Board index Flathead Power-Technical Questions, Answers, and Suggestions 45 Flatties Riding a VL

Riding a VL

Moderators: Curt!, Pa

Post Mon Apr 11, 2005 2:35 am

Posts: 217
Location: Palo Alto, CA
Can any of you out there running a VL, VLD, or VLH (particularly the later 80" bikes) tell me a little about the riding experience?

Things I'm interested in are realistic cruising speeds, maintenance and upkeep (parts seem to be fairly available, and somewhat cheaper than the U series and OHV big twins - or is this just me?), and differences between these older bikes in terms of character to the newer flatheads.



Post Mon Apr 11, 2005 4:03 am

Posts: 188
Location: howell mi usa
I Love it. Handles great, enough power to enjoy it. Been ridin' my 35VLD since '91 Has at least as the power of the ULH (at least mine does) Just your general maintainence when built right. I can ride the side roads right along with todays evos. Cornering is as good as my '86 sporty if not better. Stick with the 18'or 19' wheels. Mine had 16's when I first got it on the road as a bobber. It always had a front wheel SHAKE over 60mph but since then I restored it to original (99+ points AMCA)it handles excellent. I can cruise 60mph all day long 70mph at times, It will do 90mph

Post Mon Apr 11, 2005 8:46 am

Posts: 217
Location: Palo Alto, CA
motor mike, thanks for your reply. I've been reading a few of the older threads about the bikes, but there doesn't seem to be as much info out there as the newer models.

How did you find parts availability when you restored yours? I see Harbor Vintage repop parts for the Vs - have you seen them, and if so do you find their parts to be of quality?

I have also seen Steve's VL heaven site and the Onionwerks site, and they picqued my interest. I take it you also have a shop and work on these things fairly regularly?

If you could let me know what to look for (ie unobtainium parts that should be checked for when buying a basket case, etc) as a general guide it'd be appreciated.



Post Mon Apr 11, 2005 3:43 pm

Posts: 1050
Location: Greenbackville, Virginia, USA
Suiside- VL's are GREAT! When you get them together right, just general maintence. They handle as good as any ridgid frame, probably better, with properly set up stock wheels (18 or 19"). The brakes are marginal, but pretty good for a 70 yr old bike. Harbor is an excellent company with good products. The same with steve@vlheaven. There are a lot more parts available now than when i did my first 30+ yrs ago. Back then i had to go crawling through old dealers parts bins and garbage cans. If you haven't started the accumulation process yet, though, I reccomend that you get steve's book on restoring VL's, and study it hard, Harbor has it. It is by far the best reference on the V models. Have Fun! G

Post Mon Apr 11, 2005 9:29 pm

Posts: 252
I had a 34 VL in the late 70's early 80's that was unrestored (barn fresh as they say now) as a daily rider. Rusty crusty and definately not fresh, would cruise at 60 no problem. No real problems except the time the regulater broke off and was sparking being drug down the hiway by its wires.LOL!! Bailing wire and on the road again. Most people who down play VL's never rode or had one. Things to look for when buying a basket case are the ginger bread. Speedo, dash, head and taillight, tool box, oil pump cover. you know the items worth big bucks now. Just my 2 cents.

Post Mon Apr 11, 2005 11:21 pm

Posts: 604
Location: Largo, Fl

The BEST of THAT era was anything Indian was building.

Post Tue Apr 12, 2005 3:19 am

Posts: 188
Location: howell mi usa
I don't think anyone here said VL's are the best (It's only ones personal preference)but those who know how to put a bike together right, and have owned a VL, will agree they are great runners. If you want a H D flathead, you won't be disappointed.
I also suggest Steve Slocombe's book on restoring VL's, even if you don't get a VL it's still an intersting book. Nice repro parts are readily available from VL Heaven, Harbor Vintage, and Old Dude. They're all great people to deal with.

Post Wed Apr 13, 2005 2:40 am

Posts: 188
Location: howell mi usa
Very well said, Mad Mac.

Post Wed Apr 13, 2005 3:29 pm

Posts: 1050
Location: Greenbackville, Virginia, USA
Mad Mac, WELL PUT! Someday i hope we meet on the road so we can swap stories/tall-tales about our various rides. Rice, German, Brit, Spanish, Czech and of course US. And I still consider a Model-T a viable everyday vehicle. "Life In The Slow Lane". G

Post Fri Apr 15, 2005 9:43 am
Riding the VLs is a blast. They are 220 pounds lighter than a Heritage Softtail Classic and those big flathead engines really pull. The VLD makes 36 bhp and is good for 100 mph, and handling on 18 and 19 inch wheels is excellent. Remember Harley outsold Indian about 2 to 1, and Harley production was about two thirds Big Twins 1930-36, and so about half of all US bike sales were VLs during the Depression. People weren't buying for investment then but for everyday use, so the bikes hit the spot then as now. I have customers using VLs as everyday riders, and don't know of any bike that makes you grin so much when riding it. Find yourself a basket case, make your best deal, then spend the minimum to get it running and see how you feel.

Post Fri Apr 15, 2005 4:00 pm

Posts: 1050
Location: Greenbackville, Virginia, USA
"Life's Journey is not to arrive at the grave safely in a well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, totally worn out, shouting..Holy S--t!! What a Ride!!"

Post Fri Apr 15, 2005 10:41 pm

Posts: 199
Location: Cedar Springs Mi USA

I think the "single downtube" frame on the VL is the key to it's great handling....that and tall wheels, it's the same with the WL, and 18" wheels, only the VL has the power on tap.
Has anyone ever seen "Rosco" (the skinny guy with the long beard and patch jeans)? He rides that '33 VLD, as his daily rider, and has been featured in books, magazines, interviews in Sturgis and Daytona, that are seen on TV? He lives locally here in west Michigan. We did a motor rebuild for him a couple years ago, right before he took off riding it to Sturgis, and parts beyond. Well he came back with over 3800 miles on it, and joked about using like 4 gallons of oil, and claims his trip was so trouble free, he didn't even have to look at his spark plugs. Granted, he's been riding it a while. But I think the point is that when your VL is "dialed in" they are "good to go"!

Post Sat Apr 16, 2005 2:09 am

Posts: 188
Location: howell mi usa
We'll see most of you at Oley in a couple weeks with these VL's? I'd ride down but I don't have a hitch on my bike to haul my goodies.

Post Sat Apr 16, 2005 6:28 am

Posts: 1538
Gotta agree, it's about the Flatheads !!
Well said Mad Mac's


Post Sat Apr 16, 2005 9:28 am
Yes Mike I'll be at Oley. Is someone going to start a thread under Varia so we can coordinate getting together?

Post Wed Apr 20, 2005 7:29 am

Posts: 217
Location: Palo Alto, CA
Hi everyone,

Thanks for the thoughtful replies - I think all of the input was valuable.

FWIW DC does have me correctly pegged as a relative newcomer, and I don't think I could maintain one as a daily rider at this stage, however this particular project bike has gotten me thinking about what's possible.

It was also interesting to move away from the tech for a bit and actually hear about what it's like to ride the things.

Thanks once again for all the input - it's great to see the passion on this board!




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