2022 Harley-Davidson Nightster Ride Test: Classic Icon, Modern Experience
This fall, to celebrate the newest addition to the Harley-Davidson Sport class, I was invited to test drive the 2022 Nightster motorcycle. ‘have the chance to renew my love of Harleys after testing the Sportster S last year, so the Nightster was the perfect opportunity to get back on the road. What I found on this bike around Chicagoland was more than my passion for motorcycles: the Nightster served as a vehicle of discovery and expression.
My journey began at Harley-Davidson headquarters in Milwaukee, where I met Paul James, public relations manager for Harley-Davidson, who gave me a guided tour of the Nightster. Immediately, I was struck by the elegance of this bike. In lush Redline Red (also available in Vivid Black and Gunship Gray – for me, red is unbeatable), the 2022 Nightster takes the quintessential profile of the iconic Sportster model and updates it for a new generation.
The first thing I noticed was the Revolution Max 975T powertrain, with its snaking exhaust manifolds and Metallic Charcoal finish. Completing the powertrain are exposed rear shocks that flare out to create a sleek profile with obvious power, achieving that perfect balance of refinement and toughness. When the Sportster was first introduced in 1957, it positioned itself as an alternative to heavy cruisers, and the 2022 Nightster continues that legacy, built in the durable Sportster silhouette. After spending a lot of time admiring the Nightster with Paul, I jumped on it. Within minutes I was immediately comfortable with the bike. The forward riding position, mid-mounted foot controls, TFT display and safety enhancements remind you that you’re driving cutting-edge technology. Equipped with signature Harley-Davidson gear, including a limited-edition HD x Jason Momoa Ka Pō jacket, insulated leather gloves, and BOOM! Bluetooth headphones, I was in good hands and ecstatic for the ride home.
I picked up the bike in mid-October, when fall was just starting to kick in. Everyone talks about the changing colors of the coastlines on the East Coast, but you can’t beat the scenic Midwest scenery in the fall. On the way back to Chicago, half the trees still clung to their green leaves, the other half bursting into dark oranges, yellows and reds. It had rained a few days before, and even through my helmet I could smell the damp dirt along the road as I navigated miles of trails and busy fields on I-94. The Nightster immediately rejuvenated me, relieving the burnout and boredom of my busy lifestyle.
Riding modes are a great complement to safety technology like ABS (anti-lock braking system), TCS (traction control system) and DCSC (torque slip control system) intervention. Each mode uses a carefully calibrated combination of safety settings, resulting in an incredible amount of flexibility and confidence on the road. No matter the adventure, and even with the maximum rain mode intervention, I always felt like I was the one riding the bike, not the other way around.
After driving home to Lincoln Park it was time to test the Nightster around the city, I was curious to see how this bike would handle Chicago’s heavy traffic, crazy drivers and cyclists. As a city dweller and motorcycle enthusiast, it can be difficult to find the right bike for the crowded and chaotic conditions of city riding. Unsurprisingly, the Nightster delivered the same great performance on the highway as it did on the streets of Chicago.
My first destination was downtown, to meet friends at Fulton Market for dinner and drinks. I love Fulton Market – the rows of delicious restaurants and innovative bars remind me of my days in LA, lounging with friends and family in open-air malls like the Grove. The tightly packed buildings, wide streets, and gorgeous industrial architecture also remind me of my favorite neighborhoods in Brooklyn. As fun as it can be to be at Fulton Market, getting there is another story. The streets are congested, parking is a hassle and there are always tons of pedestrians. Usually I just take a bus or train, but I took the opportunity to test the Nightster.
The Nightster’s low seat height at 27.8 inches and light weight (481 pounds, wet) make it a fast, nimble machine that’s extremely enjoyable to ride around downtown Chicago. In addition to its sharp handling, the fuel tank transposed under the saddle lowers the center of gravity of the bike, making it even easier to maneuver in complete serenity. As with all motorcycles, parking was a breeze on the Nightster. Getting to Fulton Market is such a pain that I made sure to leave well in advance. Between the Nightster’s agility and the ready parking I found on a motorbike, I arrived at my location 30 minutes before my friends, enough time to take a few pictures of this beautiful motorbike.
The month I got it, the Nightster was my ‘yes man’, always encouraging me to say ‘yes’ to adventure. The bike gave me an open invitation to be more curious and to be as excited to make the trip to my destination as I was to be there. That’s what I love most about riding a Harley in Chicago: it gives you a reason to explore the city and experience the incredible variety of life here, like feeling the warm lake breeze or discovering a local restaurant tucked away in the remote corners of town. .
On National Motorcycle Day (October 15), I took another opportunity to say “yes” and test out the Nightster’s long-distance capabilities and ride modes.
Right after hopping onto the highway, I immediately craved more torque and acceleration. As soon as I activated Sport mode, the engine came to life. For the past two weeks, the Nightster had been my nimble sidekick, taking me through city streets with tactility. I did not know the discreet power of this machine. The liquid-cooled Revolution Max motor is incredibly smooth—shifting was effortless without any of the jerkiness common to older bikes.
Before arriving in Naperville, I saw off the beaten path signs for Green Valley Forest Preserve and Whalon Lake. Still in the mood to say “yes”, I decided to take a detour. I let myself be taken in by the incredible fall beauty of this part of Illinois as the Nightster cruised the rural roads with ease. When you need it, the bike blends seamlessly into the background, making for an intuitive ride. Once again, I felt invigorated and rejuvenated as I navigated through the autumn trees and endless fields.
When I got home, a Triumph Scrambler parked in my usual spot caught my eye. Hearing my motorcycle engine, Scrambler owner Christian opened his window to introduce himself and we hit it off right away. Having a motorbike is a great way to meet people and I was pleasantly surprised by the instant connection between bikers and the love of riding. Noticing that Christian also had a Harley-Davidson Bluetooth headset, we instinctively decided to team up and explore the town.
Over the next few days, Christian and I put on our helmets and set off on an adventure. With Bluetooth connected, we had crystal-clear conversations as we cruised the highways, chatting about movies, bikes and everything in between. I mainly used my headset for navigation and music, but this was my first time using the microphone to talk in real time on the road. Riding with Christian while having a smooth conversation has become a unique and special way to develop our friendship.
Kettle Moraine and Baha’i Temple
As my time with the Nightster drew to a close, I wanted to end with a scenic ride through Wisconsin and a cruise on the unspoilt natural roads of historic Kettle Moraine.
I turned on rain mode to tackle slippery roads and immediately noticed an increase in traction. I could feel the throttle response change almost instantly in the adverse conditions. This kind of tactility is so important on a bike as powerful as the Nightster; even on a wet highway, the Nightster in Rain mode reassured me. Nimble 19-inch front and 16-inch rear tires also make zipping down twisty roads effortless. I’m not the most confident backroad rider, but my apprehensions faded away on the Nightster.
Even in late fall, there were still plenty of green leaves on the trees, mixed in with the more traditional fall palette. Being immersed in nature grounds me, a juxtaposition with the bustling city life. Driving those winding Wisconsin roads, the Nightster purring softly below me, and the rich, crisp air all around… I felt a soothing sense of serenity I had never felt before.
On the way back, I stopped at the Baha’i Temple in Evanston. Ever since I arrived in Chicago, I’ve always wanted to see it. The Bahá’í Temple is one of twelve permanent temples of worship of the Bahá’í Faith worldwide. I’m not a particularly religious person, but its famous architecture convinced me to see it in person. An ornate concrete superstructure and quartz clad, the building’s central dome, surrounded by nine pillars each adorned with symbols of the world’s religions, stands among immaculately manicured gardens. Nothing in the area is quite like it, and when you stand in its Hall of Foundation, gazing at the intricate details, you are transported elsewhere.
I had an amazing time riding the 2022 Nightster. This bike is an engineering marvel, delivering a smooth, comfortable experience that doesn’t sacrifice an ounce of power. It’s a stunning design that’s sleek and modern while echoing the best features of the classic Sportster. With the Nightster, I was able to experience more of myself and the Midwest: heading downtown for a drink, riding with Christian, and taking day trips to Wisconsin to highlight a few. The Nightster handled the transition from city to country seamlessly, allowing me to express my curiosity and passion for adventure, which is the underlying theme of my relationship with the Nightster: expression. Expressive in its design and expressive in the way it makes you feel.
When I look back on my (too short) time with the Nightster, I will remember the incredible experiences this machine gave me. The way it encouraged me to say “yes”. From its ease of use and comfort to its incredible power, the Nightster is a proud entry into the legendary history of Harley-Davidson design and heritage and a beautiful tribute to the beloved Sportster.
The Harley-Davidson Nightster 2022 motorcycle is available now at Harley-Davidson dealerships starting at $13,499.