Harley-Davidson debuts new motor with the 2022 Nightster
The latest addition to the new Sportster family, the Nightster, comes in the shape of a lowered and downspecced Sportster, serving as Harley-Davidson’s platform of choice for the introduction of a smaller version of the Revolution Max V-twin powerplant.
With a strategic shift underway, Harley-Davidson could hardly pick a better showcase than the Pan America adventure bike leading the Milwaukee brand into uncharted waters. Apart from the tall and adventurous nature of the motorcycle, though, it’s also the liquid-cooled Revolution Max 1250T V-twin that pushes the envelope in a sportier direction.
Equipped with variable valve timing and hydraulic valve lash adjustment, this 150-hp twin seems uncharacteristically oversquare by Harley-Davidson’s standards, with bore-to-stroke ratio of 1.45 – more than the 1.39 of the V-Rod, its previous attempt at a liquid-cooled performance motor. In contrast, the main engine that powers most of its lineup, the Milwaukee Eight, sports undersquare-sized cylinders.
The second application of the Revolution Max engine came about in July 2021, with the new 121-hp Sportster S replacing a perennial generation of Sportsters powered by the air-cooled Evolution V-twin until it couldn’t fit anymore in the ever-shrinking space of emissions’ legislation.
Now Harley-Davidson has introduced a new variant called the Revolution Max 975T, based on the 1250T and also equipped with variable valve timing and hydraulic valve adjustment kits. Measuring 975 cc (59.5 ci) via shorter bore and stroke for an even more rev-happy, oversquare ratio of 1.47, this engine was first showcased in the Bronx streetfighter concept, which was displayed at the EICMA 2019 show with the publicized intent of going into production in 2020.
For reasons unknown the Bronx hasn’t yet materialized, but the 975T motor is finally here; credible chatter associates it with a soon-to-come smaller Pan America as well.
This time it comes at a lower state of tune, producing 89 hp at 7,500 rpm and 95 Nm (70.1 lb-ft) at 5,750 rpm. That’s quite a bit less than the Bronx’s 115 hp, as Harley-Davidson explained that the engine is tuned primarily for strong low and mid-range performance, a feat made even easier with variable valve timing in place.
The Nightster follows the same chassis architecture as the Sportster S, with two subframes and a swingarm bolted on the engine block, building its own character with a much lower seat, larger 19-inch front wheel, and twin shock setup at the rear. The 11.7-liter (3.1-gal) fuel tank is placed under the seat, whereas what looks like a traditional Sportster tank is in fact the airbox cover.
With cost-saving in mind, Harley-Davidson used lower-spec gear in several parts of the motorcycle. The round analog speedometer with a small LCD screen looks rather plain compared to the Sportster’s Bluetooth-enabled color TFT display, as is the case with the Rider Safety Enhancements kit.
Instead of the advanced cornering-sensitive suite that supports the Sportster S, the Nightster opts for standard two-channel ABS system, traction control (TC) and drag-torque slip control.
The rider can switch between three preset ride modes – Road, Sport and Rain – that regulate power delivery, throttle response, engine braking, ABS and TC settings.
The front suspension is handled by conventional Showa Dual Bending Valve forks, a well-known unit that has been employed in several Honda models, like the CB1100, NC750X and CB650. At the rear the Nightster sports two emulsion technology shocks.
According to Harley-Davidson, the Nightster will be available this month, with US pricing announced at US$13,499 for the black color and $13,899 for the red and gray options. Prices for other markets are yet to be disclosed.