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

Custom Motorcycle: Gaspunk Harley Shovelhead

There’s absolutely no mistaking it. Steampunk is a profoundly distinctive look and just as equally captivating (undoubtedly because of its unique appeal), becoming more and more popular with each passing day.

At least, it certainly feels that way, as steampunk has somehow managed to seep out from the confines of science fiction and trickle into the music and fashion industries. It has even found its way into the motorcycling realm, wherein people perpetually mislabel the genre as being what brought us Mad Max and its amazing motorcycles, despite the obvious absence of steam and that fictional world’s obvious dependence on diesel. No, it’s clear that steampunk has invaded two-wheeled culture by customs such as this 1982 Harley Shovelhead 1340.

Harley Shovelhead

And it’s clear not just because the builder, Remi Rossaert, inundated his FLT in copper sprockets, gauges, and valves. It’s due to these bits of machinery looking otherworldly.
That’s because—and hopefully this truncated definition won’t anger too many steampunk fans—the stories within this subgenre usually take place in alternative realities wherein steam has remained the technological driving force of the world. So instead of expanding into electronic computing and jet engines and having that project in Manhattan, mankind has devoted all its scientific knowledge into improving steam-powered machinery. Hence, the strange futuristic nature of this otherwise ancient technology.

Plus, we know this bike is steampunk because that’s what Remi told us. “I’ve been a longtime fan of steampunk art,” he reveals. “So I had this idea to give the FLT a heavy overload of old mechanical leftover stuff.”

Another reason why we know it’s steampunk is due to Remi’s main source of inspiration for the build. “The first idea for my bike was my tattooed arm, and I have a mechanical steampunk sleeve,” he says. “I wanted to bring that back into the bike.”

So, there’s that, too. Remi’s arm sleeve could only begin influencing Remi, though, once he got this FLT from a friend trying to get rid of it. “At that time, I had just finished my Road King lowrider,” Remi remembers. “And I couldn’t afford any other better models.” You can probably surmise by the usage of the word “better” that Remi wasn’t too keen on customizing a Shovel, which is why he thought about putting the engine in another frame. “But that would’ve been too expensive,” Remi relates. “I wanted to build the project as cheap as possible.”

Apparently, building an inexpensive steampunk-styled bike is not so difficult when you’re in Remi’s line of work, which involves performing in-house repairs and maintenance at factories. “I can easily find sprockets, gauges, and valves while on the job,” Remi explains.

Harley Shovelhead

It also helps when you have grinders, saws, and drill machines on hand—even if they’re crammed in a 50m x 50m garage. At least Remi has a whole other room for painting (he calls it his small paintbooth). But then again, we can’t really count that as extra space—at least not for this project. Remi kept the paint stock and instead engraved geometric patterns all over the bike. For that, he used the normal tools as well as barbwire and chickenwire. Well, actually, he only used this wiring to trace similar shapes onto his front fender. And, actually, it’s not really a front fender. It was originally the rear counterpart (another way to save money, no less).

While cool, Remi didn’t use barb or chickenwire to etch a gas mask on the same fender. When we asked Remi via Instagram about the design, he called it “a steampunk skull” and then aptly proceeded to include the “sign of the horns” emoji at the end of his response.

Also on the repurposed rear fender is a copper plate, one of many that Remi found while scrounging around in factories at work. On top of this plate Remi welded a copper version of the 1982 Harley commemorative winged logo.

Some other old factory components Remi added include copper wire, which he wrapped around the handlebars, and copper plates, which he welded on the floorboards. Ironically, the plating on these boards isn’t their main focal point. It’s the bikechains welded around the edges.

Probably the most prominent of these steampunk-specific additions is the giant copper piece that Remi mounted to the tank using studs and copper rivets. Remi says he likes this one the most, and it’s pretty obvious why, so we’ll just leave it at that. Also, we literally can’t tell you more. That’s all he would share with us. See, while Remi told us some good information about his build, he wasn’t able to elaborate on a few details. And it makes sense. For one thing, Remi lives in Belgium, and his native language is Dutch.

Regardless of this language barrier, Remi still knows enough English to explain the type of material he uses for his steampunk bikes: “You name it, I use it, and they give my bikes a twist nobody thinks about.”

In addition to installing a litany of copper material to save cash, Remi performed mods in the same vein as his front fender, which, if you may recall, was originally made to go over the rear wheel before Remi installed it under the handlebars. Without going into exhaustive detail, Remi wasn’t too keen on the FLT pipes, so rather than purchase a new exhaust system, he cut up the stock piping and welded it into the radical shape you see now (and sometimes Remi adds some Screamin’ Eagle mufflers from his Road King for added effect).

That isn’t to say he didn’t purchase any aftermarket parts specifically for his Shovel. Sometimes he had no choice. When telling us he didn’t run into problems directly related to fabbing, Remi did say, however, that this didn’t mean there weren’t any challenges at all. For example, the Shovel’s point ignition was originally shot, so he replaced it with an electric Dynatek ignition.

Now the Shovel operates quite well—even though it’s weighed down by a great many things that weren’t designed for bikes. “It rides sweet and smooth like any other Shovelhead should,” Remi says sheepishly. “When I kick it into gear, the pipes come to life and run great like one of the last real Harley-Davidsons.”

In the end, no matter what you want to call this Shovel—steampunk or just a different-looking bike—Remi had just one goal for his build. “I wanted it to be different,” he begins. “I wanted it to stand out in a crowd.” Well, Remi, we think it’s safe to say that, yes, your bike is different, and it most definitely stands out in a crowd. We’d be surprised if it didn’t. RC