FOR SALE: Stars-N-Bar Hopper – 1983 Harley-Davidson Sportster XLH 1000 Ironhead Bobber

Oden Motor Shop is proud to offer for sale our latest project: “Stars-N-Bar Hopper.”

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This is 1983 Harley-Davidson Sportster XLH 1000 was rebuilt in spring of 2014. It was converted into a “mild” hard-tail bobber with classic Army Air Core paint scheme.

The original speedo was in excess of 38,000 miles, but the rebuilt engine and aftermarket speedo have 50 miles as of this listing.

It has the standard factory four-speed transmission.

It has an S&S Super E “Shorty” carburetor, properly jetted and tuned.

This is a “mild” hard tail using struts in place of shocks: the frame is original and can be easily converted back to factor if you value comfort more than cool.

A spring-mounted solo seat makes the hard-tail a little less hard-on-the-tail.

It has has a side-mounted tail-light and license plate.

It has no turn signals (other than those mounted on your shoulder, also known as your left arm).

The front and rear brake pads have more than 75% remaining, and there is no scoring on the disks.

The tires are in great shape with plenty of tread.

The battery is new and has a battery tender cable installed.

The oil and filter were changed in April, the brakes were serviced and the clutch was serviced and adjusted.

The bike is registered in Virginia with a current safety inspection and is ready to ride today.

SALE PRICE: $3,500.00

If you’re interested in purchasing or scheduling a demo, email curtis@odenmotorshop.com.

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Dream a Little Dream – Ironhead Nightmare

The ’83 Ironhead is fun project bike, but like all AMF Harley-Davidson bikes, it’s a finicky bitch. Everything else with the project is coming together smoothly, but I just couldn’t get the clutch properly adjusted. I didn’t have a shop manual handy, so I Googled how to adjust the clutch on a 1983 Ironhead, and while there where a few promising results, there were an equal number of depressing ones (like “FUCK: Fucking ironhead clutch!!!!!!!” over on Chop Cult).

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I tried a couple of the techniques suggested in various forums and blogs, but I didn’t have much success: I kept either adjusting it out so far that it would never engage, or adjusting everything back in so the clutch was constantly engaged. In either case, it didn’t matter if the clutch releases lever was in or out: I simply couldn’t find the middle ground.

I finally gave up on the Interwebs and got my hands on a ratty old copy of the Harley-Davidson Service Manual for XL/XR Models 1000cc 4-Speed 1979 to 1985 (Part No. 99484·85), hoping my luck would be better than the other would-be Ironhead gurus out there banging their heads on the bikes’ pitted chrome battery boxes and rusty peanut tanks.

Form the manual, the procedure for “Adjusting the Adjusting Clutch Release Mechanism” is as follows (referencing Figure 6-5 from the manual):

  1. Loosen clutch cable adjuster locknut (13) and turn adjuster (15) inward until there Is a large amount of free play at hand lever on handlebar.

  2.  Remove access plug (1) from primary chain cover using ACCESS PLUG REMOVAL TOOL, Part No. HD-33186.

  3. Loosen adjusting screw locknut (3) using CLUTCH ADJUSTING NUT WRENCH, Part No. HD-94580-71, and turn screw (5) Inward until it becomes harder to turn (starts to release the clutch) and continue turning (2 more turns) to be sure clutch Is disengaged.

  4.  Adjust all free play out of clutch cable by turning adjuster (15) outward. Do not put any tension on cable. With all slack In cable eliminated (no play at hand lever) tighten the coll adjuster locknut (13). This Is the correct cable adjustment.

  5. The clutch release adjustment should then be made with the clutch adjusting screw as follows. Back off the adjusting screw (5) until the clutch Is engaged (screw turns easier), then, turn screw Inward until the point where free play of adjusting screw has just been eliminated. From this point, turn the adjusting screw outward 1/8 to 1 1/4 turn to establish correct free play, and tighten locknut (3) while holding screw (5) stationary.

  6. See Figure 6-6. Check free play at clutch handlever. There should be 1/16 In. free play between handle and bracket. If Incorrect, readjust sleeve (15, Figure 6·5) and tighten locknut (13).

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NOTE: If the clutch continues to slip under load or drag in released position, clutch springs may need adjusting or release mechanism may not be operating. See subsequent sections.

The subsequent sections sounded scary enough that I really, really wanted to make this work.

Unfortunately, the procedure in the manual proved as useful as all of the guides I found by stumbling around Google. Tinkering around, I came up with my own procedure, modestly named:

Curtis’ Mega-Awesome Ironhead Clutch Adjustment Technique Extraordinare

 

  1. Drink at least three beers.
  2. Tighten the adjustment cable all the way down using whatever wrench fits.
  3. Loosen the lock nut with the right sized socket. Don’t waste your money  on CLUTCH ADJUSTING NUT WRENCH, Part No. HD-94580-71. You can even remove that damn lock nut, since it will just be in the way until you’re done.
  4. Loosen the adjusting screw using whatever low tech instrument you have on hand (such as a flat-head screwdriver or butter knife) until it ALMOST falls out. I don’t think you’re screwed if it does fall out, but it’s best not to find out.
  5. Pull the hand lever and notice how wrong that feels.
  6. Try rolling the bike with the hand lever pulled, and see how wrong that feels.
  7. Now put the bike in gear and try STEP 6 again, you moron.
  8. Drink three more beers.
  9. Loosen the cable adjustment all the way out (trying not to remove the damn thing).
  10. Tighten the adjusting screw all the way down. Tight. No, tighter.
  11. Pull the brake lever, and notice how bad that popping sound is. Don’t do that again.
  12. Drink another beer and hope you didn’t screw anything up.
  13. Tighten up that cable adjustment a little bit, so it doesn’t make that popping sound when you squeeze the clutch lever.
  14. Try rolling the bike, in gear, with the clutch lever pulled, noticing that you’re still all knackered up.
  15. Let go of the clutch lever and roll the bike around in gear, noticing you’re REALLY knackered now.
  16. Drink another beer and think about this.
  17. Unscrew the adjustment screw (not the cable adjustment, you drunk idiot!) until it is about to fall out.
  18. Now screw the adjustment screw back in until you feel it start to get tight.
  19. Put the lock nut back on, but don’t screw it down too tight.
  20. Get on the bike and roll it back in forth, pulling the clutch lever and then not pulling. Pay attention to how much play is in the lever, and how hard it is to roll the bike.
  21. Don’t drop the bike: you’ve had a lot of beer, and it will be a real bitch to pick it back up again while you’re drunk.
  22. If the bike is in gear, you aren’t pulling the clutch lever, and the bike rolls freely, you need to loosen the adjustment screw a few turns. Just do it a few turns at a time.
  23. If rolling the bike starts kicking the pistons over, GOOD!. Don’t mess with anything yet.
  24. Now, with the bike in gear, pull the clutch lever, and roll it. If the pistons start kicking over, you need to tighten the adjustment screw a few or several turns.
  25. If you’re starting to sober up, you may notice that, even if the pistons don’t roll over, the Ironhead still seems to resist rolling. When these bikes are cold, the clutch plates have a tendency to stick, so as long as you can roll it with a litter effort, but not turn the pistons, you’re in good shape.
  26. Don’t drink any more beer.
  27. Tighten the adjustment screw lock nut.
  28. Tighten the cable adjustment lock nut.
  29. Put the cover plug back on (we’re going to assume it fell off itself at some point, since I didn’t include a step to remove it). Use something with a eight inch edge. I used the fender struts from a 1983 Honda Shadow VT700C, which I cut off the frame when I was turning it into a bobber.
  30. Drink some coffee.
  31. Now go ride it, and see if that clutch is working.

 

Even after using my foolproof technique,  I still didn’t seem to be getting the torque I was expecting when I test rode the Sporty. I suspected the clutch was slipping because of worn friction plates, or springs, or wouldn’t engage properly because of a worn ramp or some other annoying problem. I ordered the parts to rebuild the clutch per the dreaded “Subsequent Sections” in the repair manual, but something was still nagging me: if the clutch were worn out, how could it turn the piston when rolled, and not turned them when the clutch was pulled? It didn’t feel like it was slipping when under human power?

Was it something wrong with the transmission.

And right as I began drifting off to sleep, dozing but still slightly coherent, I had a flash of memory, of taking my 1977 Ironhead (my dear Imperial Entanglement) for quick ride around the block one morning shortly after I bought it. I had just filled it up with gas, when suddenly I started loosing power. It could still pull me, but my rear end (with the rest of me included that’s about 400 lbs of awesome), but it had lost it’s pep. My Sporty was no longer it’s Sporty self.

I went to sleep with that thought on my mind, but I didn’t make any connections until this afternoon, after firing up the ’83 Ironhead again and wondering what I was doing wrong. I thought back on the ’77 Ironhead and realized the sluggishness I felt with it was very close to the “slipping” I was feeling on the ’83. The power just wasn’t there, like it was only half a Harley.

It was only half a Harley.

I was only getting 500cc instead of 1000cc.

Sure enough, when I fired up the ’83 Sporty and put my hand behind the front exhaust, cool air was pumping out. The rear exhaust was nice and hot. I pulled the plugs and cleaned them (the front was caked with carbon deposits) and popped them back in. The front still pumped out cool air. I swapped plugs, and the problem followed the plug, pumping cool air out of the rear exhaust.

So here’s the new STEP ZERO in “Curtis’ Mega-Awesome Ironhead Clutch Adjustment Technique Extraordinare”:

CHECK YOUR EFFING SPARK PLUGS, YOU MORON!!!!!

I swapped the old plugs for some older (but known-good) plugs, and fired her up. Immediately, I knew I had back 1000cc of Ironhead awesomeness, and that ’83 Sportster zipped my big butt around the block like I was some elfin fairy waif. But in a badass, cool, elfin fairy waif kind of way.

And the clutch is in perfect adjustment.

Thirty-Six Years of Road Grime

I try to keep my bikes clean, and when I’m washing them, I pay special attention to those hard-to-reach places. But some places are totally unreachable, and dirt and grime accumulate, layer after layer, year after year.

On my 1977 Harley-Davidson Sportster XLH1000 “Ironhead,” one of these impossible-to-reach grime collectors is the inside of the primary chain guard. Normally I wouldn’t even think about the grime collecting there, but when I was freeing up a sticking rear brake line (which required some disassembly of the right primary cover), I happened to reach my finger around the back of the cover while trying to free the brake line, and my index fingertip sunk to the first knuckle in gritty, greasy grime.

I pulled off the cover to inspect it, and I saw that it was so deep, the chain was actually carving a groove through it. As I scraped away at it, the harder, deeper layers resisted until they gave away in big chunks. That greasy mess was slopped onto the primary cover sometime in the Carter administration.

It took about half an hour to clear out the grime, and while I was concerned the metal would be pitted with corrosion, the exposed metal actually gave off a nice dull shine.

Removing the primary cover wasn’t that big if a task, so I’m adding “Clean muck out of primary cover” to my 10,000 mile service checklist.

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VIDEO: Setting Points on the Ironhead Sportster

ShadowDog500 posted a great video on adjusting points on the Ironhead Sportster. Messing with ignition systems on older bikes (or news ones) always sounds a bit intimidating to me, but ShadowDog500’s tutorial clears up a lot of the mystery and provides a concise explanation of how to get the job done, including dozens of tips and tricks you won’t find spelled out in your shop manual.

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Manuals

ManualsWhen I saw this 1977 Ironhead Sportster on Craigslist, I just couldn’t resist. Something about the black and white paint job made me think of Stormtroopers (from Star Wars, not Nazi Germany). It’s definitely been a technological terror (which apparently is common with AMF Harley-Davidsons), and I’ve already had fun troubleshooting electrical issues, whining clutch bearings, a rusted-out tachometer cables, a leaky brake master cylinder, and fouled plugs galore.

At one point, I was afraid I’d been sold a thirty-six year-old hunk of junk. And we all know where fear leads, right?

imageWell, I tried to go all Jedi-zen, and accept that this bike is just high maintenance, but Master Yoda wasn’t around to guide me. So yes, when my front cylinder stopped firing, my fear quickly lead to anger, and when my turn signals stopped working DURING the Virginia Motorcycle Safety Inspection, my anger lead to hate, and when my battery died and I had to roll start the bike back from the inspection station, rather than just give up and cry, I embraced the Darkside.

Yes. Yessssss.

I am know bending this Ironhead to my will, forcing all pistons to fire, blasting electrical connections clean, and forcing the battery to charge under the watchful gaze of my minion, Admiral Battery Tender.

It may take this old Ironhead twelve parsecs to make the Kessel Run, but I’ve shown it who is the Learner and who is the Master!

Right?

77 Ironhead Survey: Turtle Tank or Peanut Tank

The previous owner of the ’77 Ironhead replaced the stock peanut tank with a hard-to-find turtle tank common on Sportsters of the late 1960’s. The turtle tank certainly looks good when the bike is rigged like a cafe racer, but I’m leaning more towards a mild chopper or a bobber. With the nine inch risers I put on the bike (so I didn’t have to lean fat gut over the tankntomreach the drag bars), the turtle tank just doesn’t look right.

imageI like the extra fuel capacity, and the unique look combined with the rarity of the turtle tank are both big plusses, but I just don’t think it fits the “theme” of the bike.

I’ve reprinted the tank with black plastidip to keep the rust off the few areas where the original paint is chipping. If I keep it, I’ll give it a real paint job.

The previous owner did give me two peanut tanks with the bike, so I don’t have to come out of pocket for a new tank. I’ve actually had several offers on the turtle tank already, so I’m getting a bit incentivized to Del it.

Let me know your feedback (or if you want to buy one of the tanks) in the comments.

Project: 1977 Harley-Davidson Ironhead Sportster XLH 1000

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Some opportunities are too good to pass up. When I saw this 1977 Harley-Davidson Ironhead Sportster, I knew I had to buy it. Fortunately, I just sold the 1984 Honda Shadow VT700C Bobber, so I had the funds.

Mechanically, the Ironhead is in great condition. There’s a minor fuel leak at the petcock, which I plan to fix with a little torque and fuel resistant thread sealant.

When it really heats up, the clutch makes a loud whirring sound when the bike gets really hot. Some have suggested it’s a bad bearing, while others think the primary chain gets some slack as the bike warms up. It’s great under normal riding conditions around the neighborhood, but I’ll need to fix it before any longer rides.

I’ve already purchased forward controls and nine inch throwback risers. I’ll post install photos as the come.

Replacing the Brake Switch on a 1993 Heritage Softail Classic (FLSTC)

When cars behind me started laying on their horns every time I slowed down for a stop light, I was at first a bit pissed, but after three horn blasts in a five minute ride, I new something was wrong. My 1993 Harley-Davidson Heritage Softail Classic is in pretty good shape for a twenty-year-old bike, but things do start to wear out, usually at the least opportune moment. In the spirit of sage riding, I pulled into a parking lot to try an figure out why drivers suddenly hated me.

It only took me a moment to figure out that my front hand brake switch had failed. the rear foot brake pedal worked fine, causing the tail light to shine brightly, as expected. Upon closer examination of the front brake lever, I found that the switch was jammed in its housing. I tried loosening it with some electronics cleaner and tough love (aka pliers), but the switch button wouldn’t budge.

I rode over to Patriot Harley-Davidson in Fairfax, VA (making sure to use my rear break in conjunction with the front brake) and picked up a replacement switch for about $30. It took about fifteen minutes to replace the broken switch . For the sake of posterity, I photographed the steps involved.

2013 International Motorcycle Show – Washington, DC

Oden Motor Shop doesn’t have much of a travel budget, so we don’t get to do the trade show circuit very often. When we do, it usually involves months of planning, loads of money, and lots of headaches. If Sturgis or Daytona are involved, there’s usually a pricey divorce shortly after. You can imagine my excitement when I learned the 2013 Progressive International Motorcycle Show was being held the first week of January in Washington, DC, right across the Potomac river from our shop in Alexandria, VA. All I had to do was find parking in downtown DC. Here is a sample of what I saw there.