Many of us still lament the passing of the old Harley-Davidson 883 and 1200 Sportsters. Derided by some as crude, they embodied the very essence of the ‘Iron Horse’ – with the most basic of designs and technology to create a laid back, no nonsense motorcycle that was full of character. They’ve been missing from the Harley range for a few years now, but the Motor Company has been hard at work to create a new entry level model as part of the rejuvenated Sportster range – it’s called the Nightster.
Priced from £12,995, it’s a good chunk more expensive than those entry level Sportsters of old, but it comes packed with plenty of modern day tech to broaden the appeal beyond those simply looking for a classic Harley-Davidson.
For starters, the mid-mounted footpegs and forward set riding position suggest a machine that’s more mainstream roadster than American style cruiser, while the new 975cc ‘Revolution Max’ V-twin engine puts out a very healthy 90bhp, a hefty dose more than even Triumph’s 1200cc retro models and a far cry from those old air-cooled Sportsters for which H-D would never even release performance figures.
Harley says that this is paired with a nimble chassis to create a package which is most at home in the city and on twisting roads. It’s got a low seat height and weighs 221kg ready to ride, which is again in line with the likes of Triumph’s Bonneville range, while the chassis components look to be of a good standard, with Showa’s ‘Dual Bending Valve’ 41mm front forks and H-D branded Dunlop tyres all making an appearance. Despite having what looks like a traditional petrol tank, the fuel actually sits in an 11.7 litre fuel cell under the seat to keep the weight low and the bike more manageable.
This most traditional of bike brands has undergone a radical modernisation in recent years and the Nightster adopts much of the latest technology showcased in models like the latest Pan America adventure bike.
The Nightster features selectable riding modes, each with differing power, engine braking, ABS and traction control characteristics. There are three modes in total: Road, Sport and Rain, with Rain naturally offering the softest power delivery and most electronic interventions, while Sport delivers a snappier throttle response, more engine braking and less traction control.
Styling is all-new but retains the traditional Sportster cues, most notably the peanut shaped ‘fuel’ tank (which is actually the airbox cover), twin rear shocks, ‘pancake’ air filter on the side of the engine, solo seat and twin rear shocks. It’s a stripped down ‘standard’ in the traditional sense and comes in three single colour options.