Nightster Special and bigger Breakout headline Harley-Davidson 2023 updates

Nightster Special and bigger Breakout headline Harley-Davidson updates_01


Harley-Davidson has dropped the old-fashioned idea of launching all its new models in one go each year so we can expect a stream of releases through 2023 – and along with its 120th anniversary limited edition bikes Harley has today taken the wraps off a new Nightster Special, the Breakout 117 and an updated Freewheeler.


Above: Nightster Special is among Harley’s new offerings for 2023


The first new model, the Nightster Special, doesn’t come as a complete surprise. A couple of pictures and some basic information leaked via a type-approval application in Australia earlier this month. Coded ‘RH975S’ as opposed to ‘RH975’ for the standard Nightster, the first thought was that this could be a ‘Nightster S’ model – a designation that would normally mean ‘more performance’ – but that was nixed by the fact its suspension and engine are unchanged from the standard Nightster that debuted last year. In fact that ‘S’ stands for ‘Nightster Special’ – a name that, in Harley nomenclature, reflects an increased level of equipment rather than enhanced performance.

That extra kit for the Nightster Special in 2023 includes standard passenger pegs and a pillion seat, new cross-spoke wheels with a tyre pressure monitoring system, and a round, 4-inch TFT display borrowed from the Sportster S, including Bluetooth connectivity, app-based navigation and voice control when paired with a headset. On top of that, there’s cruise control as standard and a USB charging port. From a practical perspective, the Nightster Special also gets bars that are 50.8mm higher and 25.4mm further back than the Nightster’s, leading to a more upright riding position for long-distance comfort, something that’s further aided by the addition of cruise control as standard.


Above: The base model Nightster is revised for 2023, losing its nose cowl for a more stripped-back look.


The changes are more noticeable when seen in the light of updates made to the standard Nightster for 2023. That model loses the nose cowling that was standard in 2022, meaning it’s now a signature of the Nightster Special, and the base Nightster now has a cleaner look to its engine, without the contrasting inset panels on the cylinder heads that were on the 2022 version. They’re also kept by the Nightster Special in 2023.]

Both versions of the Nightster are mechanically identical, with the same liquid-cooled Revolution Max 975T engine – the smaller of the Revolution Max engines at 975cc, compared to 1252cc capacity used in the Sportster S and the Pan America. Harley points out that while there isn’t a huge price difference between the Nightster Special and Sportster S – the new Nightster Special starts at £15,395 in Vivid Black or £15,770 in its alternative options of Bright Billiard Blue, Industrial Yellow or Black Denim, while the Sportster S is only £500 more despite having a 31hp power advantage and 22 lb-ft more torque from its larger engine – the smaller engine has a different character, as well as being more appealing to riders who want a less intimidating bike. Importantly, it also qualifies to be restricted to 47hp for riders with an A2 licence in Europe and the UK.


Above: 2023 Harley Breakout takes its styling inspiration from the 2017 model


Harley’s Breakout model first appeared a decade ago as the most custom-inspired machine in the firm’s range, with a stretched-out stance and a fat, 240-section rear tyre. For 2023 Harley is going back to the future, with changes to the Breakout’s style that hark back to the 2017 version – two generations old at this stage – but adding the biggest, 117 cubic inch version of the Milwaukee-Eight V-twin, previously reserved for CVO models and the ‘ST’ versions of the Low Rider, Road Glide and Street Glide. That’s 1923cc in metric terms, and while power peaks at only 101hp, it gives 123 lb-ft of torque.

However, Harley has paid attention to customers who preferred the look of the older Breakout. In 2018, when a completely new chassis was introduced for the whole Softail range, Breakout included, the Breakout was given a darker look, with much of the chrome blacked-out. At the same time it also replaced the old Fat Bob-style fuel tank with a smaller 13.25-litre design. For 2023, the new chassis remains but the style harks back to the previous Breakout, before those updates, with the return of the larger 18.9-litre fuel tank – adding range as well as giving a more muscular look to the bike – and bringing back much of the chrome, reflecting recent fashion changes that have seen the shiny stuff making a comeback in custom bike circles.



The wheels are new for 2023, but they’re also a nod to the design used on the 2017 version of the Breakout, with a turbine-like, 26-spoke design instead of the ten split spokes of the 2018-2022 machines. On the new bike, those wheels are gloss black with machined edges on every alternating spoke to show bright alloy. Along with the 117 motor’s ‘Heavy Breather’ intake and paint options of Vivid Black, Black Denim, Baja Orange or Atlas Silver, all with custom-style graphics, the result is one of the most eye-catching bikes in the Harley-Davidson line-up.

Other additions for the 2023 Breakout include standard cruise control, and traction control is an available option, while detail updates include a new bar riser, putting the bars 19mm higher than before, and the seat is also redesigned. Cruise control is standard.

How much? The Vivid Black version will set you back £24,195, while the other colour options cost £24,635.

Elsewhere in the range, the Fat Boy, Fat Bob and Low Rider S, like the Breakout, get cruise control as standard, and the Breakout’s traction control option will also be available on the Low Rider S and Low Rider ST.


Freewheeler gets 18-inch rear wheels for 2023


The final update in this batch of new 2023 Harley-Davidsons – and the firm expects to launch more models later in the year as its 120th anniversary celebrations continue – is to the Freewheeler trike.

The big update here is the addition of 18-inch rear wheels, replacing the old 15-inch designs, with a new 19-inch front rim to match their new style. Although the rear wheels are larger, the lower-profile tyres they’re fitted with mean the overall radius doesn’t increase and the rest of the bike’s spec is carried over from the previous version. In America, the same larger rear wheel design appears on a new trike model for 2023 – the Road Glide 3 – but that machine isn’t being brought to the European market.

For 2023, the Freewheeler’s price starts at £31,495 for the Vivid Black version. The single-tone ‘White Sand Pearl’ version is £31,995, while the two-tone Bright Billiard Blue/Billiard Grey model is £32,345.