Chopper Charlie, Wiring Frenzy

Broken Hanging Proudly

Article & Photos Charlie Weisel

Originally Published In The March 2020 Issue

Every inch of wire has been replaced, new ignition module, new starter, new crank, and MAP sensor, new charging system, speedometer repaired, GPS warrantied, and the list goes on. As some of you know, I managed to destroy nearly my entire electrical system on my last trip. If there had been a challenge to see who could destroy the greatest number of components in a single instant, I think I may have had a shot at the gold medal. There I would be, standing on the podium with thousands of dollars of broken parts hanging proudly around my neck. Impressive to say the least. Even my coveted odometer, the one that reads back at me all the insane miles my motorcycle has carried me on, smelled awful and worked no longer. “I let the smoke out,” as they say. Thankfully I found Powl’s Speedometer Repair Shop in Pennsylvania and they got it back in working order for me. Correct mileage restored. Systematically and piece by piece, I managed to replace nearly every mechanical and electronic component on my motorcycle over the course of the last two weeks. My poor wife has hardly seen me at all. Every time she opened the garage door to check my pulse all she found was a crazed, bloodshot and wide-eyed lunatic feverishly scouring wiring diagrams, torqueing an oil bag mount for the tenth time or staring at the wall in a comatose state of bike repair overload. Hands grimy, hair greasy and jeans blackened with years of filth picked up along the countless journeys this well-proven machine has guided me on. Though I’ve only managed one short ride to confirm that I actually wired the thing correctly, I have no doubt that the ol girl will live to ride another day.

This was my first dip of the toe into the rewiring pond. Up until now, I had accomplished no more than some sloppy roadside repairs and basic wiring of accessories, lights and the such. This may surprise some of you but it’s true, I guess I’ve just never had a reason to rewire a bike from scratch. Luckily though, I was able to lean on Cycle Source’s supreme leader, Chris Callen, who guided me to a company by the name of Namz. Namz is all things wiring and they had just what I was looking for. A stripped-down Twin Cam wiring harness that would dramatically simplify the rat’s nest I was harboring. Just enough to keep the motor running, no more and no less. I should add here that when this can of worms was originally opened, I wasn’t entirely sure which direction I wanted to go in terms of making this bike run again. There are actually three options to wiring a Twin Cam motor. I was debating converting to an Evo style ignition which would minimize wiring to the fullest extent but would also create a fair amount of other work. I considered using the Thunderheart standalone ignition system which would also result in a very clean set up but force me to use only their ignition if it were to fail, and it will fail at some point, everything does. I ultimately ended up deciding on using a single port 2004 ignition module instead of the dual-port 2003 ignition module which my bike was currently using. I found this to be a fair compromise. I was still cutting down the number of wires used while maintaining the ability to more easily find a replacement module if and when it fails. I’m really not a fan of using specialty parts for that reason alone; if you break down and need that specialty part your chances of finding it quickly are slim to none. That being said, even with using a more modern system, it is still a hell of a lot more wiring then what a lot of you vintage bike guys are used to dealing with. Add on top of that wiring for lights, GPS, heated gear and onboard charging of phones, camera batteries, etc, and you end up with a ton of wires to hopefully route in a way that is presentable. In addition, I was simultaneously converting back to a standard full-size battery; I stand by my statement in the last article that I am done with lithium ion batteries, which meant relocating everything under my seat to make space for it. Everything previously was designed to fit around a much smaller battery. Luckily though, Christian at SuperGlobal industries here in Boulder was ready to assist with the small amount of metalwork necessary to make that happen. This is the stage of the project where I turned into that bloodshot and wide-eyed crazed lunatic I mentioned earlier. Routing and organization of wiring on a motorcycle is mind-numbing, especially when you start tweaking out over every last detail.  But alas, after routing, shrink tubing, zip tying, pin crimping and plugging in every last wire, I said one final prayer to the chopper Gods, pressed the start button with a twinge of fear and I’ll be damned if she didn’t fire right up! A dance was danced, a yip was yipped and for just a brief moment, I may or may not have twirled.

Now that everything is back in working order, I can get back to focusing on the fun stuff. Laying down miles, checking out a show here and there and generally enjoying life to the fullest. In just a little over two weeks from the writing of this article, I will be heading east to St. Louis, Missouri, for the Cycle Showcase show.  Randy puts on a great event and I encourage you all to be there. If the weather holds out, I plan on riding, and if not, I will, GASP, trailer out.  Let’s hope the latter doesn’t happen.  But I promised Randy I would be there with my bike so one way or another I will make that happen. Anyone have a truck and trailer I can borrow?

I want to say thank you again to Namz for indulging all of my questions, answering them honestly, and providing a quality product and thank you to Chris Callen for pointing me in the right direction.  Now let’s get back to riding motorcycles!

To see what I’m up to in real-time follow me on Instagram @charlietravelingchoper


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