The New Harley-Davidson Fat Bob Takes a Step in the Right Direction

Over the next decade, Harley-Davidson is looking to draw in two million new riders — this is the first tactical offensive.

Over the next decade, Harley-Davidson is looking to draw in two million new riders. And to stand a chance of making that happen they’ll need a more diverse portfolio. That’s why the company is planning to release 100 new models in that same timeframe. The first batch, the all-new Softail lineup, is their first step in what they believe is the right direction, and the Fat Bob is the leading edge of this new modern movement.

Style-wise, there’s no denying the Fat Bob is a Harley-Davidson. Whether it’s from a mile away or sitting in the saddle, the brawny Ameri-cruiser attitude is abundantly clear. But, new striking design features — an oblong headlight, the near complete lack of chrome and a unique bronze treatment given to the exhaust — convey the message that this isn’t a Harley-Davidson of old. They’re features that let the Fat Bob stand out, without betraying the brand’s heritage.

Let your eyes drop a touch, and you’ll notice that this bike, like the Roadster, is equipped with dual front brake discs. There’s also a set of performance-focused front forks sprouting from the nacelle surrounding the new headlight. And just below the seat, there’s a pre-load adjuster for the rear suspension. The new Softail version of this bike sits a smidge lower than the Dyna based model it replaces; its lean angle has increased by a degree in both directions before the pegs start to scrape asphalt; plus, there’s a weight-loss of around 20-lbs. It appears Harley is going for a not-so-Fat Bob. This bike was designed to be a runner.

The 114 cubic-inch variant of the Milwaukee-Eight engine in this Fat Bob can be both calm as a sloth yet mad as thunder. Peak power comes in at 5,000 rpm and redlines 500 rpms after that. It never feels frenetic at any speed and is the first bike I’ve ridden that beckons the rider to short-shift for better acceleration. The torque this bike develops just above idle is apocalyptic — at every intersection and on-ramp, the objects filling my mirrors shrunk very quickly.

2018 Harley-Davidson Fat Bob

Engine: 117 cubic-inch V-Twin
Horsepower: ~88
Torque: 118 lb-ft
Weight: 676 lbs
Tank Capacity: 3 gallons
Price: $19,099

I still can’t help but feel that the Fat Bob’sperformance has taken a more prominent back seat to traditional Harley style than I expected it would. It’s a step in the right direction to be sure, but it needs to be a more significant step to really be a modern movement. It’s no secret that Harleys don’t typically hustle or flow with the same focus as a street bike, but I had thought and hoped that this bike would mark that change with a more monumental shift.

The Fat Bob is 100 percent of the bike a traditional Harley rider will want and then some. But for the rest of us — the outsiders Harley wants to patch in — well, we want even more. We want cruise control, selectable rider modes and an engine with at least 110 hp. We want adjustable brake and clutch levers, heated grips, an actual pad on the rear brake pedal and braided brake lines. Build that bike and give it a set of optional mid-mounted controls. Build that Fat Bob and you’ll not only have an amazing Harley-Davidson, but you’ll also have an incredible performance motorcycle anyone would want.

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