HARLEY-DAVIDSON have given life to a new generation of Nightster as part of the reimagining and revolutionising of the Sportster platform. Set to represent the entry point for the new range, it’s the first bike to be powered by the Revolution Max 975T motor.
Described by Harley-Davidson as a leap forward in performance and design, built on a foundation laid 65 years ago, the Nightster does a good job combining traditional and more modern, sharper styling to create a bike that honours its heritage but doesn’t feel dated.
The Nightster looks nimble and agile at first glance. Smaller in stature than some of its siblings, it features a 19-inch front and 16-inch rear wheel combination.
There’s an air box that has been designed to look like the traditional Sportster tank too, and exposed rear shocks give that traditional minimalist Sportster vibe. The best part is it works from an aesthetic point of view.
Just to prove that, we parked the Nightster at a well known rider meeting point on the NSW Central Coast and it drew immediate attention. There was much discussion over coffee between Harley-Davidson riders and other motorcycle aficionados.
Much was made too, of the differences between the last generation and the new, as well as the Revolution Max 975T powerplant, and how it differs from the bigger platform utilised in the Pan America and Sportster S.
For those wondering, it has a smaller 97mm bore and shorter 66mm stroke. Changes have also been made to the intake and exhaust, with variable valve timing now only present on the intake side of the motor.
The 975T is a liquid cooled V-Twin that produces 67kW of power and 95Nm of torque. There are three ride modes, including Rain, Road and Sport, along with traction control and ABS. The Nightster utilises a six speed gearbox, with a nice light clutch.
We kicked our testing off in Sport mode. The power delivery was willing but we found the throttle response a little snatchy. Road mode was easier to live with though, for day to day riding duties, allowing smoother power delivery. Sport is fun in the twisty stuff though.
There is small 11.7-litre fuel tank located under the seat, VROD style, and Harley-Davidson claims its good for 5.1-litres/100km, although that depends how spiritedly you intend riding. In real terms, you will get between 210-230km out of a tank.
What we also learned during testing is that the motor differs in characteristics significantly from the 1250 offering. The latter is animalistic from anywhere in the rev range range, but the Revolution Max 975T delivers its peak power in the mid to high rev range.
That means it can be a little sluggish down low, forcing the rider to work a little harder for their thrills. Get the Nightster in the sweet spot though and it’s a blast, with the handling of the smaller bike being the real highlight of the package.
Weighing in at 221kg in full running order, the Nightster is lean and a breeze to negotiate city traffic on. On a backroad, it truly awakens the soul, as you flick through corners at higher revs.
There is better ground clearance and lean angles than the model it replaces, and although the tyres felt a little harder than we expected, there’s still more than enough grip for the average rider to push to their limits, with confidence.
The 2022 Harley-Davidson Nightster comes with a new chassis too, using the powertrain as a stressed member, which significantly reduces weight and stiffens things up. Further component development adds strength, compactness and reduced weight.
Up front, a 41mm Showa dual bending valve, conventional fork with aluminium triple clamps works well, and ensures the Nightster feels planted. It’s not as firm as the setup on the Sportster S and its unique rear suspension setup makes for a good package.
The tail end suspension work is carried out by dual outboard direct acting emulsion technology shock absorbers with coil springs. Braking is good too and more than adequate for a cruiser, but without being earth shatteringly brilliant.
There is a single disc setup utilising a Brembo calliper on the front, while the rear features a solid uniform expansion rotor.
Available in three colours, including Vivid Black (as tested), Gunship Grey and Redline Red, the 2022 Harley-Davidson Nightster has a 2-year unlimited kilometre warranty. It’s priced from $23,995 ride away.
Harley-Davidson have managed to keep the heart and soul of the origins of the Sportster in this modern interpretation of what has long been a classic. The Nightster makes the old school cool again, with better handling and performance, and a sharper design.
Our test bike was provided by Harley-Davidson Australia. To find out more about the 2022 Harley-Davidson Nightster, contact your local Harley-Davidson dealer.