Published on September 22nd, 2022 | by Boris0
2022 HARLEY-DAVIDSON NIGHTSTER REVIEW – “WHEN THE MOON IS FULL…”
IMAGES BY ME, BECAUSE NICK WAS CUT OFF FROM ME BY FLOODWATERS
“What is going on here?” I muttered to myself as I walked around the Nightster.
I often mutter to myself. Sometimes it’s audible. Most times it’s not. My wife tells me she prefers the latter scenario.
I knew, of course, what was going on here. So the question was rhetorical. I asked it anyway.
I don’t read bike reviews. My life is too short to subject myself to the sad, infantile efforts of people who have no real business being in the industry. But I had heard, at a remove, that Harley’s new Nightster was being panned.
It seemed the traditional Harley mags didn’t like it because it lacked “power” (as if those champions had the vaguest idea what power actually was), and the non-Harley bike-media outlets did their usual expansion of the specifications, and some passive-aggressive whimpering about the suspension and how it wasn’t up to carving hot laps at Phillip Island.
And then they wonder why people point and laugh.
I don’t look at Harleys the same way as they do. My antecedents are different. I bitch and moan about various Harley things, but it’s like bitching and moaning about your mum. It’s OK if you do it. It’s not OK if others do it.
And I tend to ride Harleys outside of their design brief. Running from cops, and riding with hell-fueled outlaws for more than a decade endows a man with certain limited skills and philosophical dispositions in that regard.
I was very happy when Harley introduced its new Revolution Max engine – first in the Pan America and then in the Sportster S. The donk was a marvel, and a huge step forward and away from the traditional Big-Twin paradigm. It was exactly what Harley had to do. And I know it’s not finished doing all of that yet.
So the Nightster has a sleeved-down version of the 1250cc Revolution Max engine. It’s 975cc and it makes 95Nm of torque and 67 kW of power. The Sportster S makes 127Nm and 90kW.
Where these numbers matter is in the relative weight of the bikes. The Sportster S only weighs seven more kilos than the Nightster (228 versus 221).
Which is why I assume there’s all that honking from the press. I wondered if any of them actually rode the thing.
I sure did. I rode the flat-baked bastardry out of the Nightster. You know why? It’s got twin rear shocks, and a 19-inch front wheel, so it has pretensions to handling those fat-front-tyred jiggers don’t. So you ride it accordingly.
And here’s something you’ll discover if you do that: You’ll be able to put the Nightster into a corner harder than you might think. You can actually feel what those 41mm Showa forks are doing about the road under the front wheel – and you’ll find they’re doing alright. Sure, let’s not get crazy – and you really can’t because ground clearance comes into play – but you can certainly get a bit of a relative wiggle on.
The Nightster swings into bends with ease, and while you’re not going to be laying rubber coming out of them, the whole engine-suspension package is very enjoyable.
That engine is a stressed part of the frame, which helps to stiffen the whole bike – and a stiffer bike is a good thing, as we all know. So Harley is listening to people who want to ride a little harder than the current wobblers.
It’s also a feet-kinda-forward thing, which is comfy, as is the seat – but not for big miles. Strip-joint to strip-joint to kebab-shop, I’m thinking. What’s that? No-one goes to strip-joints anymore?
Actually, men still do go to strip joints. Men. They have to. It’s not like the bearded-she-boys can tear themselves away from their inner-city, poo-tasting craft-beer joints, is it? Those girls got bills too, you know.
I think the Nightster was styled along the more traditional Harley lines. The Sportster S aesthetic was a bridge too far for some traditionalists, hence this exercise. And it works very well – both on its own, and as a springboard to customisation, which is a long-time tradition with Harley owners.
I would upgrade the rear shocks (currently only adjustable for preload), re-spring the forks with something progressively firmer, and melt the current exhaust into slag and replace it with something boomier. Then I would work at restoring the full 1250cc oomph to that engine. Not because it’s underpowered as it is, but because that’s what you do to your Harley. Actually, bugger the 1250 thing. Can it be bored out to 1600?
There are three engine modes. Listen to me and leave it in Sport. There’s not so much going on here that it needs to be put in any other mode.
At its base, the Nightster is a great-looking bike with a beaut engine, and entirely acceptable brakes and shocks for its design brief. A solid 99 per cent of its buyers will never ask it questions it can’t answer. They will just embrace the easy-to-ride aspect of it, and adore the badge that adorns it. It’s low and easy for shorter people to move around, the weight is also placed low, and nervous or newer riders will love it.
But it’s that one per cent I’m concerned about. For them, the Nightster is a blank canvas with twin shocks, an engine that can be hotted up like the sun, and all of the traditional appeal of the aesthetics that that one per cent cleave to.
And when the moon is full, and all the streets lead to strip-joints, wild parties, and sinful good times, this is the picture I see in my head.
That’s what’s going on here, and that’s why the Nightster works.