All Tests – Paris by Nightster – Used HARLEY-DAVIDSON

Paris by Nightster

All Tests - Paris by Nightster - Used HARLEY-DAVIDSON

It was in the crowded streets of the capital then in the more open alleys of the Bois de Vincennes that we made contact with the latest Harley-Davidson model: the Sportster XL1200 N Nightster … Follow the guide !

The Sportster XL1200 family grew in 2008: the Custom, Low and Roadster models are now joined by the Nightster version (read), "versatile motorcycle in neo retro style", specifies Harley-Davidson.

However, you don’t need to be an expert in American to realize that this new Nightster differs greatly from its sisters….

Of course, the mechanics remain the same: 1200cc Evolution V-Twin engine, still mounted on silent blocks in a very narrow frame, 5-speed gearbox (with unchanged gear ratio) and toothed belt drive, of course..

But with the instrumentation and a few small details, these are the only points in common that this 2008 novelty shares with the other XL1200s … Because the very latest Harley-Davidson has its own distinct personality. !

First of all, the dark side of this newcomer escapes no one: "the rims and hubs, the fork, the handlebars as well as the hand and foot controls feature a black livery that is both sober and mysterious", recites the builder.


The Nightster thus scores big points among those that the tinsel of the chrome leaves unmoved or can even disgust. Finally only the pots, the polished casings and the spokes reflect the light that the rest of the bike absorbs … like a black hole !

Sober, the Nightster is even in its equipment. Solo seat, classic 12.5-liter tank, lowered black handlebars, truncated front and rear fenders, perforated metal parts – "bullet hole", say the bikers – and" old-school "fork: everything is understated on this Sportster.

Suddenly, fans of customization will find in this new Harley an excellent base for work! Beginners especially, since the Nightster is at the minimum price of € 9,995 in its black "Vivid Black" version and € 10,495 in two-tone colors: Suede Blue Pearl or Mirage Orange Pearl and Vivid Black, Olive Pearl Denim or Brillant Silver Denim and Black Denim.

The Nightster’s propensity for minimalism is good because it pushed its designers to innovate! In order to lighten its rear end as much as possible, engineers from across the Atlantic have provided their 2008 novelty with indicators that also include rear lights and brake lights, all with LED: "a first in the custom industry"welcomes the Milwaukee firm !

A "small" 1200

It is only regrettable that the homologation of the side license plate in Europe has not been granted: stripped of this ugly appendage, the rear of the Nightster looks even prettier, offering an unobstructed view – that’s where to say it! – on the rear tire 150 mm.

Rare addition to the pre-existing XL1200 models, the "accordion" type fork gaiters give the Nightster its retro feel. Finally, the engine painted with epoxy "Medium Gray"pays homage"to custom cultureHarley says. Fans will appreciate.

In appearance, the Nightster is so stripped down that when it comes time to get on it, even the most novice of bikers suffers from no apprehension. It’s hard to even believe that this cube motorcycle is twice as much as the majority of roadsters in France !

The saddle is low and well designed (640 mm), the handlebars not too far apart but compared to the "small" format of the rest of the machine, the footrests are too far apart, big Twin requires … It is necessary to elsewhere pay attention to the long lugs that extend them, because they have an annoying tendency to catch the cuff of the jeans or the leather of the boots…

In fact, when stopping, it is better to put your foot far in front than far to the sides. This habit once taken, we end up appreciating the driving position, typical Harley but not destabilizing for novices.

Once the engine has started – "potato-potATO-POTATO" – you easily tighten the clutch, engage the first – "Klong" – and gradually release the left lever: no need to accelerate, the torque of the 1200 is enough to make the Nightster take off …. And let’s go !

Very quickly, we realize that the "behavior perfectly adapted to the city"claimed by Harley is not a hoax: easy and agile thanks to a center of gravity flush with the daisies which makes you forget its 251 kg of steel, the Nightster is easily tamed despite the traffic.

Very easy rider

We just note its tendency to "gallop" on first gear: at idle (set a little high during our test according to the Harley France staff), our model on loan from a dealer climbed to almost 20 km / h, or a little too much to venture into traffic jams. Note in passing that the engine did not have more than 500 km in the legs.

So is she able to "make the city his playground", as the press kit claims? Maybe not, because that would be too restrictive! But in the meantime, it is true that the new Harley adapts very well to a walk on the main Parisian roads.

Stalled in third on the Quays, the crossing of the capital is done just as pleasantly: the vibrations of the engine, filtered by the silent blocks, are present but not wearing. Be careful, however, not to leave your right calf too close to the air box: in the long run, it turns out to be full of ants. !

Still, the V-Twin is a serious asset to get out of the lines of cars, motorcycles, scooters and other Velib ‘. The engine responds instantly to requests, the acceleration is straightforward but the successful management of electronic injection prevents any brutality.

Likewise, the brakes – single disc front and rear – provide decent power for the road but don’t bite too much. This will destabilize young drivers used to braking much more sharply, even on non-sporty models. Better to anticipate !

But after just a few minutes, confidence is built and attention can shift to other things. So, for example, we discover that the mirrors offer a good view of motorcycles and scooters in a hurry to reach the next traffic light. !

My first Harley

The work of the suspensions – the rear in Europe has an extended stroke for better ground clearance, but the US version is also available – is practically flawless. Only the big imperfections of the badly negotiated coating make the pilot jump like a cake … And it is only when landing – so too late! – that the biker realizes the lack of thickness of the saddle !

In the end, if a 125 scooter remains undoubtedly the ultimate weapon to face the urban jungle, the Nigthtser passes the Parisian test with flying colors! Easy for a 1200, lively for a Harley, the XL1200N will require big concessions from its driver..

The saddle too hard on deteriorated surface (Parisian cobblestones for example) and the absence of top case (on a clean Sportster, sic!) Will notably limit its daily use "motorcycle-work-sleep" … But despite what Harley claims , is that his program ?

Because it is obvious that on small roads, the Nightster will be much more happy! An excellent first Harley, before falling for a Dyna Street Bob? Why not…

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