Based on the Softail chassis, but leaner, lower and more raked out, the Night Train is one of many Harley models that offer the appearance and distinction of a pseudo custom bike with no assembly required. These out-of-the-box customs - which also include the Rocker, Cross Bones, Fat Bob and Street Bob to name a few, provide riders with the unique characteristics of a custom in a reliable, ready-to-ride package. They also provide the simplicity and peace of mind that come from buying a mass-produced motorcycle from an established manufacturer – not someone’s garage. Instead of buying a bike someone else has tinkered with or choosing parts and accessories, installing them yourself and hoping they fit and look good, you can buy the ‘custom’ bike you want off a showroom floor - providing this setup is the one you want, of course.
Harley has expanded each of its lines to include classic-looking customs alongside traditional mainstays. While Sportster fans can now opt for the Nightser and Dyna riders the Fat or Street Bobs, Softail enthusiasts can still choose from time-honored models like the Heritage Softail Classic and Softail Deluxe or if they wish to push the boundaries of convention, they can go for such customs as the Rocker, Cross Bones or Night Train. Doing so adds undeniable style and distinction without compromise as you get the 96B V-Twin powerplant with the same, albeit modified Softail chassis configuration.
Finished in Black Denim paint, my tester looked about as sinister as they come. Not only the tank and bobbed fenders, but also components such as engine covers, air cleaner, oil tank, rear fender supports, drive-belt sprocket and fuel tank console were all powder-coated or done in a ‘wrinkle-black’ finish in various shades and textures of ebony I am told. Who knew there were so many variations of the color black?
Adding to the cool factor is the drag-style handlebar on risers, the bullet headlamp, 21-inch wire wheel at the end of a raked-out fork, and a low-profile front fender. The combination of the narrow drag bar and forward controls make for a pretty aggressive riding stance. Unfortunately the riding position that it creates is about as uncomfortable as it is cool. Depending on whether your priorities lie with attitude or ergonomics, you will likely love or hate how the bike stretches out the rider.
The drag-style handlebar looks great and feels good initially but isn’t an ideal setup for tight turns in combination with the 32-degree rake, particularly at slow speeds. Kept in a position that doesn’t encourage proper balance or posture, it wasn’t what I would call ideal. Cruising backroads was easily accomplished, but riding slowly around town brought on its fair share of challenges. After running wide open on a stretch of highway between Toronto and Trenton known as the Highway of Heroes, for about an hour, I wanted to redirect my destination to a good masseuse. I have no doubts that some riders will enjoy the intended riding position, I just don’t happen to be one of them.
'Finished in Black Denim paint, my tester looked about as sinister as they come'
Riding position aside, the Night Train represents everything Harley is known for. The electronically fuel injected, rigid-mounted 96B V-Twin rumbles and shakes while it plays a beautiful soundtrack for the ears. At 656 lbs, the Night Train is anything but slight, but the 1584cc Twin Cam V-Twin offers up 86 ft-lbs of torque at as low as 3,200 rpm, allowing the rider all kinds of fun with their right hand at various speeds. The traditional 45-degree Harley V-Twin may not be the most efficient or performance-oriented powerplant in its league, but that’s not to say it has nothing to offer.
Firing up the 96B is akin to waking up a stubborn powerhouse of a farmer from a deep slumber – it may take a few moments to get moving, but just try and stop it once it has started. As with the new Fatboy, the Night Train now boasts a much needed sixth gear. Highway cruising can now be done at a lower rpm, saving both gas and your eardrums. While the sixth gear does drop the rpm, there is still plenty of pop left for passing in the top gear.
The ride feels supple aboard the Badlander seat, which is cushy and comfortable. The ride is soft but not to the same extent as an Electra Glide; it has more of a Buick feel than a Cadillac. A 200mm rear tire sits below the bobtail fender which looks pretty badass and doesn’t do much to impair performance since the riding stance, and the bike itself aren’t exactly conducive to hard cornering. Despite my gripes about the riding position, the one highlight of this stance is that it has you leaning forward which saves your tailbone and gluteus maximus during a long ride, which I made in sections from Toronto to Quebec City.
Harley-Davidson’s new mantra of building out-of-the-box customs is allowing them to appeal to a much wider audience. The company’s engine quality and reliability have come a long way, making more people consider shelling out the extra cash for a Hog. Regardless of what your cruiser preference or riding style, they will have a bike to suit you. The Night Train may be that bike, or it may not - the choice is ultimately up to you.
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