Harley-Davidson motorcycles have been in Japan for more than a century and as much as the Milwaukee company has tried over the years, their rules have never been followed. It’s an interesting relationship between country and company, large sums of money has changed hands, factories built and yet a tension lingered for decades. That history, however, has also resulted in some of the coolest Hogs we’ve ever seen, the Japanese delivering a completely unique take on the V-Twin. And few do it better than master Yusaku Sato, who presents his latest build, an incredible 1982 Shovelhead built under his Satomari Motorcycles banner.
Many may remember the other bikes of Sato-san that we have featured, his style is simply unmistakable. But after operating as Sato Marine, the company from the beautiful temple-filled port city of Onomichi, has taken a name change after 35 years under the original title. The good news is, the husband and wife team still run one of the slickest operations in the world. And when they’re not selling new bikes, parts, and branded pieces, they’re building some of the coolest one-off customs in the world.
A mainstay of the Yokohama Hot Rod Custom Show, you know that every bike that Sato-san builds is going to be of show level quality! And having only recently chosen our 2021 Bikes of the Year, it looks like 2022 has an early contender. The bike was commissioned by a passionate Harley fan who really only had one request, the donor had to be an ’82 Shovel, other than that, it was free rein. The build all starts with the frame and in building it, the decision was made to leave the neck area exposed.
To take advantage of this feature, the headstock, backbone, and down tubes are all welded and finished to appear as one cast piece. The backbone itself was then shaped to be the true core of the machine and runs as directly as possible back to the centreposts without the usual dip down. There are too many custom touches to mention just in the chassis alone, but the photos allow you to really drink them in. From that mid point, Sato-san wanted the fender to begin to merge into the rest of the bike, and bashed out of a solid piece of steel, he tells us it was a lot of work.
The benefit of using a thicker sheet is the floating look is more easily achieved, with no struts required! These lines are also picked up in the custom tank, with the underside flush fit to the bottom of the frame and the whole tank sitting rearward to show off the neck. For some extra wow factor, the stylish Motogadget speedo and keyless m.lock are mounted into the tank below the machined filler cap. All of this beautiful bodywork is then finished in the stunning deep blue colour scheme with red and white pinstriping and gold logos.
The wheels of this high-class cruiser form a big part of the look and you’ll never miss that huge front 23-in rim, that looks even bigger sans brakes. To further exaggerate the look, Sato-san had more tricks up his sleeve and they begin by using very narrow triple trees that are originally designed for a 39mm fork. These are then machined to accept beefier 41mm units, that are heavily lowered internally. Matched up with low risers and short, flat bars, you get the slim lines that then slowly widen as the eye ventures to the rear of the bike.
All of these very deliberate design features see the rear wheel a massive 6-inches smaller than the front, 17-in in diameter but wrapped in a fat Avon tyre for that big booty look. Again, exaggerated details are the name of the game and to pull off his next trick Sato-san machined an enormous rear caliper mount. From this, not one, but two huge multi-pot calipers that are blinged out in chrome ensure that you’ll never have a soggy pedal; just watch the lock up! A custom swingarm, billet shocks, and that gorgeous black leather seat finish out the rear.
Another thing the Japanese never fail to deliver is a stunning looking engine, and there isn’t a detail that hasn’t had the magic wand waved over it. From the beautiful exhaust system with large open mouth pipes to the polished up S&S carb with a custom cleaner, it’s hard to imagine a better looking Shovel! On the other side of the motor, a sensibly sized but jean shredding BDL open primary cover gives the bike a very mechanical feel, and the custom mid controls emerge from halfway along the cover.
It is simply a master class in custom craftsmanship, so the name on the shop window may have changed, but the quality is as spectacular as ever.