HARLEY-DAVIDSON SPORTSTER 1200 Nightster (2007 - 2012) Review

At a glance

Owners' reliability rating: 4.3 out of 5 (4.3/5)
Power: 50 bhp
Seat height: Low (28.3 in / 720 mm)
Weight: High (553 lbs / 251 kg)


New N/A
Used £5,000 - £7,300

Overall rating

Next up: Ride & brakes
4 out of 5 (4/5)

The Nightster is the result of a simple plan by Harley-Davidson and it’s brilliantly executed. What plan? To take the second cheapest model (Sportster 1200) in Harley-Davidson’s vast range and tweak its styling to end up with a new bike of stunning looks but still with an affordable price.

Ride quality & brakes

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

The Nightster’s shorter forks than the donor Sportster put more weight over the front end to give the new Harley a stable ride. Lower bars with the seat repositioned closer to the tank make the Nightster an altogether comfier motorcycle to ride around; it also means the bike can be flung around a lot easier than a 251kg bike should. Ground clearance isn’t great but it’s still a lot of fun out in the country as well as posing down the high street.


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

The Nightster’s 1200cc five-speed engine has old-fashioned charm of clunks, whirring noises and an unmistakable Harley-Davidson exhaust note. These quirks are easy to live with because the Nightster’s injected fuelling is so sweet meaning you could tap in top gear and simply use the engine’s ample stock of torque to lug you around all day.

Reliability & build quality

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

The use of modern touches like fuel injection, belt drive and modern production techniques means that with the Nightster H-D has left its ‘old-shanker’ image well and truly behind. Paint and plating is tip-top and build quality spot-on. All that’s left is to uprate the brake system to something that doesn’t demand the rear brake to be stamped on when the weak front is used.

Value vs rivals

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

The Nightster is possibly the best value Harley-Davidson ever, at least in its 2008 sales brochure. If you want to buy into the Harley image this is the most affordable and credible machine to do it with.


4 out of 5 (4/5)

With the Harley Nightster there aren’t any bells and whistles to talk of; it’s the whole motorcycle that impresses. The use of black coating on the forks, drive belt guard and a black wheel finish (with stainless wire spokes) gives the Nightster a menacing look.

This is sweetened slightly by a range of glorious fuel tank colour schemes and shorty front and rear mudguards. A neat touch is the combined brake and turn signals built into the indicators.


Engine size 1200cc
Engine type Air-cooled 4v pushrod four-stroke 45° V-twin. 5 gears. Fuel injected. Belt final drive
Frame type Tubular steel
Fuel capacity 12.5 litres
Seat height 720mm
Bike weight 251kg
Front suspension None
Rear suspension Preload
Front brake 1 x 292mm front disc, 2-piston caliper
Rear brake 292mm disc, 1-piston caliper
Front tyre size 100/90 x 19
Rear tyre size 150/80 x 16

Mpg, costs & insurance

Average fuel consumption 40 mpg
Annual road tax £117
Annual service cost -
New price -
Used price £5,000 - £7,300
Insurance group 15 of 17
How much to insure?
Warranty term Two year unlimited mileage

Top speed & performance

Max power 50 bhp
Max torque 79.1 ft-lb
Top speed 110 mph
1/4 mile acceleration 13.8 secs
Tank range 90 miles

Model history & versions

Model history

2007: Harley-Davidson XL1200N Nightster launched.

2012: Harley-Davidson XL1200N Nightster discontinued.

Other versions


Owners' reviews for the HARLEY-DAVIDSON SPORTSTER 1200 (2007 - 2012)

3 owners have reviewed their HARLEY-DAVIDSON SPORTSTER 1200 (2007 - 2012) 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 SPORTSTER 1200 (2007 - 2012)

Summary of owners' reviews

Overall rating: 3.7 out of 5 (3.7/5)
Ride quality & brakes: 4 out of 5 (4/5)
Engine: 4.7 out of 5 (4.7/5)
Reliability & build quality: 4.3 out of 5 (4.3/5)
Value vs rivals: 4 out of 5 (4/5)
Equipment: 3.3 out of 5 (3.3/5)
3 out of 5
10 April 2016 by B Penny

Version: Forty Eight

Year: 2012

This bike both goes in straight lines and round corners at a very un-Harley like pace, mine is fitted with side shot pipes which sound amazing, however, regarding the tank range, the fuel light comes on at as little as forty miles, leaving you worrying about remaining range.

Ride quality & brakes 4 out of 5

Very good for what is a more modestly priced bike in the Harley range

Engine 5 out of 5

Noise, vibration, unrefined, these are all positive remarks, you know exactly what's going on down below

Reliability & build quality 4 out of 5

At only 3500 miles in a bit early to say

Value vs rivals 3 out of 5
Equipment 3 out of 5

Styling is the attractive part of this model, but it needs a stage one tuning upgrade

Buying experience: Harley service is excellent

4 out of 5 nightster
26 June 2008 by stolkien

after owning a b1h zx6 i was looking for a better bike for doubling and after doing some trackdays at knockhill when your there for 2hours and because people crash like flys you end up doing about 5 laps theres no need ktm super duke was my first pic but after looking at the harley nightster brand new its cheaper,full insurance is cheaper than my zx6 3rd party fire and theft fair enough it dont go around corners or handle bumps as good but its a harley so u just go a bit slower i like it give one a go if you sick of track day crashes and straights roads

Ride quality & brakes 4 out of 5
Engine 5 out of 5
Reliability & build quality 4 out of 5
Value vs rivals 5 out of 5
Equipment 4 out of 5
4 out of 5 An old fashioned motorcycle
26 May 2008 by jimbo5

Strange how a brand brings you back. After a disastrously expensive spell owning a Harley superglide t-sport, which seemed to break down at every opportunity, it was with uncertainty that I handed over the cash to take ownership of a Nightster. My last bike was a Triumph t-bird Sport - a great bike - but I wanted something a little more relaxed and am pleased to say that I've found it with the nightster. And before you ask, I'm 35 - not 75! (no offence to mature bikers out there). Before I went ahead, I had to try and fit on it! I'm 6'3" tall and 15 1/2 stone, so the standard pegs and uncomfortable single seat were replaced with forward pegs and a pillion friendly seat. This was done by hard bartering with the dealer and under the RRP. I am genuinley surprised people write sportsters off - the engine is really smooth and torque laden - cruising at 30 mph in 5th is no effort. Although the power is on paper moderate (55 bhp), because the bike is so torquey the power is delivered just in the right area - particularly straight line acceleration which is brisk. It is also one hell of a cool motorcycle to look at and I think offers great value. Plus it doesn't need as much cleaning as other harleys! However, it is off course a Harley so get used to weedy brakes and unsuitable suspension for a pillion heavier than 7 stone! New harleys are also reliable - famous last words now maybe!? So overall - other bikers may not take you seriously (particularly the sports bike brigade), but so what? If you love old fashioned back to the basics motorcycles that are cool and work, then get one of these! Over and out, Jim

Ride quality & brakes 4 out of 5
Engine 4 out of 5
Reliability & build quality 5 out of 5
Value vs rivals 4 out of 5
Equipment 3 out of 5
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