Harley-Davidson Fat Boy: Full phat ride
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I confess, I may be carrying a little more weight than I should, but of all of Harley-Davidson’s wide range of motorcycles, the Fat Boy name sure has a knack for pulling funny looks from people when you tell them what it is. Maybe we’ve just become a far too politically correct culture for a bike to be called a Fat Boy.
One thing is for sure however: The 2018 Fat Boy is the quintessential Harley-Davidson experience. It has – like the rest of the Softail range – undergone a transformation from the clunky (by comparison) 103cu twin cam engine of the previous generation to the modern, smooth shifting machine you see before you — with the fantastic Milwaukee-Eight engine at its heart.
Like much of the new range of Softies, the Fat Boy can be optioned with either the “base” 107cu (1753cc) version of the Milwaukee-Eight, or the 114cu (1868cc), then of course you can add a few tasty Screamin’ Eagle parts to push that cc rating out further if you don’t think nearly 2-litres of displacement is enough.
With the 114cu option beating away between the updated frame of the 2018 bike here, and a massive 240/40R18 rear tyre transferring all 145Nm of torque to the ground, I’ll admit to thinking that the Fat Boy’s handling would match its name. I found it nowhere near as bad as I’d built it up to be in my head.
Yeah, it’s a bit more work than say, a Street Rod with its 120/70 section tyre — but after a few cranks of preload on the easy-to-access adjuster down on the right-hand side of the well-cushioned seat, I found the steering tightened up.
With the preload backed all the way off, the bike noticeably fights you in cornering, the front and the rear of the bike struggling to be friends and trying to go their separate ways.
It’s great that H-D has made it so easy to adjust the rear preload compared to previous generations, and you can even do it on the fly if you like.
The last time I rode a Fat Boy was the old Low version, which wasn’t a happy camper when it came to corners, scraping its footboards and even its frame rails at the slightest hint of a corner.
Not only does the new Fatty keep its frame rails well above the ground, Harley has ensured that you won’t grind away the footboards with the addition of sliders.
Harley didn’t leave the upgrades to just the mechanicals when it came to the Fat Boy as it’s another big leap forward into the 21st century from the 2017 model.
Not only do we have that great new motor and decent suspension, but everything down to the chassis has been upgraded to provide a far more modern riding experience compared to the old tractor-like bikes.
All the lighting is now provided through crystal-clear LEDs, which do a big job of pulling the Fat Boy kicking and screaming into 2018, and the rest of the body has been beefed up to give the bike even more presence.
Even that stalwart trait of American cruisers — excessive use of chrome plating — has been stepped back and replaced with far more visually appealing brushed aluminium finishing.
The large analogue speedo with built-in LED digital display is in the traditional spot, but now the digital display is in the fashionable inverted colour scheme, and offers an uncluttered view ahead even if you have to look down at times to check on your speed.
One area that I could do without, is the big, solid aluminium wheels that are so much a part of what visually separates a Fat Boy from the rest of the line-up.
Sure, they look cool but they tend to makemore noise than a bike with spoked wheels.
Is it the bike for you?
Well if you can move past the Fat Boy name, it could be.
If not, there is a growing number of cool and increasingly high-tech Harley-Davidson Softails just waiting to be discovered.
2018 Harley-Davidson Fat Boy
Engine: 114cu (1868cc) Milwaukee-Eight V-Twin
Pros: Stonking engine, thoroughly modern, handles surprisingly well
Cons: The name ...