You know the old expression, "Don't knock it 'til you try it," right? Harley-Davidsons are often surrounded by haters, mostly comprised of those who've never ridden one. There are Keyboard Warriors attacking H-D based primarily on their spec sheets, high price tags, and low performance. I'll admit it, I used to be one of them. That is, until a Nightster changed my mind.
I fully expected to hate this motorcycle. My brother expected me to hate this motorcycle too. It's too loud and too flashy; it's too "image-driven" and contains antiquated technology. I could come up with a million insults and at the end of the day they'd all boil down to, "It's a Harley-Davidson." But you know what? Believe it or not, it's fun!
My Riding History
About a year ago, I received my first taste of Project Livewire. Yes, yes, I know, it's not exactly a big thumpin' V-twin, but it was the first time I'd ridden a H-D product. I rode a Sportster Forty-Eight (which is essentially the same bike as the Nightster), but I didn't understand Harley-Davidson then. Riding a Sportster immediately after what I still believe is the future of motorcycling only accentuated the different eras I was experiencing. Because of that contrast, I guess I didn't understand what the "normal" H-Ds brought to the table.
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A couple weeks ago I took a 300 mile road trip on my Triumph Bonneville. When I got back, my brother offered to loan me his Nightster. This let me do a direct comparison of two very "image-driven" motorcycles.
Both motorcycles are starting points for self-expression. While I feel like the Triumph is a completely blank slate, the Harley is drenched with decades of "biker" imagery. However, I (surprisingly) had a great time on my brother's Nightster. Granted, I don't fit that Harley Davidson bike mold at all, especially when riding it with my full face helmet and head-to-toe textile gear.
If I were to make a pros/cons list, a Harley is the bike I shouldn't buy. But at the same time, it's like my Ducati and a few cars I've owned in the past; its personality shines through in an unexpected way. The Nightster quickly became endearing. I'm not sure if it could ever be my only bike, and my brother's ownership experience seconds that notion, considering how little the Nightster gets ridden while living next to his R1. With that said, each day I had the H-D, I wanted to go for a ride, and I came home happily exhausted. I've certainly owned bikes I can't say that about.
The suspension isn't top of the line, but it still manages to be gentler on me than a day on the Bonneville. The motor? Well, it shakes everything and everyone around. Surprisingly, not a ton came through the bars. The bike was nowhere near as fatiguing as I expected it to be, and because of that I found myself filling the bike up multiple times throughout the day. (The fuel tank is small, so the range isn't awesome.)
Despite the fact that the bike doesn't meet my image, I had a ball riding it and found one thing that really surprised me. Anyone who's ever ridden behind me on a bike has to give me the flashy-hand signal. Not with the Nightster, however. It had me covered with self-canceling blinkers! I'm looking for how to retrofit that system to every bike I own right now. I spent days looking like I knew where I was going, and I just can't put a price on that!
There's Always Something...
There's one downside though. That clutch was terrible, although I'm not sure if it was because of my small hands or the oversized levers. All I know is that my clutch hand was on fire after a day of riding around town. With such a stiff and long pull, I know that if I owned this bike, I'd be shopping for ways to mitigate that before I even bought an exhaust. Maybe I've just been softened by the other bikes I've ridden, but this clutch is in another world from anything else. All a part of the experience, I guess.
Despite the clutch, I'm surfing used-bike sites looking for a Nightster of my own. They hold their resale value really well and the temptation is real.