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Motorcycle Cannonball: Stage 5 Completed

by Richard Backus


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Matt Olsen and Sears Motorcycle
Cannonball rider Matt Olsen, center, with his 1913 Sears at the start of the Cannonball rally. Matt crashed out of the rally during Stage Five. 

In a bid to go shore-to-shore across the U.S. in 17 days on pre-1916 machines, Motorcycle Cannonball riders have completed the first five stages of their objective. As expected, drama has already been high with in-route mechanical breakdowns and the accompanying personal heartbreak, a leader-board that continues to change. Matt Olsen, Motorcycle Cannonball rider #85, crashed his 1913 Sears while riding the fifth stage.

According to Matt’s father, Carl Olsen, who is also a rider in the rally, Matt hit a pothole and went into a shimmy on his 1913 Sears. Matt had almost straightened his machine out when the wobble turned into a tank slapper and he went over the handlebars. Both bones in his left forearm were broken, requiring surgery that Carl reports he came through very well. Matt is in a cast, which will immobilize his arm and wrist for the six weeks required to allow the bones to heal correctly. In addition to the arm, Matt also has numerous face cuts and a “slightly broken nose,” but prognosis is good and there is expected to be no permanent damage. Matt will fly home from Huntsville, Ala., to Aberdeen, S.D.

Carl relayed a message from Matt, saying Matt was pulling for the rest of the Cannonballers. “This whole event is just awesome. The riders are all working together and helping each other to make as many miles as they possibly can and it’s revitalizing their spirit. Everybody’s in it for everybody else. I will definitely be back next year,” Matt told his dad. It won’t be on the Sears, however, since the bike is reportedly totaled.

The 25-year-old holds the distinction of being the youngest man to have the title of Iron Butt Rider, having earned the title twice in one week. One title was for riding 1,000 miles on the oldest Harley-Davidson, a 1936 H-D Knucklehead he rode two-up, and again in the same week for covering the 1,000 miles solo on a 1939 H-D.

All told, riders in the Cannonball, officially the Pre-1916 Motorcycle Cannonball Endurance Run, will ride 3,294 miles across 11 states before finishing up in Santa Monica, Calif., on Sept. 26. We hope to catch up with them during a one-day stop in Hot Spring, Ark., Sept. 17. We’ll report what we learn next week.

Follow the Cannonball at the Cannonball website at www.motorcyclecannonball.com.