Home / Custom Motorcycle Builder Interviews / interview with shannon gower of hotshoe customs

interview with shannon gower of hotshoe customs

Shannon “Shoe” Gower has been involved in the motorcycle industry since he was a gleam in his daddy’s eye. His dad was “Uncle Bob” Gower and by age 12 Shoe was working as a certified Suzuki mechanic. Shortly afterward he was working with short track, drag racing, and road racing teams. He’s built and modified countless motorcycles and toured Europe as team tuner for the Bimota/OW01 Superbike Team in 1988-1989. Shoe has attended every manufacturer’s school & Lemco seminar possible and is truly a rock star of all things custom motorcycle.

old school honda cb750 chopper | hotshoe customs

TR: Where did your nickname “Shoe” come from?

SG: When you are a fast young racer you are referred to as “the new hotshoe.” My dad has called me that name as long as I can remember and never used my proper name. My buddies picked it up in junior high and it’s still here.

TR: Your dad must have been very proud of you. You build bikes of all shapes and sizes, from drag-style Hayabusa’s and superbike racers to classic British bikes and v-twin choppers. You state that you enjoy working on and building all bikes but there has to be something you enjoy most and I wonder what is your favorite thing to do?

SG: Classic Japanese horsepower. I love to take an old Japanese KZ, GS or CB and finesse them into a very powerful and smooth machine. There are so many lost horses in the air delivery passage and more stolen by rotating weight. Take a first generation GX1100 with some head, carb and suspension work and you have a package that will outperform most rider’s skill sets. Also, back in the day I would make fun of guys for painting their bikes but now I really enjoy painting and airbrushing.

honda cbx | hotshoe customs

TR: The custom CBX above has some tasty real flame action. I also love the Suzuki M109 headlamp cowl. They ripped that off of Honda, you know? But Honda discontinued the accessory. I loved it. What brought you to NYC from Oklahoma and what brought you back?

SG: I went to New Jersey, about 10 minutes from NYC, chasing a girl and a dream of being a rock star. It was 1989 and I had just gotten back from West Germany where I was working for Bimota. Jersey was the rock star hotspot. I never planned to stay there forever. I am and always have been a country boy.

2005 vtx1800n hot rod | hotshoe customs

TR: You have pierced nipples, then, huh? What is your specialty, something we’d find difficult to replicate elsewhere, that only you or a very few people can do?

SG: Nearly every bike I’ve ever built was paid for by someone that believed in my ability to make what they want, not what I think is cool. Don’t get me wrong, I have HEAVILY guided customer ideas on each one, but in the end it’s the owner’s personal expression. I take a lot of sh*t about details and designs on some bikes, like they are mine and built for faceless checking accounts. Who gives a f**k if you or I don’t like the color or bars or whatever, it ain’t ours. Opinions are like _________ (you know the line). Everyone has an opinion, budget and a vision. I take those and distill them into something that looks like I made it, which is why the customer came to me, because of the way I execute my designs. Since I do all of the work myself, from frame to paint, I can truly believe in the build and the design. Smooth, clean, sexy lines are timeless and fit all styles. It’s not that hard to internally wire a bike or smooth out the tank but a lot of people don’t have the intuition or patience.

shoe with kz1000 “bodacious”

TR: You call this bike “Bodacious.” I remember that word from high school in the 1980’s. What memories…. Seriously, I forgot. What memories? I blame the dope and beer. Anyway, I originally posted about this bike when I saw it because it is genuinely badass; a Kawasaki KZ1000 inline four, 4″ up and 6″ out, 42 degree drop-seat chopper that has a turbo and an almost unbelievable 250 ponies. I remarked that one might be careful turning left, which caused you to to ask why I thought that. I wondered for two reasons. First, the blue doohickey which I suspect is related to your turbocharger looked like it was sticking out farther than the primary in the photo I had (it doesn’t), and second, that pipe out of the turbo looks like a thigh burner.

supercharged kawasaki kz1000 chopper | hotshoe customs

SG: The standard drag motor mod has been Mr. Turbo for decades and they have built their reputation on them. There is a lot of time in the head and all the excess weight on the crank and clutch have been removed. It’s kick only. Liska Racing is my speed guru. I worked there and Gordon did the original build on the head and I’ve gotten a little silly with the wastegate on the turbo and puked a few head gaskets. She is a definite rider, as folks can attest to from NYC to Arkansas. She’s a neck breaker when I ride by.

TR: Breaking necks. I used to work on a mink ranch. You broke their necks before you skinned them. It was the cheapest way to kill them without damaging their hides. It wasn’t easy because mink are nasty little beasts.

Is Bo still for sale? What are you looking to get for it?

kz1000 supercharger | hotshoe customs

SG: Bo is still for sale, I’ve had several offers, but every time it usually ends up they want a custom inspired by Bo. $20k is about what I have in her.

TR: I guess that’s good. You could manufacture Bo-inspired frames for KZ’s, CB’s and XS machines.

air-ride honda shadow | hotshoe customs

Here is the obligatory “what do you do when you aren’t welding and wrenching” question. What helps you relax, blow off steam, and gets you away from work?

SG: I play bass a lot… Whenever I don’t have a tool in my hand. Heh Heh. Tool…. When I play bass it clears out every lingering question and detail I have to attend to and focuses my mind on moving air. I have great kids and we go for cross country rides on a bike a couple of times a year. When I do have some spare time, especially during the longer days of summer, I truly enjoy my horse. She is really big and knows it. You have to have an understanding between you and this animal ten times your size. It’s very calming compared to my average day of open exhaust, ******** and air-hammers.

1977 kawasaki kz1000 drag bike | hotshoe customs

TR: Music and horses leads us to beer for some reason. Good beer loosens me up, helps me blow off steam and gives me the energy to fight another day. I’ve never been to Oklahoma, but understand there’s a long history of prohibitive liquor laws that even today keep the ABV of all liquor at 3.2% maximum unless you go to a state-run liquor store. Can you get something with an AVB over 3.2 in a restaurant or bar?

SG: There isn’t a a state licensed bar in my town. It’s 40 miles or so to get a real draft beer that the rest of the US enjoys, or a whiskey and Coke. That’s why I make my own beer. 6% or so is my average ABV and as many of my regular customers and friends know, it’s always in the shop fridge.

TR: Dude. I am coming over tomorrow. Can I request an American nut brown ale?

There is a joke here in Austin; “Do you know why Texas doesn’t fall into the Gulf of Mexico? Because Oklahoma sucks.” Here’s your chance to get even.

SG: Why is there RealGrass™ in the Cowboys football stadium? To keep the cheerleaders from grazing.

TR: Your website states that, “all work here is done beneath the watchful eye of our patron saint Ms. Bettie Page.” I’m a big Bettie fan. What is your connection to her?

SG: Dude, that’s like asking if air is good or if a puppy is cute! As a kid I had Olivia posters of her next to my Iron Maiden posters. Pop models in general alienated me then and now. They never smile or look vulnerably human. They’re posed and propped before being airbrushed and after being silicone molded and injected beyond relation to anything found in nature. That is exactly what Bettie was not. She was a natural figure that changed through her career. She can be read through her pics and even more so in paintings of her. She was a good girl being bad to give everyone a harmless smile. I have a few old mags with her in them and am glad there is a strong showing of natural models coming back into the pop scene.

TR: How come your logo looks like one side of the H is f**king the other side of the H?

SG: Because I liked my logo having some constant trim. It’s obviously phallic with the thorns but also natural. I love sexy shapes and when I originally drew the H logo it was part of HCMI and I drew them the same way like a spelling bee orgy, but had the *** and the primary image I wanted, a sexy H.

TR: And I thought it was H for Hermaphrodite!

Now for the world domination question wrap-up. The world is in social and economic death throes. You have a billion dollars in gold. Who do you employ to keep things square in your town? Ninja’s, pirates, or Zombie Teddy Roosevelt?

SG: I’d put Henry Rollins in the oval Office and Ted Nugent as Secretary of State, take a hundred men and women, two from each state and chosen by lottery who worked their whole lives and put them in charge of the states. Pay them fair but if they cheat or lie, kill them. When they retire, a lottery picks their replacement.

If you’d have offered sexy ninja pirate wenches on Teddy’s horse, I woulda chose that.

kawasaki kz bobber | hotshoe customs

TR: note to self: more sexy ninja pirate wenches on horses.

Right on, Shoe. It’s been great getting to know you. Thanks for speaking and emailing with me so everybody can discover the amazing work you do in Oklahoma.

Visit Hotshoe Customs here, you metric mofos.

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One comment

  1. I was told by Jerry Combs Sr today that you build custom bikes and they gave me your name and website and said to mention their name if I contacted you! I am looking at getting my own bike so I don’t have to depend on rides but have not found anything that fits me. I really want something unique and that no one else has. I am short and not very big so most anything I have looked at overpowers me. I love the Harleys but love the Indian too. I have sat on the Sporster and I like the flat black not much chrome at all. I would like to come visit you to see if it would be a possibility. I look forward to hearing from you.

    Ginny with a “G”

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