In this eclectic and motley world of motorcycling, much is often made of innovation and original ideas, but where do our local builders actually derive the concepts for their modern builds? In the case of the 1974 1000cc ironhead pictured here, it begins nearly sixty years ago at a 3,000-acre fresh water lake in Southern California.
I’ve always been a gearhead, grew up with a wrench in my hands. My father taught me everything I know about anything mechanical. He and I restored, rebuilt, and wrenched on several of his cars, out of necessity vs. hobby. Our bond was wrenching and gasoline.
Why the hell do people love vintage choppers so much? They’re absurd and don’t typically handle well. They’re not safe and rough on long rides. Plus, it seems that everyone that has one is constantly fixing it. For the next 385 words, I’ll attempt to provide a few reasons by using Josh Howells’ 1976 Harley-Davidson FXE chopper as an example.
Every August near Toronto, Ohio, a large group of diehard British motorcycle owners get together for three days of fun at Cable’s Creek Campgrounds. The Ohio Valley BSA Owners Club Annual Rally is an AMA-sanctioned event that is as much about community and family as it is about the bikes. Preserving these old British machines may be the foundation, but what truly keeps attendees coming back are the friendships developed from this passion. Just a quick walk around the campground and you will feel this sense of camaraderie.
Let’s be real. In the past, if a person had casually mentioned that they were building a Honda Shadow chopper, I wouldn’t exactly know what to picture. I might have even tried to talk them out of it. To someone who isn’t very familiar, a Shadow just sounds like a complicated project compared to the popular, traditional models. However, if the true intention of building a custom chopper is to be different, then I suppose it’s somewhat appropriate.
The traditional approach to getting your son a street bike is typically choosing a lame starter model that tends to focus largely on safety and affordability. That isn’t always the case when it comes to us gearheads though. It’s hard to shake that belief that if you’re going to ride, why not ride something that genuinely excites you?
The Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix, now in its 36th year, is all by itself an incredible event. You get to see automobiles of a certain age running wide open on actual city streets inside of Schenley Park during the heat of a Pittsburgh July. This aspect of the event is likely exhaustively covered elsewhere, and with this being Pittsburgh Moto, we’re going to discuss the subjectively cooler portion of the show known as the Motorbikes at the Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix.
“I found it on eBay. I hit the bid button, and all of the sudden I won. What a rush,” said Ryan Mazzaferro, explaining how he acquired the original 1974 Harley-Davidson XLCH Sportster that he would use as the platform for his first custom build. Most motorcycle projects use eBay at some point for parts, but this one in particular literally started on the e-commerce bidding website.
BMW Motorrad changed the market when introducing the R80G/S family of dual sports in 1980. They were the first large displacement multisports manufactured, and essentially created a whole new category of motorcycles that helped boost the company during a particularly rough period. The engine produced 50 horsepower and could reach speeds of over 100 mph. At the time, this was quite an accomplishment.
Everyone enjoys a good comeback story. As modern-day Pittsburghers, some of us are not old enough or simply fail to remember the malaise era of our region especially through the 1970s and 1980s. The devastating deindustrialization that preceded Pittsburgh’s renaissance and rebirth as one of the country’s most remarkable cities is one we often take for granted. Not lifetime Beaver County resident Mark Weber, whose most recent build metaphorically and literally resembles the revival of a legend.
The term “brotherhood” is often referenced when it comes to motorcycle riders or even biker clubs. Typically this is associated with the trust or respect of one another. In the case of this 1975 Harley-Davidson shovelhead chopper, two brothers with a common interest worked together over a winter to create something from the ground up.