Harley-Davidson’s Custom 1250 Might Revive the Nightster

Although the Pan America 1250 is finally out, there’s one more Harley-Davidson bike that’s yet to officially break cover. That would be the upcoming ‘high-performance custom model.’ Since we don’t know the official name yet, most have dubbed it ‘Harley-Davidson Custom 1250.’ However, new trademarks suggest the production bike may bear a familiar name: Harley-Davidson Nightster.

The original Harley-Davidson Nightster was a bobbed Sportster

The rear 3/4 view of a gray-and-black 2012 Harley-Davidson Nightster parked by a record store
2012 Harley-Davidson Nightster rear 3/4 | Harley-Davidson

Today, there are several bobbers available straight from the factory. And not just from Harley, but from Indian and Triumph, too. Back in 2007, though, the blacked-out, stripped-down Harley-Davidson Nightster was relatively novel, Motorcycle Daily reports.

Mechanically, the Harley-Davidson XL 1200N Nightster was identical to the contemporary Sportster 1200, HotCars reports. That means a fuel-injected 1200cc air-cooled V-twin with 50 hp and 79 lb-ft, linked to a five-speed transmission. And at 562 pounds, the Nightster is about 20 pounds lighter than the Iron 883, which debuted in 2008, WRN reports.

Speaking of the Iron 883 Sportster, Harley-Davidson actually based its styling on the Nightster 1200’s design, Motorcyclist reports. Said styling featured blacked-out wheels, handlebars, forks, levers, as well as engine and air-cleaner trim, Motorcyclist reports. Plus, a bobbed (cut-down) rear fender, mid-mounted foot controls, lowered handlebars, a side-mounted license plate holder, and a lower seat.

Although the Harley-Davidson Nightster is essentially a blacked-out Sportster, it actually handles better, MSN reports. Moving the seat, handlebars, and foot controls make the bike more comfortable and easier to handle, HC reports. The lowered seat also made it popular with shorter riders, especially female riders, WRN reports. Plus, engine vibrations don’t really make their way through the bars, RideApart reports.

The Harley-Davidson Custom 1250 could spawn new Sportsters—and a new Nightster

The original Harley-Davidson Nightster bowed out after 2012. However, the name recently reappeared on a trademark application Harley filed, Cycle World reports. Specifically, for use on “‘motorcycles and structural parts therefore.'” And there are reasons to suggest the Harley-Davidson Custom 1250 will use the Nightster name in some capacity.

Harley-Davidson recently killed off several models, including the Street 500 and 750. And overseas, the Sportster lineup has also been canceled, because it didn’t meet Euro5 emissions standards, Bennetts reports. That means Harley no longer has any true ‘entry-level’ bikes outside of the US, RideApart points out.

The white-and-black 2018 Harley-Davidson Custom 1250 Concept
2018 Harley-Davidson Custom 1250 Concept | Harley-Davidson

This is where the Harley-Davidson Custom 1250 comes in. Rather than an air-cooled engine, it has a liquid-cooled 1250cc V-twin that should, theoretically, pass Euro5 emissions. As such, the Custom 1250 could form the basis of a Sportster-replacement lineup.

So, where does the Nightster come in, besides the trademark? Cycle World points out that the Custom 1250 prototype has a similar color scheme as the first Harley-Davidson Nightster. That may be a coincidence, or it may be a sign of something more.

What we still don’t know

As of this writing, Harley-Davidson hasn’t officially shown a production version of the Custom 1250. The company released shots of some updated prototypes, Cycle World reports, but no hard technical specs. And these new shots show a motorcycle with a different color scheme. Though it’s worth pointing out that the Pan America’s version of the engine puts out 150 hp.


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There’s also no guarantee that Harley-Davidson will actually use the Nightster name, even though it’s been trademarked. Still, it does suggest that Harley plans to keep the Sportster nameplate rolling, in one way or another.

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