• Harley Davidson Introduces the Nightster

Baby Brother to the Sportster S, with liquid-cooled v-twin engine of 975cc

Harley Davidson has filled a gap in its model line-up with the Nightster, using a 975cc version of the Revolution Max engine.

Meet the Harley Davidson Nightster


After all the rumours and teaser videos, Harley Davidson has finally debuted the new Nightster model, a baby brother to the 1250cc Sportster S.

Using a 975cc version of the Revolution Max water-cooled motor, producing 90bhp and 70lb.ft of torque, the Nightster has a more traditional Sportster look and feel about it. This was obviously felt to be important by H-D designers, as the Sportster S was such a departure from the original Sportster concept. That the Sportster S platform was versatile is shown by the fact the Nightster can adopt a more familiar profile.

Harley Davidson Introduces the Nightster
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2022 Harley Davidson Nightster
Long-awaited smaller-engined version of the Sportster S

This is a much more ’traditional’ Harley Davidson, certainly in appearance. The petrol tank might look familiar, but it is actually a dummy tank, the 3-gallon gas tank being situated under the seat. Overall, there is more than a hint of the now-deceased Sportster Forty Eight than the Sportster S.

Harley Davidson Introduces the Nightster
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A More Traditional Sportster
The lines of the Nightster are closer to the outgoing air-cooled Sportster.

Powering the Nightster is the new Revolution Max 975T, a liquid cooled, 60° v-twin, tuned, according to Harley, for ’muscular torque.’ There is variable valve timing with hydraulic lash adjustment and a balancer shaft smooths things out, but not too much. As Harley says, there is "just enough vibration to make the motorcycle feel alive.”

Harley Davidson Introduces the Nightster
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Revolution Max Engine
New 975cc version of the water-cooled, 60° v-twin, producing 90bhp and 70lb.ft of torque

“We do want to retain some of the feel that’s so much of what Harley is about, yet we want to balance that with a comfortable ride,” said Kyle Wick, chief engineer on the Nightster project. “With an engine like this, where you go much higher into the rev range, it’s got a different characteristic. If you don’t balance this well, you can create a very poor experience. We want people to know they’re on a bike, that they’re on a Harley-Davidson.”

Harley Davidson Introduces the Nightster
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Available from April 2022
In showrooms from April 2022, priced at around $13,500

In line with the Sportster S, the engine is a structural component of the chassis. The swing-arm is now rectangular section welded steel and twin shocks that give more suspension travel compared to the Sportster S. Front forks are by Showa.

Harley Davidson Introduces the Nightster
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Riding Modes
Rain, Street and Sport give different levels of power delivery and engine braking.

The Nightster will come with selectable ride modes - rain, road and sport - each providing a different combination of power delivery, engine-braking, antilock braking, and traction control.

With the gas tank under the seat, the dummy tank is now the airbox.

“We had to make a step change in the performance of Sportster,” said Brad Richards, Harley-Davidson’s vice president of design. “We knew we wanted to do that, and in order to do that there were certain airbox requirements in terms of volume, and of course we have range expectations as well for the product. When we combined fuel size and airbox size, there was no option for a smaller-proportioned, classic-looking Sportster tank. So we were really struggling with how to do this. We also wanted outboard dual shocks ‘cause that was part of the Sportster thing as well. We quickly realized that because of these two things, maybe fuel under the seat would be a good play for us. As soon as we did that it enabled the proportion that we needed with the fuel tank so we got the classic Sportster silhouette.

Harley Davidson Introduces the Nightster
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Riding Modes
Rain, Street and Sport give different levels of power delivery and engine braking.

“We knew with the Rev Max architecture that we wanted tremendous breadth in terms of modularity. We knew with Adventure Touring bikes and something like Sportster S we could get away with it, because those bikes didn’t have previous forms that we had to embody. But Nightster had to look like a Sportster. As soon as you take away the loop frame that becomes a real challenge. We did a lot of proportional foam mock-ups, we made a lot of models of this bike. The first ones, I’ll admit, weren’t very successful and we had to do some serious soul searching, and that’s when we got the fuel under the seat and we finally figured out how to put it all together and it was a serious challenge.”

Harley Davidson Introduces the Nightster
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Dummy Gas Tank
The gas tank is actually the airbox for the engine, while the 3-gallon gas tank is under the seat.

One. thing that Harley purists will appreciate is the low seat height. “This is a narrow bike and a low seat height and a low CG,” Wick said. “This bike is more approachable than arguably any bike in our lineup, and arguably any bike in this space.”

Harley Davidson Introduces the Nightster
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Available from April 2022
In showrooms from April 2022, priced at around $13,500

Nightster models are expected in US dealerships April of 2022, so almost immediately. The Nightster in Vivid Black is $13,499, with Gunship Gray or Redline Red coming in at $13,899.

Harley Davidson Introduces the Nightster
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Sportster S
Much chunkier in appearance than the new Nightster.

This is truly a new era for Harley Davidson and one that has started with a bang. Now, all we need is the 975 engine to be put into the Pan America and the Bronx street fighter concept to be revived and the future of the bar-and-shield brand will be secure.

Harry Fisher
Harry Fisher
Motorcycling Contributor
Born and raised in England, he has lived in South Africa with his family since 2002. Harry has owned examples of Triumph, Norton, BSA, MV Agusta, Honda, BMW, Ducati, Harley Davidson, Kawasaki and Moto Morini motorcycles. He regrets selling all of them.  Read full bio
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