Bob Tames a ’29 Henderson

by admin on November 29, 2012

Riding this bike was the scariest thing that I have done on 2 wheels in all of my 49 years of swinging a leg over a saddle!  It was not simply the terror of riding a demon machine; it was riding a $50,000 motorcycle which had very little in brakes!  Can you picture yourself running 3,000 miles coast to coast, heat to snow & ice on this?  The nine or so Hendersons and other 4 cylinder bikes started each day last and made their way through the 60 or so other bikes to finish each day first.  The Harley riders called them the Wolf Pack! They easily cruised at 65-75 and outpaced the Harleys; one lightweight guy could hold 100 mph for a distance!  Remember, this is an 83 year old motorcycle!

We rode on 11/10 around Waddington on the St.Lawrence River, and it was about freezing when the pic was taken.  After that I took the P2 to Burlington’s Daily Rider Shop to find out why it isn’t charging the battery and I had the 1956 Zundapp Bella R201 scooter to drop off as a basket case for a long term project at the DR.  A mechanic in his 30’s named Ben has gotten so excited about this unusual job that he is immersed in it – grease to internet searching.  They are now regular bidders on German Ebay under my guidance.

Vibration?  Yeah I guess it did, but I was so scared riding down the road and anticipating the next stop or turn that I seldom noticed that!  I guess it did vibrate because at the end of a 25 mile loop, I had lost the shifter knob – actually somewhere near the start.  I felt really bad to tell Mark the owner but he said not to worry, it was just an old doorknob!  So I now know where he gets some of his parts. BTW, the technique is to plan ahead, shift into one of the two neutrals on the 3-speed, and coast to a stop hopefully remembering to close the deadman throttle!.  Shoot out a hand signal, tilt to the right and throw in the clutch to attempt to start again!  Killer!

Actually it was a pretty smooth ride once you got going – long wheel base and you bobbing in the sprung seat.  Quite a sight going down the road.  And the Henderson inline 4 sounded just like an aircraft engine, remembering the first week of Oct I flew over Martha’s Vineyard in a 1941 Waco biplane.

#24 Henderson owned by his business partner Jeff had been hot rodded some and was capable of 100 mph under the right conditions.  It didn’t have floor boards initially, so they installed them to keep their feet up – vibration?  Yup!  Mark had to cut and hinge the left floor board to throw it up and out of the way when kick starting #24!  Pretty clever!  And both bikes kick started fairly easily, having a compression ratio well below 6:1.

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