JD Sansaver’s Steady Shovelhead

Just RIDE IT!

harley shovelhead chopper

JD Sansaver’s Steady Shovelhead

Mainly, this whole bike is built from trades and from friends.

Words and Photos: Nelson Kanno

harley shovelhead chopper

JD Sansaver’s Steady Shovelhead

I like long bikes, long front ends. I always thought that's what a chopper was.

Words and Photos: Nelson Kanno

harley shovelhead chopper

JD Sansaver’s Steady Shovelhead

I actually dropped my frame to get this look. In that old photo, I thought the whole motor was lifted up too much.

Words and Photos: Nelson Kanno

harley shovelhead chopper

JD Sansaver’s Steady Shovelhead

The neck was cast by John at Hardtail Choppers. I sent him drawings to fit my dimensions. It’s 2 up and no out. Forty degrees rake.

Words and Photos: Nelson Kanno

harley shovelhead chopper

JD Sansaver’s Steady Shovelhead

Sissy bar, handlebar, they’re stainless. A lot of other pieces too.

Words and Photos: Nelson Kanno

harley shovelhead chopper

JD Sansaver’s Steady Shovelhead

I even painted the bike. It’s all me. I’d never paint a bike for someone else though. It’s a lot of work.

Words and Photos: Nelson Kanno

harley shovelhead chopper

JD Sansaver’s Steady Shovelhead

It’s been to a lot of places! Rode down Baja Mexico three times. Sometimes I’ve shipped it places, and we’d ride the shit out of it there too. It’s been to New York, Canada, Montana… Roads were so gorgeous there.

Words and Photos: Nelson Kanno

harley shovelhead chopper

JD Sansaver’s Steady Shovelhead

The bike’s an ’84, last year of the Shovelhead.

Words and Photos: Nelson Kanno

We rolled up to a bike show, about an hour north of Los Angeles, and there it was. At that moment, I knew I needed to take a closer look at this bike. Thinking about it now, it’s trippy because we weren’t even past the gates, and I already knew something was up with this thing as it rolled by. Immediately, the lines drew me in. Sure, this isn’t really the type of bikes regularly featured in Hot Bike. But, hey, it’s a down-and-dirty chopper, and who doesn’t love that?

Listen. I’ve seen a lot of bikes. I mean, come on, really I have. And this tall, lean machine really stood out, even after pouring over a sea of bikes that day. I could tell from afar that the mill had a graceful lean to it—cocked up and proud. Something of this nature can mean two things: Something is terribly wrong or extraordinarily right.

Did the guy just luck out on a swap-meet find? Maybe it’s a ’70s survivor, you know. A little elbow grease and mojo brought it back to life. I had to find out, which I did, because I saw it parked with its owner JD Sansaver nearby. Here’s what I found out:

What’s the scoop on this bike?

The bike’s an ’84, last year of the Shovelhead. The engine was a trade; I did some work for it—just a basket case. I also used the engine cradle off of a frame. Mainly, this whole bike is built from trades and from friends.

There’s a photo over there that I got off the Internet. Somebody told me it was called “The Widow,” a bike that I loved ever since I saw it. I like long bikes, long front ends. I always thought that's what a chopper was.

You got some really interesting dimensions going on with this bike.

I actually dropped my frame to get this look. In that old photo, I thought the whole motor was lifted up too much. I didn’t want that jacked-up look, so right behind the transmission is where I tilted the frame back so the motor sits up but the bike sits down.

The neck was cast by John at Hardtail Choppers. I sent him drawings to fit my dimensions. It’s 2 up and no out. Forty degrees rake. But it’s really hard to figure out since the frame’s been modified quite a bit, so basically I did geometry so the downtubes go straight up and down with a 90-degree angle.

And the rest of the bike?

Front end was a trade, seat I did myself, oil tank is a modified swap-meet item. Everything has been modified. Then I got into engraving the fish scales, which was a big, fun project. I even painted the bike. It’s all me. I’d never paint a bike for someone else though. It’s a lot of work.

I also did a lot of stainless. The pipes actually look like they were chromed, but it’s actually called a “set finish.” Sissy bar, handlebar, they’re stainless. A lot of other pieces too. The bike looks like it travels a lot.

It’s been to a lot of places! Rode down Baja Mexico three times. Sometimes I’ve shipped it places, and we’d ride the shit out of it there too. It’s been to New York, Canada, Montana… Roads were so gorgeous there. I rode through Yosemite for three days—just amazing. Been to Sturgis too. I’ve had this bike running for four or five years now as my main, daily runner. I’ve got different versions of this bike, though, for long-distance riding. A different seat, a pizza box thing that bolts to the sissy bar.

I once broke eight spokes on the rear wheel in Mexico. Ended up taking off and re-lacing them on to even it out. Rode the rest of the whole trip without a problem. It’s been a good bike!