For over 65 years, Harley-Davidson‘s iconic Sportster lineup has thrilled motorcycle fans. Lauded for its performance and revered for its design, the classic range has spawned a series of imitations and spin-off collections, however, none have quite nailed the brief like the new 2022 Harley-Davidson Nightster. Arriving as an ‘entry point’ to the fabled brand, the new motorcycle takes the lessons learned over 65 years of Sportster success and wraps them up in a slimmer, neater and more compact package.
Perhaps the worst-kept secret in Harley-Davidson lore, the new Nightster debuts with a bang, landing with the new liquid-cooled Revolution Max 975T powertrain. As Motorcycle.com‘s Dennis Chung pontificated earlier this week, a hidden detail in the brand’s accessory catalogue suggested that the “Wild One” mirrors would fit “21-later Revolution Max engine-equipped models – RH975 and RH1250S models”. Seeing as ‘RH’ is Milwaukee’s internal code for the latest generation Sportster, it was enough for Chung to determine that a 975-cc version was on the way. Just days later, the Nightster was unveiled as precisely that.
With a silhouette that mirrors its bigger brother, the Nightster is the perfect introduction to the Revolution Max V-twin powerplant. Slightly downspecced with a familiar frame, the bike comes equipped with variable valve timing and hydraulic valve adjustment kits. The full scale of the 975 cc motor comes via shorter bore and stroke, which would indicate greater revs are on the way, something Harley fans have been calling for habitually.
In fact, the interest has been building since as far as 2019, when the engine was showcased in the Bronx streetfighter concept. At the time, Harley-Davidson outlined plans to bring it into production in 2020, however, the Bronx never quite made the production line. While it might be a few years later than originally expected, we can finally catch a glimpse of the new engine in the 2022 Nightster.
Harley-Davidson has already confirmed that the new release is tuned primarily for strong low and mid-range performance, dishing out 90 HP (67 kW) @7500 RPM. While that might be a little lacking in grunt, it does make for a compelling daily driver, which appears to be the plan. The brand has paired the new engine with a lightweight chassis, aiming to improve agility on the road. The Revolution Max 975T powertrain sits as the central, structural component, which the brand claims reduces motorcycle weight.
“The Nightster is an instrument of expression and exploration, underpinned by performance,” Jochen Zeitz, chairman, president and CEO of Harley-Davidson said. “By building on the 65-year Sportster legacy, the Nightster provides a canvas for creativity and personalization, offering the ultimate platform for customisation and expression for new and existing riders.”
Once out on the open road, that customisation becomes a lot more apparent. Riders are able to switch between three preset ride modes – Road, Sport and Rain, which regulate power delivery, throttle response, engine braking, ABS and TC settings. You’ll also find a rather uninspired round analogue speedometer and an LCD display mounted on the handlebar riser, however, that’s hardly a criticism.
When it comes to the biggest plus, however, it’s hard to go past the price. The 2022 Harley-Davidson Nightster model will set you back USD$13,499, a slight decrease on the USD$14,999 tag for the 2021 Sportster S. Australian ride-away pricing starts from is AUD$23,995 (NZD$25,495) for the Vivid Black and AUD$24,300 (NZD$25,830) for colour options. The new Nightster arrives at authorised Harley-Davidson dealerships globally beginning in April 2022