2023 Harley-Davidson Nightster Special (bike review)

Fresh retro styling and a signature sportster silhouette feature on the 2023 Harley-Davidson Nightster Special. Modern and dynamic, it features the 67kW/95Nm Revolution Max 975T powerplant.

Priced from $25,995 ride away, the Nightster Special’s liquid cooled V-Twin is paired with four ride modes, including Rain, Road, Sport and Custom, along with traction control and ABS. Drive comes via a 6-speed gearbox, with a nice light clutch.

Its smaller 97mm bore and shorter 66mm stroke, compared to the bigger engine in the Pan America and Sportster S ensure handling is a real standout on this bike. It feels light, nimble and predictable for a cruiser.

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Additionally, 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 combination means the 2023 Nightster Special is a boatload of fun, especially on some nice country backroads.

A low centre of gravity, with an 11.7-litre fuel tank located under the riders seat add to its handling package. Fuel range still remains limited though, and you’ll find yourself searching for juice every 180km or so.

2023 Harley-Davidson Nightster Special
2023 Harley-Davidson Nightster Special

Harley-Davidson also claims the fuel cell location makes the Nightster Special easier to lift off the side stand, but to be perfectly frank, a slightly longer kick stand wouldn’t go astray here as the bike can sometimes feel as if it is going to tip over.

Out on the road, and in the twisty stuff, the Nightster feels planted and offers the rider plenty of confidence to feed the throttle through corners. That’s something you will definitely need to do on this smaller capacity bike too.

The 975T power plant definitely shines at higher revs, performing much better around the 6,000rpm mark, which will take some getting used to. Sport mode is the standout of the riding modes.

That said, we found the throttle response a little snatchy at times. Road mode was easier to live with for day to day riding duties, allowing smoother power delivery. There is better ground clearance and lean angles than the outgoing model it replaces as well.

The Nightster weighs in at just 221kg, making it not only a solid urban commuter, but probably the best user-friendly entry point to the Harley-Davidson big bike range. With new handlebars and riser for this year and its nimble stature, lane filtering is also breeze.

2023 Harley-Davidson Nightster Special
2023 Harley-Davidson Nightster Special

Braking is provided by premium Brembo componentry, which includes a a single front brake with axial mount four piston calliper and 320mm rotor. At the rear is a floating single piston calliper, utilised in conjunction with a 260mm rotor.

The combination works well and is more than adequate for this motorcycle. Combined with a well setup suspension package, the Nightster is capable of delivering plenty of thrills. Up front, a 41mm Showa dual bending valve, conventional fork features.

It sports aluminium triple clamps and works well, ensuring the Nightster feels planted. It’s not as firm as the setup on say the Sportster S, but is confidence inspiring, especially when pushing hard. It remains comfortable when cruising.

The Nightster Special scores a plethora of cool tech, including LED lighting and a 4.0-inch round TFT display. The latter integrates all of the bike’s instrumentation and Bluetooth connectivity, and is accessible via the Harley-Davidson app.

Cruise control also comes standard. Aesthetically, the Nightster Special gets pillion carrying upgrades, with a dual seat and passenger foot pegs now fitted. You will have to be of smaller stature to make the most of that functionality though.

2023 Harley-Davidson Nightster Special
2023 Harley-Davidson Nightster Special

Overall, the 2023 Harley-Davidson Nightster Special offers a gateway to big cruisers, and plenty of weekend thrills, while being nimble and complete enough to tackle the urban jungle on your daily commute.

It’s available in four colours, including Vivid Black (as tested), Black Denim, Bright Billiard Blue and Industrial Yellow, and has a 2-year unlimited kilometre warranty.

Our test bike was provided by Harley-Davidson Australia. To find out more about the 2023 Harley-Davidson Nightster Special, contact your local Harley-Davidson dealer.

REVIEW OVERVIEW

Riding experience
8.25
Style and comfort
9
Braking and handling
8.25
Overall bike performance
8.25
Value for money
8.25

SUMMARY

Pros - handling; performance oriented bike; emphasis on rider enjoyment, better styling than last year's Nightster.
Cons - passenger carrying capability; directly pitched against entry level Softail models.
Andrew Jenkin
Andrew Jenkin
Andrew Jenkin is the ride editor at Exhaust Notes Australia, founding editor of Two Wheel Addicts, a contributor at Bike Review and panel judge for Harley Davidson's Breakout Boss competition. Andrew has a love for anything on two wheels whether that be sports, naked or adventure bikes, with a guilty pleasure for cruisers.

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<strong>Pros -</strong> handling; performance oriented bike; emphasis on rider enjoyment, better styling than last year's Nightster.<br> <strong>Cons -</strong> passenger carrying capability; directly pitched against entry level Softail models.2023 Harley-Davidson Nightster Special (bike review)