Saturday, September 21, 2024 ✦ Noon to 7pm

The Covid 13 Bike

Words: Kurt Diserio - Photos: Alexa Diserio
  • 1980 HARLEY-DAVIDSON FXE CHOPPER
    Built by Dan Swiderski
  • Shown at Glory Daze 2023
  • Published in Pittsburgh Moto - Issue No. 13
  • It was roughly ten years ago when Dan Swiderski’s shovelhead was stolen from his house, never to be seen again–or so he thought. Unless you’ve personally experienced a similar misfortune, it’s hard to understand the depths your mind will sink to when something like this happens. I imagine all of the hypothetical scenarios circling around like malevolent bats causing constant distractions.

    Don’t worry, there’s a happy ending. Years passed, and eventually, the bike was recovered. Even though it was in pieces, Swiderski used the opportunity to build the Harley chopper that he had always dreamed of. Alexa and I met up with him to get the full story on his custom FXE and its interesting history.

    You moved here from Philadephia. What was your connection with Pittsburgh?
    Dan Swiderski: I was in bands that toured through here a lot. Living in Philly made it easy with basically just one highway connecting the cities. I’d come out here for Skull Fest or stop on my way to the Lowbrow Getdown. I met Josh at Uptahn Metalworks after I started connecting with the motorcycle scene in Pittsburgh. He needed some help in the shop at the time, so I made the move once I was able to get a transfer at my union job.

    I’ve always been a sidewalk mechanic who loved motorcycles and owned Harleys. Part of why I moved here was for the motorcycle culture and chopper scene. Pittsburgh turned out to be what I thought Philly would have been–a bunch of crazy motherfuckers riding around on choppers.
    1980 Harley-Davidson FXE
shovelhead chopper Glory Daze Pittsburgh Moto
    What’s the history of this Harley shovelhead?
    DS: Before this version of the bike, it had been stolen from my house in 2014. Then randomly one day, a retired cop detective called me. He said they found my bike maybe five years ago, but he couldn’t contact me because it was Philadelphia P.D.’s case.

    It was in bad shape when I picked it up. All that was left was the frame, motor, and transmission. It was a swingarm shovelhead back then, but after I got it back I immediately started chopping it. I had a Sportster chopper before and felt like I hit the lottery when getting the shovelhead back.

    How did this particular build get started?
    DS: I was chosen for the Greasy Dozen’s Lucky 13 because of the wild story of having the bike stolen. That was in 2020 right as COVID was starting, so we ended up doing it digitally. Building it during that time was both good and bad. I had plenty of time to work on it, but nothing was open. Even just finding hardware was shitty.

    What work was involved?
    DS: The handlebars were built by Jordan at WannaBe Fabrication. The springer front end was found on Chopper Swapper. The seat was done by my buddy Diego, also known as “Mr. Comfy”. This was one of the first seats he did.

    The frame was hardtailed by Josh at Uptahn Metalworks using a V-Twin Manufacturing section. The sissy bar was built with the help of my friend, Austin, who had a fabrication shop. I mainly did everything else–I even learned how to weld on this bike after buying my first TIG welder. My favorite part of the bike is a secret little stash tube that holds a set of mini dice.

    Who did the trippy paintwork?
    DS: Austin, who I mentioned before, painted the base coat. I then linked up with graffiti artist Septic the Outlaw for the tank and fender art. He had done a mural at a bar I was working at, and I thought the art would’ve looked cool to have on my bike. My buddy who was into skateboarding knew the artist and hooked us up. On a slow night at the bar, a stranger started asking me about the bike, which is when I finally met him. The tank and fender he painted turned out great.
    1980 Harley-Davidson FXE
shovelhead chopper Glory Daze Pittsburgh Moto
    Did you finish the build in time?
    DS: Surprisingly, I did finish it in time for the Greasy Dozen. I spent about six months straight working on it, then they pushed back the deadline, and I was able to do a couple more things to it. My shakedown rides were a lot easier because I wasn’t under the gun.

    Now that you’ve been here a while, what is it you like about Pittsburgh?
    DS: It’s beautiful to ride here. It’s a city inside of a forest, and the views never get old. I know a lot of people complain that it’s annoying to get in and out of the city, but it’s easy compared to other cities. I live in the South Hills, so even just getting home from work is fun because of all the different ways you can go. You’re in a good central location to ride. You can go to all of the events, the mountains, or wherever. I love the working-class part of Pittsburgh, too. Big egos tend to get snuffed out here.

    What’s next now that you’re selling the bike?
    DS: I’m gonna miss it. This was the first real chopper that I built, and I hope somebody enjoys it as much as I did. The next project is a 1956 panhead survivor.
    1980 Harley-Davidson FXE
shovelhead chopper Glory Daze Pittsburgh Moto
    1980 Harley-Davidson FXE
shovelhead chopper Glory Daze Pittsburgh Moto
    1980 Harley-Davidson FXE
shovelhead chopper Glory Daze Pittsburgh Moto
    1980 Harley-Davidson FXE
shovelhead chopper Glory Daze Pittsburgh Moto
    1980 Harley-Davidson FXE
shovelhead chopper Glory Daze Pittsburgh Moto
    1980 Harley-Davidson FXE
shovelhead chopper Glory Daze Pittsburgh Moto
    1980 Harley-Davidson FXE
shovelhead chopper Glory Daze Pittsburgh Moto
    1980 Harley-Davidson FXE
shovelhead chopper Glory Daze Pittsburgh Moto
    1980 Harley-Davidson FXE
shovelhead chopper Glory Daze Pittsburgh Moto
    1980 Harley-Davidson FXE
shovelhead chopper Glory Daze Pittsburgh Moto
    1980 Harley-Davidson FXE
shovelhead chopper Glory Daze Pittsburgh Moto
    1980 Harley-Davidson FXE
shovelhead chopper Glory Daze Pittsburgh Moto
  • 1980 HARLEY-DAVIDSON FXE SHOVELHEAD CHOPPER
  • Built by DAN SWIDERSKI
  • Originally published by PITTSBURGH MOTO
  • Words by KURT DISERIO
  • Photos by ALEXA DISERIO
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