Yuji Maeda of MMM Products streamlines the Shovel he’s owned for 22+ years…
The Harley-Davidson Shovelhead engine appeared in 1966, the Motor Company’s third OHV V-twin after the Knucklehead and Panhead. The new engine boasted 10 more horsepower than the Panhead and featured stronger pistons and valves, better porting, a shallower combustion chamber, and alloy “Power Pac” heads reminiscent of the back end of old coal shovels, giving the engine its name.
The early 80-inch / 1310cc FLH Shovelhead engines made 66 horsepower at 5600 rpm, and power would remain between 60 and 65 horsepower throughout the engine’s 18-year production run, which ended in 1984. The Shovelhead has been both loved and loathed by riders over the years. A Chop Cult member may have gotten to the bottom of the divide when he asked an oldtimer who’d owned all of the Harley engines why owners seemed to love or hate them:
“He said you know the ones that loved their shovels were the ones that didn’t mind the leaky oil or having to wrench on them and the ones that did hated it. He said if you didn’t mind wrenching on your ride it was no problem but if you didn’t know how you hated them.”
Enter our new friend Yuji Maeda of Japan’s MMM Products, who grew up watching his older cousins ride motorcycles. At the age of 16, he swung his own leg over the saddle and never looked back. Yuji owns a company that specializes in metal processing and castings, creating a series of very cool custom parts that includes real glass taillights and turn signals, as well as aluminum/brass/cast-iron pegs, carb covers, and more:
“From 2007 onward, we started manufacturing motorcycle parts (castings and glass) that we wanted. It’s very small scale. We also manufacture OEM products at the request of various creators (custom builders) in Japan.”
Yuji has been riding the 1975 FLH Shovelhead you see here for more than 20 years, having bought it from a friend back in 1999. When a D.I.Y. customs event came up, he decided it was time to modify his old bike:
“Harleys are so heavy that I simply wanted to make mine lighter. I wanted it to work better in traffic here in Japan, and with a scrambler style. I really didn’t want to chop the original frame because it matches the engine.”
Leaving the OEM frame intact, Yuji took inspiration from both Japanese and European styles to create the light(er) weight Shovelhead you see here, complete with 18-inch wheels, an FRP tank, Bates TT seat, Airheart calipers, and a wealth of MMM parts:
“The carburetor is a Keihin CV carb, and the carburetor covers, tail lights, and turn signal lights (made of glass) are all products we manufacture.”
Yuji says the bike is still a work-in-progress, evolving over time. But one thing is certain: after 22 years of hard service, this Shovelhead has earned a special place in the owner’s heart.
Shovelhead Scrambler: Builder Interview
• Please tell us a bit about yourself, your history with motorcycles, and your workshop.
My older cousins were always riding motorcycles. I remember fondly the Kawasaki GPz400 Four. I also had a Honda GB250 and a motocross bike (Yamaha?). I started riding motorcycles when I was about 16 years old. At first, I took over the JDM Suzuki GS250FW that my cousin had been riding, and then got a Yamaha XJR400.
After that, I really wanted to buy a Kawasaki Z-II from my friend’s relatives, but that story did not come true and my friends were all riding Harleys, so I decided to get a Harley FLSTC in 1997. For the last twenty years and more, I’ve been riding the Shovelhead that I bought from a friend in 1999.
I have a company that makes metal processing and molds. From 2007 onward, we started manufacturing motorcycle parts (casting and glass) that we wanted. It’s very small scale. We also manufacture OEM products at the request of various creators (custom builders) in Japan.
• What’s the make, model, and year of the bike?
Harley-Davidson Shovelhead, engine FLH, made in 1975.
• Why was this bike built?
The trigger for the build was a D.I.Y custom event.
• What was the design concept and what influenced the build?
Harleys are so heavy that I simply wanted to make mine lighter. I wanted it to work better in traffic here in Japan, and with a scrambler style. I really didn’t want to chop the original frame because it matches the engine.
I also like the Japanese motorcycles of my home country and European motorcycles as well — I’m greatly influenced by both — so I tried to create such a look without touching the frame.
• What custom work was done to the bike?
I like old parts and used a lot of them. The front and rear wheels have been changed to 18 inches. The tank is made of FRP. The seat is a custom Bates TT seat.
The brakes now use Hurst Airheart calipers. Double discs in the front and a disc brake in the rear. The rotor is made of cast iron and the attachment is made of aluminum.
The carburetor is a Keihin CV carb, and the carburetor covers, tail lights, and turn signal lights (made of glass) are all products we manufacture.
• Can you tell us what it’s like to ride this bike?
The Shovelhead is a very torquey engine — it’s a lot of fun and really gives you a pure feeling of riding.
• Was there anything done during this build that you are particularly proud of?
I think motorcycle customization is a great freedom, a wonderful thing. Many people around the world do it every day. I was influenced by many things, but also free to create what I wanted (and I’m still in the middle of the process).