Adjust Shovelhead Shocks

The Shovel is remembered nostalgically.

The Shovelhead was the best and worst of Harleys, built mostly when Harley was a division of American Machine and Foundry. The engineering was flawed and the assembly was mostly rushed. Yet the Shovel is the most nostalgically-remembered Harley because it was the last engine type before the motor company began marketing itself to the RUBs, the rich urban bikers who actually saved the company. Chassis parts, including shock absorbers, are still very widely available for all Shovels. Anybody will sell you shocks to fit any Shovel and they are almost always better than the originals. Start with new replacement shock absorbers.


1. Measure the distance with a steel tape from the middle of the upper shock bolt to the middle of the lower chock bolt for both shock absorbers.

2. Measure the same distances again while an assistant who is about your size sits on the motorcycle.

3. Subtract the difference, which is called “the squat.” Do not adjust the shocks if the distance is between 1/2 inch and 1 inch — because those measurements mean the squat is just right. Adjust the shocks if the squat is greater than 1 inch or less than 1/2 inch.

4. Turn the mechanical pre-load adjusting cam on the bottom of the shock absorber clockwise, with a spanner wrench to increase shock absorber pre-load and decrease squat.

5. Turn the mechanical pre-load adjusting cam counterclockwise with a spanner wrench to decrease pre-load and increase squat.