Harley-Davidson introduced the MY 2018 models with a bang, but the motorcycle that really stole the show was the new Fat Bob. And why not, the bike looks like it has been summoned by the devil himself straight outta hells fire. It looks nothing like the old model, and that is a good thing in my books. Harley designers must have spent months modernizing each and every element on the Fat Bob and the hard work has paid off well. The bike makes a serious statement everywhere it rolls and looks angry even when it is parked.
The launch of the new 2018 models terminated the Dyna line, and almost all of the Dyna bikes made their way into the Softail series. The Fat Bob was one of the few bikes that received a much-needed makeover, and the most alluring update on the bike has to be the new rectangular shaped LED headlight which looks rebellious. Second in the list is the new upswept twin exhausts which have been crafted to further complement the assertiveness. The tyre at the back comes out of the sliced up rear end, and the best word I could find to describe it is ‘Wild’.
Even if I had a chance to change anything I want on the bike, I wouldn’t have touched a thing because it is flawless in terms of design and there is quite nothing on the road that can overshadow the presence it has.
The bike has been updated with a new semi-digital instrument panel. It has an analogue tachometer and a small digital screen within the panel displaying all the necessary information on the go. But there was something wrong with the display on my test bike. The information available on the screen wasn’t most legible to read because of the foggy glass covering the display, and the problem persisted even after three good days of riding in the summer heat.
Engine and performance –
The model which sells in India is based around the new 1,745 cc air/oil-cooled, V-Twin, Milwaukee-Eight 107 engine, which is a much-civilized version of the older unit. The engine now delivers 145 Nm of peak torque which kicks in at 3,250 rpm. And works in conjunction with a 6-speed transmission. The reason why it can be said more civilized is because of the fact that it has been tuned for a more linear delivery. The torque is beautifully spread throughout the rev range and is available in abundance all the time, irrespective of the gear or the speed. Thanks to the new dual counterbalancers used in the engine, it feels significantly smoother.
The clutch isn’t the lightest, but I don’t really expect a light clutch on a 1,745cc motorcycle, do you? The transmission, on the other hand, is impressive. It is slick, precise, and has an old-school clunky feel to it.
Refinement level has clearly gone up in the new engine, and it’s only when you rev up the engine to the limit that you find vibrations creeping in through the foot pegs and the handlebar, but that is exactly not how you should ride it. Anything around 2,000 to 3,000 rpm, and Fat Bob will be all similes doing close to 120kmph in the top gear. And then it will cruise on a buttery smooth power delivery along with the crackling thunder out of the twin exhausts.
Ride, handling and comfort –
The new Softail series receives the same basic frame but it has been tuned differently for each motorcycle. The company says that the new chassis possess 34 percent greater torsional stiffness when compared to the last generation Softail motorcycles. Leaving aside the theoretical numbers, the change in real life riding dynamics is striking. The chassis does a tremendous job of keeping the rider updated with precise inputs.
Handling feels neutral and well balanced, though it might require more than usual muscle to turn in because of the heavy 150mm section front and 180mm section rear rubber. But when you do, the bike turns in very nicely with confidence and follows the cornering lines as you wish to. Also, it feels as stable as a train in a straight line, majorly because of its heavy weight, thick tyres, and rigid chassis. To balance out the handling characteristics, and to keep it agile even when running on super thick tyres at both ends, Fat Bob gets the sharpest steering geometry with a 28-degree rake angle and has the shortest wheelbase out of all the Softail motorcycles.
The 2018 Fat Bob uses a new suspension setup with 43mm Showa fork and single Softail rear shock, which has been tuned for comfort. It comes loaded with high-class damping characteristics soaking up everything like a boss. It deals with even the worst road conditions with ease, and provides for a plush ride, as expected from a bike of its class.
The seat has been designed for ample lower back support and is a good fit for riders of all dimensions, the pillion seat though is just the opposite, and is merely for design rather than use.
Also, the brakes deserve a special mention as they work even better than my expectation. It comes loaded with dual rotors up front clamped on by four-piston calipers which drop anchor in no time. The braking is progressive, quick and safe.
The new Fat Bob simply is the bike for you if want best of the Harley-Davidson’s new MY18 line up. It is powerful enough to shred the ground apart literally and is yet easy to ride in all conditions. It is not your everyday cruiser, it is much more than that. And it is perhaps like Thor's hammer, you have to be worthy to own one!
Photography - Mohd. Nasir