"It's a Sportster" - Harley's New Baby
The second iteration of the 975T Revolution Max platform, Harley's new MY2022 ''Nightster'' model is rather more conventionally styled than the Sportster S, staying closer to the legacy XL look - perhaps with a hint of V-Rod thrown in for good measure.
Claimed to be starting a "new chapter" in the venerable H-D Sportster motorcycle story - one that started in 1957 with the original 55 ci, Model K derived Sportster - Harley is claiming a "leap forward in performance and design" compared to the prior (theoretically) lower-cost range of 883 and 1200 cc Sportsters that the company has now largely retired, "while remaining an accessible entry point to motorcycling and the brand.
"This all-new motorcycle combines a classic Sportster model silhouette with the on-demand performance of the new Revolution Max 975T powertrain and a host of contemporary electronic rider aids and features. The 2022 'Nightster' model redefines the Sportster motorcycle experience for a new generation of riders.
"The 'Nightster' is an instrument of expression and exploration, underpinned by performance," said Jochen Zeitz, Chairman, President and CEO of Harley-Davidson. "By building on the 65-year Sportster legacy, the 'Nightster' provides a canvas for creativity and personalization, offering the ultimate platform for customization and expression for new and existing riders."
The liquid-cooled, 60-degree 975 cc Revolution Max 'T' V-Twin is said to have a torque curve that "stays flat through the broad powerband - with engine performance designed to deliver strong acceleration and robust power through the mid-range. The length and shape of the intake velocity stacks, combined with the airbox volume, are tuned to maximize performance across the engine speed range. The profiles of dual overhead camshafts and variable valve timing phasing on the intake valves are designed to match the performance of this engine."
It is said to deliver 90 hp (67 kW) @ 7,500 rpm and 70 ft. lbs. (95 Nm) peak torque @ 5,000 rpm from the 97 mm bore x 66 mm stroke, 12:1 compression ratio stock configuration, but we already know from the early Sportster S customs that are now starting to emerge regularly that there is tuning a plenty to be had.
"Hydraulic valve lash adjustment ensures quiet operation and eliminates the need for costly, complicated service procedures. Internal balancers help reduce engine vibration to enhance rider comfort and improve vehicle durability. The balancers are tuned to retain just enough vibration to make the motorcycle feel alive." In other words, it is confession time: yes, the old Sportster engine was noisy and vibrated like a sex toy.
"The 'Nightster' model pairs a nimble, lightweight chassis with a powerful engine tuned for strong mid-range performance, an ideal combination for navigating urban traffic and charging along curving backroads. Mid foot controls and a low-rise handlebar put the rider in a centered, comfortable posture on the bike. Unladen seat height is 27.8 inches. The low seat height combined with a narrow profile makes it possible for most riders to confidently place feet down flat at a stop.
"The Revolution Max 975T powertrain is the central, structural component of the 'Nightster' motorcycle chassis, which significantly reduces motorcycle weight and results in a very stiff chassis. The tail section structure is lightweight aluminum. The swingarm is formed of welded rectangular steel tubing and is an attachment point for the dual rear shock absorbers.
"Front suspension are 41 mm Showa Dual Bending Valve conventional forks designed to provide improved handling performance by keeping the tire in contact with the road surface. The rear suspension features dual outboard emulsion-technology shock absorbers with coil springs and a threaded collar for pre-load adjustment."
The 'Nightster' model is equipped with a suite of Harley-Davidson rider safety enhancements - "a collection of technologies designed to match motorcycle performance to available traction during acceleration, deceleration and braking. The systems are electronic and utilize the latest chassis control, electronic brake control and powertrain technology. Its three elements are Antilock Braking System (ABS), Traction Control System (TCS) and Drag-Torque Slip Control System (DSCS)." There are also selectable ride modes - Road, Sport and Rain.
All of which, to be fair, is a great step forward for the story of the venerable Sportster and for Harley's ability to compete in the customer expectation stakes a lot more convincingly than in the past. It also makes further sense of its positioning as "entry level" new production, but not "price-point" - now that Harley has successfully harnessed and rebuilt its used program as the base-line brand pathway.