Eighteen months ago, my wife and I drove 10,000 miles from So Cal to Alaska and back, dragging a home-built camper on top of a surplus Humvee trailer. We camped, hiked, canoed and hot-springed our way through some of the most gorgeous terrain in North America and I haven’t been able to shut up about it since.
It might be obvious that our favorite thing about motorcycles here at Biltwell is riding and camping with friends. If those motorcycles are at least mildly inappropriate, it makes things more difficult and therefore way more interesting. With that in mind, the concept of Operation Numbnuts was born:Let’s ride bikes to the Arctic Circle, swim in freezing cold water for 30 seconds and then ride home.Of course we aren’t the first idiots to do it, but we’re the first ones we know who’ve tried it on choppers…
We’ve assembled an A-team of riders on a variety of bikes. Composed of equal parts Biltwell employees and friends we can trust to endure such nonsense for a month, it’s a hardy crew. We’ll do some full bike features in the months ahead but the list is something like this so far: two S&S shovel choppers, my stock-ish 1957 panhead, a cone shovel in a pan frame, rigid sporty chop, two FXR’s, a Dyna and a modern H-D softail.
Camping for 25 nights off a bike when resources are slim and conditions harsh, poses challenges. We could just bring our van with a cooler and some extra parts and tools, but that’s not quite as fun as building a chase rig. Our friends Yeti & Yolo are no strangers to danger and they’ve built some world-class adventure rigs. Plus, they are fun to hang out with and Yeti can cook like you wouldn’t believe. Together we dreamed up the idea of a surplus LMTV military 4x4 flat bed truck modified to have a habitat box on back for supplies, shelter and fully capable of hauling bikes. We’ve got many miles to cover, and if we can’t solve something in an hour on the side of the road, it’ll get loaded and we’ll work on it more at camp once we settle in for the night. We’re starting on a ferry from Bellingham, Washington and the cost for each bike is quite high. But, we don’t have to pay extra for them if they are stuffed in the rig. Frugality wins, so we’ll build the rig!
Last December, JD Sansaver of Flying Monkey Fabrication, Flynn, Geoff and I flew out to Iowa to help pitch in on the first part of the build. Yeti had already procured a composite box, built for the exact size of the flat bed. We cut off a bunch of extra junk on the truck, mounted the box, rebuilt the door, fixed the brakes and made key decisions on the next steps, design direction, etc. Needless to say, this is gonna be literally tons of work. Luckily, that’s what Yeti is good at! We’ve got some creative things in store for the rig, including a fold down porch, lots of bins for parts and maintenance equipment and room to sleep a few bodies inside and a few more on top. There’s no way it’ll provide shelter for everyone at the same time, but at least we can rotate out of the weather so everyone gets a brake.
While Yeti is working on the LMTV in Iowa, we’re cranking on bikes in California. Otto’s chopper is a brand-new build that is blown apart for paint right now, I’m doing break-in miles on the panhead, and everything else needs plenty of pre-trip maintenance.
The planning and logistics is in full force. We have loosely-determined targets for each night with a few “zero” days in there to work on bikes and enjoy some of the scenery. We don’t plan on just blowing by everything, we want to stop and soak up as much as we can along the way. Mileage looks to be under 300 miles almost every day, but some of those days are sure to include lots of rain and nasty terrain. We’ve already started working on a list of spare parts from our buddies at Drag Specialties, mounting up fresh Metzeler tires and trying to decide which new Harley to beg from the Motor Company. It’s hard to call these friends “sponsors” when the term “enablers” might be more fitting. So, huge thanks to these guys for believing in our silly dreams and helping them come true. Stay tuned for more updates!