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06 Jul 2022

What We Dislike
Handlebars are a little far for me (I'm 1.7m tall)

A classic silhouette and thoroughly modern rideability makes the new Nightster a city-friendly Harley-Davidson with broadening appeal.

This is the new Harley-Davidson Nightster, the newest offering from the brand. According to Harley-Davidson, this model builds on the legacy of the Sportster. And while it certainly shares mechanical elements with the new Sportster S, the model that this Nightster more realistically harkens back to (and succeeds, in some sense) is probably the Iron 883.

Question is, will this new Nightster draw in new Harley customers?

Looking back

The Nighster sports a classic cruiser silhouette, best dressed in all black
Visually, you could make the case that the Nightster's design is somewhat backward-looking, which I think works in its favour. It has got a classic cruiser silhouette, thanks to the long tank, low stretched out body, low exhaust pipe and the exposed rear shocks.

Especially decked out in all black, I think it's a fantastically classic-looking bike. And considering this model sits at the bottom of the model lineup, it looks bigger than it actually is.

That's not to say that this isn't a modern bike, because it really is. You've got modern features like a number of ride modes, ABS and traction control, and a modern-for-a-Harley TFT screen in the tachometer. It's not the last word in technology and equipment, for sure, but it's sufficient all things considered.

Looking forward

The new Revolution Max 975T delivers city-friendly performance and great overall refinement 
The big change, here, is the engine. The Nightster is powered by a Revolution Max 975T engine, a smaller capacity variation of the engine found on the Sportster S. Here, it produces 89bhp and 95Nm of torque.

The new Revolution Max engines (first debuted on the Pan-America, then the Sportster S) are good engines, but definitely different from the old V-Twins.

Here on the Nightster, the lack of traditional low-end torque takes a little getting used to. Instead, you have to rev the engine out a little more (peak torque comes at 5,000rpm), and in the mid-range there is a good amount of power to be found. It's not the quickest bike in the world, but for the purposes of daily riding, it is plenty fast. Even cruising along on the highway at 110km/h is pretty effortless, though when you twist the throttle the bike doesn't pick up quite as quickly as other larger capacity Harley offerings.

The taut chassis, narrow front tyre and light overall weight makes for a highly manoeuvrable bike
The Nightster also handles well - the bike is much lighter than it would visually suggest, the chassis is taut and controlled, and the narrow front tyre makes for very easy directional changes. Also, manoeuvring at low speeds is a cinch.

In terms of the overall riding ergonomics and comfort, I would say that the Nightster was designed for people of a larger frame than my 1.7m self. I found myself stretching for the handlebars slightly given the distance between the seat and the handlebars. That said, it is still a very easy and comfortable ride. The suspension is smooth and well-damped, and all the relevant controls (brake pedal and gear shifter) are all easily reached.

Looking around

The new Nightster has all the necessary qualities to entice new riders to the Harley brand
The new Nightster has all the necessary qualities to be a city-friendly Harley, and I think that's exactly its appeal. It has got the classic visual charisma of a Harley cruiser, while still being a pretty accessible and approachable bike to ride. This is a bike with classic cruiser aesthetics, but a thoroughly modern and relatively sporty dynamic capability. 

Yes, perhaps your traditionalist leather-wearing die-hard Harley enthusiast might scoff at this bike. But this isn't made for them. It's designed to try to welcome new riders to the brand. And I think it's well-suited to do just that.

Keen on the new Harley-Davidson Revolution Max engine? Here are some other models to consider: 

The new Sportster S delivers greater performance, digitalisation and approachability

The Pan-America proves to be a thoroughly capable and practically approachable adventure tourer that stands up to tough competition

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