Recently, we’ve shown some designs on The Kneeslider and very quickly, in the comments, readers would begin debating whether it was practical as shown or would even work at all. Richard Pollock, of Mule Motorcycles, and I have been tossing some thoughts back and forth about this and Richard sent me some photos of a build he spent a lot of time and effort on before ultimately finding it didn’t measure up. I asked Richard if he would be willing to share the experience with all of you and he agreed.
What you see here is a build by someone who can turn out beautiful work time and again, but who doesn’t always hit a home run, a part of the process many folks never see. It’s easy to think builders can whip up a perfect new bike every time, but even the best builders sometimes have to put their designs together before finding out how the real bike compares to their initial design ideas, that no matter how nice the design looks, the real bike may not live up to the idea the builder had in mind.
I’ll let Richard fill in the details:
Here’s a story about dreamin’ up some bizarre stuff and turning it into a bike design that was harder in execution than it was in all the pictures and ideas I drew up or dreamed up.
The Vision and design parameters.
The purpose was to build a better mouse trap. After building about 40 streettrackers, a dozen flattrack race bikes and having seen and studied hundreds more, I decided there were a lot of things about the traditional Harley flattrack designs that I thought could be improved upon. I proceeded to draw pictures by the score, of frame layout, pipe routing, swingarm design, oiltank locations, weight distribution, forks, breather systems, fuel tanks, engine mounting, maintenance accessibility and everything else I could think of. One last requirement was to have a design that was simple to duplicate in large numbers. This bike would be a break from the norm in a form of racing that has a death grip on tradition!
Next I built a fixture that would keep the engine and pivot points all in alignment and allow the construction of the frame around the motor. The bike would basically be built with the motor in place the whole time assuring accessibility.
My friend Tim Taber handled all the welding and I did all the design, bending and fitting. Bob Stone, who had been doing all my machine work did most of the machining.
We started by making a fairly labor intensive rear motor mount box/swingarm pivot mount. At the front, a steering head was secured in the fixture. What followed was an attempt to form a “Perimeter” upper frame section, the left side being a large oil tank where fore and aft weight bias could be adjusted by the addition of more oil. The right side upper frame member would double as a breather system with the joint at the swingarm pivot being the return outlet for accumulated oil to the cam case. The rear subframe would be a bolt on for ease of repair or replacement.
The swingarm presented its own challenges. I wanted to do a “Gullwing” design on the left side so the rear pipe could wrap under the engine and then come very close to the swingarm and rear wheel down low and sweeping upward. The swingarm ended up being a bunch of curved pieces all glued together in a giant fixture.
Once I had the whole package all together, I decided some of the curves and lines were not to my liking and just cut the whole thing back apart. I put all the pieces in a tub and moved on to other projects. At first it was going to be a race bike for top National racer, Michelle DiSalvo. Another party was supplying the powerplant and when Michelle and he parted ways, the sense of urgency went with it. And so it sits waiting to be reborn.
Richard has some interesting ideas here, the swingarm deserves special attention, so even though it didn’t meet Richard’s own standards, I think it was a pretty neat build before he pulled the plug. Maybe that is what makes the best builders what they are, even the work they reject is very good, better than what many could do under the best of circumstances.
Thanks for sharing, Richard.