The 2022 Harley-Davidson Nightster might not have the Sportster nameplate, but it’s a traditional Sportster with modern features.
The Sportster nameplate is one of the oldest and most well-known names in the brand’s history. While the new Sportster S represents a new direction for the whole model lineup, the 2022 Harley-Davidson Nightster is a great addition representing a more traditional Sportster styling with modern touches.
Starting with the looks, it undoubtedly has a traditional cruiser layout. Oval-shaped headlight, bar-end mirrors, relatively long chassis, and wheelbase, struts on both sides of the rear fender. I think it looks beautiful from every angle and finds a nice balance of classic & modern, but I just wish there was more attention to detail, as you can easily see exposed wiring around the engine and handlebar.
There are interesting quirks and features when you get into the details. For instance, you won’t be able to find the traditional Harley Davidson button layout in the Nightster, including the indicators. The layout is actually very easy to get used to, but if you are coming from another Harley Davidson product, this might feel like a whole new experience.
One thing I will bring up as a negative is the gas tank location. It is located right under the seat. That’s the reason why the tank size is relatively small (3.1 gallons – 12 liters), but more importantly, this also means you have to lift the seat up every time you go to a gas station. For a bike that comes with keyless ignition, you have to use the key on a regular basis. The bike was averaging about 52 MPG – 5.4L / 100 km, which is pretty good and compensates for the smaller tank.
The rest of the bike is pretty basic but useful. The 4″ instrument is half digital and half analog, which gives you a lot of information, but you need to go through each screen, so you won’t be able to see everything at once. It’s definitely a minimalistic approach, which is a great match for the rest of the bike. Ride modes can easily be selected, which only changes the throttle response. It comes with the ABS, TCS, and Drag-Torque Slip Control System.
The ergonomics are hit or miss, especially if you are a large adult. At 6’1″, I don’t feel cramped and mid-controls give me enough space for my legs. 705mm seat height makes it beginner friendly and approachable for short adults, and the seat is exceptionally comfortable. However, the upper body is quite stretched due to the handlebar design. My arms were fully stretched to be able to grab the handlebar, or I find myself leaning forward a lot.
The engine is the most important piece of the whole bike. The 2022 Harley-Davidson Nightster is the third model built on the new modular Revolution Max platform. It started with the Pan America, then the Sportster S. The Nightster is the newest and the most affordable option of the bunch, proving how versatile this platform can get. Unlike the Sportster S though, the silhouette of the bike looks much more familiar to Sportster fans.
Though it shares the same platform, there are significant changes when it comes to the engine. It comes with a 975cc liquid-cooled 60-degree V-twin, which is a downsized version of the 1250cc Revolution Max engine used in Pan America and Sportster S. The smaller engine generates around 90 horsepower and 70 lb-ft of torque, which is plenty for this size and weight of a bike.
Unlike the other models, we found Harley Davidson is being much more transparent when it comes to sharing horsepower figures when it comes to the Revolution Max platform. However, I think the more important feature is the hydraulic valve lash adjustment which means you don’t have to worry about adjusting the valves at all. What looks like an air filter cover is more of an intake port that leads to the airbox above, where a gas tank traditionally sits.
Typical modern V-twin fashion; the engine wants to rev quite a lot, and you have to keep the revs over 3000 RPM to get the most out of it. It can rev all the way up to 9500 RPM, which you would never imagine a Harley engine would do few years ago. The engine was so smooth that Harley Davidson decided to tune the internal balance to retain enough vibration to make it feel more alive.
Compared to the previous Sportsters, the Nightster feels more agile and nimble, but more importantly thanks to the new engine, it is much faster. In order to keep up with the extra power and agility, the Nightster comes with decent suspension and brake components. Although the suspension system has no adjustability, Showa 41mm dual-bending valve forks offer a great balance of comfort and stability. Spring preload can be adjusted in the rear. They are very accessible, easy to service and adjust.
The braking system is probably the only area I was skeptical about before I start riding the Nightster, as it only comes with a single disc in the front. However, the 4-piston Brembo caliper matched with a single 320mm disc does a great job, offering great stopping power with a very predictable lever feel, you do not feel the need for the second set of a disc and caliper. Harley Davidson didn’t cut the corners with the rear caliper, it’s also a single Brembo caliper with a 260mm disc.
By just looking at the spec sheet, you might think Nightster is a budget Sportster S, but it is not the case. It is a completely different bike with different chassis that just happens to share the same engine platform and is slightly cheaper. The Nightster is a great bike for someone looking for traditional cruiser looks with a modern drivetrain that we were desperately waiting for so many years, it’s finally here.
The most surprising feature was the multi-purpose character of the bike. It might be a problem with traditional cruisers where most of which are extremely comfort-oriented and they struggle on your favorite backroad, it’s not the case here. It almost feels like a middleweight naked bike with a very low seat height, mainly because of the well-tuned suspension setup.
The chassis is pretty responsive and stiff, and confidence-inspiring on twisties. Due to the relatively long wheelbase, it feels extremely planted in the mid-corner. It just requires a little bit of pressure on the handlebar to keep the bike in the line, I suspect that’s because of the high tire profile in the rear. It’s extremely predictable and won’t bite you even if you push its limits.
The Nightster has surprisingly minimal compromises when it comes to beginning a daily rider, as long as you are okay with stretched upper body ergonomics. For myself, it was not a big deal except for tight turns where you really have to stretch one of your arms to complete the turn. However, lower center of gravity helps a lot with slow-speed maneuvering and stop & go traffic. It offers a great balance of comfort and playfulness and is one of the most agile cruisers we have ever tested.
The Nightster is a great addition to the modern Harley model lineup, and also gives you a lot of hints about the future of the brand. It is definitely a big step in the right direction, a great resurrection of the Sportster segment that both experienced and beginner riders would appreciate a lot.
|Engine||975cc, liquid-cooled V-Twin|
|Max power||90 hp @ 7500 rpm|
|Max torque||70 lb-ft @ 5000 rpm|
|Brakes (Front – Rear)||Dual 320mm – 260mm|
|Dry Weight||483 lbs – 218 kg|
|Seat Height||27.7 inches – 705 mm|
|Top Speed||112 mph (est) – 180 km/h|
|Fuel Economy (Combined)||53 MPG – 4.5 L/100 km|