There is just something about riding a motorcycle that cannot be explained.
It’s not just the wind in your hair or the feeling of freedom. It’s not just the jealous look you get from people stuck in cars, or the feeling of rebellion.
It is also the pride of being able to do something that a lot of people cannot do.
Garden City resident and city administrator Abby Spaedt understands the inexplicable feeling you get when you switch on your bike and hit the road. Spaedt is an avid biker and connoisseur of vintage motorcycles, namely the Harley Davidson Panheads.
“I’ve always been married to guys who owned old, stiff-frame panoramic heads with a foot clutch and manual override,” Spaedt said with a laugh. “So I have always been around them. One of the things I found attractive were these old bikers with pan heads; it was kind of my thing.
A panhead is an overhead valve Harley Davidson motorcycle engine with rocker covers that look like inverted bakeware. Harley Davidson introduced panhead engines in 1947 with 61 cubic inch and 74 cubic inch versions of the engines.
The “Captain America” bike ridden by Peter Fonda in the movie “Easy Rider” was a 1969 panhead, as was Dennis Hopper’s “Billy Bike”, which also appeared in the movie.
Spaedt’s husband Willy Spaedt had a 1955 pan head hidden in his son’s garage that he had told his wife he would go for it and that they could ride together.
“It wasn’t much later that he took out that cylindrical head, brought it home and fixed it,” she said. “He was fixing the carburetor in a dark shed with no lights and I was like ‘wow, he really does that. I love this guy. ‘”
One of the things that makes Spaedt’s bike unique, and a little more difficult to ride, is that it has a foot clutch with a gear lever.
This is where the clutch is located on the frame of the bike, next to the rider’s foot rather than on the handlebars. Instead of shifting gears using a lever with their foot, the rider has to bend down and use a handle to change gears, which means you steer and turn the throttle with one hand while lowering the other.
This type of clutch system is also referred to as a jockey shifter or suicide shifter.
“I was very familiar with hand clutch shifting, but had never done it before,” said Spaedt. “So Willy was like ‘okay this is how it works’ and pulled back and got up on the ring road and walked down to 18th Street or something and walked back to the ring road. House.
“And he said ‘it was a lot longer than I thought you were going to be gone’,” she said.
Spaedt’s first Panhead adventure was at the Dodge City 300.
“I went down there and entered the rodeo on a bike and won an award for the woman who rode the farthest, the oldest bike that rode over 250 miles to get there, the smallest bike, ”she said. “I came home with six plates, and it was just great.”
Spaedt then decided to test his motorcycle skills by participating in the Hoka Hey Motorcycle Challenge, which tests the physical, mental and emotional limits of bikers. She decided to get on her touring bike for this particular challenge as it was such a long distance.
“It’s a long distance, you sleep next to your motorcycle, you have to follow these instructions step by step,” she said. “You ride hard and fast and sleep on the side of the road, get up and go on. It’s hard. I struggled my first year and improved my second year.
Although she did much better on her second attempt at Hoka Hey, the challenge was a bit treacherous and at times dangerous.
“Guys will do just about anything. They don’t mind sleeping outside in the dirt next to their bikes. I’m not ready to risk my life… and the guys will, ”she said. “I feel so lucky that my husband is supporting me so much to go out and do these things on my own and I always promise him that I will come home alive. I just didn’t want to take unnecessary risks, so I wondered how I could progress while still challenging myself. “
It was then that she thought of doing something on the head of pan.
“It’s such a stiff frame, you have to start it every time which can get tiring, but it’s a whole different ball game on this bike,” said Spaedt.
While putting his 1955 panhead in shape for a ride, Spaedt stumbled upon the Cross Country Chase.
“They make a cannon ball on a motorcycle and travel the country,” she explained. “So it’s like a sister outing and it’s shorter. “
The Cross Country Chase gave Spaedt the opportunity to see what his pan head could do in a shorter, but still difficult race.
During the pursuit, runners will complete a 1,340 mile course over five days while enduring fatigue, various weather conditions, traffic and other drivers, a variety of elevations and mental exhaustion, all without assistance. support teams.
Spaedt started out in Cape Girardeau, Missouri and didn’t know where she would go until she started hunting.
Additionally, riders can only take with them what their bike can hold, so packing can be a challenge.
“If your motorcycle breaks down, you have to fix it yourself by the side of the road with the tools and parts you brought with you,” Spaedt said. “So it’s a big problem. These are older motorcycles so it’s a bit scary.
To be able to participate in the event, registered motorcycles must have been manufactured between 1930 and 1960 and have the original crankcase, transmission case and carburettors.
Depending on the year and engine size, some riders will be assigned handicaps to ensure that each participant has a fair advantage and a chance to succeed.
Throughout the pursuit, riders will need to maintain certain speeds, correctly calculate stops and manage their time in order to complete the daily trips and check in at the required time on the last day.
Cross Country Chase is more than just hopping on a vintage motorcycle and hit the road.
Riders participating in the annual race must demonstrate knowledge of aspects of the road as well as American motorcycle history by passing a 60-question test which will count towards their final score.
One of the things that makes the Cross Country Chase even more difficult is that each rider is given a navigation map with step-by-step mileage-based instructions. The card is loaded into a special plastic holder with knobs that Spaedt will turn to advance the card.
Runners are not allowed to deviate from the defined course, take shortcuts, use electronic GPS systems or get lost.
“They tell you to stop and refuel and they have lunch and then you sleep in a hotel at night,” Spaedt said. “So it’s very different from Hoka Hey.”
While Spaedt and her husband hauled her bike in a trailer to Missouri for the chase to begin on Monday July 5, she plans to do so until the return home after the event ends on Saturday 10. July.
“I just felt it was a way of doing something different that not everyone does or can’t do,” she said. “I have friends who are amazing riders, but I’m not sure they can do it, do they have the knowledge to start and operate a vintage motorcycle. It’s a good challenge for me because it’s something that I can do and participate.
For more information on the Cross Country Chase, visit www.themotorcyclechase.com.