot and job done.

The last two times I had ridden the Precision I had the belt joiner break, leaving me stranded ( I know I should have had a spare one in the tool kit!), but I can now look forward to any number of miles without belt troubles - that has certainly been my experience with the veteran Douglases I have fitted endless belts to.

Opti belts, at least in C section, come in 1" increments, so it should be possible for most machines to have an appropriate sized endless belt available.

Cheers, Graeme

Offline midman

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Re: Steve Alexander in the USA Cannonball Run on his 2 3/4
« Reply #7 on: 25 Sep 2016 at 13:11 »
Well it looks like Steve was able to accumulate 1,400 miles on his Douglas. He was not able to finish but he gave it a go.
Hopefully he will post some of his experiences here for us. I'd like to know what he encountered and how he did what he did.

Offline shuswapkev

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Re: Steve Alexander in the USA Cannonball Run on his 2 3/4
« Reply #8 on: 25 Sep 2016 at 21:54 »

  well
     cant really count it as a fail...
      just have to start planning for next year....
  get in a few days of concentration making a better crankshaft...   better belt materials...
    they very nearly got it right...100 years ago...  and they didnt have close to what we have now...
  I reckon its a great challenge...
  I reckon he has come so close to proving a 2 3/4 dougy can do the cannonball

  I would really like to hear all of the stories...
 maybe find somebody to put together a book...video..     all the new steel and rubber has to be paid for

Offline eddie

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Re: Steve Alexander in the USA Cannonball Run on his 2 3/4
« Reply #9 on: 25 Sep 2016 at 22:34 »
Sorry,
          But I can't help thinking the crankshaft breakage may have been self inflicted. Fitting the stronger con-rods most probably transferred extra loads onto the crankshaft - thus causing the breakage. The lightweight build of the 2 engine relies on everything being able to 'give' a little.

  Eddie.

Offline cardan

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Re: Steve Alexander in the USA Cannonball Run on his 2 3/4
« Reply #10 on: 26 Sep 2016 at 01:46 »

The first motorcycle - in fact the first motor vehicle - to cross the North American continent was a California motorcycle, ridden by George Wyman from San Francisco to New York in 1903.

George had a number of troubles, including gumbo mud, drifting sand, and snow in the high mountains. For much of the journey there were no roads and he either followed the railway tracks or rode on the cross ties.

He too broke his crankshaft, and had to wait for another to arrive by train.

I'm lucky to have a 1903 California just like George's, which I discovered in Melbourne Australia c1980. When I found it it had a much-modified engine with a long-ago-remade crank. I managed to find a replacement motor in the US which had and original crank still intact. See the photo below.

If you want to read about crossing the continent, Wyman's story was fully documented at the time and has recently been reproduced on the net. Now that's worth reading.

My favourite part of the story was when he had trouble finding lodgings one night, before he discovered his gun was dangling out through a hole in his pocket of his dust coat. But my favourite quote is one that has stuck in my mind since I first read it in pre-internet photocopies sent to me by a researcher at the New York Public Library c1980:

"The road was hard and flat and I made 15 miles in the hour".

It's a mantra I use every time I get on an old bike. There's no hurry.

Cheers

Leon


Offline chris mac

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Re: Steve Alexander in the USA Cannonball Run on his 2 3/4
« Reply #11 on: 27 Sep 2016 at 02:52 »
We've all had our reservations, but let's hear it for Steve

Offline TonyC

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Re: Steve Alexander in the USA Cannonball Run on his 2 3/4
« Reply #12 on: 27 Sep 2016 at 13:45 »
Congratulations to Steve for managing to do 1400 miles, it has been interesting to follow him and the other 89 riders participating in such a well organised event!

I have only managed a run of 20 miles on my 1913 Ladies model, so many nigly things have gone wrong each time I go out on it. For example the points cover dropped off after hitting a pothole, went through the chain and sprocket on the flywheel and the spring clip touched the points,which sheared them off the mag. Had that repaired then I thought I had seized the engine, but that turned out to be the flywheel sprocket undoing and clamping the engine solid.
Next time out the valve detached itself from the inner tube!!
Hopefully more miles next time I am out on it.

Offline midman

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Re: Steve Alexander in the USA Cannonball Run on his 2 3/4
« Reply #13 on: 28 Sep 2016 at 03:42 »
Congratulations Steve. I've followed the run from the beginning and the pics I saw of you along the way always showed you seeming to enjoy the ride. Hopefully after you decompress you can tell us what happened along the way.

Offline steveale

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Re: Steve Alexander in the USA Cannonball Run on his 2 3/4
« Reply #14 on: 03 Oct 2016 at 21:23 »
Cheers all!!!

I've almost recovered from the event, certainly cherishing a lifetime of memories.  I'll do my best to chronicle the events of the ride to get you up to speed.  (I have copious notes and will transcribe them into the blog in the coming weeks).  We elected to do short updates via our FB page because it was quicker and every waking hour was dedicated to the ongoing maintenance needs of the machine.


I NEVER BROKE A CRANKSHAFT as reported on the AMCA page!!!  That was the good news along with several other good news items.  I did however swell and seize the bronze bearings in the big end connecting rods (twice), wrist pin (once), scored one journal on the crank and ran a backup and broke one exhaust valve (just before crossing the historic wabash cannonball bridge). 

The most unfortunate break (literally) came at the hands of the sweep trailer...somewhere in Kansas on a 102F day, my engine began to tighten (lubrication) so I shut it down after running 100 miles for the day in order to preserve it.  The bike was loaded and on a bumpy country road a tie down strap broke, the bike fell over onto the fender of the flatbed and CRACKED the crankcase between the front motor mount holes...just getting into the drain plug threads and allowing oil to gush freely from the sump.  Knowing welding an original case in the field was not the best option, we installed our backup cases that night, but they just didn't have the quality of the originals and we fought the machine the remainder of the trip.

We ran miles every day except one (only because our flywheel came loose from the taper on the start line that morning and we didn't fix it in time).  We ran 3 FULL MILE days, including one of the longest days at 250+ miles.  It climbed the mountains of West Virginia  with little problem.  We made a conscious decision in Lake Havasu City, AZ that we were going to only cross the start line under power each morning to get "starting credit" and 1 mile logged...we were out of bronze big end bearings and with 2 days left and no perfect score at stake the effort to hand fit new bearings were not enough reward for the efforts...plus we didn't want to grenade the engine.

We started the final day but then trailered to within a couple of miles of the finish line and rode the Douglas across the line under its own power.  Many did not take that approach and only 48 bikes finished that final day crossing the line under their own power.

The Douglas impressed...many of the Harley & Indian zealots scoffed as we rolled in for the start in Atlantic City.  Many side wagers were placed that it wouldn't make it to the New Jersey state line.  In the end, I had countless positive/supportive comments, waves on the road and tips of the cap from ALL riders on the cannonball. 

In the end the phrase I heard was "the little engine that could".  Everyone knew we took one of the most challenging configurations and made a herculean effort with darn satisfying results.

We ran miles every day except one, we logged just at 1500 miles on the smallest & oldest class 3 motorcycle in the competition, and earned a TON of respect from the entire cannonball group. 

The gearbox, which I feared for the most...never missed a beat even though we had a complete backup.  The original Bosch magneto never faltered, even in the rainiest of days.  I attribute much of that to the location of the mag, up high under the fuel tank with the aid of motor heat to help keep it as dry as possible.  The adjustable V belts did fine in the dry, typically not requiring maintenance during a daily run except to clean off oil which caused some slip.  We realized early that a pre-stretched belt installed each day eliminated the need to shorten a belt during a days run.  Once the belts were shortened twice, we would experience pull through problems with the fastener and it was best to just install a new belt prior to that headache.  Wet weather was not a friend to the v belt, we had 3 days of noah's ark level rains...I don't want to relive that memory, and as Forrest Gump said..."and that's all I have to say about that".  :-)

I can only hope we made all of you Douglas owners and fans equally proud.  We certainly feel good about our effort.  For any interested I'll be starting the blog detailed chronology in the coming days and will notify back here.

As I often quipped as I would pass another motorist....  "DOUGLAS POWER, BABY!!!"    :-)
« Last Edit: 04 Oct 2016 at 21:23 by steveale »

Offline steveale

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Re: Steve Alexander in the USA Cannonball Run on his 2 3/4
« Reply #15 on: 04 Oct 2016 at 21:43 »
Additional note...I agree that slow and steady is the way to go on the Douglas.  What makes the CB so difficult and hard on these old machines is the time AND distance constraint to the scoring.  This was no leisurely ride across the country...these machines were pounded on for over 200 miles per day for 16 days, asked to run near their top speed for 6-8 hours at a go.  I am surprised there were not more failures than there were...a testament to preparation of all the teams.

I'll explain how it was set up and scored this year...

Class 1 bikes  =  single cylinder & single speed configuration. 

Class 3 bikes = multi cylinder & multi speed configuration (Douglas was here but was the oldest and smallest class 3 bike in the competition)

Class 2 bikes = not class 1 or 3.....translation, could be a multi cylinder single speed or a single cylinder multi speed.

------------------------------------
Class 1 bikes start and finish times were based on a 40 mph constant cruise on flat ground (account was taken for city and hilly terrain)

Class 2 bikes were based on 45mph cruise on the flat

Class 3 bikes were based on 50mph cruise on the flat....since my cruise was ~42mph I was already behind the 8 ball as a class 3 bike.


Tie breakers are 1st bike class low to high, 2nd age of the bike, 3rd age of the rider.


If you arrived late during a stage you were assessed a mile per minute late penalty.  At some point you realized a point of diminishing return for continuing to ride under late time (you are actually losing more points than you are gaining).


So the scoring and classes is another way of creating differentiation and separation in the scoring.  Not quite fair for the undersized douglas compared to the larger/heavier '14/'15/'16 Harley & Indians (don't even get me started about those Hendersons!)......but we knew what we were up against going in.  Our goal was to run the most miles possible, run every day if possible and NEVER GIVE UP NO MATTER WHAT OBSTACLE WAS THROWN AT US!  We did not fail in our endeavor...