Harley-Davidson Nightster: The new generation Sportster!

Photo: Harley-Davidson

Harley-Davidson has just unveiled the Nightster, a new entry in the age-old Sportster line. And while the Motor Company isn’t saying anything about the cancellation of the old air-cooled Sporties at this point, the Nightster is surely a sign of a new future for this series.

A new engine

The new Revolution Max 975T engine is the highlight of the Nightster. We’ve seen this engine before in the prototype Bronx streetfighter HD showed off a few years ago, but this is the first production bike with this new powertrain.

It’s a liquid-cooled, 975cc, 60-degree V-twin that’s obviously closely related to the Revolution Max 1250 engine, which powers the Pan America adventure bike and Sportster S. The 975 comes with a 97mm bore and 66mm stroke and 12:1 compression ratio. . Add it all up and the engine develops 90 hp at 7,500 rpm and 70 lb-ft of torque at 5,000 rpm.

That’s a bit less than the 1250’s 150 hp and 94 lb-ft of torque. With a lower compression ratio (the 1250 has a 13:1 compression ratio) and both reduced bore and stroke ( compared to the 105mm bore and 72mm stroke of the 1250), this is obviously no surprise.

Looking at the classic 1200 and 883 air cooled Sportster engines the only difference between them was the bore which meant that very many owners just stuck a set of 1200 pitchers on their 883 engine and had a power up easy. This won’t be an option with Revolution Max engines, thanks to the 1250’s longer stroke. Add complications like variable valve timing and carefully tuned airbox and exhaust for EFI optimization and minimal pollution , and these Sportsters are a big change-over from the older DIY-friendly EVO models.

Harley-Davidson says the new engine has “a torque curve that stays flat across the powerband – and engine performance designed to deliver strong acceleration and robust mid-range power.“Again, this engine features hydraulic valve lash adjustment, which greatly reduces the need for high-end maintenance, and it’s counterbalanced to dampen vibration, while providing some of the rumble that the HD owners wish.

A slammed look for the new ’22 Nightster. Photo: Harley-Davidson

Electronic Security Features

Of course, Harley-Davidson has also programmed a lot of electronic magic. The Nightster comes with Road, Sport and Rain riding modes which control the level of ABS and traction control interference, as well as engine delivery and engine braking characteristics. That’s right, the bike is equipped with HD’S Drag-Torque Slip Control system, which prevents the rear wheel from locking up during hard downshifts.

See Harley-Davidson’s explanation of riding modes below:

  • road mode is intended for everyday use and offers balanced performance. This mode offers less aggressive throttle response and less mid-range engine power than Sport mode, with a higher level of ABS and TCS intervention.
  • Sports mode delivers the bike’s full performance potential in a direct and precise manner, with full power and the quickest throttle response. TCS is set to its lowest intervention level and engine braking is increased.
  • rain mode is designed to give the rider greater confidence when riding in the rain or when traction is otherwise limited. Throttle response and power output are programmed to dramatically limit the rate of acceleration, engine braking is limited, and the highest levels of ABS and TCS intervention are selected.

These settings can be changed on the fly; Harley Davidson says “The rider can use the MODE button on the right controller to change the active riding mode while riding the motorcycle or when stationary, with some exceptions.”

Harley-Davidson keeps the clocks simple, with a 4-inch analog speedometer with integrated LCD display mounted on the handlebar riser. As we are in the 21st century, we are getting full LED lighting.

Everything goes up in price, and the Nightster is an example of that. It will cost more than the older air-cooled Sporty models. However, you also get a lot more bike for your money, and it’s not the entry-level model the Sportster series once was. Photo: Harley-Davidson

A sporty chassis

Harley-Davidson claims it put the “sport” in Sportster here: “The Nightster model combines a nimble, lightweight chassis with a powerful engine tuned for strong mid-range performance, an ideal combination for navigating city traffic and charging along twisty roads. Midfoot controls and low handlebars place the rider in a centered and comfortable position on the bike.” But, you still get a 27.8-inch seat height, allowing almost any rider to put the bike flat from a standstill.

The engine itself is a stressed part of the frame, and Harley-Davidson took the unusual step of placing the gas tank under the seat. There’s a 3.1-gallon fuel cell under the saddle, and in front of the rider, what looks like a gas tank is actually a steel cover for the airbox assembly. This design means the Nightster has more centralized mass. To fill the fuel cell, riders must flip the saddle over to expose the fuel cap.

There’s a set of preload-adjustable twin shocks in the rear for that retro look, and up front, a conventional telescopic fork with Showa’s dual-flex valve system to smooth out the ride and improve front-end traction.

Flashy new looks

Finally, you get a visual design that is obviously based on classic Sportster styling. Indeed, the Nightster name itself is recycled from Harley-Davidson history. The original Nightster was a murdered-out bobber-style Sportster in the 2007-2012 lineup. Although the 975 had a modern engine, Harley-Davidson designed that under-seat fuel cell to look like an oil tank Classic Sportster. The steel airbox lid is also reminiscent of older Sportster fuel tanks.

The new Nightster will be mostly blacked out, just like the original, but with some options for paint choices. Harley Davidson says “The wheel finish is Satin Black. Paint color options include Vivid Black, Gunship Gray and Redline Red. The Gunship Gray and Redline Red color options will only be applied to the airbox cover; front and rear fenders and speed screen are still finished in Vivid Black.” Don’t be surprised if the aftermarket starts ripping off their own version of this airbox cover, giving riders a chance to customize their own machines.

Harley-Davidson’s press release says the Nightster will be in Canadian dealerships this month, with a base MSRP of $16,499, adding $500 for different color options.

Final Thoughts

Although Harley-Davidson has built its V-twin empire on air-cooled engines, it’s getting harder and harder to run them through emissions. Not to mention that the competition’s engines are more powerful, efficient and smooth thanks to increasing technology. Just as the previous Ironhead engine eventually disappeared from the Sportster lineup, so too will the EVO engine. Now we have a good look at what his likely future replacement is. In recent days, online leaks have also been teasing a new Pan America adventure bike based on that 975 engine, so it looks like it will be around for a while.

Comments are closed.