Harley-Davidson Nightster Special

Harley Davidson Nightster Special Review (Baujahr 2023)

What distinguishes the new Nightster Special (2023) from the Standard Nightster from 2022?

Harley Davidson Nightster Special TestPhotos: Motorradtest.de
With the Nightster Special, relaunched in 2023, Harley Davidson celebrates its 120th anniversary. The surcharge compared to the Standard Nightster is 1,500 euros. What additional features the Special has on board and what it can do in general, guest presenter Ole and Dietmar found out during a trip around the Westensee in Kiel.

The perfect Harley entry?

The new Harley Davidson Nightster Special costs just under 18,000 euros. That doesn't sound like a bargain, but it's cheap for a Harley. Incidentally, the Standard Nightster for 16,095 euros is currently the cheapest model in the Harley fleet. They are only available in red and black, while the Nightster Special is available in four colour variations, including two in black (matt and metallic).

Differences between Nightster and Nightster Special
For the extra charge, the Special offers a lot of additional equipment. There is a sharp and very easy-to-read TFT color display including Handy-Connect via Bluetooth, on which a real map navigation can also be placed if required. The cast aluminum wheels in silver-colored cross-spoke design are also new, as are the riser on the handlebars, cruise control, tire pressure monitoring and the USB-C port. From now on, the lamp cover is only available on the Special, it has been removed from the Standard. In addition, the Special now also has a pillion seat including the associated footrest system. So there is more additional equipment than you might think at first glance.
The seating position has also changed: the seat height is slightly higher at 715 mm and, above all, the higher handlebars, which are more inclined towards the rider, make the ride a little more casual and, from our point of view, more pleasant. There are no worlds between the two bikes, but you can tell. The pillion comfort, on the other hand, is not so great. The front passenger has to hold on to the driver and the footpegs are mounted very high. You certainly don't want to go on longer tours in pairs, but nothing stands in the way of a short ride to the quarry pond.
AbmessungenThat's what it's like to sit on the Nightster Special: Very casual.
CockpitBeleuchtung vorneBeleuchtung hinten

Technology of the Nightster Special

The new display is convincing all along the line. The app has a simple design and includes many features. Navigating is very practical: First select the desired destination via app and then place a very nicely designed map navigation on the display - and off you go!

The Nightster Special comes with the three preconfigured riding modes Rain, Road and Sport as well as two custom modes. There are no lean angle sensors and no QuickShifter, but otherwise everything is on board: traction control, engine drag control, keyless go, cruise control, media control, automatic turn signal reset and of course ABS and even tire pressure monitoring and an on-board computer that is happy to provide information.

The operation of all functions is very simple and intuitive thanks to a directional pad on the left. You don't really need the manual, which can be accessed in the app. The lighting comes complete with LED technology and overall the Nightster Special makes a technically mature and well thought-out impression. Bravo, Harley!


That's how it drives

The sound of the Nightster Special is not bad. However, our bike also had the not quite cheap exhaust system from Jekill and Hyde installed. The V2 rumbles along like a sewing machine and can also be really bassy thanks to the controllable exhaust flap. When closed, it is rather quiet, a very good compromise. With the standard silencer, the stationary noise is only 90 dbA and it doesn't sound that much worse (see or listen here).
In contrast to the Sportster S, the Revolution Max 975T has been capped at 975 cc and produces 90 hp at 7,500 rpm and 95 Nm of torque at 5,750 rpm on the Nightster Special. This is not stunning by Harley standards, but since the Special weighs only 225 kg with a full tank, this provides a lot of propulsion. In addition, the new engine is capable of revving well beyond 5,000 rpm. The stroke is rather short and so the Nightster almost becomes a small barrel organ. It not only accelerates well, but can also convince in the pull-through test. It's really fun!

Certainly, Harley disciples of older vintages will turn up their noses and deny the Nightster Special the usual V2 folklore - but the new Nightster Special 2023 does not want to appeal to this target group at all. It's far too sporty for that. It goes briskly around the curves and is surprisingly handy. Although the chassis is rather simple, it works perfectly. The conventional 41 telescopic fork comes from Showa and is not adjustable. The stereo struts are at least adjustable in the spring base, but it lacks a hydraulic dial. All of this signals: Don't worry about the chassis, just drive, it's already working.

We can report the same about the brake. Although only a single disc is used at the front, the Nightster Special still brakes well and predictably. The levers are adjustable and the manual force required to operate the clutch is pleasingly low. The Nightster's tank solution is also interesting: the plastic tank is installed under the seat and has a capacity of 11.7 liters. The range of the bike is therefore mathematically rather modest at 213 km. And while we're on the subject of criticism: The workmanship of the Nightster Special is mediocre at times, e.g. when laying the cables in the left fan/motor area.
Despite the low suspension travel - especially at the rear - the Special does not drive uncomfortably. Sure, the chassis acknowledges potholes with a salute to the intervertebral discs, but otherwise we have no reason for criticism. The situation is different when it comes to service intervals: Every 8,000 km (or once a year), the Nightster has to go to the dealership. Other bikes are allowed to scrub twice as many kilometers until the service is due.
The Harley Davidson Nightster Special is a lot of fun! Especially on country roads, it turns out to be a surprisingly agile bike. The engine has a lot of power and feels just as surprisingly comfortable in higher revs. The Special may look like a typical Harley, but it is different in many ways. Better or worse? Matter of opinion! It won't convince real V2 steam hammer fans, if only because of the restrained sound. But there will be other people who are now looking at Harley precisely because of the two new Nightster models. And this is also fully justified.

Conclusion - what sticks

Nightster or Nightster Special, that's the question! We would go for the new Special, if only because of the pillion seat, which you can use quite well every now and then. We particularly liked the great new cockpit and, above all, its ease of use, including the app. Whether you really need it is certainly a matter of opinion, but at least it works splendidly, which cannot be said of all competitors.

The test bike was kindly provided to us by Harley Davidson Kiel for this test. There are the Nightster Special and the Standard Nightster as demonstrators - among many other chic Harleys. A visit to HD Hiel is always worthwhile, if only because of the wide range of used machines. You can also take a wonderful tour around the Westensee - let's go!

Price/Availability/Colours/Years of Construction

  • Price: 17.595 €
  • Availability: since 03/2023
  • Colors: matt black, yellow, blue, black metallic

Zubehör für die
Nightster Special

  • Moneta
  • Polo
  • Amazon

Pro & Kontra

  • Engine
  • Sound
  • surprisingly sporty approach
  • great TFT display with map navigation
  • Mobile phone connection with easy-to-use app
  • excellent Harley entry-level bike
  • Rearview mirrors could be a little bigger
  • for this price a bit much plastic
  • carelessly laid cables
  • slippery seat
Von unserem Team geprüft:




2,250 mm
1,140 mm
225 kg
Ab. Weight
420 kg
715 mm
1,545 mm

Driving Performance & Range

Tank contents
11.7 l
5.5 l
213 km
180 km/h

Motor & Power Transmission

Engine design
Number of cylinders
975 cc
97 mm
66 mm
90 hp
95 NM
Number of gears

Suspension & Brakes

Lattice tube frame
Suspension front
Showa telescopic fork 41 mm
114 mm
Strut rear
Stereo struts, spring base adjustable
76 mm
Suspension rear
Two-arm swingarm
Brakes in front
floating mounted single disc, Brembo, axial, 4-piston fixed caliper
320 mm
Tyres at the front
100/90-19 57H
Brakes rear
Single disc, 1-piston brake caliper
Rear tyres
150/80B16 77H