The Fat Boy has been around, at least as a concept, since 1988, but it really showed up on everyone’s radar and earned a place in American pop culture when old Arney rode one in Terminator 2. Since it’s such an iconic bike, it’s hardly surprising that it survived the Great Purge of 2017 that saw so many models eliminated from the Softail and Dyna lineups as the former absorbed the latter. The FLSTF joins the rest of the all-new-for-2018 Softail range with a completely reworked frame and a choice between the 107-inch and 114-inch Milwaukee-Eight powerplant. New design features add to the aesthetics and clearly mark these Fat Boys as members of the New Guard.
Continue reading for my review of the Harley-Davidson Fat Boy.
“While there are still a handful of classic chrome parts to be found, Harley used “satin chrome” liberally throughout the design for a nice change from the same-old same-old, and I’m digging it.”
Low, wide and intimidating. Ever have these been the hallmarks of the Fat Boy line, and it’s still true of today’s subjects. This bottom-heavy look is something of an illusion created by the visual weight of the 18-inch, solid-disc Lakester rims. Yeah, the machined cast-aluminum rims look cool, but if you’ve ever ridden one you’ll already know just how much windage they add, and how keenly every crosswind gust and pressure wave from larger traffic is felt.
The front fender is pared down just a skosh, a fact that does nothing to diminish the massy visage, and the front forks come with the classic beercan skirts to cover the swept area of the inner fork tubes. At the tripletree, the factory merged the old with the new in the design of the headlight nacelle. While the LED headlight cluster and DRL ring are round like we are accustomed to seeing, the housing itself is squared off on top, and y’all can go ahead and pencil me in as not a fan.
Though beefy, the front is is really clean. The bars are low and wide with short mirror stems, and since all the instrumentation is in the tank-mount console, the handlebar riser area is clean and wide open. From the clock to the butt bucket, the fall of the flylines mimics the old hardtail geometry with a 26.6-inch saddle height that cradles your fifth point of contact with an easy shot from hip to ground when it comes time to deploy the training wheels.
A relatively wide pillion pad tapers off Mustang-style over the bobbed rear fender, and while it does look cool, it’s really more of a courtesy pad than something to be used for significant periods of time. Out back, the rear fender comes heavily bobbed with an LED lightbar tucked up under the brow of the fender for an ultra-clean rear end. The side-mount plateholder on the left side and standoff turn signals do little to diminish that clean panache. While there are still a handful of classic chrome parts to be found, Harley used “satin chrome” liberally throughout the design for a nice change from the same-old same-old, and I’m digging it.
“The frame is completely reworked in the largest update ever bestowed on this family, and not only is it stiffer in all the right places, it’s also lighter having left 50-percent of its frame members on the floor.”
As always with a Softail model, it’s the frame geometry and clever faux-rigid swingarm that makes the look work. The factory completely reworked the frame in the largest update ever bestowed on this family, and not only is it stiffer in all the right places, it’s also lighter having left 50-percent of its frame members on the floor.
It’s fair to say that the Softail has never had a reputation for great comfort or maneuverability, but the times, they are a changin’. The new frame is built to deliver in the areas where its predecessor fell short with support from its hang-on equipment that further the cause. H-D still doesn’t get into the whole “adjustable fork” thing, but it does grace the front end with a racing-style cartridge fork and follows up with a hidden monoshock that comes with an easily-accessible, hand-adjustable preload feature. Old school Softail fans will rejoice; no more laying on the ground and/or groping blindly for the shocks with a spanner.
The steering head is kicked out there with 30 degrees of rake that gives the Fat Boy 4.1 inches of trail along with great stability and tracking. H-D saves on the brakes with only a single disc up front. I know this is partly to leave an unobstructed view of the solid front disc, at least on the pretty side of the bike, but at 699-pounds wet, I’d rather have that extra stopping power, me. Good news is, the standard ABS feature will allow you to safely wring every ounce of stopping power out of that single front anchor.
Rake (steering head) (deg):Trail:Lean Angle, Right (deg.):Lean Angle, Left (deg.):Wheels, Type:Wheel, Size Front:Wheel, Size Rear:Brakes, Caliper Type:Tire, Front Specification:Tire, Rear Specification:
|Machined, Lakester cast aluminum|
|18-inch, 457 mm|
|18-inch, 457 mm|
|4-piston fixed front and 2-piston floating rear|
“Gone is the ugly Twin-Cam bottom end for a return to more normal proportions in the nosecone area.”
The Fatboy comes with a choice between the 107 cubic-inch, air-cooled Milwaukee-Eight that cranks out a generous 109 pound-feet of grunt, or the 114 cubic-inch version that brings119 pounds o’ grunt to the table. You can count on 47 MPG from whichever plant you choose. Unlike the frame, the engine has seen the light of day before and has been very well received. Relatively smooth and quiet, the Mil-8 engine runs with a balance shaft in the engine that tames the vibration significantly, perhaps too much according to the purists.
One thing the old guard will agree with is the shape of the right side of the engine; gone is the ugly Twin-Cam bottom end for a return to more normal proportions in the nosecone area. Oh, and the 45-degree V-Twin persists, I reckon we’re happy about that too. The engine still uses the old pushrod system, but instead of just a pair of poppets in each head the engine runs four for a total of eight, hence the ingeniously clever name.
|Model:||Fat Bay||Fat Boy 114|
|Engine:||Milwaukee-Eight® 107||Milwaukee-Eight® 114|
|Bore x Stroke:||3.937 in. x 4.374 in.||4.0165 in. x 4.5 in.|
|Displacement:||107 cu in||114 cu in|
|Engine Torque (J1349):||109 ft-lb @ 3,000 rpm||119 ft-lb @ 3,000 rpm|
|Fuel System:||Electronic Sequential Port Fuel Injection (ESPFI)||Electronic Sequential Port Fuel Injection (ESPFI)|
|Exhaust:||2-into-2 staggered; catalyst in muffler||2-into-2 staggered; catalyst in muffler|
|Transmission:||6-speed Cruise Drive||6-speed Cruise Drive|
“Tiered pricing takes you from a low of $18,999 for the base model in Vivid Black to $21,199 for the 115th Anniversary model.”
As ever, the Motor Company follows a tiered price structure based on color and engine selection. At the bottom of the scale, the Fat Boy 107 in Vivid Black will run you $18,999 while the 114 will set you back $20,299 for same. The second-tier “Color” option rolls for $19,399 and $20,699, respectively, and the two-tone package commands $19,749/$21,049. Available only to the 114-inch version for $21,199, the 115th Anniversary Edition sports the Legend Blue Denim paint with an asymmetrical eagle graphic on the tank that really gives it a look all its own.
|Model:||Fat Bay||Fat Boy 114|
|Colors:||Vivid Black, Black Tempest, Industrial Gray, Bonneville Salt Pearl; Two-Tone: Wicked Red/Twisted Cherry||Vivid Black, Black Tempest, Industrial Gray, Bonneville Salt Pearl; Two-Tone: Wicked Red/Twisted Cherry; Anniversary: Legend Blue Denim, Legend Blue/Vivid Black|
“Like the Fat Boy, the Chief absolutely oozes with retro appeal, just in different ways than the Fat Boy.”
Ya know, I took a look at the Boulevard M109R Blacked Out Special from Suzuki, but I just wasn’t feeling it. Why should I when I have another bona fide American legend to draw upon — Indian Motorcycle — and its Indian Chief? Like the Fat Boy, the Chief absolutely oozes with retro appeal, just in different ways than the Fat Boy. The classic full front fender sports the timeless Indian Head figure below fork skirts and round nacelle. A fuel-tank console carries the clock, but unlike the Fat Boy, you’ll have to hit the accessories catalog for a P-pad before you think about taking a passenger.
The Chief rolls with stock ABS and cartridge-type forks, but offers nothing beyond the same vanilla fare we get from Harley. Power from the 111 cubic-inch plant is about what you’d expect from a big V-twin with 119 pound-feet of torque on tap; equal to the Mil-8 114, but a skosh higher than the 107-inch plant I am using for this head to head. Honestly, anything over 100 is just vanity, right?
Pricing is comparable as well. The Chief rolls for $18,499 in Steel Gray, just $500 under the basic black Fat Boy 107, but Indian stops there with the color selection. While I like how Indian’s paint department is developing, I gotta say I’m a little disappointed with the lack of choices here.
“I’ve always loved the Fat Boy, right from the get go, and I’m pleased the factory brought it forward into this new Age of the Softail. The Mil-8 engine is a sweet plant even if Harley should probably be offering some traction control or power modes by now. Wink nudge, guys.”
My wife and fellow motorcycle writer, Allyn Hinton, says, “I notice that the new Fat Boy seems easier to stand up, and maybe all the new Softails, too, but I really noticed it with the Fat Boy. The bike stands more upright on the kickstand, so it’s just an easy tip up instead of a hoist. You feel the fat tires resisting the corners; not a bad thing, just noticeable. It’s a cruiser, so nimble isn’t the first adjective that comes to mind, anyway. The seat is very comfortable, so very plush; and you have to notice the lack of vibration. Numbing vibration had always been a given on a Harley, but not anymore. I like it. Low seat height, butt-friendly saddle and a smooth, dare I say it? luxurious ride.”
Engine & Drivetrain:
|Fat Boy:||Milwaukee-Eight® 107|
|Fat Boy 114:||Milwaukee-Eight® 114|
|Bore x Stroke:|
|Fat Boy:||3.937 in. x 4.374 in.|
|Fat Boy 114:||4.0165 in. x 4.5 in.|
|Fat Boy:||107 cu in|
|Fat Boy 114:||114 cu in|
|Fat Boy:||114: 10.5:1|
|Engine Torque (J1349):|
|Fat Boy:||109 ft-lb @ 3,000 rpm|
|Fat Boy 114:||119 ft-lb @ 3,000 rpm|
|Fuel System:||Electronic Sequential Port Fuel Injection (ESPFI)|
|Exhaust:||2-into-2 staggered; catalyst in muffler|
|Transmission:||6-speed Cruise Drive|
|Primary Drive:||Chain, 34/46 ratio|
|Gear Ratios (overall) 1st :||9.311|
|Gear Ratios (overall) 2nd:||6.454|
|Gear Ratios (overall) 3rd :||4.793|
|Gear Ratios (overall) 4th :||3.882|
|Gear Ratios (overall) 5th :||3.307|
|Gear Ratios (overall) 6th :||2.79|
|Rake (steering head) (deg):||30|
|Lean Angle, Right (deg.):||25.6|
|Lean Angle, Left (deg.):||25.6|
|Wheel, Front Type:||Machined, Lakester cast aluminum|
|Wheel, Rear Type:||Machined, Lakester cast aluminum|
|Wheel, Size Front:||18-inch, 457 mm|
|Wheel, Size Rear:||18-inch, 457 mm|
|Brakes, Caliper Type:||4-piston fixed front and 2-piston floating rear|
|Tires, Front Specification:||160/60R18,70V,BW|
|Tires, Rear Specification:||240/40R18,79V,BW|
|Dimensions & Capacities:|
|Ground Clearance:||4.5 in.|
|Overall Length:||93.3 in.|
|Overall Width:||38.8 in.|
|Seat Height, Laden:||25.9 in.|
|Seat Height, Unladen:||26.6 in.|
|Ground Clearance:||4.5 in.|
|Fuel Capacity:||5.0 gal.|
|Gross Vehicle Wt. Rating:||1175 lb.|
|Weight, As Shipped:||670 lb.|
|Weight, In Running Order:||699 lb.|
|Fuel Capacity:||5 gal.|
|Fuel Economy: Estimated City/Hwy:||47 mpg|
|Oil Capacity (w/filter):||5 qt.|
|Lights (as per country regulation), Indicator Lamps:||High beam, turn signals, neutral, low oil pressure, engine diagnostics, ABS, security, low battery voltage, low fuel|
|Gauges:||5 inch analog speedometer with digital gear, odometer, fuel level, clock, trip, range and tachometer indication|
|Fat Boy:||Vivid Black, Black Tempest, Industrial Gray, Bonneville Salt Pearl; Two-Tone: Wicked Red/Twisted Cherry|
|Fat Boy 114:||Vivid Black, Black Tempest, Industrial Gray, Bonneville Salt Pearl; Two-Tone: Wicked Red/Twisted Cherry; Anniversary: Legend Blue Denim, Legend Blue/Vivid Black|
|Vivid Black:||$18,999, Fat Boy 114: $20,299|
|Color:||$19,399, Fat Boy 114: $20,699|
|Two-Tone:||$19,749, Fat Boy 114: $21,049|
|Anniversary:||NA, Fat Boy 114: $21,199|
Suzuki Boulevard M109R B.O.S.S.
Indian Motorcycle Indian Chief