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Article By: Chris Callen
Photos By: Riles & Nelson
Originally Published In The May 2018 Issue Of Cycle Source Magazine
This is an especially odd test ride article for me to write since I am a huge fan of the new Softail line and the Milwaukee Eight engine. While I have loved the FatBoy since the very first one in its battleship grey paint job with yellow accent rings, this was my least favorite bike of the Softail models we rode on the press launch. Not to give you the wrong idea right off the bat, it has all the goodies I love about the rest of the Softails, but it has some features that I think I’ve just outgrown as a rider. Now, let’s not get carried away with the cons just yet. My original assessment still stands, the FatBoy is available with a 107 or a 114 Milwaukee Eight engine. I don’t think we need to focus a whole lot on the engine since we have done several articles already. I will just simply say that I think it’s a bad ass power plant for any out of the showroom motorcycle. With 109 footpounds of torque from a bike that weighs in at 670 pounds, this thing has the power to be fun all day long. It has power across the range and is more rider friendly for those at any skill level. Given its 25.9-inch seat height, it would seem that Harley-Davidson is making sure that this bike is ready for all riders.
It comes with the same improved Softail frame design that boast a drop of 30 pounds on average across the line when compared to any of their predecessors which adds up to free ponies. That’s matched with performance front and rear suspension. Up front, they have a racing style, their words, cartridge fork that features reduced weight and linear dampening characteristics. In the rear is the new mono shock suspension that features ease of adjustability. I can tell you that on this model, like every one of the new Softails I rode, the handling from the suspension has been unparalleled by any of their previous models. The fact that you no longer get walk in the corners and there is very little rebounding when you cross a rough patch of asphalt is a very welcome change. It has ABS braking as a standard option, and for those that missed our report on this when it first started coming around… Yes, you can beat ABS one time out of ten or so if you are a highly skilled rider, but the facts prove that ABS will consistently beat natural reaction. It’s just science. While they kept the cowling that long time FatBoy fans are familiar with they have changed the shape of the headlight and have made it LED that has much brighter lighting, but I’m not altogether sold on the look of it. Not because I’m hanging on to the old but rather because it features sharper lines in contrast with the rest of the bike that for the majority is smooth. I’m not sure what other parts I would change to make this more complimentary, but it’s not like the headlight alone is a deal breaker.
The rest of what they did here as far as design were some nice choices. Combining chrome with brushed aluminum, creating that tough “Steam Roller” stance as they refer to it, is in line with what FatBoy customers would expect. Let’s talk about the ride. Like the other Softails, I can report almost the same impressions from riding the new FatBoy. It gets up quick, had power any place I looked for it, stopped very well, was comfortable even over pretty good distance. Here is where I find that the FatBoy doesn’t get as high a report from me as say the Fat Bob or the Street Bob. It’s in the corners. In the corners I felt like I had to shove this bike at times. With its 240-rear tire, there was a point where you were literally up on the edge of the tread, and it resisted your input. This is nothing new for those of us that came through the hay day of bikes like the American Iron Horse or the Big Dog’s, and the combination of a 240 in the rear with a narrower wheel on the front end has always yielded the same results. I guess it’s just been a while since I’ve ridden one of these and with the majority of bikes, today being in line with real-world performance I was uncomfortable with one that took a little extra work in the corners. Like I said from the beginning of these report on the new Softail family, they have delivered a new family that addresses three generations of riders all in one. Some of the models from this family appeal more to Boomers, some to Gen X & Y, and some will be more favorable to the Millennials. Still, at $18,999, it’s a great bike at a good price and when you couple in the iconic status of the FatBoy heritage and a fuel economy of 47 miles to the gallon, it’s pretty sweet. Check it out today at your local Harley-Davidson dealership or see more info online at www.harley-davidson.com