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Harley-Davidson Nightster First Ride Review

25 July 2022, 02:05 PM Pratheek Kunder


Harley-Davidson Nightster Right Side View

Why buy it?

     - The engine performance and feel are excellent

     - Aspirational styling

     - Strong brand recall

Why avoid it? 

    - HD character missing

   - Single-seat model only

Harley-Davidson Sportster range was known for its character, a styling that made many buyers feel proud. But most importantly, it was the air-cooled motor that offered tonnes of torque throughout and a sound that was so unique to the motorcycle. However, things changed when HD decided to discontinue the air-cooled Sportster last year. The Sportster left a gap, which was eventually filled by the new Nightster a few months later. Not to mention, this motorcycle brand, too, was revived after the American brand discontinued the XL1200N Nightster a few years ago.  

The new Harley-Davidson Nightster has been designed and built for customers who want HD character and appeal in a modern avatar. In fact, the Nightster is possibly one of the most modern bikes the brand has ever made. This approach could help attract new riders to the brand but might also make their existing customers hold onto their Sportster for long. Why would that be? Well, read on to understand it. The Visuals

The Visuals

Harley-Davidson Nightster Right Side View

First glance at the Nightster and you will notice its low-slung design language because the motorcycle has a small ground clearance and, as a result, a perfect seat height. Then there's this wide handlebar that is easily accessible. The 19-inch front and 16-inch rear wheel combination give this motorcycle a good road presence. Plus, when you look at the bike from a distance, you will notice that the entire mass is concentrated on the centre and for some reason, I find that quite enticing. In terms of other aesthetics, the Nightster is equipped with LED lights throughout. Overall, the bike has good proportions, and its single-seat form looks super cool.

Harley-Davidson Nightster

Harley-Davidson Nightster

  • Displacement975 cc
  • Max Power(bhp)88.5 bhp
  • Kerb Weight221 kg
  • ;

Avg. Ex-showroom price

₹ 14,99,000

The Package

Harley-Davidson Nightster Right Side View

The Nightster is loaded with some equipment that makes it a modern motorcycle. Firstly, the electronics on this one are bound to make the rider's life easier and safer. There's ABS, traction control system (TCS), and drag-torque slip control. This Harley also has three riding modes – Rain, Road, and Sport. Each of these modes alters the throttle response, power delivery, and traction control. For instance, in the Rain mode, the power output is the least and the traction control assistance is at the maximum level. Sport mode is where the throttle response is aggressive, just like the power delivery. And TCS is the least intrusive here. 

In terms of cycle parts, the Nightster doesn't get a lot of fancy ones here. It receives the non-adjustable traditional 41mm Showa telescopic forks at the front and twin shocks with preload adjustment at the back. The brakes, too, have been carried forward from the Sportster range. So, it gets an axially mounted four-piston calliper with 320cc single disc up front and a floating single-piston calliper with 260mm disc at the rear. 

The instrument cluster is all digital, except the speedometer, which gets the numbered treatment – something that is seen on almost all Harley-Davidsons. But this small circular cluster shows a lot of ride data, like modes, fuel level, clock, and trip meters.

The Ride

Harley-Davidson Nightster Right Side View

The motor on the Nightster is also seen on the brand's first-ever adventure bike – the Pan America. But the 975cc V-Twin is like a downsized version of the 1250 Revolution engine. So, it gets a smaller bore and stroke. And then VVT only works on the intake side. But Harley's downsizing effort hasn't spoiled anything for the Nightster. This motorcycle has managed to rule the roads in its way. 

The main highlight of this bike is its engine. It works well and delivers a performance that makes the Nightster quite fun and sporty to ride. But the low-end delivery is a bit disappointing and unlike Harley. Once you open that throttle more and reach the higher revs, you realise that this Harley likes to be in the higher revs. The mid-range is strong, and the top-end gets quite addictive. But I have to say this, the overall refinement levels are excellent. It almost makes you feel as if you are riding a Japanese bike.  

Harley-Davidson Nightster Right Side View

With three modes at my disposal, I spent most of the time on the road because that's where I found the motorcycle to be the most comfortable and least intrusive. In the Sport mode, the throttle response was too snatchy, which becomes difficult as you ride for long. Whereas the Rain mode dulled the power the most. But sadly, I didn't get to test this bit a lot as our test route was relatively small. The six-speed gearbox worked well, but it needed some effort from that leg. And then it also misses that engagement sound, thus making the ride less exciting. 

In terms of overall comfort, the Nightster felt good. It gets a forward-riding position and centre-set footpegs. The handlebar is decently wide, giving a good sense of control. Plus, with its super accessible seat height, the Nightster is a breeze to handle in slow-moving traffic conditions. Then, the saddle width is appreciable even for a rider who is a bit hefty.  

Moreover, the brakes on the Nightster were excellent. It has almost a superbike-like performance. The power, the feel, and the feedback – all worked in its favour. I wanted to talk more about the overall ride quality, but we were taken on possibly one of the best roads in Thailand. So, we will talk about this aspect when we get the bike in India and for a longer duration. But yes, it has low suspension travel. Thus, we may know how it will perform on gruesome Indian roads.

Should you buy it?

Harley-Davidson Nightster Right Side View

The Nightster is possibly one of the coolest-looking motorcycles in HD's line-up. It checks a lot of right boxes. It has a styling that turns heads. It has plenty of modern and cool gadgets, making it reasonably practical to own. And then there's that engine that offers plenty of refinement and performance, especially at the mid- and top-end. This motorcycle is bound to attract buyers looking to get into the world of Harley-Davidson and want something sportier and not just a laid-back cruiser. The Nightster does have some short niggles, but it will be proved thoroughly once we ride the bike in Indian condition. Meanwhile, Hero MotoCorp is expected to launch the new Nightster in the next few weeks with a price tag hovering around Rs 12 lakh (ex-showroom Delhi) mark.