Custom Motorcycle: Zak’s Harley Ironhead

There’s a reason why Zachary Gallo used the word necessity when referring to his 1985 Harley XLH custom.

It’s a word he used often when describing his custom Harley Ironhead. Actually the regularity in which he used the term we found, well, alarming. His mods were done “out of necessity,” he tells us. Ok Zak, please continue.

Custom Harley-Davidson Ironhead motorcycle
A nice look at the clutch side of this custom Harley Ironhead.

And as though this weren’t enough, Zak resorted to making claims so audacious that they just had to be a shameless attempt at hyperbole: the project itself was “a build of necessity.”
But, Zak wasn’t exaggerating! It’s absolutely necessary to replace your tank, controls, and bars after getting them busted during an unfortunate altercation with “a defenseless mailbox.”
It becomes all the more necessary when your swingarm and strut mounts are ripped from your bike after entering a curve too hot.

All this happened to Zak’s Harley Ironhead. “It felt like the right thing to do as it was my only vehicle at the time,” Zak remembers. That’s more he could say about what was in his toolbox (read: it was empty). When asked about what tools he used, Zak said, “You’re gonna have to ask my buddies Bernie and Ray and my dad. I stole everything I could from those guys. I had nothing at the time.”

Custom Harley-Davidson Ironhead motorcycle oil tank
A little chatter on the oil tank of this custom Harley Ironhead.

Much like a person recovering from a major accident, Zak’s busted Ironhead spent a good deal of time in bed. Well, in a spare bedroom—minus the bed. “We’d already moved the bed out of my buddy Chris’ bedroom, so I just kind of sneakily rolled my bike in there. Like a gentleman,” Zak adds. Aside from sparks “singeing a couple of posters,” building there was a positive experience. “We actually have a lot of funny pictures of me shooting sparks all over the room and piles of parts everywhere,” he says. “It was rad being able to wake up and just start wrenching and drinking beer with my bud.”

It was here, in the unlikeliest of spaces, where Zak’s bike acquired anything but a dull name: The Purple Moose. “It used to have a huge 6-1/2-gallon purple tank,” Zak explains. “That, combined with the apes, made it look big and obnoxious, like a dumb moose.”

But, as you can clearly see, there’s nothing purple about this bike. The very absence of this particular color explains why it’s now known simply as “The Moose.” It also reveals how much Zak’s mentality evolved throughout the build.


The Moose soon began changing not because Zak kept crashing it—or because parts would break or fall off (though that was a major contributing factor)—but because Zak caught the bug. You know, that bug. The one that always gets us when we’re our most vulnerable. The opportunistic little bastard. “I’ve been removing everything that doesn’t make the bike move forward,” Zak says. “That’s the fun part.”

Now the bike changes seemingly every season. “I’m not really married to any one thing about the bike besides the motor,” he reveals. It was during this transition when Zak realized he needed an actual garage, especially since he planned to do some structural welding. “I figured I should probably use something a little bigger than a Harbor Freight buzz box,” Zak recalls.

That was when The Moose lumbered into Bernie’s garage. There, Bernie and Zak’s other friend Ray welded the hardtail to the frame’s halo. “I didn’t even attempt this because I didn’t want my bike snapping in half while cooking down the highway,” explains Zak. That’s a legitimate reason. Plus, everything he’d welded until that point had broken off. Zak originally thought it was because he sucked, but it was actually because he used a cheap $100 flux core welder.


Luckily, the dropseat that Zak welded hasn’t fallen off despite being his first major mod. “I figured I needed to jump right into the deep end,” Zak says, though he basically just jumped into a kiddie pool since the tail section “lined up perfectly.” (Zak did, however, have to weld a bracket for the seat-stay brake caliper and a self-made plate for mounting the rear fender and struts.)

He struggled quite a bit more when searching for compatible parts in general. (Zak described it as a nightmare.) “I shredded a bunch of gears and splines in my tranny,” he adds. Zak also shredded his bank account when looking for an offset drive sprocket. (Zak either literally purchased “a hundred different” sprockets or it just felt that way.) “I couldn’t find one spaced enough to get my chain straight,” he continues. “And 99 percent of the sprockets wouldn’t fit on the splines of the final drive.” Welding a spaced sprocket over the stock piece allowed him to use the necessary parts off each. “This thing makes no sense,” Zak says.

He also spaced out the intake manifold and his curved intake so the latter would work with the carb and velocity stack. “That thing is like a piece of artwork to me,” Zak says of the intake. “When I’m riding, it gets ice cold and covered in condensation.”

Custom Harley-Davidson Ironhead motorcycle
This custom Harley Ironhead has a classic stance.

While Zak may like his intake getting icy, he doesn’t feel this way about where he builds. When winter came, The Moose plodded over not into Chris’ spare bedroom, but into Zack’s living room. “I was living the high life then,” Zak says, what with the TV, carpet, and kitchen being right there within reach. “The Moose fit perfect right next to my couch.”

There, Zak got to work on his motor. Mikey V at Twin Tech may have built the heads, but Zak tackled the bottom end. He might as well have been tackling the entire New York Giants’ offensive line though. “The parts are not all interchangeable, so it took a lot of guessing and checking with everything,” he reveals. “I did a lot of angle grinding to make $#!+ work.”

He’s also done a lot of spray painting—with a lot more on the way. But, for now, he’ll stick with his Krylon and pinstripes, which getting straight “was a pain.” And for all The Moose has been through, it rides “surprisingly awesome.” Let’s just hope it stays that way. The bike hasn’t crashed since becoming The Moose, he told us, before proceeding to knock on wood. We’re gonna knock on some wood, too. Ride safe! RC

1976 Custom Harley-Davidson Shovelhead

You’ve got it seriously made when your career is literally wrenching Harleys all day, every day, day in, day out.

However you want to describe building a custom Harley-Davidson or any custom motorcycle, we don’t think it’s too much of a stretch to say that every rider reading this would do practically anything to make that happen.

A 1976 Custom Harley-Davidson Shovelhead built by Speakeasy Motors
Left side view of this beautiful 1976 Custom Harley-Davidson Shovelhead built by Speakeasy Motors. Photos by Mark Velazquez

There’s a reason for the slogan “Ride. Wrench. Repeat.” Because, that’s the life. But all jobs—even working as a motorcycle mechanic—have their downsides. For bike builders, it’s always doing what the owner wants, especially when you don’t want to do what he wants you to do. As they say, the customer is always right (even when he isn’t).

But that wasn’t the case for builder Evan Favaro, owner of Speakeasy Motors in Wallkill, New York, when it came to this particular assignment, a 1976 Harley Shovelhead. “One day, a customer named Mike dropped his Shovel at the shop and told me, ‘I started this project. I have no idea how to weld or how to finish it,’” remembers Evan. “He just bit off more than he could chew.”

A 1976 Custom Harley-Davidson Shovelhead built by Speakeasy Motors
Good look at the powerplant in this custom Harley-Davidson Shovel. Photos by Mark Velazquez

Sure, building a bike (almost) completely from scratch can be invigorating, even for a veteran craftsman. But the real plus was that Mike pretty much gave Evan free reign.
And there was a lot of free reigning to do. “Mike had a front end and frame and wheels and motor,” Evan says. “But it was basically a box of parts at the back of his car. It wasn’t even a roller. He had some of the major components. But I had to take it from there.”

Another plus: even though Evan had full creative license, Mike gave him just one guideline. “Mike said, ‘Just make it simple, then you can do whatever you want.’”
Why is this a plus? Turns out, most of the builds that Evan does are, in his words, “quite involved.” By that Evan means bikes with “a lot of sheet metal work,” and choppers and bobbers that are over the top. With descriptions like that, we don’t think it’s too much of a stretch to think that this bike is pretty close to being one of the simplest builds Evan has ever done. Believe me, I asked. If there was some type of “simplest builds in the world” list, it would be, as Evan said, “definitely up there.”

Much like the overall style of the Shovel, the process, too, was pretty straight forward. “It was fairly simple. I pretty much hacked away at it really,” he explains. As you’ll find out, Evan wasn’t joking when he said “fairly simple.” The word simple came up quite often during our chat with him. Evan described all of the non-hacking mods as such, including the “simple fender struts,” which he custom-made. The Sportster oil tank, which Evan modified and installed under the transmission with the kickstart, was referred to as “a simple fab.” Even the motor, which he rebuilt so it would be “all nice and fresh,” was anything but difficult.

Same can be said of the battery box. But there’s actually a whole lot more to say about the battery box. And what we have to say has nothing to do with how simple its installation was (besides it being mounted on the side of the bike). Ironically, though, we can’t actually say much, except that the bike is named after it, the “Little Black Box.”

Cockpit view of this 1976 Custom Harley-Davidson Shovelhead built by Speakeasy Motors. Photos by Mark Velazquez

Back to the bike. Just because building the Shovelhead was easy doesn’t mean Evan “took it easy” when it came to ensuring Mike would get a quality bike. “There’s actually a lot involved in bike builds, and it doesn’t matter if it’s a simple or high-end, complex bike,” Evan says before adding, “especially if you do it right.”

Builds that aren’t done right Evan refers to as “botched jobs.” In many cases, these bikes are botched because the builders didn’t have the proper tools, such as wheel spacers. “Bikes aren’t like cars,” Evan says. “If a wheel on your car comes off, you can just stop. But on a motorcycle, that would be catastrophic.” That’s why this bike is comprised of components from GMA, Paughco, Three Two Choppers, Biltwell, Unity, and BDL, among others.

“With customers, you’re putting their lives in your craftsmanship. It can be a little intimidating,” Evan says. “There’s still a lot involved in making a bike a safe machine.”
While most of the bike is minimalist, there’s nothing minimalist about the paint job. “I left it all up to my painter,” says Evan. “I kind of pointed him in the direction and said, ‘Have some fun and make it look cool.’”

A 1976 Custom Harley-Davidson Shovelhead built by Speakeasy Motors. Photos by Mark Velazquez

As you can see, the painter did just that. But seeing as Mike likes it simple, we were dying to know what he thought of the design. “I think the paint was a little more involved than what he was expecting,” responds Evan. “He was probably just expecting a single color. And we gave him a lot more than that.” But besides the rad palette choice, the bike was exactly what Evan was looking for: something plain and simple. “He loved it. He was speechless. It was everything he wanted,” says Evan. RC

Motorcycle News: Wyman Tops King of the Baggers Podium

2023 MotoAmerica Mission King of the Baggers racer Kyle Wyman

Harley-Davidson® Screamin’ Eagle® factory rider Kyle Wyman topped an all-Harley-Davidson podium on Sunday.

Kyle Wyman led in the MotoAmerica Mission King of the Baggers race at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca in California from start to finish. Wyman won the 8-lap race on the team’s race-prepared Harley-Davidson® Road Glide® motorcycle to claim his fifth win of the season. Vance & Hines/Mission Foods teammates James Rispoli and Hayden Gillim finished second and third on Harley-Davidson Road Glide motorcycles. With the win, Kyle Wyman preserved his championship points lead in the series.

Motorcycle News: Kyle Wyman Tops MotoAmerica King of the Baggers Podium on a Harley-Davidson

“I really wanted to get a good start today to get out front and control the pace,” said Wyman. “I was feeling pressure from Rispoli in the second half of the race, and I know James would not hesitate to take his shot at a pass, so I made sure to not give him that opportunity. It’s really great to see Harley-Davidson lock up the podium today.”

Wyman opened the weekend by topping the first qualifying session on Friday with a new King of the Baggers track record lap of 1:28.586. On Saturday Wyman won the three-lap King of the Baggers Challenge race, besting second place Gillim by 1.462 seconds.

Motorcycle News: Kyle Wyman Tops MotoAmerica King of the Baggers Podium on a Harley-Davidson

In the Saturday feature race, Wyman dogged race leader Tyler O’Hara on the Factory Indian motorcycle before passing for the lead in Turn 2 on lap 5. O’Hara passed Wyman back to take the lead on the last lap but crashed on the entrance to the last turn of the race. Wyman fell behind him and both riders slid off the track as Gillim, Rispoli, and Sacramento Mile/Roland Sands Indian rider Bobby Fong took advantage. O’Hara and Wyman both managed to pick up their bikes and cross the finish line, O’Hara in fourth place and Wyman in ninth place. Gillim finished first, 2.919 seconds ahead of Rispoli, with Fong in third place. Harley-Davidson Screamin’ Eagle factory rider Travis Wyman finished in seventh place on his Harley-Davidson Road Glide motorcycle.

On Sunday roles were reversed, as Kyle Wyman took the lead from the pole position with O’Hara chasing in second place, followed by Rispoli and Gillim. O’Hara fell off the pace on lap 4 and was passed by both Vance & Hines riders. Rispoli closed to within a fraction of a second on Wyman but never had an opportunity to attempt a pass. O’Hara finished fourth. Travis Wyman was sixth on the Factory Harley-Davidson® Road Glide®.

Motorcycle News: Kyle Wyman Tops MotoAmerica King of the Baggers Podium on a Harley-Davidson

After eight of 14 races in the 2023 MotoAmerica Mission King of the Baggers series, Kyle Wyman leads the championship with 148 points, followed by Rispoli with 143 points, and Gillim with 130 points. O’Hara sits in fourth place with 107 points. Travis Wyman is in 10th place with 59 points.

The Mission King of the Baggers series features race-prepared American V-Twin touring motorcycles. Harley-Davidson® Factory Team Road Glide® motorcycles are powered by modified Screamin’ Eagle® Milwaukee-Eight® 131 Performance Crate Engines. The team bikes also feature upgraded suspension components, including Screamin’ Eagle/Öhlins Remote Reservoir Rear Shocks, plus competition exhaust, race tires and lightweight bodywork.

The Harley-Davidson® Screamin’ Eagle® factory team returns to action July 28-30 in the MotoAmerica Superbikes at Minnesota at Brainerd International Raceway near Brainerd, Minn. RC

Custom Motorcycle: Harley Super Glide to Shovelhead Bobber

Custom Motorcycles, new bike reviews, DIY motorcycle tech and gear reviews

Todd Farler’s always been a motorcycle guy. But it wasn’t until his cousin had a line on a 1975 FXE Shovelhead that he got into Harleys.

On the flip side, his cousin Lonnie Line had always been into Harley-Davidson motorcycles. So when Lonnie learned that a co-worker had a ’75 Harley Super Glide Shovelhead in pretty good shape, just collecting dust in his garage, he put the buzz in his cousin’s ear.

Todd's Harley-Davidson shovelhead bobber in all its splendor.
Todd’s Harley-Davidson shovelhead bobber in all its splendor. – Photo Casey Hawn

The owner originally wanted $5-6,000 for it but dropped the price to $4,000 if they’d seal the deal within two weeks. Todd’s loan application through his credit union was taking too long, so his cousin cashed in some 401K money and covered it until Farler’s loan went through. Nice to have a cousin who’s more “like a brother.”

“It had like a Fat Bob tank on it, had a big king and queen seat, some drag bars, and the narrow glide front end,” Todd says. “I liked it as it was and didn’t plan on doing anything to that bike because it was in such good shape. I felt guilty thinking about turning it into a custom bobber, but about five years ago I lost the rear master cylinder and had to stop real fast at an intersection and laid the bike down. It wasn’t too bad, banged up the front fender, scraped up a bunch of stuff, broke the turn signals off.”

Todd wasn’t as lucky as the bike, suffering several broken bones. During his mending period he realized it was a perfect opportunity to revamp the bike. An aerospace welder by trade, he toyed with the idea of doing a weld-on hardtail, but he didn’t have a lift or the equipment to get the job done properly at home. Luckily, he’s got friends who happen to be bike builders to turn to for guidance, including Donny Loos of Don’s Custom Cycle and Bill Schalk at Tried-n-True Garage.

This Harley Shovelhead bobbers custom headlight looks on point.
This Harley Shovelhead bobbers custom headlight looks on point. – Photo Casey Hawn

But it wasn’t until he developed a friendship with Cole Rogers that his bobber project eventually took shape. “I’d seen Cole’s work over at 138 Cycle Fabrication and really liked his style.” The two had met at shows, and Todd mentioned to Cole that he welded and offered his services but was graciously declined. So Todd got the idea to make a unique business card, welding two razor blades together edge-to-edge and laying “a real nice, pretty bead across them.” He then used a machine at work to stamp his name and phone number into the razor blade.

The next time he saw Cole at a bike show, he gave him one of his new calling cards. Cole’s response: “You did this? Give me a call Monday.”

Next thing you know, Todd’s doing an apprenticeship with him, hanging out at the shop and learning things hands-on. Cole builds his own springer and girder forks so Todd learned how to set those up. “The first frame I did for him ended going over to Schalk at Tried-and-True, and he won Easyriders that year with the Shovelhead frame I welded for him,” Todd says.

Near the end of his apprenticeship, Todd asked Cole if he could build his Shovel on a lift in the back, a request his mentor kindly obliged. Todd demonstrated some of the knowledge he learned from Cole by building his own springer. Admittedly, he did seek help with wiring.


Todd said the most nerve-wracking part of the build was cutting the frame in half to add the hardtail section. “That’s like the point of no return. Once you lay that blade in there and start cutting, that really freaked me out.” At that point he leaned on the reassurance of Cole that he was cutting in the right spot.

His mentor had given him an old junk tank with a crushed-in top for the build. Todd cut about 2-1/2″ out of the center of the tank and rewelded it, also rebuilding the bottom and adding a site tube because “It doesn’t hold a lot of gas. I like riding it, though, but I hate pushing.”

Framing the tank turned out to be a learning experience, as he got a chance to work on the English wheel, something he hadn’t done much before. Todd spent time “hammering the dents out of the tank, cutting the center section out, welding it all back together, and reshaping it a bit on the English wheel. It was neat to see the final product, to take something that was headed for the bin and bend it back into shape.”

The salvaged tank isn’t the only refurbished part on the ’75 Shovel. The oil tank is a 5″/38-caliber cannon shell from his cousin’s Navy ship. Lonnie served aboard the USS New Jersey BB-62 and had some of the cannon shells sitting around his garage that “made a great oil tank. Part of him is built into that bike now,” Todd says.

Todd's home-built retro runner is stripped to the essentials, beautifully.
Todd’s home-built retro runner is stripped to the essentials, beautifully. – Photo Casey Hawn

Amazingly, much work hasn’t been done to the engine.. The odometer read only 15,000 miles when Todd got it, adding “for what that’s worth.” But` after inspecting it, his buddy Loos thinks there’s a good chance it’s a bone-stock ’75 Shovel that’s never been torn apart. While Todd swapped out the carb, velocity stack, and pipes, everything else is the same as how he got it. But he admits it’s due for a build. He’d like to update the carb and go kick-only while he’s having the engine done. The biggest dilemma might be who does the rebuild, as Todd claims he’s torn between two friends.

In addition to the frame he cut and the tank he hammered out, Todd also likes how the bars he made turned out; they’re pullbacks with an internal throttle. When asked how it rides, he says, “Great. The rear tire has enough meat to run it a little low. Those springers Cole has ride really nice. But it is a hardtail and beats you up a little bit.”

Todd finished by saying he’s not looking to be a full-time builder but likes being involved in the scene and being respected as a welder. That said, he’s already got plans running through his head about a fully blown show bike for his next project, the words Invaders and Good Times Reform creeping into the conversation. Until then, he’s got one mean ’75 Shovel springer to run around on what just about any old gearhead would be proud to call his own. RC