’79 Shovelhead Layla

Article By: Roadside Marty

Photos By: Melissa Shoemaker

Originally Published In The January 2019 Issue Of Cycle Source Magazine

I’m sure most of you reading this will agree that a Harley- Davidson cone shovelhead is the best sounding engine the Motor Company ever produced. That’s not to say that other previous engines don’t sound good but a crisp sounding Shovel, especially with straight pipes, really gets my blood pumping! When I first saw this Shovel in Sturgis, I could tell from a distance that it was built by someone who knew how to build a quality motorcycle. Rich Pitoniak is the man behind this sweet piece of Milwaukee iron, and it was a pleasure talking with him and getting the lowdown about this particular bike. Like most of us, Rich started riding dirt bikes at a young age and learned to fix them as well as, which helped as he got older and got into muscle cars and drag racing at Lebanon Valley NY. Pitoniak bought his first Harley, a Sportster when he was twenty and hasn’t looked back since. Being a machinist by trade, he worked by day at his father’s machine shop where he learned attention to the smallest details by making prototype guns for various manufacturer’s. Eventually, he began to machine his own parts like triple trees and forward controls. Being a family man raising two sons money was tight, so if he needed a part for his bike, he had to make it. This was in the 90’s, and Rich says the old Iron Horse Magazines under David Snow as editor, were a significant influence on what he liked in a bike. It was around this time he picked up a ‘67 Shovel. It needed some serious attention to the cases, so he made a fixture and welded them up which led to him being offered a job at a local shop, Rolands Motor Works. While there, he learned to build and fine-tune high-performance engines. He was there from 1999 to 2004 and left on good terms to open his own shop Pitoniak’s Custom Cycles in 2004. Rich would like to thank Roland for the opportunity to work and learn from him during that time.

This 1979 Shovel came to him as a serious basket case with a blown motor, but Rich could see its real potential. Even though he really loves the old stuff, he enjoys using new technology to make them run and ride like a new bike. Rich started out by stripping it entirely down to the frame. He had the frame and swingarm powder coated with gloss black. He wasn’t too happy with the sheet  metal that came with it, so he ended up using some new repop 5-gallon tanks along with a new set of FLH fenders. A late model Heritage front end was used in place of the original banana caliper front end which was a significant improvement in handling. Rich rebuilt the engine from the flywheels up using the stock OEM cases with original 80” flywheels but with new S&S connecting rods. Pitoniak went with an S&S Cycles billet oil pump as well as a cam and a set of their 80” pistons for the OEM cylinders. You can’t go wrong with a company that has a reputation as good as S&S. The stock heads received a port and polish job along with new Manley valves and springs. For the exhaust, he went with a rarely seen Thunderheader specific for Shovels that provide excellent performance as well as a great sound! He went with another great company for the ignition system by running a Daytona Twin Tech model 1005 ignition, which have proven to be bulletproof.

One of the things that really caught my eye other than the sweet flame paint job was the CV carb. It’s certainly not a new idea, but it’s something that hasn’t really caught on with a lot of builders these days. Most people opt for a carb from S&S or Mikuni, but a stock Harley CV carb that’s tuned and jetted properly works VERY well on a Shovel and given the experience tuning engines that Rich has it’s a proven combination. Again, keeping with the idea of making older bikes better, Rich decided to not use the original four-speed transmission but instead used a Rivera Primo 6 speed with a Brute IV Extreme 3” belt drive topped off with a Pro Clutch. He went with another well-known industry icon for the suspension; Progressive Suspension have developed a line of shocks as well as fork springs that will definitely give you noticeable difference. Rich didn’t cut any corners and went with a set of Performance Machine calipers for stopping power, up front, he’s running one of their six  piston calipers, and for the rear, he went with their standard four piston caliper. Rich says the bike rides and handles exceptionally well, and he loves the way it turned out. He’s known in his area for his talent with older bikes, and I can certainly see why. We’re looking forward to seeing whatever he comes up with next!!


Owner: Rich Pitoniak

City/State: Westfield, MA

Builder: Pitoniaks Custom Cycles

Year: 1979

Model: Fl – ( Restomod )

Value: Not For Sale


Year: 1979

Model: Shovelhead

Builder: Pitoniaks Custom Cycles

Ignition: Daytona Twin Tech

Displacement: 80”

Pistons: S&S

Heads: H-D Ported & Polished

Carb: CV 40mm

Cam: S&S 450

Air Cleaner: Speedline

Exhaust: Thunderheader

Primary: Rivera Primo Brute IV Extreme

3” Belt Drive With Pro Clutch


Make: Rivera Primo

Shifting: 6 Speed, Foot


Year: 1979

Model: FL

Rake: Stock

Stretch: Stock


Builder: Harley-Davidson

Type: 41mm Fl

Triple Trees: Harley-Davidson

Extension: Lowered 2”

Rear Shocks: Progressive 11”


Front Wheel: Paughco

Size: 16”

Tire: Pirelli

Front Brake: PM 6 Piston

Rear Wheel: Paughco

Size: 16”

Tire: Pirelli

Rear Brake: PM 4 Piston


Painter: Spikes Custom Paint

Color: Black

Type: PPG

Graphics: Gold Leaf Flames


Bars: Flanders 16” Apes

Risers: 2”

Hand Controls: Harley-Davidson

Foot Controls: CCI

Gas Tank(S): 5 Gallon

Oil Tank: Harley-Davidson

Front Fender: FL

Rear Fender: FL

Seat: Black Canyon Leather

Headlight: Harley-Davidson 7”

Tail Light: Tombstone

Photographer: Melissa Shoemaker

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