Har­ley-David­son sof­tail Line


more mod­els grow the pop­u­lar fam­ily sof­tail line of essen­tial h-D mo­tor­cy­cles

The Fat BoB is our

zom­bie apoc­a­lypse es­cape ve­hi­cle,” Har­ley’s prod­uct plan­ning chief had said when in­tro­duc­ing the re­vamped, bru­tally styled V-twin dur­ing the morn­ing’s press con­fer­ence. “It doesn’t go over things, it goes through things.” That’s one claim that I hadn’t planned to test on our ride through the hills north of Barcelona, but a large and pre­sum­ably stray dog had other ideas. Barely 10 min­utes into the ride, it sud­denly leapt across the road and towards the bike as our con­voy of Softails trun­dled through a sleepy Span­ish vil­lage.

Thank­fully, the Fat Bob backs up its strik­ing new look with re­duced weight plus im­proved brakes and sus­pen­sion. I slowed sharply, swerved and nar­rowly avoided the dog, then watched in my mir­ror as the fol­low­ing rid­ers stopped and man­aged to get past with­out be­ing mauled.

Har­ley will be hop­ing that most re­ac­tions to the Fat Bob’s ap­pear­ance are less hos­tile, but this bike and the oth­ers in the Sof­tail range have been de­signed to make an im­pact. En­gines and chas­sis are re­vamped across the new, eight-model fam­ily, which merges the old Sof­tail and Dyna ranges in what Har­ley call the big­gest new bike devel­op­ment project in its 115-year his­tory.

All eight get new chas­sis in­cor­po­rat­ing lighter, no­tably stiffer steel frames and swingarms and the more pow­er­ful and so­phis­ti­cated Mil­wau­kee-Eight en­gine, a mod­i­fied ver­sion of the eight-valve V-twin in­tro­duced with last year’s tour­ing fam­ily. They also get new sus­pen­sion in­clud­ing dual-bend­ing valve forks (as on the Tour­ing mod­els) and a di­ag­o­nally mounted rear shock, plus styling and de­tail mods in­clud­ing dis­tinct LED lights for each model.

It’s the Fat Bob’s new, rec­tan­gu­lar head­light that does most to give the bike its Amer­i­can pit-bull look and dif­fer­en­ti­ate it from its pre­de­ces­sor, whose twin-spot face dated back to the model’s in­tro­duc­tion in 2008. The Fat Bob, named af­ter its broad gas tank and bob­ber style; not Wil­lie G David­son’s chubby un­cle, has al­ways been a bel­liger­ent street­fighter with drag bars and edgy style.

Its new chas­sis con­trib­utes to the

sporty look by be­ing the only one of the fam­ily with steeper, 28-de­gree rake in­stead of the 30 de­grees of most mod­els (and the Break­out’s 34 de­grees). It also has a front end fea­tur­ing up­side­down forks and twin discs with four­pot calipers, while its 16-inch cast wheels wear chunky-treaded tyres in 150 front, 180 rear widths.

The Fat Bob is among the Softails that get the op­tion of Har­ley’s larger Mil­wau­kee-Eight 114 en­gine in most mar­kets, along­side the reg­u­lar 107 unit, the larger bore in­creas­ing ca­pac­ity from 1,745 to 1,868 cc and boost­ing torque through­out the rev range. The new bike keeps the model’s drag bars, rel­a­tively tall seat and for­ward-set foot-rests, which, com­bined with the tankmounted in­stru­ment panel and re­sul­tantly clean han­dle­bar area, give a racy, snub-nosed look and feel.

The launch bikes had the 114 en­gine which comes with dis­tinc­tive “ven­ti­la­tor in­take” air-fil­ter, and the Fat Bob’s straight-line re­sponse is also boosted by the new bike be­ing a handy 15 kg lighter than its pre­de­ces­sor. It cer­tainly leapt for­ward ur­gently, pulling crisply off idle when I let out the clutch, and pick­ing up the pace with ef­fort­less mid-range grunt while I gripped the wide drag bar with in­creas­ing force as the speed in­creased.

Straight-line per­for­mance is cer­tainly up on the out­go­ing model. Har­ley claim an ad­van­tage of a cou­ple of bike lengths in 0-100 km/h time, and in top-gear ac­cel­er­a­tion from there to 130 km/h, with a sim­i­lar gain be­tween 107 and 114 ci pow­er­plants. Even the big­ger-en­gined Fat Bob is no V-Max but it stormed for­ward with en­joy­ably strong force al­most what­ever the revs (I never thought to check), and was im­pres­sively docile to boot.

Har­ley’s en­gi­neers put much ef­fort into giv­ing the solidly mounted Mil­wau­kee-Eight en­gine the right amount of vi­bra­tion, partly by in­cor­po­rat­ing an ex­tra bal­ancer shaft to the

Tour­ing fam­ily unit, and

Tank-mounted clus­ter looks old­school, but packs dig­i­tal bits, too Full-LED ‘Day­maker’ head­lamp looks sharp and goes with the Fat Bob’s re­freshed char­ac­ter Mil­wau­kee-Eight 114-inch (1,868 cc) be­he­moth has mas­sive torque; In­dia gets the 107 (1,745 cc)

Belt-drive has to deal with a hefty 155 Nm of peak torque

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