Charge Up for the Spring Riding Season

Depending on where you call home, spring is likely right around the
corner…or already on top of you! That means longer days, warmer
weather and a better excuse than ever to get out on the road.
Lead Image Horizontal H-D Technician Services a BatteryUnfortunately, months of waiting are rarely good for our motorcycles.
Especially the batteries! Even with top-quality batteries and
carefully sorted electrical systems, a little neglect can go a long
way towards ruining that first beautiful riding day. Thankfully, we’ve
got some great tips straight from the source for you. Dig into this
literature from The Motor Company, and see if they can’t shed a little
light on keeping those little lead heads charged and eager:

Harley-Davidson Advice on Avoiding Battery Abuse

A motorcycle battery never gets a day off. The service experts at
Harley-Davidson® point out that even when a motorcycle is parked the
battery discharges continuously in small internal loads called
“self-discharge.” Self-discharge speeds up drastically as the
temperature rises – for example in a hot garage in the summer – and
accessories like alarm systems will further increase the rate of
discharge. If a battery is discharged too deeply, for too long, it may
be permanently damaged. Instead of a V-Twin rumble, a push on the
starter button produces … silence. And there goes a Saturday ride.

Which is why a motorcycle, that may often be parked for some time
between rides, is especially prone to battery damage from deep
self-discharge, even during the riding season. The best way to prevent
premature battery death, according to Harley-Davidson, is by keeping a
parked motorcycle plugged into a maintenance-type battery charger like
a Harley-Davidson Battery Tender. Unlike a standard battery charger,
Harley-Davidson Battery Charger products feature internal circuitry
that charges a motorcycle battery at the proper rate and then changes
modes to protect the battery from over-charging.

Cutaway H-D AGM Battery

Chargers for Long Life

The Harley-Davidson 800mA Waterproof Battery Tender (P/N 66000004,
$49.95) features a three-step charging system that constantly monitors
battery voltage to bring the battery up to full charge and switches to
float mode to maintain the charge over extended periods. Its
waterproof case protects the charger from damp floors and outdoor
elements, and the charger is reverse-polarity protected and
spark-proof, even when the leads touch.

The very compact Harley-Davidson 750mA SuperSmart Battery Tender (P/N
66000038, $39.95) is an ideal take-along for touring riders. Its
built-in circuitry cycles the charger to turn itself on and off as
needed to prevent overcharging.

Both of these charges are sold with a fused alligator-clip harness
that’s handy for charging the battery when it’s removed from the
motorcycle for long-term storage, and with a fused ring-terminal
harness that can be connected directly to the battery terminals and
left on the motorcycle. It’s then easy to plug the charger into the
on-bike harness whenever it’s parked. Responding to customer input
gathered through Project RUSHMORE, Harley-Davidson has equipped all
2014 Touring-model motorcycles with a factory-installed battery
charger wiring harness.

Another option is the Harley-Davidson LED Indicator Battery Charging
Harness, (P/N 66000005, $14.95) which features ring terminals and an
integrated LED indicator light that glows when battery voltage drops
to a level that requires charging. It’s a reminder to “please plug me
in!” It’s compatible with all Harley-Davidson battery chargers and

Battery Life and Replacement

While the ultimate life of a motorcycle battery is determined by many
factors, according to Harley-Davidson a well-maintained battery should
deliver at least five years of service. When it’s time to replace a
battery, an authorized Harley-Davidson dealer can supply the exact
replacement battery that’s specified for each Harley-Davidson model.

New Harley-Davidson motorcycles are equipped with an AGM (Advanced
Glass Mat) battery engineered specifically for use in Harley-Davidson
bikes. These sealed batteries never need added electrolyte, and won’t
leak even if the case is punctured because the electrolyte is absorbed
in glass mats placed between the positive and negative plates. Genuine
Harley-Davidson batteries are specifically engineered and built as
part of the vehicle’s electrical system, and meet strict
Harley-Davidson design and test standards. Internal components are
designed to meet the Harley-Davidson electrical and vibration profile,
which provides superior, long-lasting durability. The patented
flush-mounted terminal design provides superior cable contact, and
stainless steel terminal bolts resist corrosion. A genuine
Harley-Davidson battery works better and lasts longer than
less-expensive, off-the-shelf batteries.

Service Tips for Battery Safety

Always exercise caution when working with batteries!

Wear eye protection.

Keep sparks, flames and cigarettes away from batteries at all times.

Never lean on a battery when jump-starting a bike.

Never store a battery in a sealed container; always allow for proper

Harley-Davidson Motor Company produces custom, cruiser and touring
motorcycles and offers a complete line of Harley-Davidson motorcycle
parts, accessories, riding gear and apparel, and general merchandise.
For more information, visit Harley-Davidson’s website at

Mouth Closed, Mind Open

Mer collumn

Bumping down the aisle of the 737 toward the steerage section, I glanced at the seat designations noting that 18E was, of course, a middle seat. Sigh. Gear stowed and seat belt buckled, the next revelation was my companion, (the one who scored the window seat,) a young woman who clearly wanted to talk, judging by her several overtures.

Worn out after five days of visiting shops and show-going, and with three hours and 58 minutes of flight time ahead, chit chat was the last thing I was interested in. So I brushed off her first forays at conversation, closing my eyes in fake snooze mode till take off then opening my laptop promptly when the announcement was made. But somewhere over Missouri, my exhaustion ebbing and stress easing, the ice broke. She was wearing a Harley T-shirt too after all, which, she told me later, was why she thought I’d be someone she could talk to.

As it turns out I didn’t talk much at all, she did. I only listened, which was exactly what this stranger needed. She just wanted to tell her story to somebody, and that somebody turned out to be me.

She said she was on the way home from a memorial service for her husband, held in his hometown. He’d been riding his Harley the day of the accident and she was home with the kids, as usual. Riding had been his hobby when they met, but she was aware of what it meant to him so she had never tried to restrict his riding time—though she didn’t join in either. But she knew that his riding family had meant so much to him, as recently evidenced by their impressive showing at the memorial, and now that he was gone she was determined to find out why, while it was only just partly too late for her. So, as she explained to me, when she saw someone in biker garb she was starting to speak up, in an effort to get to the heart of what made bike people tick and perhaps get closer to the joy and pleasure her husband had experienced in their company.

She offered more detail, but that was the gist of it. So I shook my head, murmured un-huhs, and listened. Once we landed and parted ways, I was chagrined and slightly embarrassed that I had selfishly squandered away time early in the flight.

Pondering later on this episode of active listening, it struck me as quite a turnaround. See, some people are born with a generous spirit that makes them good listeners. But for others, me in particular, learning to listen has been an acquired skill, one I’m still working on. I come from a boisterous family where fearlessly interrupting and raising one’s voice to be heard is considered polite discussion. There’s no mean spiritedness about it, it’s just how we communicate.

For many years, I thought this was the way everyone conversed, that speaking one’s mind without concern for feelings or opposing viewpoints was typical. So when I began studying journalism and had to acquire interview techniques, it came as a shock that I was supposed to listen, not talk. The people I was interviewing didn’t care about my opinions, not at all. And it took stupendous effort for me to keep quiet, too. I can’t say how many times I kicked myself after leaving an interview, thinking I would have learned more if I’d kept my mouth shut and not interrupted.

Eventually I learned that asking open-ended questions, as opposed to the kind where a mere yes or no suffices, encourages the other person to talk more. I figured out that allowing a moment of silence can be pivotal, too. What might be revealed after a beat of reflection can change everything. But more important than interview techniques, I learned that my real job was learning to listen. For a chatty, tenacious terrier type person who always (at least in my mind) had something worth saying, this was an epic obstacle, a very steep learning curve to conquer.

Human nature being what it is, the Dale Carnegie adage is true: if you listen while another person talks about themselves, it reflects back on the listener. The talker goes away thinking what an entertaining person you are, even though they did most of the talking.

Whether that’s accurate or not, this much I know: when I truly listen, without an agenda, I’m the one who walks away from the exchange richer by far. – Marilyn Stemp

The Pass

Column by Vincent Stemp

Riding a motorcycle as your primary form of transportation is filled with some interesting hurdles. You know, the little stuff. Rain on your seat, homicidal cellphone-using drivers, and all manner of dangerous road debris that seems to spring out of the asphalt if you dare to look away for even a second. Sure, I could sell my creaky old battery-eating sedan and buy a reliable econo-box to roll around town in. Then I could just break out the Sportster on the weekends, when the southern sun is shining, the trees are green and all the girls are wearing skirts. But how is that any fun?

IMG_3691So instead I get to spend a lot of time watching people watch me motor around town without a trunk, or a roof, or doors. Eventually, you stop seeing the sideways looks from grocery store cashiers while you’re trying to wrestle a gallon of milk into a backpack and stuffing a box of Fig Newtons into the front of your jacket. But there are other little things you do see. The next time you’re at a red light on your bike, look around for a mini van or an SUV waiting at the same light. Eventually, you’ll probably notice a kid, eyes wide, gaping at the mysterious two-wheeled titan sitting on the chrome horse. For someone my age, this portion of the human experience is easy to remember and relate to. When I was at a booster seat kind of age, every motorcycle I saw from the back of the family minivan was an occasion to do my damndest to escape the seatbelt in an effort to watch it as long as possible. Who the heck were these guys, all noise and freedom, without a single seat belt or sliding door between them and the road?

The closest analogue I had was my dad. On long car trips, Dennis would take the bike while the rest of us took the car, under the guise of “shaking out the cobwebs.” Clever guy. Now I knew my dad as a composed, relatively quiet guy around the house, and I noticed that this carried over to his riding manners. He followed other vehicles at a safe distance, rode the speed limit, all that safe stuff. I guess he was trying to set a good example, and nowadays I can respect that. But I could never really draw a line between my dad’s safe style and the unknown two-wheeled mavericks that seemed to swarm around like mosquitoes at other times.

So now I’m back to sitting on my Sportster at a red light, noticing a kid with a buzzcut in the back seat of his mom’s SUV, staring at me on my bike. What sort of example are we riders supposed to set for the would-be future riders of the world? I mean, it’s that initial childhood fascination with motorcycles that set so many of us down the path that led to the riding lives we now enjoy. But as a younger rider surrounded by guys my age who don’t realize that flip flops or boating shorts aren’t exactly suitable riding gear, I have to say that I feel the need to be a good example. You know, no lane splitting, needless revving at stoplights, clutch-drop wheelies, none of that monkey business. Frankly, I couldn’t sleep at night if I thought I’d inspired another generation of irresponsible hooligans with more horsepower than brain cells to buy big bikes on credit that they should be saving for skin grafts.

But then I recall one particular incident, that time from a trip north on I-77. Me and my mom were making the trip in the van while Dennis ran chase on a bike, one some longtime readers might remember: “Godzilla,” a 93 horsepower Buell S-1 Dennis had built up with legendary Harley-Davidson tuner Don Tilley. Me and mom had chugged ahead of Dennis after he fell back to make a fuel stop; he told us he’d “catch up” with us later on. And boy, did he.

I had been craning my neck out the back window for almost an hour, watching for the black and red speck of him on the Buell when I grew bored and threw in the towel, going back to counting the stripes dividing the lanes. Just then a flash of red and black blew by the window on one wheel, just ahead of a wave of sound that only a high-strung V-Twin can make. In that flash, Dennis blew by our van on the back tire, headlight pointing squarely at the sun.

Still, I ride safe and try to be a good example when I can. But I have to admit, I can’t help it; every now and then when I pull up behind a minivan on a two lane road, I click down a gear and reach towards the redline as I slip briefly into the other lane to pass, just maybe putting that same excitement in the heart of one of tomorrow’s riders. An example is an example: good, or not.

Live free or don’t.

Custom Services, Keepin’ it real in Wisconsin

You might think that one bike shop is much like another, but that’s not so. Sure, they have similarities due to essential equipment requirements, but they have individual personalities too. This became immediately clear when I visited Jim Jones, proprietor with his brother Bill of Custom Services in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, southwest of Milwaukee.


IMG_4170There was no snarling dog, no chainlink fence and no greasy parts pile. On the contrary, this shop was remarkably organized and as close to pristine as any shop I’ve seen. More impressive, it was chock   full of work. Each lift was loaded with a bike in progress and each nearby tool shelf was impeccably ordered. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t the operating room at the local hospital, it’s a working shop, but seldom have I seen one so well put together.


Though they’ve been in business for 20 years, I first learned about Custom Services from Tony Pan, whose Custom Services-built ’48 Panhead bobber we found at the H-D Museum custom bike show in 2012 and featured last April. I’d talked with Jim Jones for the story on Tony’s bike and decided to make a point of visiting his shop during H-D’s 110th. But before that could happen, another bike caught our attention; Big Bird’s Pan, featured here, came rolling into the Museum’s 2013 custom show. It was quite a looker so I shouldn’t have been surprised to learn it was a Custom Services build. Still, it was a serendipitous happenstance for sure.


Not one for fussing, Jim Jones gets right to the point: “We build plain, simple bikes,” he said. “It’s what we’re known for.” That may be, but like most things that appear simple, this isn’t. They specialize in building the older models, Shovels, Pans, custom hardtails, bikes with hidden suspension, even trikes and bobbers like Tony Pan’s built-to-ride custom. When the shop was younger, before they got so busy, they handled restoration work for the local Harley-Davidson dealers, but they have plenty of their own restorations to tend to these days. And there’s no love lost here for unnecessary bling and functionless trifles. “It annoys me to see fake stuff in magazines and on TV,” said Jim. This place is all about authenticity.


IMG_4118There’s no showroom to speak of, you simply walk right into the shop. But Wisconsin business requirements dictate that a fabrication shop must maintain a separate retail space. So adjacent to Custom Services—the bike shop—is a separate business called Creeper’s Customs reserved for retail traffic like T-shirt sales. The shop itself is well equipped with numerous work bays, mills and lathes, a wiring station, dyno, paint booth, and stacks of bright red toolboxes floor to ceiling. Welding and fabrication tools and materials are housed separately to keep noise and debris down.


Custom Services does quite a bit of overseas business, too, shipping finished bikes literally all over the world. For the H-D 110th, one customer was coming in from Australia to ride the ’48 Pan they’d finished for him. It would be shipped to him in Australia after the week’s end.


When I asked Jim how he and his brother Bill divide up the workload, he said, “We both just do it all. We even get along—at times.”


There’s nothing like a family business, huh? —M. Stemp

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Legends Suspensions

Keeping the focus tight and the goal clear

Story and photos by Marilyn Stemp

IMG_2401Listen up because this is how it is: “We have our own CNC equipment and we make everything here,” said Jesse Jurrens of Legend Suspensions in Sturgis, South Dakota. “There are maybe three parts we don’t actually make but they’re all U.S. sourced,” he added.

That qualifies Legend as a subject for the IronWorks Made in U.S.A. section, don’t you think? We do too, so it was a good thing we stopped by to visit Legend during the 2012 Sturgis Rally. If you’ve buzzed down I-90 from Spearfish to Sturgis you’ve passed Legend, on your right as you head east, though it’s not obvious. Not that the company is trying to hide, mind you, they’re just busy is all. And that’s a good thing for owners of V-Twin motorcycles.

The company is clear about their goal: Legend is committed to using the highest quality materials and best components available to produce the best performing air suspensions on the market. “We put a lot of effort into getting it right,” Jesse said. “It’s a long process to get new products into the market but once it’s worked out right the product lasts.” 

Legend started in 1998, when Jesse convinced the Gates Rubber Company to lend their patented Kevlar impregnated rubber air spring technology to the fledgling South Dakota company. That was the springboard for Legend’s V-Twin air suspension systems, the heart and soul of the company’s current product offerings. Jesse gained knowledge about suspension systems for motorcycles by riding and studying off-road vehicles; the company has been making off-road suspensions for several years, as well. “We’ve gained a good bit of knowledge about our components’ abilities and limitations,” said Jesse, “and that research has improved all of our products including suspension systems for motorcycles.”

IMG_2424Research and development is always ongoing, too. Legend has to stay on top of every H-D model from an engineering perspective. “We test fit each new model for wheel travel, damping, shock spacing and compressor/electrical fitment,” said Jesse. “The compressor is made in Wisconsin and is common on all of our systems but compressor location, wiring and exact model fitment is always a challenge,” he said.


In addition to OEM model year changes that can affect any aftermarket product, manufacturing air suspensions is not a simple process. At Legend various components start out as aluminum bar stock that’s CNC’d to tight tolerances for each application. Over and above the more obvious parts, air suspension systems also have compressors and electrical parts—and that adds complication. In fact, some of Legend’s complete kits contain over 100 individually machined components. “We produce and wire our own handlebar controls or micro toggle switches in house,” explained Jesse. “They’re all so model specific we do it by hand to ensure quality.”

Each suspension system is thoroughly tested before it goes out the door, too. The result is that warranty calls and claims are running about .07% combined, which is miniscule. That’s why Legend is confident about offering a lifetime warranty, even for second owners. “As part of our lifetime warranty, current customers can take advantage of upgrades so they’re riding the newest and best technology we have to offer,” said Jesse.

IMG_2421“We’ve been working hard on internal efficiency as an alternative to sourcing from other countries,” he said, going on to describe the lean manufacturing model they’ve adopted. Part of that model means that ongoing employee training has become vital. “All the employees take classes one day a month,” said Jesse. “It changes slowly and is never finished but eventually it becomes a company culture as everyone evolves and develops our efficiencies together.”

Another aspect of lean manufacturing involves keeping inventory low so company funds aren’t tied up in stock. Certain metrics are used that consider order history and track manufacturing times, so components are made only when they’re needed. Standard work assembly stations are used for each model and everything required is within reach. “It’s a common sense systems approach learned from years of continual improvements,” said Jesse.

Careful thought also went into the design of Legend’s Installation Guides, which illustrate the process in four or five steps. “We made sure anyone can install an entire system with a few common hand tools just by looking at the pictures,” Jesse said. “It’s more work up front but the easier we make installation the fewer calls and problems we encounter.”

IMG_2411If you’re considering a suspension upgrade to achieve the lowered look without sacrificing ride quality, look at Legend. The company has engineered their air suspensions so that when installed and adjusted correctly they’ll provide the best ride you can get. That’s the beauty of a specific product line: when you do just one thing you can do it well.

Having said that, Legend suspension systems are not inexpensive. You wouldn’t expect them to be would you? Certainly not for high quality and top performance in a complete package—made right here, in the USA.


Legend Air suspension

Sturgis, SD


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