Harley-Davidson Reveals New Sportster ‘Nightster’ Based Around High-Performance V-Twin Engine

Harley-Davidson Reveals New Sportster ‘Nightster’ Based Around High-Performance V-Twin Engine

Updated on April 20th, 2022.

The Harley-Davidson Sportster motorcycle first joined the lineup way back in 1957 as a lighter, faster, more nimble (and less expensive) alternative to the large, heavy cruisers offered by Milwaukee-based company. It was immediately popular, and has remained in the product line since those halcyon days following World War II.

But over time, the Sportster became overshadowed in terms of performance and technology by the other bikes in Harley’s lineup, and to some extent it became known as the “beginner Harley,” a bike new-to-Harley buyers moved up from after a while. It also had a reputation as a “women’s motorcycle” thanks to its smaller size and lighter weight. But it was no longer fast, had a reputation for vibration and in order to keep costs down, was regularly passed over for tech and design upgrades that Harley’s “big-inch” bikes received over the years. All of that just ended with the introduction of the Harley Sportster Nightster, or just the Nightster, last week.

The new Nightster, which will start at $13,499, is the latest recipient of changes brought by a recharged and re-thought Harley lineup under CEO Jochen Zeitz, who is looking to revitalize the American motorcycle icon after years of a slow backslide in sales and market share.

Now packing a sleeved-down 975cc version of the liquid-cooled, state-of-the-art Revolution Max V-Twin and making approximately 90 horsepower - more than double the figure of the old Sportsters - the Nightster joins the recently introduced 125-horsepower $15,499 1,250cc Sportster S halo machine in Harley’s new “Sport” category. Riders looking for the old-school air-cooled Sportsters can still find two variants, the Iron 883 and 1,200cc Forty-Eight models, in the Cruiser category.

The Nightster is a ground-up redesign of the Sportster, with the engine as the central load-bearing anchor around which the bike is built. The design simplifies construction, saves weight (the Nightster comes in at 481 pounds according to H-D) and more importantly, opens up customization options for owners, something Harley-Davidson highlighted in a seven-chapter video (below) showcasing how the Nightster was designed and how custom bike builders around the globe were able to modify it ahead of the big reveal.

Along with the new powerhouse engine, Harley has endowed the Nightster with a well-rounded tech package, including ABS brakes, multiple ride modes, 6-speed transmission, traction control and an LCD display in the speedometer. In order to keep weight low down in the frame, the gas is actually held under the seat of the Nightster. The “gas tank” is an airbox designed to enhance engine performance. Factory color options include black, red and gray.

The new Nightster and Sportster S returns the Sportster line to its basic premise from the 1950s: A fast, fun, and affordable entry in the world of Harley-Davidson. But unlike in 1957, the Sportster now has plenty of competition, including from revived nemesis Indian and their popular Scout line of lightweight machines that mirror much of the tech and performance numbers of the Nightster. Indian folded in 1953 before being revived on a large scale by Polaris in 2011.

The Sportster S is available now and new Nightster is available for buyers to reserve but should be available this month, according to Harley-Davidson.

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