Me­talo­ca­lypse

We came away im­pressed with the 2018 Har­ley-David­son Fat Bob when we first rode it in Spain. How does it fare in the harsh In­dian sum­mer heat? Let us find out

Bike India - - FIRST RIDE - STORY: HAR­KET SUCHDE PHO­TOG­RA­PHY: SANJAY RAIKAR

swel­ter­ing af­ter­noon, mer­cury level inch­ing closer and closer to the 40° Cel­sius mark, and a big V-twin amer­i­can cruiser to shoot. i am quak­ing in my riding boots at the prospect of hav­ing my thighs cooked as i ride through con­gested city streets on a big-dis­place­ment bike made for eat­ing up the miles on open roads. these big, im­ported bikes have a cer­tain rep­u­ta­tion for get­ting a lit­tle too hot to han­dle on in­dian city streets, and i didn’t want to fall vic­tim to the ef­fects of this rep­u­ta­tion. Usu­ally, big and bad pow­er­ful bikes re­sult in an al­most puppy-like un­bri­dled en­thu­si­asm from yours truly, but the ef­fects of global warm­ing have well and truly tem­pered (par­don the pun) the en­thu­si­asm, with a healthy dose of trep­i­da­tion en­ter­ing the mix in­stead. turns out, i needn’t have wor­ried so much. But we’ll get to that.

first, let’s talk kerb pres­ence. the fat Bob has al­ways had a pow­er­ful, low-onits-haunches stance, and that has only been am­pli­fied by the chunky UsD forks, wide fuel tank, and at­trac­tive black alu­minium wheels wrapped in size­able rub­ber. all these el­e­ments al­lude to the bike’s moniker, but the ab­so­lute stand­out el­e­ment has to be that rec­tan­gu­lar leD head­lamp unit that it sports. out go the twin cir­cu­lar pods from fat Bobs past, and in comes this new and, quite frankly, ab­so­lutely wicked light­ing unit that, in part, prompted the talk­ing heads at H-D to de­scribe this model as a “zom­bie apoc­a­lypse es­cape ve­hi­cle” when we got our first look at it in spain.

it just gives the fat Bob a fresh, stand­out iden­tity and makes it in­stantly rec­og­niz­able from amongst its peers in the brand’s 2018 sof­tail line-up. toss in other key el­e­ments like the prom­i­nent dou­ble-bar­rel ex­haust, flat drag­steresque bars, and a svelte blacked-out en­gine and you have a bike that has an al­most mag­netic qual­ity to it. the float­ing rear end with the stubby fen­der looks kind of odd in my book, but it isn’t a deal-breaker by any means. i even kind of liked the fact that the brake lights are in­te­grated into the in­di­ca­tors flank­ing the tail-end. all the dif­fer­ent styling cues, when mar­ried to the classy, dual-tone paint job with tank ac­cents, make for one en­gag­ing pack­age that’s part in­tri­cate and part in­tense. in a nut­shell, the fat Bob looks mean — chew you up and spit you out mean — like only a big Har­ley can.

look­ing good when parked on the kerb is great, but that’s only one com­po­nent of the over­all pack­age, and in or­der to suss out the next com­po­nent, it was time to swing a leg over the fat

Bob. when you climb aboard this con­tem­po­rary bob­ber, the first thing you might no­tice is the seat. You pos­i­tively sink in and it feels plush and oh-so-com­fort­able. it is also per­fectly con­toured to pro­vide a bit of sup­port to your lower back and keep you firmly in the sad­dle when you un­load all that torque and streak off the line. the riding po­si­tion is nice and up­right, al­low­ing you to sur­vey all from your comfy perch. the for­ward-set foot-pegs mean you’re in re­laxed cruis­ing mode, which is what this bike is all about. the tank-mounted info clus­ter has an old­school ana­logue tacho and a mod­ern dig­i­tal speedome­ter. it also of­fers ad­di­tional dis­plays for fuel lev­els, gear in­di­ca­tor, and odome­ter, and all these dis­parate el­e­ments fit in rather well con­sid­er­ing how com­pact the whole unit is. the switchgear is tra­di­tional H-D, so you’ll prob­a­bly take a breath to fig­ure it out if you’re un­fa­mil­iar with it.

thumb the starter and the big Mil­wau­kee-eight 107 V-twin rum­bles to a start. that rum­ble grows into a crescendo. the new 1,745-cc en­gine pro­duces 145 nm at 3,250 rpm and is mated to a six-speed gear box, which is,

of course, belt-driven like any sel­f­re­spect­ing Bar & shield bike. like the en­tirety of the 2018 sof­tail line-up, it is not just the en­gine that’s new on the fat Bob. the chas­sis has been given a thor­ough makeover with the fat Bob get­ting a lighter, stiffer steel frame and swingarm (con­tribut­ing to the 15-kg weight loss the fat Bob has got­ten), and the steep­est rake an­gle of the lot at 28 de­grees. the showa sus­pen­sion unit is all new, too, with 43-mm up­side-down forks up front, and a con­cealed monoshock unit re­mote preload adjust in the rear. Brak­ing du­ties are per­formed by a twin-disc set-up with four-pis­ton calipers up front and a sin­gle-disc two-pot caliper set-up at the rear. those 16-inch cast alu­minium wheels i men­tioned ear­lier are shod with a 150-width tyre at the front and a 180-width one at the rear.

the new 107 en­gine with four valves per cylin­der is more pow­er­ful than its twin-cam pre­de­ces­sor, and more re­fined as well. ac­cel­er­a­tion is in­stant — as soon as you drop the ham­mer down, the torque spread on the fat Bob is fan­tas­tic, with the bike pulling from pretty much any­where along its rev range in all gears. re­fine­ment lev­els have def­i­nitely gone up, with the en­gine be­ing less vibe-y than be­fore, but with­out los­ing all of its cruiser char­ac­ter — H-D say that new twin bal­ancer shafts may be given credit for this. in fact, the vibes are only re­ally felt post 5,000 rpm but with the torque peak­ing at just over 3k revs, there’s re­ally no rea­son for the rider to be hov­er­ing in the 5,000-rpm+ re­gion, es­pe­cially when the fat Bob cruises com­fort­ably at tripledigit speeds in sixth even be­low the 3,000-rpm mark. when you are climb­ing the revs and gath­er­ing pace, though, the bel­low from the ex­haust is quite a de­light­ful sound. it just thrums, get­ting deeper and more boom­ing, like the bridge in a thrash me­tal bal­lad, and urges you to keep twist­ing that throt­tle.

now to ad­dress the heat is­sue, or lack thereof. well, i rode around the city for nigh on two hours; heavy traf­fic and long stops at the sig­nal all be­ing part of the scene. as long as you’re in mo­tion, there’s no heat what­so­ever. when you’re wait­ing at a red light, though, you do feel things get­ting mildly

The Fat Bob looks mean — chew you up and spit you out mean — like only a big Har­ley can

un­com­fort­able, par­tic­u­larly on the right side, but it isn’t un­bear­able by any means, and a lot less stress-in­duc­ing than i first ex­pected it to be. even the ride qual­ity was a pleas­ant sur­prise. the new sus­pen­sion set-up soaks in all the bumps and break­ers with ease, al­though its low ground clear­ance means the more abruptly de­signed speed-break­ers will cause you to bottom out if you’re car­ry­ing too much speed. where the fat Bob ab­so­lutely blew me away, though, was in the cor­ners. at slow speeds, its fat tyres and 309-kg kerb weight can be felt when nav­i­gat­ing cor­ners, but as soon as you carry some mo­men­tum go­ing in, the fat Bob just leans in and holds its line. that old cliché about cruis­ers be­ing no good in cor­ners def­i­nitely doesn’t ap­ply here. Brak­ing, too, is pretty solid, even though the set-up on this fat Bob is es­sen­tially iden­ti­cal to its pre­de­ces­sor’s. the bite is solid and the bike is sta­ble while shed­ding speed.

it’s ob­vi­ous, i think, that i en­joyed my time in the sad­dle of the 2018 fat Bob. it has loads of at­ti­tude and would fit right into Red Dead Re­demp­tion or The Last

of Us (two of my favourite zom­bie apoc­a­lypse video games) and has the gut-bust­ing punch to match its butch looks. Price-wise, you’re look­ing at an out­lay of rs 14.60 lakh (ex-Delhi) and for that money, you get some­thing that looks great, rides well, and will even come in handy if the world is run over by the army of the un­dead. what more can you ask for?

Only avail­able with the 107inch en­gine in In­dia, more pow­er­ful 114 is an op­tion in mar­kets abroad

Flat bar and tank-mounted in­stru­men­ta­tion add to the bike’s quirky style

Su­per comfy seat for the rider, not too much room for a pil­lion

Full-LED head­lamp is the jewel in the Fat Bob crown

Dual-tone twin ex­haust matches the bike’s aes­thetic mo­tif

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