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
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