All Hail the King

“Who cares about handling; I’m too busy looking at my reflection in shop windows,” said Big Andy. “It’s good to be The King.”

MY LOVE OF Harleys started as a kid, the day I watched a guy tow-start a Volkswagen with his Electra Glide. I thought that was pretty impressive. I’d been riding mini bikes for years, and at 12, I finally owned the next best thing to a Harley—a 1964 Honda Benly (check ‘em out on Google). It was the closest thing that I could find—hey, back off, I was 12-years-old.

I’ve always had a passion for FLs. I like their valanced guards and classic flowing lines. Harley-Davidson sure nailed the look back in the day because they’re still doing it. So I bought this nice old ’72 a while back with the intention of riding it during the nice weather, then giving it a quick birthday over winter. This is an Australian delivered bike that’s had a pretty decent life. The guy I bought it from had a full engine rebuild done on it years ago but hadn’t ridden it due to illness. The plan was to paint it black, slam it, and throw a set of apes on it. I reckon FLHs lend themselves to this look very easily. I got it home, put my bits on it and was content to enjoy it over summer.

Until I met Skippy.

My peaceful morning ride through the hills was interrupted with the arrival of a Skip in my lane. He dropped in from the side of the road. I guess he just wanted to hang out with me and stuff. We did hang out together but it involved me hitting him point blank and then getting airborne as I rode over the top of him.

Anyone else out there pulled big air on an FLH? Just a heads up, you’ll find they’re not really suited to that sort of thing.

This particular Skip was a behemoth. He was as big as me; only his sideburns were bigger. And I swear he had tatts. Despite the impact, I managed to stay on the bike and kept control thanks to my astonishing riding skills—those skills included squealing like a little girl and soiling my new LePera seat.

Unfortunately for me, I’d hit the Dwayne Johnson of kangaroos. This roo was tough. He’d dented and smashed the guard and tank, broke a heap of brackets and bits, and left a kilo of assorted entrails hanging from the undercarriage. Getting hit by Big Andy on an FLH is always going to ruin your day, although he actually died of lead poisoning thanks to the local constabulary who showed up. 

K&M Motorcycles (Adelaide) were commissioned to repair the banged-up bike and it seemed only logical to make a few improvements while it was pulled apart. Yep, we’ve all heard this a 100 times before. You can see the train heading for the cliff as it’s pulling out of the station, can’t you?

I’ve got Chris & Dale at K&M to thank for the work they did; they’re not only good mates, but they are meticulous and do quality work. While they were busy rebuilding and fabricating parts for my bike, I was busy fabricating stories to my beautiful wife about how important it was to continue spending money on it.

Chris pulled the bike down to a bare frame and started with a clean slate. First up was a rewire. Chris is a bit of a wiring guru but he was kept busy removing chunks of dried Skip as he worked on it.

Although the engine had only done a couple of thousand km since its full rebuild 10 years earlier, it had been sitting and it needed a clean up. By coincidence, Dale had done the work on it all those years ago. He freshened it up and it went back together full of good bits ‘n’ pieces like a balanced bottom-end, Jims lifters, Delcron oil pump, Black Diamond valves, S&S valve springs and Dyna ignition. An oil cooler is a sensible addition to a Shovelhead so a Lockhart unit earns its keep up front. It’s got a little ‘J-grind’ cam in it that works nicely with the S&S E-series carb.

Dale also overhauled the gearbox with new seals, bearings and selectors to go with the Andrews gears.

The rims were stripped and powder-coated, then Big Craig at K&M laced ‘em with stainless spokes.

I like the look of old-school cross-plies but I was warned about poor handling with old tyre technology. Who cares about handling; I’m too busy looking at my reflection in shop windows.

We kept as many of the original parts on the bike as possible including the original rear drum. I like the old school look of it and it works well. I replaced the old, heavy front banana caliper with a GMA unit for less weight and more efficiency.

Suspension was kept simple.

There’s a pair of Progressive springs up front; lowered one inch. The rear has a pair of IKONs that have dropped the bike about an inch and a half. I can’t have it any lower because the pipes will leave a rooster-tail of sparks—especially once I climb aboard. I’m not called ‘Big Andy’ for nothing. I was born this big. I spent the first five years of my life thinking my name was “Good Lord!”

The paint colour choice was always going to be Gold Flake. I love flake paint jobs and I’m stoked with what Pud and Steve at Kahuna Customs did. It absolutely pops in the sun and I love it. Their work is excellent. They’re custom bike and car fellas who are the real-deal.

No one’s convinced on the sparkly matching handgrips and plug wires but how could I resist them? Just to irritate everyone, I’m thinking of hanging streamers from the handgrips as well. Heh, heh.

The bars are 18-inches-high but they don’t look that big once I’m riding it—mostly due to that ‘Big Andy’ thing again. Besides, I need all the room I can get on it; it feels like a Sportster under me.

Those long pipes aren’t to everyone’s taste but I’ve always loved the Vicla style bikes, and I’m not interested in anyone else’s opinion anyway. If you don’t like it, shut your pie hole and go build your own.

I make my living singing rock ’n’ roll and have done my whole life. I perform the cool old stuff that everybody wants to hear—early Rockabilly, blues and gritty old soul, and I do an Elvis show. Mine’s a bit different to everyone else’s, but I’ve performed all over the world and criss-crossed Oz a 100 times. I count myself as fortunate that I’m making a living from doing something I love. I’ll tell you this—more people want to hear Elvis’s music than anything else.

This style of build, combined with what I do for a living, all tie in together. When it comes to my bikes, I need something that’s a bit different. It kind of goes with the gig.

Sure I may have a bit of chrome in my beard nowadays, but I’m a big hunk ‘a burning love’, and I’ll give you a pretty serious night of rock ’n’ roll that’ll peel the paint off the walls.

I’ve got other stuff to ride when I need to keep up with the fellas, but what’s the rush? I arrive 10 minutes later and still get a seat at the buffet.

It’s good to be The King.

Harley-Davidson Shovelhead Electra Glide

For me, nothing beats rolling through the hills low ‘n’ slow taking in the scenery with Lulu, my loyal riding companion. She also doubles as my security system. No one will come near the bike once they see her.

Words by Big Andy; photos by Chris Randells

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