Motorcycle Review: Harley-Davidson Nightster Unveiled

The Motor Company continues to bring its bikes into the new millennium with fresh styling, modern tech, and improved performance to meet the needs of today’s motorcyclist. Announced today, the all-new Harley-Davidson Nightster blends the classic Sportster silhouette with contemporary features, redefining Harley’s entry-level bike with a host of features formerly only found on its Big Twins. We can’t wait to ride this new Sporty.

The base MSRP for the Harley Nightster is $13,499 (black) and $13,899 (color options). That’s a decent entry-level price point, and we’ll gladly take it.

New Harley-Davidson Nightster

The reborn Nightster takes the dark profile of its namesake ancestor and updates it with the brand-new Revolution Max 975T v-twin engine. The Rev Max powerplant, takes advantage of water-cooled technology to allow higher rpm, more torque—and far more power. Versions of this Harley Revolution Max engine also power the Nightster’s big brother, the Sportster S, and traveling sibling the Pan America.

You can tell by looking at the Nightster that Harley, no longer content to rest on its well-padded haunches, has redesigned the Sportster completely—and we are absolutely here for it. It looks like it’s ready to tackle the urban landscape, with a dark aggressive countenance and a fists-forward riding position that’s eager to run.

New Harley-Davidson Nightster

The new 975cc v-twin makes 90 horsepower at an eye-popping 7500 rpm, a number most Harley owners have only seen in red on their tachs. Moreover, peak torque (70 ft.-lbs.) is achieved at 5000 rpm, meaning this bike boasts a heckuva lot of mid-range. By comparison, previous Sportsters with the biggest-available 1200cc v-twin topped out at around 60 hp at 5200 rpm, and 65 ft.-lbs. of torque at 3900 rpm.

In addition to these performance upgrades, the new Nightster features a host of electronic ride enhancements—we’re talking ABS, traction control, and anti-slip control—all standard. It also has selectable Road, Sport, and Rain ride modes, so riders can dial in the Nightster’s power and traction to match the environment in which where they’re riding.

With an all-new look that is lean, low, and powerful, the Nightster hearkens to classic Sportster styling with exposed rear shocks and an airbox cover that evokes the iconic walnut fuel tank. The trellis frame, round intake cover, solo seat, chopped fenders, and speed screen evoke newer styles.

The Revolution Max powertrain is the focus. It’s framed by snaking exhaust headers and finished in textured metallic charcoal powder coat with gloss black inserts. The wheel finish is Satin Black. Paint color options include Vivid Black, Gunship Grey, and Redline Red. Gunship Grey and Redline Red color options will be applied only to the airbox cover; the front and rear fenders and speed screen are always finished in Vivid Black.

It gets better. What appears to be a traditional fuel tank is actually a steel cover for the airbox. The 3.1-gallon plastic fuel tank is located under the seat; you fill it by lifting the hinged locking saddle. Putting the tank beneath the seat not only maximizes the intake but moves some of the bike’s weight, and therefore its center of gravity, down lower in the chassis. This should result in much-improved handling, not to mention an easier lift off the side stand.

The Nightster model features a round, riser-mounted 4-inch analog speedo with an inset multi-function LCD display. All lighting is LED.

New Harley-Davidson Nightster

It seems clear this new Harley is taking aim at Indian’s successful mid-sized Scout line, and the wait was worth it. The Sporty always had a certain amount of charm, but when it came to performance it just couldn’t keep up with the Scout. We’re guessing these new liquid-cooled Sportsters will give those bikes a helluva run for their money. Did we mention we were excited to ride it?

The all-new Nightster should roll into your local Harley-Davidson dealership by the end of this month. You can check out specs, photos, video, and more right now at