Split Apart -’07 Night Train

American Iron Magazine – Issue 327 , 2015

Wish i could say i was first to notice it, but the motorcycles of New York City’s more-established builders tend to share a similar look. As Steve Iacona, responsible for this striking example, explains. “Here [in NYC], it’s all about getting around traffic. For that, a bike has to be light and tight and have good brakes”. “This black and orange chopper is a chopper in the truest sense since it started life as a stock Harley Davidson. However, it isn’t quite what it appears – it’s simple lines and subdued good looks belie two and a half years of thought, effort, and creative problem solving. One of the few real-deal chopped late Harleys you’ll find pounding pavement, this bike began as a 2007 Night Train. Yep, it’s a Softail.

Before meeting Steve, proprietor of Iacona Custom Cycles in Brooklyn, bike owner Michael Doherty spent considerable time and money attempting to turn his Night Train into the motorcycle he knew waited hidden inside but could not quite find. For custom motorcycle riders in the five boroughs living extremely active, motorcycle-centered lives, so I’m told, happening upon Steve’s always impressive work is all but inevitable. Michael first approached Steve to arrange a wheel swap. That led to this, this to that, and here we are.

In addition to completion of the nicest Softail I’ve ever seen and possibly the nicest chopper, the two-plus years that passed during the build saw dramatic changes in both men’s lives. I’ll just say that the bike’s name, Split  Apart, has nothing to do with its construction, and I’ll leave it at that. In the end, it’s the motorcycle that matters anyway.

We’ll start with the frame. In touch with Michael throughout the build, Steve considered replacing the square-section backbone with round stock for looks. However, modifying the backbone would have disqualified the bike from the category that Steve targeted : the 2013 Invitational Pro Custom Bike Show at the Harley Davidson Museum. Instead, he extended the neck gusset, fabricated new motor mounts, and filled surface imperfections with metal rather than putty so the frame would be porcelain-smooth when powdercoated.

The poster-worthy engine owes its gonna-get’cha! profile to a Morris magneto, the subdued sheen from long days spent scrubbing the parts with Scotch-Brite pads. The responsibility party, Ralph “Scotch-Brite” Mercado, strikes me as a candidate for sainthood if only because of his perseverance. Returning to the magneto, while mags are generally less troublesome than naysayers believe, a mysterious starting glitch plagued this one. Bought secondhand, the magneto had apparently been intended for an Evo, which drives the ignition backwards from Twin Cams. To reverse its direction, Steve installed gear-drive S&S cams. Why a magneto in the first place? Compared to conventional battery ignitions, magnetos eliminated a slew of clutter in the form of extraneous wiring and related parts.

Split Apart’s driveline consists of premium parts, too. BAKER Drivetrain supplied the six-speed transmission and kickstart. Besides the obvious charisma factor, kick-only bikes though sometimes an uppercase PITA, do fine without a heavy battery and starter motor, not to mention the associated wiring. Light and Tight, right? With acknowledgement of the Paughco springer, Performance Machine (PM) four-piston caliper, perfectly contoured GasBox fender, Exile primary drive and sprotor, and the oh-so-cool wheels and pulley cover, also from Exile, we’ve pretty well covered the bikes major parts, leaving only the subtle, but unique, items made by Steve in his admittedly cramped, but productive as hell, 14th Avenue shop.

While both wheels are nice enough, to put it mildly, the rear is down-right special. That’s because of the contoured hub cover Steve made for it before taking on the handcrafted taillight. Carefully routed polished steel hydraulic lines speak for themselves, as do the frame mods mentioned earlier. Now for the oil tank. At first glance, it appears somewhat typical, only it’s not. Viewed directly from the side, it features a slight radius that, though unusual, seems vaguely familiar. That’s because Steve made it from a fender. And the gas tank? Sorry, but “typical” doesn’t apply there, either. The tank started out as parts in an Exile kit that Steve welded together, cut apart, welded back together, and cut apart again, then again, until the tank fit the bike’s lines to the proverbial T.

“Wow” is all i can say. There’s more, like the tricky Iacona-built sissybar and $900 worth of stainless steel fasteners, so take your time with the photos.

By the way, Michael is a corporate-level employee of Mercedes-Benz. At the risk of stereotyping, I’ll mention that everyone I’ve met who’s deeply involved with German automobiles – and Split Apart’s sole splash of color is a Porsche Orange, by the way – has favored consistency and structural soundness to the point of bordering on OCD.

Whenever Steve approached Michael with a question about the bike-in-progress direction, he replied with the same words: “Keep it simple.”

Did you happen to notice the factory stock rubber footpegs? That’s why they’re there.