2022 Harley-Davidson Nightster First Drive
Originally posted on Canada Moto Guide: Review: 2022 Harley-Davidson Nightster
There’s a revolution afoot at Harley-Davidson, and it’s built around speed, power and a radically reworked vision of the company’s future. The new Nightster is a clear indication that major changes are already underway at the American motorcycle icon.
Long the stalwart maker of air-cooled pushrod-activated cruisers, Harley tried to break out of that box over 20 years ago with the V-Rod machines co-engineered in part with Porsche, only to be left orphaned by the les brand loyalists, who avoided them despite their superior performance. An acquired taste, it seems, from 1999 to 2017, one can be had for a very reasonable sum these days.
But why would you (unless you’re just a big V-Rod fan) when you could instead ride the new Nightster or Nightster Sportster (if we’re getting a little technical on nomenclature)? Call it what you will, the third motorcycle to be built around the new Revolution Max modular engine platform is the rebirth of the Sportster, 65 years after it entered the lineup as a faster, lighter and more powerful Harley. affordable. It’s a return to the roots of the Sportster, while looking far into the future of The Motor Company. Harley kindly invited me and a dozen other journalists to try out the new Nightster on California’s famous 33 freeway outside of Santa Barbara, and it did not disappoint.
At 481 pounds full of gas, the $16,499 Nightster weighs more than 100 pounds less than the sportiest previous Sportster, Buell’s vaunted XR1200. It also produces more power and arguably handles better while being completely modern in just about every way except the bike’s styling, which is clean and unadorned, almost to the fault. The base color is black; red or trendy new gloss gray options add $500.
90 horsepower comes from the short-sleeved Revolution Max 975T 60-degree V-twin, backed by a solid 70 pound-feet of torque. The engine cases are the same size as the larger displacement 1250cc Sportster S and Pan America adventure bikes, but the bore and stroke have been readjusted for the 975cc displacement. Other engine technical details: This engine uses one spark plug per head instead of two and loses variable valve timing for the exhaust valves but retains it for the intake reeds. In place of the old five-speed transmission is a much more tightly integrated six-speed than on air-cooled machines. Hydraulic valve adjusters keep the engine in a constant state of correct adjustment and reduce maintenance costs.
Some novelties: The “petrol tank” does not contain a single drop of fuel. Gas enters a 3.1-gallon cell under the seat while the dummy tank functions as an enlarged airbag to help the engine breathe and produce power. This strategy also allowed Harley to retain a classic “peanut” tank shape, but it’s one of the few nods to older motorcycles. Another is the round “air cleaner” which is more driven than cleaner, and a set of rear twin shocks with preload adjustment and 3.1 inches of travel (compared to around two inches on older bikes), while the Sportster S has a more modern and adjustable underwater monoshock setup.
LED lights are standard all around and a single instrument adorns the handlebars. The 4-inch round speedometer may look classic from a distance, but a small LCD screen integrated below the analog speedometer provides a wealth of data, including fuel level, gear position, driving mode (road , rain and sport), RPMs, range, and even the weather. Typical warning lights are invisible until activated.
More standard technology rolls onto the Nightster, including dual-channel ABS for single Brembo rotors front and rear, as does traction control, which can be disabled with a bar pod button . Modifying the driving modes modifies the governance of the traction control, the intervention of the ABS and the behavior of the accelerator. Blast a shift and a slipper clutch will save the internals for another day. One feature that I think Harley could have easily added is cruise control; hopefully future models will include it. There is no ignition switch on the Nightster; like many motorcycles and cars today, a wireless key fob with proximity sensing lets you turn on the bike once you’re on board. If you lose your key, you can enter a PIN to override the security system and return home.
Informed and ready to travel, we headed out of Santa Barbara and into the mountains toward Highway 33, a favorite haunt of local sport bikers, and for good reason. The two-lane tarmac twists and turns in the San Bernardino Mountains, encouraging riders to push the limits of the Nightster’s lean angles, which are much improved over older bikes. Still, it’s no Ninja fighter and pressed hard, the center-mounted stakes will chip the pavement to warn you that things are getting serious. But it takes a lot of effort on the Nightster, and riding in Sport mode on the highway most of the time without traffic allowed riders to taste the Revolution Max 975’s abundant power and finesse. just above 7,000 rpm, a considerable number far beyond the top rev limit of older bikes. Ignition intervention kicks in at the 9500 rpm redline, but you should switch before that point anyway, as power drops above 9000 rpm, and in anything above the second gear, the speed at these revs is considerable – and probably illegal.
Loading into the corners, the Nightster is in its element, and unless you’re a sports bike hero, the bike’s capabilities will satisfy the skills of the majority of riders who in the past would otherwise have avoided a Sportster. . They should reconsider.
That said, the Nightster would also be a solid choice for entry-level riders. For a nearly 1000cc bike, the weight is quite low and the seat is also low enough for those just starting out to put both feet flat, and the actual ergonomics, flat handlebars and technical aids – ABS and traction control (TC) in particular – means most rookie mistakes are more likely to be recovered. In Rain mode, ABS and TC are most active, while engine power is reduced, and it can serve very well as a “learner” mode. As new riders put in the miles and gain confidence, they can achieve more power and less intervention. Additionally, I found the Nightster to be surprisingly comfortable, especially the stock seat. We were on the bikes for most of the day, and I had no seat pain or other fatigue that I have experienced on many other much more expensive bikes.
That comfortable seat, along with six gears, including the high-speed top delivering more than 4.7 L/100 km (50 mpg) with easy acceleration, means long-distance adventures are just a few attachments away. It’s a fun, versatile bike that most beginners would find easy to love and hard to pass. Plus, it’s a Harley, and if you’ve ever fancied yourself owning one but were put off by the lack of technology and modernity of air-cooled models, then your motorcycle has truly arrived.
Driving back to Santa Barbara after our explosion on the 33, the sun dipped into the vast Pacific as the Nightster sped along in sixth gear, barely breathing at highway speeds. Despite only a small bug screen above the headlight that offers the speedometer nothing but shelter from oncoming critters, the Nightster’s central, standard seating position – and comfy seat – make for a smooth ride. relaxed and carefree, even at (legal) highway speeds. The small LCD screen indicates that I have over 70 miles (113 km) of range left from the tank under the seat, and although it was a long day in the saddle, I was a little disappointed to get back to the point launch and return the key fob to the preparation team.
The Nightster is another smart and solid advancement from Harley-Davidson.