The XL1200N Nightster is a bobbed Sportster with some new and unique features. Standing on its side stand with the Evolution engine running it looks like a small fierce but still muscular Bulldog eager to go. We took it for a ride under the Florida sun.
Harley's XL1200N Nightster. Pics: Benedict Campbell
And boy is the new Nightster eager to go. It's almost as if I can sense its smelly and dirty unleaded breath hyperventilating in the Florida sun. Right from letting the clutch out in first gear the Nightster unleashes its muscle and powers away from the lights.
No doubt this is a Harley Sportster and the new and low seat with support for the lower back gives it a different feel to other Sportsters.
Only 668mm above the ground on a thin seat almost forces you to ride a bit more active-Nothing much for cruising into the sunset then. The low seat height has been achieved by that thin solo seat and by adjusting the suspension.
After miles on wide American highways we start our journey into the Loop that offers some decent bends in this corner of Florida. And the Nightster likes bends more than cruising in a straight line.
The Nightster is not that comfortable compared to a big cruising twin so a bit of active riding was more than welcome.
One thing about the XL1200N Nightster that annoyed me from standstill was the long footpeg scrapers. I kept banging my ankles into them standing still and they touch ground really early. Get rid of them or shorten them (either by riding or by angle grinder) is my advice.
The XL1200N is light-footed through the corners and the handling is easy. The 100/90-19 front wheel and the 150/80-16 rear wheel makes sure the Nightster steer well. It also turns from side to side with great ease.
The low seat height, responsiveness from the chassis and tyres as well as a nice and low first gear makes the XL1200N Nightster a perfect beginner's bike. The shorter riders and ladies will love it too.
The thing is that I love it too, even though I'm a six-footer. But my initial feeling is that that's got more to do with the cool and unique bobbed Ratrod styling rather than me being super comfortable on the bike.
A bobber, like the Nightster, is a motorcycle with minimal fenders and exposed wheels with as little unnecessary parts and paint as possible. This again dictates the blacked out (or greyed out in the Nightster's case) engine and minimal chrome. Minimalism also dictated that the bike should get laced wheels with only one brake disc up front and black rims to integrate with the black tyres.
But the most unique feature on the 2007 US version of the XL1200N Nightster is the side mounted number plate and integrated brake lights in the indicators. All stuff which is banned by any sane or insane Eurocrat by the way.
The XL1200N Nightster features the same 1200cc air-cooled Evolution twin as the rest of the Sportster range. You get a solid five speed gearbox coupled with belt-drive and the latest Harley-Davidson fuel injection.
When standing still on idle the Evolution engine sounds like no other air-cooled twin. Willie G. Davidson insisted on adding slash-cut exhaust to enhance both the sound and looks even compared to other Sporty's.
I favour the Evolution engine for its great response early in the rev range whilst you can still use plenty more revs and it feels natural to do so. There are no noticeable dips in the power curve (try a back to back with a Screamin? Eagle 110-1800cc big twin and you'll notice some differences...) and I love the smoothness that accompanies the initial acceleration.
The clocks and instruments are as minimalist as you can get. Even the warning light indicators are blacked out unless they are lit. The fuel tank is a tiny peanut shaped 12.5 litre unit that looks so narrow it is unreal.
The XL1200N Nightster really is the most unique Sportster in the range. This time a new Sportster model has even got its own name, the Nightster.
It stands out as something special in the range. Certainly with the side mounted number plate and integrated brake/indicator light as well as the greyed out engine and bobbed fenders XL1200N is different indeed.
I felt slightly too big for this bike, but as I mentioned, I still love it. Not the most comfortable Harley, but hey, it's a Sportster not a Tourer. The Nightster is one of those bikes that can and will change someone's mind purely by its looks alone.