Two Brothers Build a Shovelhead Chopper
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.
Growing up, Nathan and Ryan Cipoletti always wanted to build custom bikes, but the rule at home was no tattoos or motorcycles. As soon as the eldest brother Nathan moved out, he picked up a 1976 Honda CB650. The bike mostly stayed in his basement, covered up just so Mom wouldn’t see it. At the time, Nathan was also working with and building cars. A number of custom track-series Hondas, a bagged Nissan 350Z, and a BMW E36 were just a few of his projects.
The brothers later caught the chopper bug when a lot of their friends started building them. Nathan traded his Honda CB for a basket case Ironhead Sportster, but later swapped it for Ryan’s 1988 Evo Sportster. Ryan was set on a big twin, so he then traded that Ironhead and some cash for a 1975 Harley-Davidson FX he found on Craigslist in Amish Country, Ohio.
After Ryan hustled his way to the bike he truly wanted, they began building the chopper over the winter. Nathan owned a garage nearly ten miles away from where he lives in Weirton, West Virginia. Being that they both work at the same place, they would stop by the garage on their way home and spend a few hours a night working on the bike. “I immediately built the bike in my head when I first bought it. I just waited for the right time and money to begin putting it all together,” Ryan explained.
All of the work was done in the garage with a MIG welder and limited resources. Nathan did most of the paint work. Ryan hand-polished the handlebars and sissy bar. They used a Haifley Brothers hardtail kit and a custom seat by Dan Collins of Old Gold Garage in California. Ryan found a ten over narrow springer front end online, adding that he got very lucky when it fit up perfectly. The exhaust was originally a gooseneck Paughco system that they had to chop due to an error that caused the exhaust ends to point in opposite directions.
Things got tricky with the oil tank. The original was a side fill that didn’t work. After finding an old panhead oil tank at a swap meet, they cut the top off of it, welded it into the other, and filled the sides in.
Ryan named the old chopper “Crohn Shovel” because of his Crohn’s disease, something he was made aware of in high school. “This bike has a lot of meaning. It’s almost like a first born because it’s the first truly custom bike we’ve built,” Nathan said. After putting in the hours over the course of a few months, the Cipoletti brothers ended up with something they can both be proud of.
Special thanks goes to the entire Choppers to the Grave crew for their help and Fred Marino for helping with the paint.