This fall, to celebrate the newest addition to the Harley-Davidson Sport category, I was invited to test ride the 2022 Nightster motorcycle. I’ve been looking forward to follow the next chapter of the Sportster story and for a chance to renew my love of Harleys after test riding the Sportster S last year, so the Nightster was the perfect opportunity to hop back on the road. What I found riding this bike around Chicagoland was more than just my passion for motorcycles: the Nightster served as a vehicle for discovery and expression.
My journey began at the Harley-Davidson Headquarters in Milwaukee, where I met with Paul James, PR Manager at Harley-Davidson, who gave me a walkthrough of the Nightster. Immediately, I was struck by how elegant this bike was. In lush Redline Red (also available in Vivid Black and Gunship Grey—for me, red can’t be beat), 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 headers and Metallic Charcoal finish. The powertrain is complemented by exposed rear shock absorbers that highlight each other to make a sleek profile with obvious might, striking that perfect balance between refinement and strength. When the Sportster was first introduced in 1957, it was positioned as an alternative to heavy cruisers, and the 2022 Nightster continues this legacy, built in the enduring Sportster silhouette. After plenty of time admiring the Nightster with Paul, I hopped on. In just a few minutes, I was immediately comfortable with the bike. The forward riding position, mid-mount foot controls, TFT display, and safety enhancements remind you that you’re riding a piece of cutting-edge technology. Equipped with signature Harley-Davidson gear including a limited-edition H-D x Jason Momoa Ka Pō jacket, insulated leather gloves, and BOOM! Bluetooth helmet, I was in good hands and ecstatic for the ride back home.
I picked up the bike in the middle of October, when autumn was just starting to come into full effect. Everyone talks about the changing colors of the coast lines on the East Coast, but you can’t beat the picturesque landscape of the Midwest in the fall. On the ride back to Chicago, half the trees still clung to their green leaves, the other half erupting in deep oranges, yellows, and reds. It had rained just a few days before, and even through my helmet, I could smell the aroma of wet earth along the road as I drove through miles of vibrant trail and fields down the I-94. The Nightster immediately rejuvenated me, alleviating the burnout and tedium of my busy lifestyle.
The Ride Modes beautifully complement the safety technology like ABS (Anti-lock Braking System), TCS (Traction Control System), and DCSC (Drag-Torque Slip Control System) intervention. Each mode uses a carefully calibrated combination of safety settings, translating to an incredible amount of flexibility and confidence on the road. No matter the adventure, and even with the maximum amount of intervention in Rain Mode, I always felt like I was the one riding the bike—and not the other way around.
After I’d made it back to my home in Lincoln Park, it was time to give the Nightster a test in the city, I was curious to see how this motorcycle would handle Chicago’s busy traffic, crazed drivers, and bicyclists. As a city dweller and motorcycle enthusiast, it can be hard to find the right bike for the crowded, 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 some friends in 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 at open air malls like the Grove. The close-packed buildings, broad streets, and gorgeous industrial architecture remind me of my favorite parts of Brooklyn, too. As much fun as it is to be in Fulton Market, getting there is another story. The streets are congested, parking is a chore, and there are always tons of pedestrians. Usually, I’ll just grab a bus or a train, but I took this as a good opportunity to test the Nightster.
The Nightster’s low seat height at 27.8 inches and light weight (481 pounds, wet) make it a quick and nimble machine that’s extremely pleasurable to ride through downtown Chicago. In addition to its razor-sharp handling, the fuel tank transposed under the seat shifts the center of gravity lower on the motorcycle, making it even easier to maneuver with confidence. 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 agility of the Nightster and the ready parking I found on a motorcycle, I got to my location 30 minutes before my friends—enough time to get some shots of this beautiful bike.
The month I had 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 take the ride to my destination as I was to be there. This is 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 living here, like feeling the warm breeze of the lake or discovering a local restaurant tucked in the city’s remote corners.
On National Motorcycle Ride Day (October 15th), I took another opportunity to say “yes” and test the Nightster’s long-distance capabilities and ride modes.
Right after I jumped on the highway, I immediately grew a hunger for more torque and acceleration. As soon as I flipped on Sport Mode, the engine roared to life. For the past two weeks, the Nightster had been my nimble sidekick, taking me through city streets with tactility. Little did I know the understated power of this machine. The liquid cooled Revolution Max engine is insanely smooth—switching gears was effortless, with none of the jitters common to older bikes.
Before arriving in Naperville, I saw some off-the-beaten-path signs to the Green Valley Forest Preserve and Whalon Lake. Still in a mood to say “yes,” I decided to make a detour. I let myself be taken in by the incredible autumnal beauty of this part of Illinois while the Nightster handled the rural roads with ease. When you need it to, the bike seamlessly blends into the background, making it an intuitive ride. Again, I felt invigorated and rejuvenated cruising through autumn trees and endless fields.
When I arrived back home, a Triumph Scrambler parked in my usual spot caught my attention. Hearing my motorcycle engine, the owner of the Scrambler, Christian, opened his window to introduce himself and we immediately hit it off. Having a motorcycle is a great way to meet people and I was pleasantly surprised by instantaneous connection between bikers and the love of riding. Noticing Christian also had a Harley-Davidson Bluetooth Helmet, we instinctively decided to pair up and explore the city.
Over the next few days, Christian and I strapped on our helmets and set off for adventure. With Bluetooth connected, we had crystal clear conversations as we roared down highways, discussing movies, bikes, and everything in between. Mostly, I’ve used my helmet for navigation and music, but this was the first time I’d used the microphone to talk in real-time on the road. Riding with Christian while having a fluent conversation became a unique and special way to grow our friendship.
Kettle Moraine and Baháʼí Temple
As my time with the Nightster was coming to an end, I wanted to finish with a scenic ride through Wisconsin and cruise through the nature preserved roads of the historic Kettle Moraine.
I flipped on Rain Mode to tackle the rain-slick roads, and I immediately noticed an increase in traction. I could feel the throttle response change to the inclement conditions almost instantaneously. That kind of tactility is so important on a motorcycle as powerful as the Nightster; even on a wet highway, the Nightster in Rain Mode gave me reassurance. The nimble 19-inch front and 16-inch rear tires also made carving down winding roads effortless. I’m not the most confident backroad rider, but my apprehensions faded on the Nightster.
Even this late into 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 hectic city life. Taking those winding roads in Wisconsin, the Nightster gently purring underneath me, and the rich, crisp air all around… I felt a calming sensation of serenity I’ve never experienced before.
On my way back, I stopped by the Baháʼí Temple in Evanston. Since coming to Chicago, I’ve always wanted to see it. The Baháʼí Temple is one of twelve standing temples of worship for the Baháʼí faith in the world. I’m not a particularly religious person, but its famed architecture convinced me to see it in person. A superstructure in ornate concrete and quartz cladding, the central dome of the building, surrounded by nine pillars each adorned with symbols from world religions, stands tall among immaculately curated gardens. Nothing in the area looks like it, and when you’re standing within its Foundation Hall, looking up at the intricate details, you are transported someplace else.
I had an amazing time riding the 2022 Nightster. This bike is a marvel of engineering, delivering a smooth, comfortable experience that doesn’t sacrifice an ounce of power. It’s a stunning design, sleek and modern while echoing the best features of the classic Sportster. With the Nightster, I got to experience more of myself and the Midwest: heading downtown for drinks, riding with Christian, and taking day trips up 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 think back to my (too-short) time with the Nightster, I’ll remember the incredible experiences that 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 in the legendary history of Harley-Davidson’s design and legacy and a beautiful homage to the beloved Sportster.
The 2022 Harley-Davidson Nightster motorcycle is now available at Harley-Davidson dealers starting at $13,499.