Ed Riggins' Custom Shovelhead Harley Hot Rod

A 1958/1969 Harley-Davidson Shovelhead built from parts 45 years ago.

custom shovelhead harley-davidson
Ed Riggins and his Shovelhead hot rod.©Motorcyclist

NAME: Ed Riggins
AGE: 71
HOME: San Francisco, California
OCCUPATION: Publisher, Thrasher magazine (retired)

I built this bike from parts 45 years ago, after I grew tired of the bad-handling, poor-stopping Harleys of the era. This one has a 90-inch (1,475cc) stroker Shovelhead engine with lots of headwork, bigger Sifton valves, a 40mm Weber carb, and a custom exhaust by Tony Williams. It's a '69 motor stuffed into a '58 frame that's been heavily modified in the rear to make it stand upright like the Triumphs it was patterned after. Front discs and lower fork legs are from a '60s Honda, with Ceriani triple clamps and Tommaselli clip-ons. Headlight, taillight, and tank are Triumph. The seat is an XR-750. There were some bugs to work out, a few trials, and a bunch of errors, but overall I think my café racer came out pretty good for a backyard-engineering project.

Ed Riggins, back in the day, with the same bike.©Motorcyclist

I liked being able to corner without dragging parts, and I liked to hit the brakes hard, to the point of lockup, both of which were unheard of on any Harley-Davidson at that time. My bike was as fast or faster than anything on the road for a while, too, but of course that didn't last very long. It even got decent gas mileage. Two weeks after I finished it, I left for the Grand Canyon with a friend on his CB750. At the first gas stop I needed a lot more fuel than he did, which I blamed on the Weber. The rest of the way back to SF he always used more gas than I did, which amazed us both. I also like having other Harley riders ask me what kind of bike I'm riding.

The whole bike is showing its age—some of the parts on it have a zillion miles on them—so I’m making some updates now. I’m shooting for modern braking and handling with some parts off a ’90s Ducati 900SS, but I’ll still retain the character of a ’70s Shovelhead hot rod. When it’s done it should make this version look almost stock.