Prism Supply Co.'s 1970 Harley-Davidson Sportster
Words Michael Hilton Images Matt Best
The Vintage 1000 is the brainchild of Adam and Jamie Sheard of Speed Deluxe moto shop in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Going into its seventh year, the Vintage 1000 is reminiscent of old-time enduro events, where riders cover 1,000 miles — most of them off-road — over five days on pre-1981 bikes, with pre-scheduled stops at campsites each night. Given the age of the bikes, fixing and maintaining them is as much a part of the adventure as the riding. GPS units are not allowed, so navigating is done the old fashioned way: with roll charts and gut instinct.
When Jake Hindes of Prism Supply Co. heard about the event, he knew he wanted to be a part of it. He purchased a rough-but-running 1970 Harley-Davidson Sportster from a friend. Why a Harley? Because, as Jake says, “It fits the criteria, a Harley has never finished the Vintage ride before, and it’s incredibly cool!” He had their fabricator, Mitch Johnson, build a custom stainless-steel luggage rack, add knobby tires, change all the fluids, and it was ready to go. The question was, could a vintage Harley-Davidson handle 1,000 miles of the toughest terrain in the Southern Appalachian Mountains?
The route started in Chattanooga, wandered into Georgia and North Carolina, and then looped back to Chattanooga; riding started at sun-up and went to sundown, averaging 200 miles each day over dirt roads, logging trails, steep hill climbs, and deep water crossings. The 20 riders relied on camaraderie and herd survival as they broke into groups of five and helped one another complete each leg of the journey. Spare parts and tools were shared among the group, with a cooperative mindset that ensured every bike stayed up and running, and no one would was left behind.
Things went well for Jake and the Sportster for the first couple of days of riding, but on the third day, the old Ironhead began to show its age. As they climbed toward Mount Mitchell, the 50-year-old rivets on the rear sprocket sheared and left the sprocket spinning loosely on the wheel. They managed to round up five or six random bolts and secured the sprocket to the wheel, but that only lasted for about three hours before the bolts gave out 15 miles from camp.
Jared Erickson of Brother Moto used his trusty Honda CB to tow the Sportster to camp. Jake bought a new set of bolts, propped his bike up on a tree stump, and made the repairs in the pitch dark while wearing a headlamp. At midnight, he rode the bike back to the spot where it broke down so he could honestly say the Harley covered every mile of the trip under its own power.
Working together to navigate and overcome the sketchy terrain and some heavy downpours, most of the group returned to Chattanooga on the fifth day as planned; a Ural and an old BMW dropped out along the way. Aside from the broken sprocket, some zip-ties, and J-B Weld, the Sportster finished in great shape — a testament to how well it was built in the beginning, and proving that vintage iron could indeed handle the Southern Appalachians.