2022 Harley-Davidson Nightster Review [14 Fast Facts: New Sportster]

A lot comes with a name. A callback to the original is only natural, and so, too, are the hefty expectations that follow. The radically modern 2022 Harley-Davidson Nightster meets those demands head-on by ushering in a new generation of Sportster motorcycles, carefully tying classic Sportster elements to a new tech-laden water-cooled Revolution Max 975T V-twin powerplant and contemporary chassis design.

The second addition to the modern liquid-cooled Sportster lineup, the 2022 Nightster draws inspiration from its forbearers via the peanut faux-fuel tank, conventional suspension, and a riding position faithful to the originals, taking a massive evolutionary step forward in every performance aspect.

2022 Harley-Davidson Nightster Review: For Sale

We hopped aboard the 2022 Harley-Davidson Nightster, taking in the salty sea air of Santa Barbara before heading for some of the finest mountain roads that the Los Padres National Forest offers. Now, let’s get on with the Fast Facts.

  1. The 60-degree Revolution Max 975T brings performance and versatility to the Sportster range. What a charmer this 975cc engine is, with its free-revving character giving rapid access to its claimed energetic 90 horsepower at 7500 rpm and ample 70 ft-lbs of torque at 5000 rpm—numbers that would make any air-cooled Evolution powerplant gasp.

  1. The middleweight Rev Max doesn’t deliver its initial hit with a typical air-cool torquey thud off the line. No, this mill is cultured when necessary, using deceptively soft low-rpm wiles to deliver you to its torque-rich and impressively broad midrange grunt, fit for city or canyon work. New horizons are explored in the upper regions of the revs, at this twin continues pulling with a hint of feral ferocity through to the 9500 rpm redline—churning a few thousand more revs than air-cooled Sportys.

2022 Harley-Davidson Nightster Review: Sportster For Sale

  1. Shared Revolution Max architecture, yet quite a few changes are in store for the 975T. The Nightster engine curtails displacement with a 97mm bore and 66mm stroke, both reduced from the Rev Max 1250, making the performance on tap more well-rounded and approachable in a cruiser configuration. The smaller design allowed engineers to get away with variable valve timing on the intake cams only and a single spark plug per cylinder. Meanwhile, the finger-follower valve train, hydraulic lifters, and tuned counterbalancers ensure the same smooth operating we’ve enjoyed on the Pan America and Sportster S. Undoubtedly, this modern mill provides a different experience from the air-cooled engines, offering less engine braking, less vibration, and more performance.

  1. Ride modes and rider aids are standard for this new generation of Sportster motorcycles. On deck, we have Sport, Road, and Rain modes that adjust throttle maps, engine braking, plus traction control and ABS intervention, respectively. Sport mode pulls out all the stops and lets you dole out all 975cc of aggression at will, but an abrupt throttle is a nasty side effect. Luckily, that sharpness is dispensed in the sensible Road mode. Rain tames things by a significant margin, suitable for any deluge.

  1. Let’s get into the nitty-gritty of this new tech. In general, the throttle connection is good, though there is throttle vagueness at initial opening in all modes. When coupled with traction control settings that are a hair overzealous off the line, that trait creates a bit of a learning curve when launching—turning TC off nets a sniff of extra bottom-end thrust for more enthusiastic riders. Still, TC is always nice to have in your bag of tricks. ABS did its work as intended.

  1. The 2-into-1 exhaust plays a raspy, contemporary tune. The Nightster’s quick-revving abilities change the audio paradigm, as this machine can sound quite naughty when on the gas. Indeed, although not as loud and proud as predecessors, we still have an appealing soundtrack. The only downside is where the headers converge. There, rearward boot movement on the footpegs is restricted, and a perceptible amount of heat radiates at low speeds. It’s not a deal-breaker, and additional wiggle room might alleviate those issues.

  1. A taut six-speed gearbox and light clutch pull fit the feel. Helping push the refined narrative is the tidy six-speed gearbox. It offers precise engagement, though it requires a bit more gusto applied to the shift lever than what we experienced on the Sportster S. You can ride the Nightster like H-Ds of old by short shifting, letting the midrange punch do its work, or wring out the well-spaced ratios to their bitter end. Lastly, the light-pull assist clutch and slipper functions work nicely.

  1. That peanut fuel tank isn’t what it appears to be. The modular Rev Max engine allows for a myriad of configurations. In this case, it accommodates plenty of classic cues, balanced against decidedly new-school motorcycle design techniques. The twin shocks and boxed swingarm keep things traditional, while the 3.1-gallon fuel tank uses a 21st-century approach. It nestles itself under the seat and behind the engine, significantly lowering the center of gravity. The airbox resides under the peanut-tank-shaped cover, and the round faux air-cleaner merely covers the intake.

2022 Harley-Davidson Nightster Review: Price

  1. A stressed-member chassis design imbues the Nightster with impressive cornering abilities. Ditching the old-school steel-cradle frame is one of the many reasons why the Nightster weighs a claimed 480 pounds, roughly 80 pounds lighter than air-cooled Sportys. This machine feels eager to please at any pace and will use all 32 degrees of lean angle, making you wish for more. Could they argue their case, I suspect the stubby footpegs and your inevitably chamfered boots would agree. Nothing more than a suggestive nudge will see the Nightster roll into a corner beautifully, and the solid chassis stays composed.

  1. The traditional suspension improves the breed. Sportsters of old have a well-earned reputation for their vendetta against the human coccyx. You see, a heavier machine with a soft fork and stiff, short-travel twin shocks usually equates to a harsh ride. I am happy to say that trait is mostly a thing of the past. The Showa fork is on the compliant end of the spectrum and soaks up asphalt bruises nicely without collapsing when applying the binder. Meanwhile, the shocks boast three inches of travel and mask most of what the mean streets throw at you. However, a hard-edged pothole will still give you a decent knock.

  1. The iconic Iron 883 rider triangle is reprised for the 2022 Harley-Davidson Nightster. While much of this motorcycle feels entirely new, that familiar reach to the handlebar, low 27.8-inch seat height, and mid-control setup recall a classic cruiser riding position. My 5-foot 10-inch frame isn’t compressed into a clamshell riding position, and the real takeaway is how accessible this machine is for riders with a variety of inseam lengths. Unfortunately, the firm seat doesn’t flatter the aforementioned suspension. Add a little more cushion, and we might be killing two birds with one stone.

2022 Harley-Davidson Nightster Review: Sportster Price

  1. Brembo brakes bring the stopping power. An axial-mounted four-piston caliper and single 320mm rotor are paired with a snazzy radial master cylinder and steel-braided brake line. Feel at the adjustable lever is good, as is the stopping power. Aggressive riders may desire an additional caliper and rotor, but what we have is more than ample for the job description. In the rear, a single-piston caliper and 260mm disc add to the list of positives.

  1. A new generation of aesthetics is on display. Harley-Davidson prides itself on fit and finish, and on that note, there is plenty to appreciate here. The colors are vibrant, and various throwback design elements capture threads from classic Sportsters—the faux air-cleaner, round headlight, analog clock with an LCD inlay, suspension, and 19/16-inch wheels do their part. Purists will quickly balk at the radiator and oil cooler, but their positioning was agonized over; engineers and designers must consider aspects like suspension travel, geometry, and more. Those are understandable concessions for a ripping engine. Still, I wish more of the wiring was tucked away more neatly.

2022 Harley-Davidson Nightster Review: Sportster MSRP

  1. The 2022 Harley-Davidson Nightster is stepping up the competition within the sport-cruiser class. Things are heating up, with American V-twin manufacturers honing in on performance, and the new Nightster outperforms its progenitors in every objective category. These newfound capabilities come at a higher introductory price than what the Sportster line asked in the past. Modern solutions deviate from the tried-and-true aesthetic norm, though the Nightster works earnestly catering to the faithful’s needs, and the benefits speak for themselves. There is no denying that the Revolution Max 975T is exceedingly vibrant, offering plenty of chuff in a chassis that’s unabashedly fun to romp around on and even has a suite of rider aids—although not lean-angle sensitive. What is certain is the Rev Max platform’s ability to raise the bar with every iteration, and the Nightster is here to prove it.

Photography by Brian J. Nelson and Kevin Wing

RIDING STYLE

2022 Harley-Davidson Nightster Specs

ENGINE

  • Type: Revolution Max 975T 60-degree V-twin
  • Displacement: 975cc
  • Bore x stroke: 97 x 66mm
  • Maximum power: 90 horsepower @ 7500 rpm
  • Maximum torque: 70 ft-lbs @ 5000 rpm
  • Compression ratio: 12:1
  • Valvetrain: DOHC w/ hydraulic self-adjusting lifters, variable intake cam timing; 4vpc
  • Cooling: Liquid
  • Lubrication: Semi-dry sump
  • Exhaust: 2-1-2 w/ in-header catalyst
  • Transmission: 6-speed
  • Clutch: Wet multiplate w/ assist-and-slipper functions
  • Final drive: Chain

CHASSIS

  • Chassis: Stressed engine w/ trellis frame
  • Front suspension; travel: Non-adjustable Showa Dual Bending Valve 41mm fork; 4.5 inches
  • Rear suspension; travel: Spring-preload adjustable emulsion shocks; 3 inches
  • Wheels: Cast aluminum
  • Front wheel: 19 x 2.5
  • Rear wheel: 16 x 4.25
  • Tires: Dunlop Harley-Davidson Series D401
  • Front tire: 100/90 x 19
  • Rear tire: 150/80 x 16
  • Front brakes: 320mm floating disc w/ radially mounted 4-piston Brembo caliper
  • Rear brake: 260mm floating disc w/ single-piston Brembo caliper
  • ABS: Standard

DIMENSIONS and CAPACITIES

  • Wheelbase: 61.3 inches
  • Rake: 30 degrees
  • Fork angle: 28 degrees
  • Trail: 5.4 inches
  • Seat height: 27.8 inches
  • Fuel capacity: 3.1 gallons
  • Estimated fuel consumption: 52 mpg
  • Curb weight: 481 pounds
  • Colors: Vivid Black; Gunship Gray (+$400); Redline Red (+$400)

2022 Harley-Davidson Nightster Price: $13,499 MSRP

2022 Harley-Davidson Nightster Review Photo Gallery