May 14, 2021

A Fast Rescue For A Panhead With A Problem At Oley

OLEY, PA – Girard Fox had 40 miles remaining on a 140-mile ride Thursday from his home in Brooklyn, NY when his 1949 Harley-Davidson “Panhead” Hydra-Glide started losing power going up a hill. He was headed here to attend the Perkiomen Chapter of the Antique Motorcycle Club of America’s National Meet.

Fox was only doing about 30 miles per hour at the time and was able to quickly pull over. He instantly spotted smoke that appeared to be coming off the chain. What happened next became the talk of the two-day Oley meet as word of how he got rescued and back on the road began circulating.

Girard Fox and his 1949 Harley-Davidson Hydra-Glide

“It’s all funny now,” Fox said Friday as he related the tale. “I didn’t know what was going on. I started taking the clutch apart.”

Within minutes, a police cruiser pulled up and the cop offered to help Fox locate a U-Haul rental to get the Panhead off of the side of the road. Shortly thereafter, a guy on his way to buy a lawn mower and towing a trailer stopped as well and asked Fox where he was headed. When Fox replied “Oley,” the man said he lived only 10 minutes from the town and offered to transport the bike to the show ground.

By this time, other good samaritans had stopped and together they proceeded to try to load the Harley-Davidson into the trailer. It was at this point, Fox determined that the problem was fried bearings in the rear wheel. “The axle welded itself to the hub,” Fox reported.

Fortunately, the man who offered the lift had a low trailer and there was sufficient manpower to muscle the motorcycle on to it.

Fox could not have been headed to a better place to remedy his problem. Once at the Oley Fire Company Fairgrounds, where the show was held Friday and Saturday, he was able to buy a replacement axle, wheel and spacers necessary to get the bike rolling again. It did take a reciprocating saw, two blades and 20 minutes to cut through the existing axle and get the rim off.

Girard Fox chats with a friend

The new rim – this one in chrome – cost $100. The axle was $20 and the spacers $50. So, for $170, Fox was back in business and could be seen riding the Panhead around the fairgrounds. In the process, he reversed an old saying in motorcycling and proved that chrome will get you home.

That Fox chose to ride a 72-year-old motorcycle to the show isn’t surprising. He’s a vintage collector and used to own and ride a 1922 Henderson. He’s also the originator of the Split’n Lanes Dodgin’ Gutters motorcycle show that has been held in a recent years at the Brooklyn Bowl bowling alley.

This year, in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the event expands from one day to three days and moves outside and across the Hudson River. It will be held Aug. 20-22 at Long Tall Shorty’s in Asbury, NJ.

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About Bud Wilkinson

Bud Wilkinson writes the "RIDE-CT" motorcycle column and the "My Ride" classic car feature in the "Republican-American" newspaper in Waterbury, CT. A prep school graduate of Vermont Academy, he received a B.A. degree journalism from Ohio Wesleyan University in 1975. He is the recipient of a Scripps Howard Foundation National Journalism Award in 1992 and a 1991-92 regional Emmy Award for commentary. He currently rides a 1987 BMW R 80 RT and a 2014 Triumph Bonneville.

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