Saturday, January 20, 2007

When Shovelheads Ruled the World, Part 3

So there we were in the foothills outside of Colorado Springs, a little concerned with how the bike would run at this higher elevation, but totally excited to find Bobby's name on the list of National Records. Having spent a year working in a Dealership in Pueblo, one might think that tuning the bike for that elevation would be a piece of cake for me, but that was not really the case. Believe it or not, the S&S carb was not found on half the Harleys on the road back then as they are now, hence I had limited experience with tuning them. We didn't even get to the staging lanes before we realized we needed to start leaning it out. Each pass showed the need for more jetting work, but the bike was running a little better with each jet change. When I put in the smallest main jet we had, the motor was still noticeably rich as it came onto the main. So there we had a bit of a dilemma. We were told that "the Dragonman" had an adjustable main jet at his shop that we could buy, but that would mean only having one or two passes to try to tune the adjustable main. We hadn't noticed any bikes in our classes running as quick as Bobby yet, so I made the call to leave well enough alone.

Of course once it was too late to get the adjustable main, the fast bikes showed up! My first job as a Harley mechanic was working for Conger's Harley Davidson in Pueblo, Colorado. I learned a lot in the two years of motorcycle mechanics school that I had attended, but it was nothing compared to what I learned in a year working for Dick Conger. So who do you think showed up Sunday morning, but Dick with an Evolution powered bike, along with a friend on an 88 inch Shovel (that Dick built) which was known for being among the fastest Harleys in Pueblo. Both bikes were "teched" into the same "Street Racer FL" class with Bobby. I don't think I ever got a straight answer as to the engine size of Dick's Evo, but I kind of always assumed it was an 80". I knew that if anyone could make a stock cubic inch Evo run with the stroker Shovelheads, Dick could!

Dick, on the Evo, his friend on the 88" Shovel, and Bobby all worked their way through eliminations without too much trouble. Time has taken its toll on the details, so I really don't remember whether it was Dick or Bobby who beat Dick's friend in the semi finals, but either way the finals were looking like a big showdown, at least in my eyes.

As Bobby staged the bike against Dick in the finals, I couldn't help but wonder if I had blown our chances of winning by not trying the adjustable main jet. That little 93" Shovel came through with flying colors though, despite a momentary "blubbering" in each gear! I felt just as elated as if I had been the one on the bike beating my old boss.

The "shoot out" between the winners of each of the street classes was truly anticlimactic, though it did provide a few moments of frenzied activity. We brought the bike into the staging lanes for the first round not suspecting any problems, but when it was time for us to go I couldn't get the bike started. I kicked until I was blue in the face, then Bobby kicked until he was. Finally I pulled a plug wire to check for spark; None! There were only a couple pairs of bikes still waiting their turn as I made a mad dash to where we were pitted to get tools. By the time I got back there were only two bikes left to run. The racer in the other lane was kind enough to wait for us, but all hope quickly left us when I inadvertently sliced a plug wire in half with my buck knife. I no longer recall what I even had the knife out for, but I suspect I was attempting to cut a tie wrap.

Didn't matter much though, both Bobby and I were still grinning about winning our class again. Afterwards, as we were chatting with Dick Conger, Bobby graciously mentioned to him that he must be pretty happy with the race results, since he had built two out of the three fastest bikes and taught the one who built the other.

Bobby and I had never heard the expression "quit while you're ahead", so much of the talk on the long drive back to Minnesota had to do with getting to the next race on the schedule, St Louis! That story will have to wait for another day though...

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