Harley-Davidson Knuckle Shuffle
Some vintage motorcycle buffs say that Harley-Davidson’s 1937 introduction of the 61 cubic-inch EL knucklehead overhead valve engine ushered in the golden age of motorcycle design.
The knucklehead engine, so named for the bare-knuckles appearance of the OHV rockerboxes, was a powerhouse that trumped most anything that came before it.
That same year, factory rider Joe Petrali set a new motorcycle land speed record on Daytona’s beach with a streamlined EL at 136.183 mph. Next, an EL covered 1,825 miles in 24 hours to set a new endurance speed record with an average of 76 mph!
In 1948, the knucklehead design gave way to the panhead, but the knucklehead is still venerated and highly prized by collectors, restorers, custom builders and true believers everywhere. Despite that high regard, there aren’t all that many motorcycle events named in honor of the knucklehead. But there is one in Yuba, Wisconsin — the Knuckle Shuffle.
In truth, the idea of the Knuckle Shuffle isn’t to glorify knucklehead motorcycles. No — it has a much higher, yet down-to-earth purpose. The purpose is to raise money for the Kennedy High School of Bloomington, Minn., Chopper Class. Every year Kevin “Teach” Baas reaches out to the motorcycle industry to help support his class. This ride is dedicated to him and his class to ease the burden and keep the chopper class alive! All of the proceeds go to supporting the class.
Gilbert, Bodenburg and Baas are all University of Wisconsin-Stout graduates with more than a passing interest in great motorcycles, cars and education in the tech-savvy skills to build them.
The weekend-long event draws a crowd, too. Not a Sturgis-sized crowd, mind you, but that’s fine with the founders of the event. The Yuba area is rolling, verdant farm land with great fishing, camping and well-paved roads that weave through the spectacular sandstone rock formations that jut up all around the area.
Bikes and bikers of all ages, types and descriptions make the event; there is no brand snobbery going on and a good time is had by all. An amazing number of vintage knuckleheads show up as well—and not a bunch of trailer-queen show bikes, either.
They are ridden to the event from all over and wear their road grime proudly. There is live music and a street dance, a bike show, slow rider contests, fine dining and refreshments, free camping on site, raffles and of course, brats and burgers off the grill by the Yuba volunteer fire department.
Bill Becker of Boscobel, Wis., rode his hand-built Ford flathead V-8 powered custom to the Knuckle Shuffle. It doesn’t have overhead valves or chromed rocker boxes like a Knucklehead, but it does have eight cylinders and uses them all!
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