HARLEY-DAVIDSON NIGHTSTER 975 (2022 - on) Review

Highlights

  • Liquid-cooled Revolution Max 975T engine
  • 88.7bhp and 70.1ftlb of torque
  • Variable valve timing

At a glance

Owners' reliability rating: 4.5 out of 5 (4.5/5)
Power: 89 bhp
Seat height: Low (27.8 in / 705 mm)
Weight: Medium (481 lbs / 218 kg)

Prices

New £13,277
Used £12,500 - £13,000

Overall rating

Next up: Ride & brakes
3 out of 5 (3/5)

The Harley-Davidson Nightster isn’t a bad bike, and when you ride it hard it is great fun, but I’m not sure it hits its target audience’s needs and it certainly doesn’t replace the Sportster 883 as an ‘accessible model’ as Harley claim.

Priced at £13k it is far from an affordable access point into the brand while its rev-happy nature and sterile-feeling motor also makes it a bit soulless to ride.

It’s a good handling bike and when you put the effort in the engine and chassis responds with gusto but to me it seems Harley still have a huge hole in their model range left by the demise of the 883 that the Nightster fails to adequately fill.

If it was under £10k and had more mid-range the story may be different... It’s a good bike, but no Sportster 883 replacement in feel, attitude or price.

Harley-Davidson Nightster right side

Ride quality & brakes

Next up: Engine
4 out of 5 (4/5)

The Nightster feels remarkably light and agile and handles really well at speed despite its conventional forks lacking any adjustment and its twin shocks only allowing the preload to be altered.

You can treat it quite roughly and throw it into bends and it doesn’t protest, which is impressive, but an element of restraint is required as ground clearance is limited. However this agility does come at a slight cost and if you hit a harsh bump, the shocks and hard seat certainly let you know all about it.

As with the suspension, the single brake caliper is old-school conventionally mounted but it is made by Brembo and comes with ABS and braided lines. It’s acceptable in its performance and the ABS good but should you wish to increase the stopping power by using the rear brake as well, the lever’s end is a bit small and tucked away, making it tricky to locate.

Harley-Davidson Nightster rear

Engine

Next up: Reliability
4 out of 5 (4/5)

The 60-degree Revolution Max 975T V-twin engine is heavily based around the 1250 engine found in the Pan America and Sportster S, however it isn’t just a shrunk-down version.

Where the 1250 features variable valve timing on both cams, the 975T only has it on the intake, giving it a very different character. Sadly, unlike the Sportster models, it’s hard to form an emotional bond with this motor as it is quite whirry and clattery, making it feel like a sterile modern engine where the air-cooled models had a thumping soul.

Also the 975T motor likes to be revved with the power located high up the rev range, something that isn’t really in keeping with a Harley model. Yes, the Nightster is a modern sporty performance cruiser and when the rev rise is remarkably fast, but do riders really want to be forced to thrash it to unlock the meat of the power? It is hard to see it as that kind of bike and it would benefit from more low to mid-range grunt at the expense of top-end zap.

Harley-Davidson Nightster engine

In keeping with the ‘Sport’ family’s more ‘modern’ thinking, the Nightster gets ABS and traction control (TCS) as well as Drag-Torque Slip Control (DSCS) and even three power modes – Road, Sport and Rain. Although the safety systems aren’t angle-responsive, swapping the power mode alters their sensitivity as well as the throttle response and mid-range power – not that you want to swap modes.

Rain and Road modes add a horrible lag in the throttle response to the point it feels like nothing is happening until over 50% throttle with Rain remarkably gutless and unpleasant. The Nightster is far better left in Sport mode irrespective of the conditions and the slightly abrupt throttle response!

Reliability & build quality

Next up: Value
3 out of 5 (3/5)

The Revolution Max engine was brand new in the Pan America and MCN ran one for a year in 2021. The bike did over 7000 miles and was far from fault free.

That said, early first generation bikes can suffer issues and the engine in the Nightster is in a different state of tune with a different capacity and VVT arrangement so the jury is out on how it will perform for now.

A visual inspection of the Nightster suggests it is well built but it is hard to call it a pretty bike and there is a lot of plastic and exposed wires with the area directly in front of the engine (where the radiator and expansion tank are hidden behind black plastic boxes) especially unpleasant.

That said, its long and low performance cruiser stance is appealing and the wheels are very cool. The problem is it just doesn’t feel, or appear, £13k of bike when parked up and I’m not sure if customising it will be able to easily (or cheaply) mask its ugly parts.

Harley-Davidson Nightster on the road

Value vs rivals

Next up: Equipment
3 out of 5 (3/5)

The Revolution Max motor has 5000-mile service intervals and thanks to the fact it runs hydraulic valve lash adjustment, there are no valve clearances to check. You need to expect to pay roughly £300 per service with a recommended annual oil and filter change £180, which is good value.

Traditionally Harleys tend to be very good in terms of holding their value, so depreciation is usually less of a factor than on many rival machines, but the water-cooled bikes are new to the market so this is yet to be fully determined. So what of its rivals? The Nightster costs £13,277 in black (plus £375 extra for grey or red paint options) where an Indian Scout is £12,295, but it is less sporty, and the Triumph Bonneville Bobber is £12,195.

You could say the far more performance-targeted £18,651 Ducati Diavel or £18,651 XDiavel are rivals or the Honda CMX1100 Rebel at £9499 (£10,399 with DCT) or possibly the BMW R18 Classic at £19,540. Realistically, it is hard to see any direct rivals for the bike. The main problem is that Harley are billing it as ‘an accessible entry point’ into the brand, which at £13k it isn’t really.

Harley-Davidson Nightster right side on the road

Equipment

3 out of 5 (3/5)

The Nightster costs over £13,000 on the road and for that you would expect inverted forks or at least some kind of adjustability in the forks, maybe a radial brake caliper, angle-responsive electronics, connectivity, even cruise control or an up/down shifter – however the Nightster lacks all this.

Ok, you get ABS and traction control (TCS) as well as Harley’s Drag-Torque Slip Control (DSCS) and three power modes (Road, Rain and Sport) but that’s it.

There is an argument the telescopic right way up forks and conventionally-mounted brake caliper give the bike old-school Sportster appeal, and it is questionable if  traditional Harley owners want angle-responsive electronics, but the price tag tends to suggest they should be there. And where is the keyless lock on the seat so you can access the fuel tank without requiring the key? It has a keyless ignition after all.

That said, it is good to see the motor contains variable valve technology. Oh, and should you wish to take a pillion a seat for them is £145 extra. And the pillion pegs will cost you £284.

Harley-Davidson Nightster dash

Specs

Engine size 975cc
Engine type Liquid-cooled, 8v, DOHC V-twin, VVT
Frame type Tubular steel trellis
Fuel capacity 11.7 litres
Seat height 705mm
Bike weight 218kg
Front suspension 41mm, conventional Showa forks, non-adjustable
Rear suspension Twin Showa shocks, adjustable preload
Front brake 1 x 320mm disc with four-piston Brembo caliper. ABS
Rear brake 260mm single disc with one-piston caliper. ABS
Front tyre size 100/90 x 19
Rear tyre size 150/80 x 16

Mpg, costs & insurance

Average fuel consumption 52 mpg
Annual road tax £101
Annual service cost -
New price £13,277
Used price £12,500 - £13,000
Insurance group -
How much to insure?
Warranty term Two years

Top speed & performance

Max power 89 bhp
Max torque 70.1 ft-lb
Top speed 120 mph
1/4 mile acceleration -
Tank range 216 miles

Model history & versions

Model history

2022: Harley-Davidson Nightster – The all-new Nightster is launched. Powered by a smaller-capacity version of the Revolution Max engine, the Nightster takes styling cues from the Sportster range but ups the performance and handling through an all-new chassis, water-cooled engine and host of modern safety assists.

Other versions

None.

Owners' reviews for the HARLEY-DAVIDSON NIGHTSTER 975 (2022 - on)

2 owners have reviewed their HARLEY-DAVIDSON NIGHTSTER 975 (2022 - on) and rated it in a number of areas. Read what they have to say and what they like and dislike about the bike below.

Review your HARLEY-DAVIDSON NIGHTSTER 975 (2022 - on)

Summary of owners' reviews

Overall rating: 2.5 out of 5 (2.5/5)
Ride quality & brakes: 4.5 out of 5 (4.5/5)
Engine: 5 out of 5 (5/5)
Reliability & build quality: 4.5 out of 5 (4.5/5)
Value vs rivals: 4 out of 5 (4/5)
Equipment: 5 out of 5 (5/5)
1 out of 5 Bike needs work
30 August 2022 by John G Ziegler

Year: 2022

Owned bike for 6 months, sometimes bike won’t start, I have to pull main fuse and count to twenty then reinsert fuse, then bike will start, problem happens at least once a day, factory says they are working feverishly on problem to repair, meanwhile I’m 68 years old and I traded a perfectly working 2002 sportster for this brand new works when it wants nighster, I hope the factory fixes this soon, being diagnosed with cancer, I don’t have many riding seasons left

Ride quality & brakes 4 out of 5

We’ll see when they get it fixed

Engine 5 out of 5
Reliability & build quality 4 out of 5

Runs well when it starts

Value vs rivals 4 out of 5
Equipment 5 out of 5

Buying experience: I trade a perfectly running 2002 1200 custom for a 2022 nighster that starts when it wants, how would you feel

4 out of 5 Not a fan of HD but a fan of the Nightster 975
16 May 2022 by Edd

Year: 2022

Been riding 17 years on and off. I'm not into Harely Davidson fan but I dig the Nightster 975. Purchased one in April of 2022. Heat off the exhaust or motor on the right ankle is a little comfortable but a heat wrap or higher ankle boots would fix this. Low weight ratio is great, wish is had a bigger tank. Hopefully there's more option for this bike soon.

Ride quality & brakes 5 out of 5
Engine 5 out of 5
Reliability & build quality 5 out of 5
Value vs rivals 4 out of 5
Equipment 5 out of 5

Buying experience: Purchased from Death Valley Harley-Davidson.

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