1912 engine to power cross-country trek

August 19, 2018


Staff Writer

SAN BENITO — Wayne Ruhe is hitting the open road on a motor-bike powered by a 106-year-old engine.

Wayne built the replica 1912 Excelsior X motor-bike himself. But the engine is an original.

He plans to ride it across the country next month in the Cannonball Run.

It’s an endurance run for motorcycle riders with a 90-year-old or older bike.

The race begins Sept. 8 in Portland, Maine, and ends Sept. 22 in Portland, Oregon.

The Motorcycle Cannonball is the most difficult antique endurance run in the world.

“I will be on the saddle for six to eight hours at a time,” Wayne, 67, said about the 15-day race.

The race is 3,674 miles long on two-lane back roads on the scenic American landscape.

“We are not going to blow by everything,” Wayne said. “I will be riding 45 to 50 miles per hour.

“It’s a fantastic race and it keeps getting bigger and bigger.”

His ‘X’ series motor-bike is a single cylinder, belt driven machine that he built and customized in his shop.

The engine, however, is an original. He said he bought it in North Dakota for $5,000.

Excelsior motorcycle production started at Randolph Street in Chicago in 1905. Their first motorcycle was a 21 cubic inch — 344cc — single speed machine.

It had a top speed of 35 to 40 mph.

The Shop

Wayne started riding motorcycles when he was 10 years old. In the 70s, he began chopping and customizing bikes on his parent’s driveway and he never stopped.

He says he’s restored some of the first choppers he made.

Wayne has been featured in Easy Rider magazine twice for customizing two shovelhead engine bikes.

He opened The Motorcycle Shop in San Benito in 2000.

The shop offers repair service, custom build, installation service and performance parts. It’s located at 572 E. Expressway 83.

He still follows his father’s adage on how to run a business.

“Get it right the first time and do a proper job for a reasonable price,” Wayne said.

He said his dad always reminded him that if he was lucky, clients would be telling everyone about his work.

He added that messing up on a service job for a customer can spell doom for the business because they are going to tell everyone how bad the job was.

Riding safety

“Any dumb fool can ride a motorcycle. The trick is staying alive,” Wayne chuckled.

He said that in 2016, three people died while riding the Cannonball Run.

“I have been riding for 50 years, but I have never been in an accident that I didn’t walk away from,” Wayne said.

He said it’s important to have good tires, brakes and to wear a helmet in states that require it.

“Imagine you are invisible and nobody sees you,” he said on how to stay safe on the road. “Car drivers will change lanes on you in a split second or pull out of a stop sign at anytime.”


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