2007 Harley-Davidson XL 1200N - Nightster On The Prowl

The Meticulously Detailed 2007 Harley-Davidson XL 1200N Nightster

With this year being the 50th anniversary of the H-D Sportster, we were really looking forward to what the MOCO had up its sleeve for a special anniversary-issue scoot. Reminiscent of H-D's 100th, the XL's 50th wasn't much of a celebration for a bike with such history-the limited-edition XL came bearing nothing more than some commemorative badges, stickers, and paint. Aside from the addition of EFI to the entire lineup, the Factory still had a surprise in store for the '07 Sportys. Announced about six months after the rest of the new '07 models, H-D debuted the XL 1200N, the Nightster.

For the unobservant, the Nightster might reflect just another iteration of flat paint and mixtures of medium-gray powdercoat and black. In fact, the majority of the components on this bike have been carefully designed to emanate a sinewy, asphalt-jungle ethos. One of the most significant redesigns on this bike is the chopped rear fender. In addition to the shorter rear skin, the taillight and license mount have been moved to the left side of the rear wheel. Another nice touch was integrating the brake and taillights into the rear turn signals. Up front, the black 39mm forks got fork gaiters, while the new front fender mounts received the lightening-hole treatment.

With the stitched solo seat coming in at a mere 25.3 inches from the ground, the Nightster puts the rider as close to the pavement as the 883 Low and a full inch shorter than the 1200 Low. That low seat height comes courtesy of the rock-like 11.5-inch rear shocks. Although H-D claims 2.4 inches of rear-wheel travel, riding the Nightster feels as if there's less than that. Combining the low-profile seat (which is moved forward compared to a 1200 Custom) and the mid-mount pegs makes the Nightster a compact bike. Of course, lowering any bike reduces ground clearance, too, with the front exhaust pipe touching down before the peg in right-handers.

Coming in at a dry 545 pounds, the Nightster feels lighter than that, probably due to its low center of gravity. It is an extremely nimble machine, slicing through traffic and slow-moving parking lots with ease. The rubber-mounted chassis makes a happy home for the fuel-injected 1,200cc Evo XL motor, with vibes apparent only at idle. Once moving, even at 85-mph highway cruising speeds, the black mirrors were actually usable. The new EFI worked flawlessly in temps varying from the 40s to near triple-digits, with the electronic brain taking care of cold-start duties. Turn the key, thumb the electric leg, and get the fun on.

Dunlop 401 tires wrapped around black-rimmed laced-steel rims hugged the road tightly enough to reach the roughly 30-degree lean limits on either side. Up front, a standard two-piston caliper stops well enough with help from the rear's single-piston unit. Blacked-out, low-rise handlebars, controls, and speedo keep with the dark theme of the bike while providing a comfortable riding position. Clutch effort is very manageable, as is the shifting from the well-honed XL five-speed gearbox. Our test bike came with the two-tone brilliant silver denim and black denim paint option that adds $395 to the $9,595 MSRP for a Vivid Black version. Other new two-tone color options are mirage orange pearl and vivid black, olive pearl denim and black denim, and suede blue pearl and vivid black. The denim hues are matte finishes that complement the lack of chrome very well. H-D used a satin metal treatment on the gas cap, oil dipstick, and headlamp trim ring-these little touches make a stock bike like this come off as custom.

In fact, there isn't a place on this bike that wasn't thought about and gone over. It works from an aesthetic standpoint, as well as being one heck of a fun ride. Are you going to want to tour the country on it? Probably not. But if you want to have that feeling of pure unadulterated two-wheeled fun, this bike is for you. The new breed of Sportys no longer qualifies as the paint-shakers of yesteryear. Instead, you get all the Sporty's traditional torque, agility, and attitude combined with the reliable technology of today. Stop into your local H-D dealer, or go online at www.harley-davidson.com to see more specs and colors.

Model XL 1200N Nightster
Engine/Displacement Evo/1,200cc
Induction ESPFI
Primary Drive Chain
Clutch Nine-plate, wet
Transmission Five-speed
Final Drive Belt
Front Brake 11.5-inch, two-piston
Rear Brake 11.5-inch, one-piston
Front Wheel/Size 19x2.5
Rear Wheel/Size 16x3
Front Tire Size {{{100}}}/{{{90}}}-19
Rear Tire Size 150/80B 16
Fuel Tank capacity, gal. 3.3
Seat Height, inches 25.3 w/rider
MSRP, USD $9,595 Black,
$9,990 Two-tone

Riding Impressions

Toph Bocchiaro, 5 feet, 9 inches, 151 lbs

At first glance, the Nightster screams custom all over it. From the engine finish, flat paint, and use of lightening holes to the side-mount license plate, chopped rear fender, and fork gaiters...too much to list...all I could say was "wow." This bike, with styling and attitude that should appeal to a younger crowd, is just one example of H-D's forward thinking and why the company stays on top. It seems to have its eyes on the streets in designing such a custom-looking motorcycle.

OK, I'm no giant, barely average, but this bike is small due to where its low seat is positioned and its short shocks. Coming in as the second-lowest H-D behind the Softail Deluxe, the 1200N should appeal to shorter riders. Those shocks make the bike look cool, but I'd pitch them and the seat immediately for more room and comfort. The grasshopper mid-mount pegs get a bit cramped with the current setup but can easily be remedied with forwards or highway pegs up front. I love Sportsters in the twisties, and the slammed-to-the-ground package made parts hit too easily for my liking. By the end of my testing sessions, the bottom of the front exhaust pipe was devoid of chrome, with the footpeg feelers also showing some wear.

Acceleration was great from the 1200 Evo with the impressive new fuel-injection system fitted to all XLs this year. I never experienced a hiccup, pinging, or any other kind of fuel delivery-related issue. The new turned-out slash-cut exhaust pipes in their EPA clothing sound OK and certainly won't upset your neighbors. On the other hand, the pipes do little to drain out the relatively noisy motor, particularly coming from the rocker boxes. Speaking of which, that valvetrain noise is not necessarily a negative, as it adds to the raw feel of the Nightster.

All in all, the 1200N delivers decent performance in a manageable, nonthreatening package that fills the "cool" niche in the Sportster line. As with most H-Ds, the minor complaints (i.e., shocks and seat) are easily remedied with inexpensive components to satisfy your dimensions, needs, and style.

Taryn Funcheon, 5 feet, 5 inches, 105 lbs

Seeing it in its aggressive metal flesh was like fulfilling the excitement of a long-awaited Christmas present, except this one came in the spring...and I couldn't keep it. Call me one happy clam who was afforded the opportunity to test-ride the Nightster for a week. I was just hoping my long-term '06 XL 1200L Sporty test bike wasn't going to feel a little jealous or neglected, in spite of the fact that it was a great compare-and-contrast measure.

This bad-boy/girl-attitude street fighter delivered all the goodies in an urban-style, old-school package of power and performance. I got that burst of adrenaline from its power-packed V-Twin Evo engine, offering an exhilarating ride through SoCal's canyons, twisties, and heavy traffic. Of course, sitting on some congested roads wasn't so bad, since I caught lots of folks checking out the wicked combination of styling, stance, and aggressive looks on this beast.

Hey, I stared, too, digging the black throughout: the cool, rawboned tank graphics; chopped front and rear fenders; retro front fork gaiters; and low seat height. But once I got moving again, I couldn't help but feel bumps in the road due to the Nightster's shocks. Other than that needed improvement, with the addition of some forward controls and a little extra time with this bike, it may have been a lot more difficult to give back.

Jordan Mastagni, 5 feet, 10 inches, 175 lbs

Heads turned, eyes bulged, jaws dropped, and mouths watered as onlookers gazed upon this nostalgic-looking XL 1200N Nightster as I slowly cruised past them on Main Street in Huntington Beach, CA. Once I stepped from the bike to refuel, a certain gentleman literally ran toward me in the gas station parking lot and exclaimed, "That is one of the coolest f****ng bikes I have ever seen!"

"Cool" is definitely the adjective to describe the Nightster.

Since I own an '06 XL 1200C, my editor thought it made sense for me to take the Nightster for a spin, and in comparing my bike to the XL 1200N Nightster, the differences are subtle. My Sporty is more comfortable. I am used to forward controls, and the Nightster comes stock with mids. It's a simple fix, but that's the first thing I noticed, feeling like a big slouch on the much lower Nightster, with one-hour-plus rides being somewhat uncomfortable. The Nightster comes stock with a solo seat, so there were no passenger pegs for me to switch up my footing after riding in the same position on lengthier rides.

The Nightster is also fuel-injected, whereas my Sporty utilizes a carburetor. I didn't have to choke the Nightster in the mornings when I was ready to go for a ride. I simply turned the key and went.

I would give the Nightster five out of five stars on looks, four out of five stars on handling, and three out of five stars on comfort.