SLNYC – Fabricating Leslie’s Magic Carpet by Stephen Berner

Alex Lerner @ SLNYC

Creating shop bikes and personal customs is the way motorcycle fabricators show their capabilities. Fabricators are rare people, always moving forward, challenging themselves as no customer could. You will not find a true fabricator churning out “customs” all sharing the same DNA, it’s not what they do.

To be clear, someone who takes bits and pieces, and parts made elsewhere and puts a motorcycle together, is not a fabricator.

Assembler or builder maybe, call them that, because they should not be lumped together with fabricators.

The fabricator designer has to have a broad skillset. Using these skills the fabricator makes something practical, cool, safe and most importantly, that can be ridden great distances without breaking.

There are few fabrication shops around that have the skill required to take a pile of raw materials and mismatched broken parts and make something worthy of a magazine feature. It is the rare shop that can make a bike by hand that is fun to ride, that goes like stink, and that is reliable enough to road trip with.

SLNYC, located in Astoria Queens, is one of the rare shops in the NYC area that has the ability to do just that.

This tight little package of a VTwin custom is just that type of machine, borne from the uncompromising vision of the SLNYC team, stockroom and parts pile.

After a long, convoluted series of events, it came to pass that this rock solid frame, found in the SLNYC store room became the basis for this project commissioned by a friend of SLNYC– the fabulous Leslie.

With some back and forth it came to be that Alex and his partner Ralf, would have free reign to create the right bike for Leslie. By the right bike, we mean a machine tailored for her small stature, featuring as many one-off, handmade and hand fit parts as budget and time would allow.

Lets address the idea of free reign. First off – it makes total sense to give artists the freedom to do what they do if you want their best work. You are going to a motorcycle fabricator, just like you would an artist – because of what they do. What they produce drew you to them… so my advice is to let them do exactly that – their thing.

SLNYC is known for compact, tough, indestructible bikes that are well thought out and can take the abuse that the streets of NYC dish out. To get going Alex and Ralf took this beautiful Acme Choppers frame and took an inch or so out of the rear loop. Keeping in step with the SLNYC ethos, which is make as much as possible, take no shortcuts or easy ways out, the story of this machine began in earnest.

Since budget in one-way shape or form is almost always an issue, being crafty helps. When you can’t throw dollars at a challenge, it helps to have talent to call upon. Having two talented machinist/ fabricators such as Alex and Ralf on the SLNYC team allows the shop to do many things most would find impossible – or prohibitively expensive.

SLNYC likes to surprise and well, surprise! modern, H-D Street Glide rims. I mean, who uses these fugly as heck dudes on a custom build? No one, that’s who. Not only does SLNYC have the vision, they find a way to use what’s on hand to make it happen. Surprise, surprise, these rims, look great in this application and are clearly at home.

With 29 degrees of rake, the bike stands tall and with SLNYC cutting out an inch in back. The machine handles tight, super tight actually: think BMX bike tight. Talking tight, take a good look at the bike in profile. Do you see any extraneous space? See any open areas with hanging stuff? No you don’t because there is not one iota of spare of space in the frame. This is one ultra tight and compact machine.

H-D, S&S , SLNYC and Morris Magneto – those are the only names you need to know when it comes to the engine. SLNYC took a set of H-D barrels, turned them down to rounds and so, once again – a stock part was tweaked by hand to be made cooler than hell.

SLNYC assembled and tuned every last bit of the engine, insuring reliability and performance.

With performance to the tune of 110hp at the rear wheel, stuffed in a featherweight rigid frame, you know this machine rips and leaps off the line. Check the box on “go”.

Designing the bike to be a hand-shifter (thereby forcing Leslie to learn the wily ways of hand shifting, in NYC no less) is just one of the uncompromising details that SLNYC bakes into their machines. No nonsense, no extra weight, less reciprocating mass.. The only concession is the electric start setup.

Appearance-wise this bike is full of surprises and contrasts. Start with the clean stainless steel bars with built in kill switch. The Pradke-painted tanks look beautiful, flawless even. The “painta’d” gas caps siting on top create that visual tension between new and old, tough and fine.

As an example of challenging oneself, I direct you to round air cleaner: looking at it and your eye will walk on by – but if you know what’s what – you will recognize that although this cover is now a round, it sure as hell didn’t start off that way. Hey now!

Many air cleaner covers were brutalized in the making of this one perfectly round cover. Taking every teardrop air cleaner he could find in the shop, Alex cut, beat, ground, welded and buffed into submission the bits and pieces that required to satisfy his vision, creating the flawless result you see– a round “genuine” S&S air cleaner.

This custom detail is huge, and looks so well done, so subtle, so flawless that you eye passes it by: that’s the nature of an SLNYC bike. The shame of it is that only those who know what they are looking at seem to understand, most don’t get it, and that’s ok.

In a way that air cleaner epitomizes the work that SLNYC produces – so much damn work, so clean, thoughtful, subtle and well done that it looks natural, as if it was “borne” that way. These guys set out to challenge themselves with each and every project, never taking the easy way out. If they can make it, they do, if its possible to surprise you, they will.

All of the machined brass highlights were Alex’s work . Ralf took on fabbing a few goodies: the stainless axle with the square cap, rear exhaust, headlight mount and rear light mounts.   Topping off all of the fine details is the flawless paint. The subtle as hell Pradke paint job fit the concept perfectly – not too much, just enough.

Not too much, just enough, this friends and readers is what distinguishes a full out handmade custom built by professionals like Alex, Ralf, Sid and Josh @ SLNYC.

No crap, no geegaws, no indulgences – simply a beautiful, well designed, flawlessly fabricated safe to ride machine that can take on the unforgiving, mean streets of NYC.

And in closing, if you’ve ever had the pleasure of splitting the narrow and dangerous lanes of the Brooklyn Queens Expressway, you’ll know just what this means, and how important it is.

‘nuff said.


Fabrication:  SL NYC
Year, Make & Model:  2016 SL NYC
Assembly/Built by:  SL NYC
How long did It take?;  364 Days
Builder:  SL NYC
Type:   Telescopic
Triple Trees:  HD
Extension:  None
Special Features:
Year/Model:  2016
Rebuilder:  SLNYC
Displacement:  107 ci
Lower End: type/set up builder  JIMS
Balancing: yes/no/who  JIMS
Pistons: what type/mfg/special features   CP Performance
Cases:  Ultima
Heads: mfg/set up/features/special parts  Ultima
Cams: grind/mfr     625 lift/S&S
Lifters:  S&S
EFI/Carb: Make/model/special features  S&S Super G
Air Cleaner: mfr  SL NYC
Pipes;  SL NYC
Ignition: mag/points/etc  MORRIS MAG
Special Features:
Year: modifications  1979 HD
Engine: Sprocket
Trans Sprocket:  #of teeth/material  23 Tooth
Wheel Sprocket: # of teeth/material  48 Tooth
Primary Drive: Gearing/Type     Belt
Secondary Drive:  Chain or Belt type/length   Chain
Year: 2015
Designer/Builder:   ACME FRAME; highly modified by SL NYC
Type:  Rigid
Material/Diameter:  Steel
Rake & Stretch:   None
Bars:   SL NYC/ 1″ into 7/8″
Risers:  HD
Fenders:  SL NYC
Headlight:   UNITY
Taillight:  SL NYC
Speedo:  None
Front Pegs:  SL NYC
Rear Pegs:  SL NYC
Gas Tank:  3.5 Gallon HD/SL NYC
Oil Tank:  SL NYC
Oil System:   S&S Oil Pump
Seat: Lock Baker/Eastern Fabrication
Kickstand:   Leafspring by Lock Baker/Eastern Fabrication
Front/Size:  16″  HD RIM
Rear/ Size:  16″  HD RIM
Tires:  AVON
Brakes:   Tokico
Painter:  Robert Pradke / Custom Auto Design
Chroming/Powdercoating:  Powdercoating by Arcane Moto