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  1. #1

    Default Questions about my next bike, and "bulletproofing" a shovelhead

    Hey guys
    Unfortunately after totalling my bike last week I am in the market for a new Harley. Still have everything attached so it could be worse but in the process of healing up.
    I'm torn between buying a big twin Evo or picking up a bike I've always dreamed of owning, a 1981 FXE. The shovelhead is complete but the top end is in a box, which isn't a huge deal to me as I've put motors together before, mostly twin Cam and Evo.
    I know that the Evo tends to be a much more reliable motor, and a lot of my riding is multi day trips out to campsites or other long, sometimes 500+ mile destinations.
    What I'm wondering is if there is a way to build a shovel motor to be able to do this kind of riding without any major issues or if I should just wait on the shovel and go with an Evo

    Thanks everyone

  2. #2
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    I'll get you started.

    The motor is 40 years old, and you know it was pushed for at least a part of its life. Strip it down, have a quality machinist /builder go through it, decide if you want to assemble or have the builder do it.

    Question to the builders on the forum, does anyone Magnaflux anymore? I know the true magnaflux process only works on iron, but they have dyes for aluminum castings, was wondering if they work as well.

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    Quote Originally Posted by PutALittleHeatOnIt View Post
    What I'm wondering is if there is a way to build a shovel motor to be able to do this kind of riding without any major issues or if I should just wait on the shovel and go with an Evo

    Thanks everyone
    Yes there is a way to make a Shovel dependable,,,,,,,,, , Keep it as close to stock as possible......... You will have way fewer problems in the long run.........

    Best of luck.

  4. #4

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    I would consider shovelheads to be as reliable as evos, within limits. The shovel top ends don't last as long (they don't cool as well as an evo). The four speeds tend to leak and wear out, compared to the near bulletproof five speeds. And as farmall will be here to tell you, the shovel starter system leaves something to desired compared to the excellent evo Denso starters.

    Bottom line, if that's what you want, go for it. Tempus fugit.

    Jim

  5. #5

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    Thanks everyone. The shovel I'm looking at does have both kick and electric. I think as soon as I get the insurance payout I'm gonna take the plunge. I'll have everything looked over/worked by my machinist before assembly. If it ever comes down to a lower end rebuild, is there any advantage to switching to Delkron cases?

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    They used to ride them all over the country.. The Shovel was considered a massive improvement over what came before.

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    Quote Originally Posted by PutALittleHeatOnIt View Post
    Thanks everyone. The shovel I'm looking at does have both kick and electric. I think as soon as I get the insurance payout I'm gonna take the plunge. I'll have everything looked over/worked by my machinist before assembly. If it ever comes down to a lower end rebuild, is there any advantage to switching to Delkron cases?
    Nothing wrong with the stock cases as long as they are serviceable (no bad cracks or wreck damage). Use good quality parts in the rebuild and you will get years and years of service out of it.

    Jim

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    Thank you Jim, I see your quality responses on quite a few threads and really appreciate your wisdom!

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    What I would suggest is to go through your motor and bore/stroke it to 93". Put a softail primary or belt on it, and a six speed. Do this and you can fly all day down the interstate and not hurt it, or yourself. Personally, I'd snag a used Twinkie FLH of sorts, and keep the bored/stroked FXE at home for around town. Of course I'm getting old...

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    Quote Originally Posted by DoomBuggy View Post

    Question to the builders on the forum, does anyone Magnaflux anymore?


    Some do, and some don't ....

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    aircraft mechanics usually have magnaflux capabilities, or access to it, if your local car engine rebuilder doesnt.
    Last edited by flatman; 09-27-2021 at 6:14 PM.

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    I'd get the Evo then build a Shovel as a second bike. If money is too tight for two bikes it's too tight for downtime.

    You can always drop a Shovel into an Evo later if you wish. If getting an Evo later is better.

    Alternate option, if the Shovel is priced right get that then get something else (need not be a Harley, the world is full of perfectly good other motorcycles) for touring seriously. Many bikers have multiple motorcycles of multiple brands since they don't eat much.

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    A few tidbits here:

    Shovelhead Savvy

    "Build ’em to last, not to go fast.'

    https://thunderpress.net/editorial/s...2019/10/15.htm

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    Quote Originally Posted by TriNortchopz View Post
    A few tidbits here:

    Shovelhead Savvy

    "Build ’em to last, not to go fast.'

    https://thunderpress.net/editorial/s...2019/10/15.htm
    I just read that over. The author doesn't know much about shovelheads, is my conclusion. Most of the advice is expensive and bogus.

    Jim

  15. #15
    Sugarcubes
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    I love my Evo. As a daily mile muncher and all weather bike, I find it a perfect mix of old soul and slightly more modern tech.
    Click image for larger version. 

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    Tech from Shovelhead USA:

    Shovelheads; Making 'Em last
    by Joe Minton

    https://shovelhead.us/pics/sheets/te...vels_alive.pdf

  17. #17

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    Quote Originally Posted by TriNortchopz View Post
    Tech from Shovelhead USA:

    Shovelheads; Making 'Em last
    by Joe Minton

    https://shovelhead.us/pics/sheets/te...vels_alive.pdf
    Another dated article(s). Although Joe Minton is (was?) a talented mechanic, this series of articles is 30 years old, and that means of course that the shovelheads that are the subject of the article are also 30 years older.

    The good news is that the shovelhead motor and indeed the entire motorcycle has endured the test of time, notwithstanding the shaky quality control at the factory during some of the AMF years.

    Here's a thumbnail of considerations when working on your shovel motor:

    Bottom end: the cases, flywheels, and rods are very good and are standing the test of time. New bearings, shafts, rod races, wristpin bushings, and flywheel thrust washers are what needs to be replaced. 4 1/2 or 4 5/8 stroke flywheels and matching pistons are a good upgrade for a shovel stroker that will live, in many cases as long as a stocker. Balancing should definitely be done. I am currently using a 55% factor due to the high highway speeds these days.

    Cylinders and pistons: lots of used H-D cylinders out there, as well as lots of the old Dixie stock of Taiwanese cylinders, that are useable. The current production Chinese cylinders are hit or miss and should be avoided. The stock type replacement cast pistons, with the steel expansion strut cast in (Bonalite style), are decent and inexpensive. There are a number of forged pistons still available. The KB hypereutectic pistons are weak and should be avoided. They will run, but if anything happens in the motor that compromises the pistons, they tend to break at the wristpin boss, and then you have a rod flying around loose in your motor, and mayhem ensues. Compression ratios of 9:1 or 9.5:1 are fine with the right cam choice, and the 91 - 93 octane fuel we have available right now (that could change).

    Heads: the stock valve seat inserts are fine for unleaded fuels, but many of these heads have high mileage and the seat recession has occurred. The good news is that shovels will run quite nicely with valve installed heights way larger than the factory spec. Therefore, you can usually get away without replacing the valve seats. The valves themselves should be the black nitrided type for the best resistance to stem wear. They are even better than the hard chrome stem valves in my experience. Don't even consider using the stock burnished stem valves. The Ampco 45 bronze guides are THE BEST in my opinion, but since Rowe went out of business, they are no longer common in the market. PM makes a good, high nickel cast iron guide that is way cheaper than the Ampco 45 guides and appears to give good life. Use a valve stem seal, they help keep the combustion chamber dry. Use some care setting up the spring pack, and valve clearance. THIS IS THE MOST FUCKED UP PART OF SERVICING SHOVEL HEADS THAT I SEE!!! Even from shops that should know better. It takes some time to do it right, SO TAKE THE TIME!! Replace rocker arm bushings as necessary. Shim the rocker arm end float to around .004 - .006. Dress the rocker arm pad, and replace any rocker arm with a pitted pad.

    Cam and tappets: a shovel will live longest with valve lift at .450 or less. Lifts of over .500 are a waste of time with stock heads, because the ports stall before that. Shim the cam for .008 - .012 end float (it's not critical) and use a Koyo (Torrington) cam bearing. NO CHINESE SHIT. Most shovel tappets and tappet blocks are worn out. Oversize tappet bodies are available and the blocks can be honed to fit, like fitting an oversize piston. If by chance you have a low mileage motor with good tappets, do replace the tappet rollers. There are good Japanese roller kits available. The stock hydraulic tappets were fine, and will work with lifts up to .450. But, all of those are quite old now. The originals were made by Eaton, and Crane Cams offered the same part. You can find these as new old stock occasionally. S&S offered the same piece after they bought the Crane motorcycle line, but I don't know if they still offer them. The Jim's Powerglide tappet for shovels are hit or miss; I bought two sets when they first came out, and neither set worked well in two different motors. ALL of the import (Chinese) hydraulic tappets are JUNK. Therefore, solid tappets is the cost effective and reliable choice for shovels these days. You can do the evo cam/ tappet swap, but $$$.

    Use good parts, have the machine work and head work done by someone who KNOWS what he is doing, and a shovel motor will last for years, if not decades.

    I'm tired of typing.

    Jim

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    Based on what I've seen: My completely amateur opinion is the best thing you can do for longevity is proper tuning.

    I hear bikes blowing past me all day that are just way, way lean. I dunno if they have intake leaks or they're just jetted wrong, or what.. Junk gas with high compression? I dunno. But they crackle and pop and run like garbage. They are quite obviously unhappy. You can hear it.

    This has to lead to detonation, heat and wear.

    It must be bad, but I'm not sure the riders understand that?

  19. #19

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    Quote Originally Posted by confab View Post
    Based on what I've seen: My completely amateur opinion is the best thing you can do for longevity is proper tuning.

    I hear bikes blowing past me all day that are just way, way lean. I dunno if they have intake leaks or they're just jetted wrong, or what.. Junk gas with high compression? I dunno. But they crackle and pop and run like garbage. They are quite obviously unhappy. You can hear it.

    This has to lead to detonation, heat and wear.

    It must be bad, but I'm not sure the riders understand that?
    Poor choice of pipes, in most cases. (Which does lead to a poor state of tune.)

    Jim

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    Quote Originally Posted by JBinNC View Post
    Another dated article(s). Although Joe Minton is (was?) a talented mechanic, this series of articles is 30 years old, and that means of course that the shovelheads that are the subject of the article are also 30 years older.

    The good news is that the shovelhead motor and indeed the entire motorcycle has endured the test of time, notwithstanding the shaky quality control at the factory during some of the AMF years.

    Here's a thumbnail of considerations when working on your shovel motor:

    Bottom end: the cases, flywheels, and rods are very good and are standing the test of time. New bearings, shafts, rod races, wristpin bushings, and flywheel thrust washers are what needs to be replaced. 4 1/2 or 4 5/8 stroke flywheels and matching pistons are a good upgrade for a shovel stroker that will live, in many cases as long as a stocker. Balancing should definitely be done. I am currently using a 55% factor due to the high highway speeds these days.

    Cylinders and pistons: lots of used H-D cylinders out there, as well as lots of the old Dixie stock of Taiwanese cylinders, that are useable. The current production Chinese cylinders are hit or miss and should be avoided. The stock type replacement cast pistons, with the steel expansion strut cast in (Bonalite style), are decent and inexpensive. There are a number of forged pistons still available. The KB hypereutectic pistons are weak and should be avoided. They will run, but if anything happens in the motor that compromises the pistons, they tend to break at the wristpin boss, and then you have a rod flying around loose in your motor, and mayhem ensues. Compression ratios of 9:1 or 9.5:1 are fine with the right cam choice, and the 91 - 93 octane fuel we have available right now (that could change).

    Heads: the stock valve seat inserts are fine for unleaded fuels, but many of these heads have high mileage and the seat recession has occurred. The good news is that shovels will run quite nicely with valve installed heights way larger than the factory spec. Therefore, you can usually get away without replacing the valve seats. The valves themselves should be the black nitrided type for the best resistance to stem wear. They are even better than the hard chrome stem valves in my experience. Don't even consider using the stock burnished stem valves. The Ampco 45 bronze guides are THE BEST in my opinion, but since Rowe went out of business, they are no longer common in the market. PM makes a good, high nickel cast iron guide that is way cheaper than the Ampco 45 guides and appears to give good life. Use a valve stem seal, they help keep the combustion chamber dry. Use some care setting up the spring pack, and valve clearance. THIS IS THE MOST FUCKED UP PART OF SERVICING SHOVEL HEADS THAT I SEE!!! Even from shops that should know better. It takes some time to do it right, SO TAKE THE TIME!! Replace rocker arm bushings as necessary. Shim the rocker arm end float to around .004 - .006. Dress the rocker arm pad, and replace any rocker arm with a pitted pad.

    Cam and tappets: a shovel will live longest with valve lift at .450 or less. Lifts of over .500 are a waste of time with stock heads, because the ports stall before that. Shim the cam for .008 - .012 end float (it's not critical) and use a Koyo (Torrington) cam bearing. NO CHINESE SHIT. Most shovel tappets and tappet blocks are worn out. Oversize tappet bodies are available and the blocks can be honed to fit, like fitting an oversize piston. If by chance you have a low mileage motor with good tappets, do replace the tappet rollers. There are good Japanese roller kits available. The stock hydraulic tappets were fine, and will work with lifts up to .450. But, all of those are quite old now. The originals were made by Eaton, and Crane Cams offered the same part. You can find these as new old stock occasionally. S&S offered the same piece after they bought the Crane motorcycle line, but I don't know if they still offer them. The Jim's Powerglide tappet for shovels are hit or miss; I bought two sets when they first came out, and neither set worked well in two different motors. ALL of the import (Chinese) hydraulic tappets are JUNK. Therefore, solid tappets is the cost effective and reliable choice for shovels these days. You can do the evo cam/ tappet swap, but $$$.

    Use good parts, have the machine work and head work done by someone who KNOWS what he is doing, and a shovel motor will last for years, if not decades.

    I'm tired of typing.

    Jim
    Alot of GREAT and FREE information here. Thanks for taking the time to type it out Jim

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