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Knucklehead steals the show

It took more than 50 years for Richard Dike’s boyhood dream of owning a working 1940 Harley Davidson Knucklehead to come true.

This weekend the dream won him the Best of show top honors at the Iron Horse Bike show at Grand Island’s Fonner Park.

“It’s been a labor of love to find the parts,” show organizer Randy Gard said of what makes the bike and the owner so special.

Dike was just 16 when he got his first motorcycle — a little Indian Scout — but he coveted the 1940 Harley Davidson. The now 74-year-old said youth, followed by marriage to a woman who didn’t like motorcycles, prevented him from buying the Knucklehead over the years.

His wife died in 1997.

In 1998, his kids called and had found an ad for a Knucklehead in Michigan.

He didn’t bother to call ahead.

“I took a trailer and my checkbook,” Dike said.

It took Dike hours to find the address in the ad and then he was shepherded to a Honda shop where the bike was in pieces in a box.

“They guaranteed me all I had to do was put it together and ride it,” Dike said. “It didn’t work out that way.”

With a love for the motorcycle that had burned for close to half a century, Dike quickly wrote out a $14,000 check and loaded up the pieces.

There were tires, fenders, a frame, an engine and transmission.

As a retired GM employee, he began to rebuild the bike. he discovered missing parts, Honda parts instead of Harley and cracked heads.

For eight years, Dike has hunted down parts from many a state. He’s trailered the bike from his home in McCook to restoration mechanics in Colorado.

He’s tinkered with and tweaked valves, breather gears and axles.

Finally, just three years ago, the Knucklehead came to life, much to the delight and surprise of its owner.

“Truly, I didn’t think I’d ever get it going,” Dike said.

Along with the new bike, came a new wife, Joan. She loves his passion for motorcycles, but won’t get on one herself after having accidentally crashed her first husband’s motorcycle into a fence years ago.

“I found a sidecar, but she won’t ride,” Dike said.

Instead Joan follows along in the car behind as Dike rides and is by his side at motorcycle shows.

A man offered Dike $45,000 for the Knucklehead, which is the amount he now has in it. he turned it down.

“I’m not ready to stop riding,” Dike said smiling. “I love being on it. I just enjoy it.”

He also enjoys mastering its challenges and meeting new friends along the way.

Saturday, Dike talked with bill Lowry from the show’s sponsor, Harley Davidson Central in Grand Island. Dike mentioned a slight fishtailing the bike has at higher speeds and Lowry took Dike to the South Locust motorcycle shop and showed him a 1941 bike that’s being built there.

“Turns out — the back axle is in here all wrong and the front end is too tight,” Dike said pointing to the Knucklehead.

The two-day bike show ended early Sunday due to weather canceling the live horse racing at Fonner. It simply meant Dike got out a little earlier and headed back to McCook.

He could hardly wait.

Dike said he’ll get up Monday, do chores and then start tweaking the Knucklehead.

“Oh, I love it,” he beamed.

Knucklehead steals the show