Sinister Shovel

Article By: Paul Wideman

Photos By: Bart Mitchell

Originally Published In The April 2013 Issue Of Cycle Source Magazine

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I’ve known John Shope of Sinister Industries for quite a while now. John has always been the first guy to tear something “perfect” apart. And if tearing it apart isn’t good enough, he’ll cut the damn thing in half. It’s just how the good do it. Nothing short of absolute perfection is acceptable. That’s how this genny Shovel came to be. Check it out… A few years ago, a friend of John’s had a decent looking bike stuck together running a 93” S&S generator Shovel. It was gloss black, ran an 18” front wheel, and had a few cool parts. The guy decided to part with it, and John liked it just how it was. Well, he liked it just how it was before it was his. Shortly after assuming ownership, John saw a few issues here and there, and of course he began thinking of ways to upgrade the aesthetics.

To start, he cut the pipes apart and angled them upwards. This eliminated the constant scraping around corners. While he was at it, the stock primary was pitched in favor of an open Primo unit, using the heavy clutch springs, of course. Along with the disposal of the stock primary went the starter. So John hopped to the other side of the bike and installed a Dyna S ignition system complete with Primo advance weights. That, along with the S&S Super E carb, makes for one kick start all day, everyday. John knows, as do you and I, that no respectable stripped down Shovel runs a hand clutch, so a foot clutch was fabbed up. For the shifter, John took a torch to an old piston and blew the center out to make it look like it came right out of a blown motor. John’s bikes are known for their stance, and his Shovel needed a little help. Knowing that he had gained a lot of ground clearance by modifying the pipes, he looked to the rear of the bike to start enhancing the profile. The shock mounts were moved forward a few inches, tucking the wheel up into the fender just enough.

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A 530 o-ring chain was added while he had the rear apart. Moving to the front, a lot had to be done. He knew he wanted a 21” front wheel and tire, and he loves the FL front ends . But if you’ve ever rebuilt an older FL frontend, you know what a pain in the ass it can be, so John opted to switch out to a later year frontend with updated seals, hardware and 2” shorter tubes. Along with this came the late model brake and a great looking rotor. John put a tall set of bars on with a Todd’s Cycle master cylinder and internal throttle; the front half was done. While cruising around the back roads of Southern Arizona, John felt the motor had a little too much vibration, so he and his crew stripped the bike engine down and swapped out the 93” wheels for a set of 80” wheels, bringing the displacement down, but greatly improving comfort ability. John says the bike still has plenty of ass to get up a mountain, and the Andrews’ gears, including a very tall 4th gear in the transmission, help him cruise at 85 M.P.H.+ all day long.

To finish the bike off, John went about coatings and paint in a bit of a more modest approach than some of his radical builds, but it is undeniably John’s style. The sheet metal was hit with a flat clear to subdue the black and give a much more low key look. A number of components, including the cam cover and pushrod tubes were treated to a flat white powder. The bars and battery box received a similar treatment, but on top of that, killer airbrush work was applied, incorporating skulls and flames and other assorted evil images. Just about everything else was powdercoated flat black. The best part of this bike is that he’s teaching his boys how to wrench and ride too. This particular bike is already the property of John’s second oldest, Cash. His oldest, Colton, laid claim to John’s other FL Shovelhead a few years ago. I’ve seen John’s boys in action behind the wheel already, and trust me, they are definitely their dad’s sons. Maniacs!

Like I said, I’ve known John a long time, and while he was the guy that launched the entire custom bagger industry into outer space, he still rides the kind of down and dirty bike that he always has. There’s a reason there’s a tiny tool bag hanging over that left side pipe; John rides the hell out of this bike, and occasionally has to fix it on the side of the road. But just like in the shop, he’s comfortable tearing the bike down just as far as it needs to be torn down, right there on the side of the road, to make it perfect again. Check John and Sinister Industries out at www. or on Facebook.

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Sinister Shovel Tech Sheet

Owner: John Shope

City: Phoenix, AZ

Fabrication By: Sideshow Cycles / Sinister Ind.

Year: 1968 Bastard

Model: FL

Time: 3 Months


Year: 2005 S&S

Model: Shovelhead

Builder: Sideshow / Sinister

Ignition: Dyna S

Displacement: 80”

Pistons: S&S

Heads: S&S

Cam(s): S&S

Carb: S&S

Air Cleaner: S&S / Velocity Stack

Exhaust: Paughco/ Sinister

Primary: Primo


Year: 1968

Make: H-D

Shifting: 4-Speed Suicide


Year: 1968

Make: H-D

Rake: Stock

Stretch: Stock


Type: Late Model H-D

Builder: H-D

Extension: Lowered 2”

Triple Trees: H-D


Front Wheel: DNA

Size: 21”

Tire: Whitewall

Brakes: Late Model H-D

Rear Wheel: DNA

Size: 16”

Tire: Whitewall

Brakes: H-D


Painter: Unknown

Color: Flat Black

Type: PPG

Graphics: Pinstripes



Bars: 16” Apes

Risers: None

Hand Controls: Todds Cycles

Gas Tank(s): H-D

Front fender: H-D

Rear fender: H-D

Seat: H-D

Foot Controls: LaPera

Oil Tank: Sinister

Taillight: H-D

Headlight: H-D

Speedo: Todd’s Cycles

Photographer: Bart Mitchell

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