This bike has historically rattled intermittantly since I bought the bike, due to stones sucked into the radiator cowl with no way out. I talked to my dealer about it, and the other customer at the service counter joked that I needed a louder exhaust system so that I wouldn't hear that and be bothered. I have bought a fairly open stainless steel mesh screen for these cowl openings, and plan to have them installed before I take the V-Rod back on the road.
I do periodically check over the bike and seek-out anything that's not right. Obviously using my wonderful 20/20 hindsight, it was the lower belt guard loose, not stones in the radiator cowl. I do not believe the front rubber grommet held the part on for ANY appreciable time after the rear screw fell out. I can only presume the front grommet and the loose rear screw held it wedged and tight enough during my pre-start inspections to evade detection. Although, it rattled a few times while riding on the road a few days before it fell into the belt, I obviously did not find the correct root cause immediately.
The rear fastener is hidden enough that a secondary clip, folded tab, or safety wire will also be hidden; except for, inspection on your knees with a mirror.
Harley Davidson's engineering department has talked to me three times so far as a follow-up of my letter. Clearly, the fact that it was loose after over 19,000 miles and multiple tire changes was NOT a factory assembly issue. However, I still contend that the design contributed to the problem and I intend to have this fastener lock-tighted AND safety wired on MY BIKE before I take this bike back out on the road. Harley Davidson is still evaluated this concern and has not told me what their response will be.
I also had a chain around the axle problem on the first version of my first custom "bike", a non-raked chopper. The problem was a lack of stiffness in the frame between the engine and the rear axle. Fortunately that problem happened at startup before I got moving fast.
MY cure was two changes. I stiffened the frame a lot around the engine mounts area, and I added an idler under the bottom chain, about 4 inches in front of the rear tire. That kept chain stretch from letting the chain jump off the sprocket and get between sprocket and spokes. It was still working as designed 22 years later when I sold that "bike". The problem with a strong engine is that you also need a stronger chain.
My guess is that the guy you met put on a brand new chain and then did not tighten it enough, and did not tighten it again after a few miles. Chains do grow at the begining as the production burrs flatten out. You mustmALWAYS check a new chain a few miles after installing it.
I was driving along a four lane road when I spotted a black line in the middle of my lane. It wasn't straight and I initially could not figure out what it was. After about 1,000 feet it lead over to a motorcycle on the side of the road. I pulled over to see what happened. The guy was standing next to the motorcycle smoking a cigarette with a noticable shake. I looked at the motorcycle which was a Kawasaki 1000 and noticed the chain wrapped around the rear axle. I was amazed he kept it upright for so long with the rear wheel locked up. So was he. He said he just installed a "Diamond" chain and was surprised it failed so soon. I'll stick with my shaft drive.
The design is fine. Any part that hangs on for "a few days" WITHOUT A BOLT is a superb design! You ride 13 miles each way each day AFTER you hear a rattle? The gromet up front does the holding. It took that long to work its way aft to finally rattle a bit. Then took a few more days to fall off. Not many bike parts stay on without a bolt!
Well Dave, I'm glad you're all right, and that the bike gave you a heads up BEFORE it tried to kill you. Scary stuff bolts coming off.
I fly some as well as ride, and have adopted a "flight check" mentality before I get on my bike. Check all the lights, levers, cables, switches, axle bolts, shock bolts, brakes, exhaust system, linkages, hoses, even the mirror attachments, windshield bolts, and check the oil and tire pressure. Takes a few minutes, but I kind of like coming home at night. Got one more thing to add to the list now.
I'm also an aircraft engineer, and am aware I must be triple careful in my engineering decisions. Can't exactly pull an aircraft over on the nearest cloud if something breaks or falls off. If I goof, very likely people WILL die. Have a lot of tried and practiced engineering policies and requirements to avoid oversights of this nature. "New" is always the most terrifying design.
-Experience is something you rarely get, until just after you need it.
I am not a motorcyclist and some pictures of the guard and or area would have been nice to view. I don't see how it's Harley or the riders fault. Harleys have radical cams and sometimes high compression. Thus they are rough idling and I wouldn't expect the rider to make visual inspection for loose screws and bolts every time you want to go for a ride. Not very practical or reliable. I am sure HD uses locktite all over the place since wires and folded corners of plates wouldn't look good next to chrome.
This maybe the barn burner, but I think the guard would be made of thin sheet metal and wouldn't do anything to wheel spokes or the belt except for maybe throw the belt off or shred it some how in a worse case scenario.
It is a tricky problem. I will be interested to see what change, if any, that Harley Davidson comes up with, in response to this belt guard concern.
In the meantime, I will keep locktite blue (or equivallent) on both of these lower belt guard screws (it is virtually assured the guard will fall onto the belt if the rear screw falls-out, but may be possible for it to sag enough to violently rip-out the back screw if the front screw is lost.), and keep a close eye on them both staying tight. I have also gotten SS mesh for the radiator cowl to keep rattling stones out. I will install this mesh before the next time I ride this bike.
For the future, A) I will see about getting Socket Head Cap Screws (SHCS) drilled for stainless steel safety wire installation on these independently safety-critical points. B) I will also scope out the bike for other safety-critical fasteners to use safety wire, or a cotter pin back-up. (I notice that Harley Davidson already has a redundant C-clip back-up on the V-Rod rear axle retaining the axle nut.)
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