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Ironhead Sportsters, Shovels

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  #1  
Old 28-08-2006, 08:10 PM
sporty69
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'69 Ironhead

I am a new member and am keen to learn as much as I can about earlier ironhead sportsters as I bought one last year and have only just got around to trying to sort it out. I have a number of questions that i'll be posting in the near future but the first one is why does it spew copious amounts of oil out of the breather after a few weeks of sitting around? Someone told me this was normal and I have also read this elsewhere. Another article I read said it was just leaving it's mark or scent but my wife doesn't see it that way anymore and her patience is wearing a little thin now. Can anyone verify that this is normal for this type of engine and are there any mods or suggestions that anyone has to rectify this unfortunate habit?
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  #2  
Old 28-08-2006, 09:11 PM
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kevscrivener kevscrivener is offline
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Re: '69 Ironhead

Quote:
Originally Posted by sporty69 View Post
I am a new member and am keen to learn as much as I can about earlier ironhead sportsters as I bought one last year and have only just got around to trying to sort it out. I have a number of questions that i'll be posting in the near future but the first one is why does it spew copious amounts of oil out of the breather after a few weeks of sitting around? Someone told me this was normal and I have also read this elsewhere. Another article I read said it was just leaving it's mark or scent but my wife doesn't see it that way anymore and her patience is wearing a little thin now. Can anyone verify that this is normal for this type of engine and are there any mods or suggestions that anyone has to rectify this unfortunate habit?
Firstly, welcome to the Club. You have excellent taste in bikes (I've got a 72 XLCH) but might I suggest you move it back into the garage?

Only joking; in answer to your question, it IS normal (or at least, not unusual) if the bike's been stood a while. What happens is that oil seeps past the check valve in the oil pump, and collects in the bottom of the crankcase. When the bike's started up, the oil's got to go somewhere, there's too much to scavenge back up to the tank so it comes out of the breather. It's called "wet sumping", and it's a bloody nuisance; I've no doubt that your wife calls it something else!



To cure it; if the bike's a runner, top the oil up in the tank, a bit BELOW the full mark (this is important 'cos some of the oil in the crank WILL go back up and you don't want the tank to overflow) place a drip tray under the bike, start up, run it at a fast idle till the oil stops coming out of the breather. clean the mess up, put your lid on and take the bike out for a really good run, 30 miles plus; you must get the bike WELL warmed up. When you come back, IMMEDIATELY change your oil, and filter if you've got one; this MIGHT sort it out. Use only SAE 50 oil; Morris Elite is reasonable value and readily available at good motor factors. Under NO circumstances use synthetics or multigrades, earlier Ironheads were not meant to run on them.



Try this first and let me know if it works. If it doesn't, you've got to sort the check valve out in the oil pump, but frequently it's caused by the bike not being used enough!

Check this site out; an absolutely indispensable asset for any Ironhead owner.

http://autos.groups.yahoo.com/group/...ortstergarage/

Any chance of a piccy of it?

By the way, a couple of things you need to know. Ironheads do use oil, even from fairly new; a slight hint of blue smoke isn't necessarily a problem with them, especially on hard acceleration. Furthermore, the following tip will help prolong your engine life. When out on a ride, cruising at speed, you should shut your throttle fully off and then open again (using a quick wrist movement) every couple of miles. This brings oil up the bores and helps reduce wear.

It also eases the agony on your wrists if you've got buckhorn bars on it!
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Last edited by kevscrivener; 28-08-2006 at 09:24 PM.
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  #3  
Old 28-08-2006, 10:08 PM
sporty69
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Re: '69 Ironhead

Thanks for the welcome and the info. I've only had the bike running a couple of times up and down the road. I got my age related number in May and have been waiting for States Plates to make me a U.S. style plate but I think they lost the order and I ended up getting a traditional 'trials' type plate from Tippers Vintage Plates instead (highly recommended).

The engine has been stroked with an S&S 1,000cc stroker kit using stainless flywheels and rods. It also has a S&S "Shorty"-E carb which I believe is over-jetted. I've just cleaned the points and have yet to put it all back together -ran out of time today what with family comittments. You would'nt believe the bruises i've got from trying to start it (kick-start only) but i've fallen in love with the bike and am determined to get to grips with it. I'll take some photos and send them to you. Have you ever stripped and re-jetted a Shortry carb?.

Best regards,
Sporty.
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  #4  
Old 28-08-2006, 10:36 PM
1978xlh
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Re: '69 Ironhead

Hi, and welcome to the wonderful world of ironheads. Kev is right, join the ironheadsportstergarage where there is more knowledge about ironheads than anywhere else on the planet.

There you will find out that the answer to your carb issue is to fit a CV one, although they will help you if you want to use another. I switched to a CV on my '78 and it is now is a first prod starter and carb farts are a thing of the past. that should help you with the famous 'sportster knee'. Must admit, I am glad for my electric boot!

Get yourself a workshop manual. Don't mess around with a Clymer or a Haynes, they are not specific enough. The HD one is the one.

Ironheads are fun, even when they break down, which can be often! Enjoy.
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  #5  
Old 28-08-2006, 10:58 PM
sporty69
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Re: '69 Ironhead

Thanks 1978XLH - The shorty looks good and i'll keep with it until I can kick no longer. I got an original H-D workshop manual given to me by the previous owner - he said there is all I ever need to know about the bike contained in the manual (with the exception of Shorty carbs). Never mind. I'm enjoying tinkering with the bike in the garage at weekends. I'll get there eventually.

Regards,
Sporty.
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  #6  
Old 28-08-2006, 11:16 PM
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kevscrivener kevscrivener is offline
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Re: '69 Ironhead

Quote:
Originally Posted by sporty69 View Post
Thanks for the welcome and the info. I've only had the bike running a couple of times up and down the road.

The engine has been stroked with an S&S 1,000cc stroker kit using stainless flywheels and rods. It also has a S&S "Shorty"-E carb which I believe is over-jetted. I've just cleaned the points and have yet to put it all back together -ran out of time today what with family comittments. You would'nt believe the bruises i've got from trying to start it (kick-start only) but i've fallen in love with the bike and am determined to get to grips with it. I'll take some photos and send them to you. Have you ever stripped and re-jetted a Shortry carb?.

Best regards,
Sporty.
It's running; believe me that's a good start!

I wouldn't pass judgement on the carb without a good run first, but since you're pretty new to Ironheads I'd agree with Andrew's advice, fit a CV till you get used to it. There's loads about second-hand.

As for kicking it; once you start using it you'll develop a routine which is best for you and your bike. Every bloody one's different, believe me!

Someone at the factory had an off day when they decided to fit the same kicking gear to the Ironhead as was fitted to its predecessor, the side-valve (and therefore lower compression, easier starting) Model K. Specifically, the quadrant gearing doesn't give you sufficient crankshaft rotation to enable easy starting. It's a design oversight which has long been the bane of Ironhead owners, and the only way round it is practice.

Try this first; it works on mine!

For starters (please forgive the pun) DON'T stand astride the bike to kick it up. I assume a goodly number of those bruises are at the back of your thigh where you've hit on the top shocker mounts; well placed aren't they?

Stand alongside the bike, you get better purchase and swing that way. Plus your knee isn't locked straight so that the cartilege gets squashed to the width of a fag paper if the little sod backfires! Choke on, two or three swings with a SMALL amount of throttle and ignition OFF. You need to get it lined up so that the REAR cylinder fires first. Then switch ignition on,and give it a good full swing on the pedal, and HOLD IT DOWN; if it spits back and you've taken your foot off, it'll take great pleasure in giving you a hefty wallop on the back of your knee.

Repeat till one of three things happens; it starts, it floods (so don't give it too much throttle) or you get pissed off and go down the pub!

If it does flood, remove the plugs and dry them; but before you put them back, switch ignition off, close choke, S-L-O-W-L-Y open the throttle wide, and give it two or three sharp prods on the kicker. Replace the plugs and try again.

Goes without saying that experienced Ironhead owners (and I've had 'em since 1989) don't put their lid and leathers on till they've got the beast going.

If this sounds like purgatory, and makes you want to trade it in for one of those nice Evo jobs, stick with it. Once you've got the hang of it, it's easy, and you can have ENDLESS hours of fun watching your mates try to start it!

One other thing; most Ironheads start well cold or hot, once you've mastered the technique. It's the bit in between where they can catch you out, running for a short while and not letting the engine either cool fully or get to optimum temperature. I suspect that this is the root cause of your problem, and it wouldn't help with the wet-sumping either.

Finally, despite all the stories you'll hear, there's nowt much wrong with Ironheads. Biggest thing many of them suffered from was a lack of owner involvement; like many Evo Sporties, they tend to have had quite a few owners since many people get the bug to buy a Big Twin once they get into the Harley scene. Hence well-cared for examples are scarce, and highly prized by those of us who know what a bloody good motorcycle they really are.


Enjoy! And please feel welcome to ask if you need any further advice.
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Last edited by kevscrivener; 28-08-2006 at 11:30 PM.
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  #7  
Old 29-08-2006, 08:07 PM
sporty69
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Re: '69 Ironhead

Thanks Kevscrivener - looks like a busy weekend coming up with all these different starting procedures. I know one of them will work best and it's just a matter of trial and error. YES, the upper shock mounts are a pain - literally as you must well know. I can't try and kick it from the side as my sidestand is knackered and the bike leans at an angle of around 45 degrees without my trusty wooden block. If I park the bike outside the house up against the kerb my neighbours will start gathering around to watch me lose another 2-3 lbs in blood, sweat and tears trying to kick it into life. I saw some jiffy stand 'coasters' advertised somewhere - couldn't believe it - do people actually buy this stuff? I haven't taken any photos yet but will send some probably at the weekend. It's painted Pontiac GTO Hugger Orange, with black stove enamelled cases, barrells and heads. It also has a SuperGlide front end with dual drilled discs.

I saw a photo of 'The-French-Owl's' 'K' model on some threads - very nice. I hope to see it sometime if he attends any meetings. Also like 'Any-Old-Iron's '71 FLH - if only i'd got some spare cash...

Great site - very impressed, very imformative and much better than I thought. What a wealth of knowledge here in the UK.

Best regards,
Sporty.
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  #8  
Old 30-08-2006, 05:25 PM
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kiwidave kiwidave is offline
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Re: '69 Ironhead

Donny Petersen of Heavy Duty Cycles in Toronto has been kickstarting Ironheads for over 30 years and he nails why they are so difficult:

<snip>
There are only 9 little teeth that stick out less than 3/32 of an inch on the starter clutch gear. These mesh with the same number of small teeth on the mating kick-starter ratchet plate riveted to the back of the clutch hub.

There is an internal kick-start spring that pushes the gears together but it is a weak excuse for a spring. It is not exactly what you would call forceful.

Until learning a correct starting procedure, the gears can and will slip apart randomly sending your leg into a sudden freefall that will stretch tendons and snap knee joints.
<snip ends>


The paramedic term is ''Sportster Knee''. If you see an old bloke limping, ask him to tell you about it! (Not Scrivener, he is not limping.......yet...... ) I have read many tales of XLCH owners crawling 50yards from the garage in tears to phone for help.

You can deduce from all this that it is pretty critical there is no wear with these parts. Equally the clutch plates must be tip-top as a slipping clutch equals a world of frustration when you are kickstart only.

I have a kick-only Big Twin (far easier all round), but don't ask me how I know about the slipping clutch deal!

Also, beware valve adjustment when motor is HOT. When it cools things shrink and the motor loses tappet/pushrod clearance resulting in lack of compression due to the valves being held open.

These people are recognised experts in sorting a CV carb for Ironhead and they sell the best fitment adaptor on the market:
http://www.mandrcustom.com/index.html


Looking forward to seeing that bike...
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  #9  
Old 30-08-2006, 05:56 PM
1978xlh
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Re: '69 Ironhead

Hello again,
Donny Petersen is indeed one of the most knowledgable about ironheads. His website is:
http://www.heavydutycycles.com/kneea.htm

His article on Knees is at:
http://www.heavydutycycles.com/kneea.htm

If you want to convert to a CV carb, Roger at Full Bore M/cs
http://www.fullboremotorcycles.co.uk/
in Watford will sell you the bits you need (he does mail order) and then all you have to do is fabricate a couple of brackets. You should do the whole thing, including a CV carb off EBay and a new air cleaner for about 100. All the details are on the yahoo site. If you want any help, ask here.

Once you get it all together, you need a riding buddy - someone to pick up all the bits that drop off from the vibes!!

Unless you have remembered to loctite everything on!

See you at the 50th Anniversary do next year.

Andrew
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  #10  
Old 30-08-2006, 09:29 PM
sporty69
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Re: '69 Ironhead

Thanks Dave and Andrew for your help and info - i've just finished cleaning and re-setting the points tonight but eventually had to remove the tank, top motor mount and carb to get proper access to the magneto. There's no room to manouvre with the 'Shorty' in the way. I'll try all the various starting options at the weekend and see if my legs and knees are still in one piece before I look at a cv carb as it does look good sticking out of the side like it does.

I've also heard the kick-only XLCH's referred to as 'The Milwaukee Crippler' - are there any other names anyone's heard of associated with kickers?

I was going to take some photos tonight but ran out of light. Maybe tomorrow.

Ceers 4 now,
Sporty.
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