Harley-Davidson Nightster Returns as New 2022 Sportster 975

2022 Harley-Davidson Nightster article highlights:

  • Harley-Davidson revives the Nightster name and gives the liquid-cooled Sportster S an entry-level sibling with a smaller engine
  • Apart from some suspension and gauge cost-cutting, the 2022 Nightster has the same technology as the Sportster S
  • The $13,499 2022 Harley-Davidson Nightster is slightly pricier than the Iron 883, but it’s lighter, makes more torque, and has more standard tech

To borrow a marketing tagline, we’re witnessing a Harley-Davidson revolution. And as significant as the LiveWire brand and Pan America ADV are, the Harley-Davidson Sportster S arguably symbolizes this better. However, although billed as a new direction for the archetypal entry-level American cruiser, so far, the liquid-cooled Sportster S stands alone. Well, not anymore: the Harley-Davidson Nightster is here—again.

The 2022 Harley-Davidson Nightster is the new entry-level liquid-cooled Sportster

The side view of a gray-and-black 2022 Harley-Davidson Nightster in a gray studio
2022 Harley-Davidson Nightster side | Harley-Davidson
2022 Harley-Davidson Nightster
Engine975cc ‘Revolution Max 975T’ liquid-cooled V-twin
Horsepower90 hp
Torque70 lb-ft
TransmissionSix-speed manual with a slipper-assist clutch
Front suspension and travel41mm Showa Dual Bending Valve forks; 4.5”
Rear suspension and travelDual preload-adjustable shocks; 3”
Seat height27.8″
Curb weight481 lbs

In early 2021, Harley-Davidson filed a trademark application that included the name ‘Nightster.’ At the time, the Custom 1250 concept, which would become the 2021 Sportster S, was unnamed. Thus, rumors swirled that this new motorcycle would bring back the Nightster nameplate. And as it turns out, those rumors were sort of right.

Although it’s not the S, the 2022 Nightster is a new Sportster. Specifically, a base-model version of the liquid-cooled Sportster Harley launched last year. And while there are some key differences between these cruisers, they have a lot in common under their skins.

Firstly, although the 2022 Harley-Davidson Nightster’s engine is smaller, it’s still related to the Sportster S’ liquid-cooled ‘Revolution Max 1250T’ V-twin. So, it has liquid cooling, hydraulic valve lifters—no valve adjustment, ever—and is a stressed member of the frame. And like on the Sportster S, that frame is a trellis-steel design with a few aluminum sections.

But the 2022 Nightster doesn’t just share its frame and engine designs with the Sportster S. It also has the same kind of modern motorcycle tech.

Underneath its blacked-out retro style, the 2022 Nightster is a fully modern cruiser

RELATED: This Rare Harley-Davidson Sportbike Started a V-Twin Revolution

Because it slots below the Sportster S, the 2022 Harley-Davidson Nightster drops a few of the other bike’s features. For example, it has non-adjustable forks, and preload-adjustable twin rear shocks instead of a fully-adjustable monoshock. Also, it has an analog speedometer with a multi-function LCD, rather than a TFT gauge.

However, everywhere else, the 2022 Nightster makes no concessions when it comes to electronics. It comes standard with Harley’s Rider Safety Enhancements: ABS, traction control, and drag-torque slip control, aka rear-wheel-slip control. It also has three riding modes—Rain, Road, and Sport—which adjust the throttle response, power delivery, engine braking traction control, and ABS intervention. Furthermore, like the Sportster S, the Nightster has all-LED lighting and TPMS, though the latter only shows a low-pressure warning, not the actual tire pressures.

Something the 2022 Harley-Davidson Nightster arguably does better than the Sportster S is imitate vintage Harley styling, Cycle World says. Admittedly, it’s not just a blacked-out bobber like the 2007-2012 Nightster; other colors are available. But it more closely resembles air-cooled Sportsters like the current Forty-Eight. Plus, with its narrower front tire, the Nightster might turn in even better than the Sportster S.

However, even here the 2022 Nightster has some modern surprises. See that walnut/peanut gas tank? It’s not a gas tank. Instead, like the Indian FTR, the Nightster puts its airbox where the tank normally sits. The real gas tank is a plastic cell located underneath the hinged locking seat. The new Nightster looks neo-retro, but it’s no heritage clone.

Is the 2022 Harley-Davidson Nightster replacing the Iron 883?

The side view of a black-clad rider on a gray 2022 Harley-Davidson Iron 883
2022 Harley-Davidson Iron 883 side | Harley-Davidson

RELATED: Sound the Silent Alarm for the First Harley-Davidson LiveWire Custom

Introducing a new entry-level liquid-cooled Sportster poses a quandary for another Harley-Davidson bike, though: the Iron 883. With the Street 750 and 500 gone, the Iron 883 is now the cheapest Harley. Or at least, the cheapest air-cooled Harley in the U.S. But that’s not the case overseas.

Last year, Harley-Davidson had to stop selling its air-cooled Sportsters—along with the Street twins—outside of the US. The old-school cruisers simply couldn’t meet the new Euro5 emission and safety regulations. With the Sportster S, Harley had a new overseas-friendly motorcycle, but it wasn’t priced like an entry-level bike. The 2022 Nightster changes that; in Europe at least, it’s effectively an Iron 883 replacement, MCN reports.

So, where does that leave the Nightster’s and Iron 883’s American relationship? Well, it’s complicated. At least for 2022, the air-cooled Sportster is safe. However, Harley didn’t bring its bigger sibling, the Iron 1200, back for 2022. As of this writing, Harley-Davidson hasn’t released any official statements regarding the Iron 883’s future. But given the commentary I heard at the Sportster S launch, as well as the Iron 1200’s cancellation, it wouldn’t surprise me if the 883 went away, too.

Officially, the 2022 Nightster is just the entry-level liquid-cooled Sportster model. But as Cycle World muses, “the Nightster seems to be the new entry-level Harley-Davidson.”

How much will the entry-level liquid-cooled Harley-Davidson Sportster cost?

RELATED: The 2021 Pan America 1250 Special Takes Harley-Davidson on a Bold New Adventure

Because it has less-complicated hardware than the Sportster S, the 2022 Harley-Davidson Nightster also costs less. The 1252cc cruiser starts at $15,499; meanwhile, the 975cc bike starts at $13,499. If you want gray or red paint instead of black, though, add on $400. And as with its other motorcycles, Harley has a plethora of optional accessories available. The flyscreen comes standard, though.

In comparison, the 2022 Iron 883 starts at $11,249. However, it’s only available in white, gray, or black. Also, it’s heavier, less torquey, doesn’t have LED headlights or taillights, and ABS is an $819 option. It doesn’t have those trick riding modes or Rider Safety Enhancements, either.

If you want to swing a leg over the new Nightster, you won’t have to wait long. The new cruiser launches globally this month. So, it may already be at your local dealership, keeping the Sportster S company.

Follow more updates from MotorBiscuit on our Facebook page.

RELATED: Is the 2021 Harley-Davidson Sportster S a ‘Real’ Harley?