2006 Harley-Davidson Night Train Retro Review
Harley-Davidson’s Softail line is well known for its showy, chrome cruisers. However, nestled within the family is a rogue that does things a little differently—the 2006 Harley-Davidson Night Train.
The 2006 Harley-Davidson Night Train—not to be confused with the high alcohol-content wine favored by derelicts—is a retro-modern cruiser motorcycle distinguished by its blacked out details, bobtail fender, and narrow, raked front end.
Not quite an authentic Bobber —a 1940s-style custom with fenders rebelliously bobbed off—the Night Train’s appearance suggests lithe, relaxed cruising. Its long and low geometry makes it surprisingly easy to turn, and high, forward-placed footpegs avoid the grinding that is commonly experienced with floorboard-model Harleys.
A forward-reaching posture and wide handlebars aid the Night Train’s maneuverability, making relatively high lean angles possible in spite of the rear weight bias and skinny front tire.
While an off-the-rack Harley-Davidson Night Train subtly hints at custom styling, the light work performed on this bike yields exponential results. Staggered Harley-Davidson Screamin’ Eagle exhaust pipes powdercoated black by Extreme Performance Coating further the factory’s blacked-out theme and give the illusion that they are smaller than their stock, chrome counterparts.
Darkening the pipes subdues the flash of their horizontal sweep, drawing the eye to the Night Train’s 88 cubic inch V-twin. Available with a carburetor or EFI, the engine produces a hefty 85 ft/lbs of torque at only 3000 rpm, accelerating the bike’s considerable weight with ease.
Being seated so low and close to the engine imparts a feeling of oneness with the bike’s mechanicals, and that bond is made more luxurious thanks to a custom seat by Conejo Upholstery. With reformed foam that offers greater comfort for long rides, the suede inserts add texture to the black leather, while the smoothed-out form delivers a more sculptural, streamlined alternative to the stock seat. Though the added comfort is a welcome addition to the rider, passengers may find riding pillion uncomfortable on long journeys.
Also lightening the visual load is the replacement of the solid aluminum rear wheel with a larger, wire-spoked 18-inch stainless steel wheel clad with an aggressive 200mm Metzeler tire. Black powder coated rims and hubs highlight the spokes; a larger, similarly powdercoated 21-inch front wheel enhances the bike’s road presence.
The mostly chrome front end of the stock version may balance the Night Train’s black components, but blacked-out details were added by powdercoating the Drag Specialties bars, Pro-One triple trees, and Küryakyn headlight and turn signals. Black fork sliders and a black air cleaner complement the bike’s muted tones. While this Night Train’s burgundy paint prevents black from completely dominating the bike’s form, the overall visual impression is one of clean lines and a smooth, restrained elegance.
Riding this particular Night Train is a classic Harley experience. The Twin Cam 88B engine, whose balanced low-frequency vibrations are in keeping with the bike’s laid-back, pleasant demeanor, is reassuringly low to the ground and creates a center of gravity that makes handling manageable. Fatter-than-stock pullback bars enhance the Night Train’s out-of-the-box ergonomic friendliness, and augment the already relaxed riding position.
Gear shifts are long and slow, but engagement is solid and the ratios allow for responsive, but not blazingly fast, acceleration. A new clutch mechanism features a 25-percent reduction in lever effort, allowing for smoother take-offs and less fatigue.
Tank-mounted gauges free the triple tree of visual clutter, and their clean look and legibility make them thematically consistent with the bike’s silhouette. The absence of a tachometer underlines the Night Train’s easy-going personality. This allows the rider to focus on the engine’s audible clues to rpm and shift points, rather than a numerical representation of engine speed.
The 2006 Harley-Davidson Night Train’s ride is more comfortable than sporting. While Softail suspension is soft and compliant, road irregularities can sometimes jar the forks.
Brakes feel solid and work quite well, and, in typical cruiser style, the rear weight bias allows for heavy activation of the rear brakes without lockup.
While rough roads and emergency stops are an inescapable part of the real world, this Harley-Davidson Night Train combats urban chaos with an individualistic attitude and nostalgic modifications. Its spare lines, mechanical simplicity, and subdued use of chrome offer a stylistic alternative to the archetypal Softail.
Free from components that might muddy the original intention of the bike, this lightly modified 2016 Harley-Davidson Night Train Softail exemplifies the result of a factory theme that has been tastefully extended by aftermarket work; more than a carefully modulated combination of powder coating, painting, and parts, it has become a personalized expression of an American theme.
Photography by Cordero Studios
What rider doesn’t love a look back at the motorcycles that preceded today’s tech-savvy creations? Welcome to the Ultimate Motorcycling archives; we’re revisiting some of our favorite reviews from year’s past, highlighting the machines that laid the rubber for what’s on the today’s showroom floors. Enjoy.