Although most people know Copper Mike Cole for his hand-hammered copper sheetmetal bobbers, he is no stranger to baggers; he just prefers them to have a Shovel or Pan motor. This is the typical story about a bike builder who wanted a bagger for himself that he could really put some miles on. However, this builder's bike isn't an Ultra or even a Road King, it's an old '66 FL with a few modern conveniences.
Mike grew up riding bikes all over the Northeast. From the time he was 14 he was riding dirt, eventually transitioning to street at 18, and never he looked back. Thus began his obsession with several types of motorcycles but the ones that truly inspired him and begged to be modified were Harleys. The very first Harley Mike owned was a '78 FLH that he customized and sold for a profit. He then bought another, and has continued the cycle for more than 25 years, only really establishing a true custom shop that was open to the public a few years ago. He aptly named the shop Gravesend Cycles after the Brooklyn neighborhood he grew up in. Even in a down economy, Copper Mike seems to be expanding, but still has plenty of time for riding with his buddies. Most of them ride Twin Cams and they ride them hard, so Mike knew he needed to build a bike that could rip through NYC traffic and handle a long trip, but it had to be a Shovel.
Mike picked up a complete basket case '66 generator Shovel motor and knew that this was his chance to build the bike he had dreamed of, literally. Mike was awakened from a dead sleep and knew exactly what this bike should look like, right down to the paint. Mike jotted down what he remembered and went back to sleep.
Mike knew he wanted to keep the overall look of the bike vintage but also to try out a few ideas that he had been thinking about for a while. One idea he had was to marry a modern 49mm Harley frontend to an old FL swingarm frame. It took some serious manipulation and a few hours machining parts, but in the end it had the desired profile, travel, and overall look. He paired the frontend with a pair of his custom risers and his Copper Mike apehanger handlebars that he has Nash make. He added to the look by running a 21-inch fat-spoked front wheel. He also narrowed a Road King fender to keep the bagger look intact and give some much needed containment protection from rain and rocks. He matched the rear wheel with a 16-inch fat-spoke wheel. Interestingly enough, the only piece of copper on this bike is a 1966 penny on the oil tank cap.
The rest of the sheetmetal all had to be modified. He decided to use the narrow and sleek looking 3.5-gallon FatBob tanks and a modified hinged rear fender. A bagger, by definition, has to have bags, so Mike opted for the original H-D fiberglass bags, and though they don't hold much, they keep in line with the vintage contemporary look he is after with all of his bikes. The generator Shovelhead motor is mated to an original four-speed Harley transmission via a polished original Harley-Davidson chain driven wet primary.
We really love these old bikes here at Baggers, and sadly, we just don't run into enough of them. While most folks are riding the newest cutting-edge touring offerings, it's always a pleasure to run into old iron when out on the road. The riders of these retro machines are usually encyclopedias of everything Harley, and with just a few tools, can rebuild whatever needs fixin' right on the side of the road. Keep your eyes peeled and get in touch with us if you have a lead on some old bagger history.