‘Cannonball’ runner selling his vintage Harley-Davidson collection

The 1981 comedy classic “The Cannonball Run” was based on a series of illegal coast-to-coast car races held across the United States in the 1970s, but its origins began on two wheels.

The events were named after early 20th century adventurer Erwin “Cannonball” Baker, who in 1914 rode an Indian motorcycle 3,379 miles across the country in 11 days, 11 hours and 11 minutes to set a new record.

Baker went on to cross the country 143 times on motorcycles, plus a few times in cars, and his legacy lives on in the Motorcycle Cannonball rally.

It is a legal event that was started in 2010 with riders on antique bikes and is scheduled to run from Virginia Beach, Virginia, to Huntington Beach, California, over 16 days in September featuring motorcycles built before 1933.


Jon Neuman has been involved from the beginning. He runs a vintage motorcycle parts and restoration business called Sagebrush Cycle in Flower Mound, Texas, and has both supported teams in the rally and completed it several times himself. He is also one of the foremost authorities and a collector of Harley-Davidsons, which have been his bikes of choice for the competition.

Neuman was recently diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, however, and has decided to auction several of his motorcycles and a large selection of collectible parts and accessories that includes everything from gas tanks to motors and vintage oil cans. The lots are being offered through VanDerBrink Auctions. Online bidding has already started, but an on-site auction will be held at the Crashed Toys Event Center in Dallas on Saturday, March 25.

Among the bikes that are available are a 1928 Harley-Davidson Model JH that Neuman rode in the 2018 and 2021 Cannonballs. It is equipped with an 80 cubic-inch twin motor, four-speed transmission and can reach 117 mph.


“It starts on the first kick and runs like no other J I have ever ridden,” Neuman said in the bike’s description. As of this writing, the bidding on it had already reached $24,000.

Another Cannonball veteran is a 1928 Model JD with a 74 cubic-inch motor that is nicknamed “Blue Bell” after its paint and the flowers found in Texas. It was used it in the 2014 Cannonball and Neuman has ridden it 4,000 miles since. It is equipped with Sagebrush Cycle ignition coils, and he compared the way it runs to a “scalded dog.”

There are over a dozen bikes on offer, the oldest being a 1916 Model J that was used in the 2016 Cannonball and is mostly original, but does have a modern LED headlight and gear for the event.

“This would make a good daily rider,” Neuman said.

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