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

Harley-Davidson Homecoming Festival

Harley-Davidson Homecoming Festival Performances by Foo Fighters and Green Day

The Harley-Davidson Homecoming Festival, the biggest music-and-moto event to hit Milwaukee this summer, took place from July 13-16 at venues across the Milwaukee area.

Moto enthusiasts from all over the world enjoyed the festivities celebrating the rich, 120 year history of the world’s most-desirable motorcycle brand, Harley-Davidson. The Company also announced next year’s Harley-Davidson Homecoming Festival will be July 25-28, 2024.

Some key highlights of the 2023 Harley-Davidson Homecoming Festival included:

Harley-Davidson Homecoming Festival Performances by Foo Fighters and Green Day
Foo Fighters performing at the Harley-Davidson Homecoming Festival. Photo by Andi K. Taylor

Veterans Park on the Milwaukee Lakefront – Performances by Green Day and Foo Fighters
On Friday and Saturday night at Veterans Park, music headliners Green Day (July 14) and Foo Fighters (July 15) performed to massive crowds on the Milwaukee lakefront. The shows gathered more than 80,000 moto and music enthusiasts throughout the weekend. Leading up to the headlining acts at the Veterans Park venue, key performances on July 14 included Abby Jeanne, KennyHoopla, Phantogram, and The Cult. On July 15, performances included Ghost Hounds, White Reaper, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, and Cody Jinks. In addition, Nitro Circus, the most explosive crew in action sports, provided an action-packed freestyle motocross show, plus the exhilarating stunts of the Ives Brothers Wall of Death & Ball of Steel, food and beverage vendors, and special merchandise added to the family-friendly entertainment. Matty Matheson hosted a Burger Build Off, where legendary chef, actor, author, and restauranteur Matty Matheson created the ultimate, show-stopping burger in a head-to-head cookoff.

Harley-Davidson Homecoming Festival Performances by Foo Fighters and Green Day and Nitro Circus
Harley-Davidson Homecoming Festival Performances by Foo Fighters and Green Day and Nitro Circus.

Harley-Davidson Museum – Milwaukee
Activities kicked off at the Harley-Davidson Museum grounds on Thursday with Bike Night and continued through the weekend. 73,000 bikes lined the museum grounds and Sixth Street over the four days. 130,000 attendees enjoyed food trucks, Flat Out Friday Boonie Bike races, motorcycle displays and demo ride opportunities with LiveWire®, and Stacyc® electric vehicles, the Division BMX Stunt Show, custom and vintage motorcycle shows, and evening musical entertainment. The music line-up included headliners Hairball, The Jimmys and The Now Band, Rust Bucket Road Trip, and The Toys and Rebel Grace.

Harley-Davidson Homecoming Festival Performances by Foo Fighters and Green Day

Harley-Davidson Powertrain Operations – Menomonee Falls
The Harley-Davidson Powertrain Operations in Milwaukee suburb, Menomonee Falls, hosted demos of 2023 Harley-Davidson motorcycles, factory tours, and Police Skills Riding Demonstrations.

Harley-Davidson 120th Anniversary Motorcycle Parade – Downtown Milwaukee
The 2023 Homecoming event concluded on Sunday with the Harley-Davidson 120th Anniversary Parade, winding through Wisconsin Avenue to the heart of downtown Milwaukee, ending at Veterans Park on the lakefront. 7,000 motorcycles participated in the parade to the cheers and waves from crowds gathered along the route.

Harley-Davidson Homecoming Festival Performances by Foo Fighters and Green Day

Ride In Routes
All roads led to Milwaukee as Harley-Davidson plotted six exciting Ride In routes, each starting from the furthest reaches of North America and leading to Milwaukee, to arrive for Homecoming festivities. This provided an opportunity for riders to join at any point and ride at their own pace while mingling with fellow H-D riders. Each daily Ride In segment began and ended at an authorized Harley-Davidson dealership, with a mid-day stop also at a H-D dealership, to meet other riders, chat with local staff, eat at local food trucks, and conduct bike maintenance, as needed.

New 2023 Custom Vehicle Operations™ (CVO™) Motorcycles
Homecoming weekend was also the official consumer debut of the new 2023 CVO™ Street Glide® and CVO™ Road Glide® models showcasing advanced technology, enhanced rider comfort, and dynamic performance propelled by the powerful new Milwaukee-Eight® VVT 121 engine, with a technical display in the Harley-Davidson Museum Garage area and demos at the Company’s Powertrain Operations facility. 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