Fat Bob handles the far North with ease
Approaching the Harley-Davidson Fat Bob I couldn’t help but feel a sense of dread. I was standing in the front of Auckland’s Sofitel Hotel with a fleet of the American brand’s touring bikes, and realised the Fat Bob had nowhere near the comforts for touring like the Road King or Street Glide models that surrounded it.
With nearly 500km of riding planned for the next two days for the annual Iron Run, the prospect of riding the musclebound Harley for that distance was unnerving, especially with the stretch needed from my stubby legs to reach the kicked-out footpegs.
Despite the name, the Fat Bob isn’t a direct sibling of the Fat Boy. It falls into a different branch of the Harley-Davidson range, part of the Dyna family rather than the Softail Fat Boy.
Powered by Harley’s tried and true high-output 103cu in V-Twin, the Fat Bob combines a decent whack of grunt with some of the best lean angle of any Harley on the market at 30 and 31 degrees respectively.
This meant that while my legs did tire over the long ride to Paihia, I had the pleasure of blasting through corners with the biggest grin on my face thanks to the 134Nm of torque so readily available at just 3500 rpm.
When the bike did touch down, as cruisers tend to do, it didn’t get out of shape when the chromed exhausts met chip seal, just subtly popping back up and slightly widening the riding line.
The only downside to this that was scraping the exhaust would probably be quite upsetting if you did it regularly. Big scratches were clearly evident when my time in the saddle came to an end.
Apart from the long stretch to the footpegs, the Fat Bob is quite comfortable to ride.
The drag-style handlebars are internally wired, meaning all the leads for the switchgear and throttle are hidden away within the nice 320mm-thick bars. Visually this makes the cockpit quite clean, a single analogue gauge with digital readout giving all the information needed from a perfectly centred position.
The handlebars are also rather narrow compared to other bikes in the range, giving the bike a total width of just 890mm. That’s narrow enough to easily sneak through traffic to the front of queues if you’re in a rush.
With twin 300mm/four piston front brakes, and ABS as standard you have the confidence to jump on the brakes as needed, though you can still lock up the rear wheel if you chop down one too many gears in the six-speed box. That can result in a compression lock stopping the rear wheel in its tracks, as I found out while barrelling through tight corners on the incredible Russell / Helena Bay Rd (a must-ride if you haven’t already).
After two days with the Fat Bob, the only thing that didn’t really gel with me was the twin headlight but Harley says you can swap with other models in the lineup.
2016 HARLEY-DAVIDSON FAT BOB
|ENGINE:||High-output 103cu (1690cc) twin cam V-Twin|
|PROS:||Great handling, punchy engine|
|CONS:||Footpegs a bit of a stretch to reach|