Harley Davidson Fatboy Ride Review: FAT Couture

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Added in: Harley Davidson

I had never been a Harley fan and looked upon the machines from the stable as motorcycles which were high on glamour but low in terms of engineering quotient. But that perception existed only until recently, before I happened to get my hands on the Harley Davidson Iron 883 (read the review here). As amply iterated by auto-journalists worldwide, Harleys have never been about outright performance and speed, but loads and loads of torque, at your disposal with the slightest twist of your right wrist. The Iron 883 was an absolute delight to ride- particularly for the way it shattered my pre-conceived notions about the Milwaukee machinery.

After the delightful Iron 883 experience, it was time for us to sample a more exotic exponent of the American motorcycle maker’s dexterity. So we decided to put one of the most iconic offerings from Harley’s international lineup under the Motoroids review net. Displacing a massive 1690cc from its 45 degree v-twin and draped in an envy-inducing yellow attire, we swung a leg to get aboard the iconic Harley Davidson Fatboy FLSTF. If you’re confused about the FLSTF acronym- here what it means. FL stands for type of frame and the one which come mounted with big engines, ST means SoftTail and the last character stands for the model i.e F for Fatboy. Learnt something new today? Awesome! Back to the review.

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Next page for STYLING, BUILD QUALITY & FEATURES

STYLING, BUILD QUALITY AND FEATURES

If you love cruisers, the burly Fatboy would spark off a romantic saga with its visual aura. It has the ability to charge you up on a lazy, languid morning with its delightful interplay of chrome and contrasting shade. To go with the name, everything on the motorcycle was meant to look big (or may we say FAT) at all the right places. Starting from the big round headlight to that massive 200 section rear tyre – every bit on the motorcycle was made to overwhelm the rider by its sheer size.

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With styling meant to exude domination – the Fatboy is sheer grandeur on wheels. The design tale starts with bullet hole cast 17 inch solid wheels to satin chrome front forks with chromed barrels sporting Harley-specific Dunlop radial tyres. The 18.9L fuel tank bears a chrome Harley emblem and a leather strap.

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The glitter quotient is further enhanced by a chromed speedometer and ignition console. But the design highlight of the Harley Davidson Fatboy definitely has to be the engine area, particularly when viewed from the left side. The colossal air-cooled twin-cam 103 engine with a spotless chrome engine cover ensures that your eyes stay glued to it for an extended period.

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A vintage frame gives the Fatboy that classic hardtail appeal of the classics from the 60s and 70s era- but the Fatboy is actually a softail model with the frame hiding the horizontally mounted twin rear shock absorbers. A huge belt driven pulley and a fat rear fender with an equally fat rear tyre conclude the design chronicle of the Fatboy. I had my own moments of being in the spotlight when riding the Fatboy around the streets and highways of Goa. From kids to the elderly crowd- the Fatboy commanded attention from one and all.

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Talking of build quality- it’s absolutely top-notch. With the exception of the rear frame it would be extremely difficult for even a trained eye to spot a rough edge on the motorcycle. Paint quality feels deep and rich (the yellow hangover is still afresh in my mind). The images clicked of the motorcycle might not do justice to how good that paint look in the flesh. Blame the early morning rains that played spoilsport to a freshly minted coin the Fatboy seemed when it rolled out from the parking lot of the recently inaugurated Two Rivers showroom in Pune.

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The switchgear feels durable and constructed out of high grade plastic, but at the same time needs getting used to. The (self-canceling) blinker switches are placed where the starter and the horn button should be, the ignition is allotted in two different switches that also include the hazard light, the horn button is placed where generally you would find the high/low beam switch. A newbie would end up pressing all the wrong buttons initially- but thankfully having ridden the Iron 883 earlier, I was accustomed to the Harley scheme of things.

Harley Davidson Fatboy Switchgear
The low slung leather seat with its neat stitches offers a perfect mix of curves and cushion that should offer comfort for riders of all sizes. Further complementing the luxury quotient offered by the seat are the pulled back handlebars and the floorboards. The combination of these three renders an extremely comfortable riding posture. The floorboards in particular in addition to providing full support, offer freedom to the rider to shift his foot around to positions which he finds most comforting during long hauls. The same cannot be said about the pillion seat, which despite having decent amount of cushion isn’t the most comfortable place to be on the Fatboy. Shorter in length and devoid of a grab-rail or a backrest, the pillion would need to hold onto the rider- something which doesn’t go along very well with a cruiser image.

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The chrome-wrapped instrumentation is easy to read and provides all the necessary numbers to refer while on the move, including the distance to empty (DTE) indicator. Though I missed the tacho, but then a humongous v-twin that produces its peak torque at measly rpms doesn’t really need one. The ignition knob (similar to an engine kill-switch) lies below the speedometer which reveals the round key ignition slot when flipped to the side. Since the key need not be in the ignition slot, it’s easy to forget switching off the ignition with the key after the engine has been turned off using the knob. The refueler cap is placed on the right hand side of the speedometer and as is the case with other Harleys, doesn’t come with a lock. Thankfully a motorcycle which looks so vulnerable to miscreants comes with a handle lock located on the right side of the steering column. Even so, I wouldn’t really wish or even dare to park an attention-magnet as the Fatboy in a public place. The moment I would park the bike at any place, people flocked to get up-close with the Fatboy- the Gentleman with his kids was one of them.

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Next page for PERFORMANCE


PERFORMANCE

Engine and Gearbox

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Powered by a 1690cc Twin Cam 103 v-twin motor, the ‘power’ row in Fatboy’s spec sheet reads 61 bhp @ 5200 rpm – which seems unimposing for its engine size. But big-daddy V-twins have always been about torque rather than outright power. The Harley Davidson Fatboy cranks out a meaty torque figure of 132 nm at a super low 3250 rpm. All of that gut-wrenching twisting force is sent to that massive 200 section rear wheel via a belt drive spinning the huge pulley (sprocket) at the rear.

Harley Davidson Fatboy Sprocket(12)

Thumb the starter and the Fatboy fires to life in a blink emanating the traditional Harley V-Twin rumble. Enchanting to the ears, one might just keep twisting the throttle during idle to hear the exhausts singing the potato symphony. The Fatboy’s six speed gearbox isn’t the most refined out there, but ain’t bad either. It’s only the first gear that slots with an audible clunk while the rest of the gears shift with minimum fuss.

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Twist that wrist with a sense of urgency and the Fatboy surges forward. The acceleration is not urgent in sportbike fashion, but self-assured and convincing. Without even beginning to warm up, the Fatboy will take you to triple digit speeds. Before you slotted into even the third gear, the tacho needle is well past the 100 kph mark with the engine asking to shift into third gear. The Fatboy feels relaxed doing triple digit speeds in third and that v-twin laziness starts to show as you keep shifting to higher gears. The sixth gear is so tall that doing any less than 120 kph leads to some knocking from the engine.

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The lazy chugging trait of the Fatboy doesn’t mean you cannot have fun. While the sixth gear is best treated as an overdrive, one can play around with the rest of the gears. There is a sudden spike of torque higher up the rev-range and can be experienced in all except the top gear. It was fun keeping the throttle pinned to the max in fifth gear and the Fatboy would suddenly kick up that wild thrust once the needle gets to the 120 mark and shows some resistance only when the 160 kph mark comes up. Though that isn’t the right way of treating the Fatboy or rather any Harley (except the V-Rod), it does add a dash of spice to an otherwise languorous set of wheels which love munching miles without even making an effort.

Next page for HANDLING, RIDE QUALITY & BRAKING

Handling, Ride Quality and Braking

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If you haven’t ridden Harleys before, the Fatboy does appear to be an intimidating prospect at the outset – thanks to its massive proportions. But once you lay your bottom on the couch-like saddle, all apprehensions are put to rest. The Fatboy surprises you with its effortlessness considering it’s still a huge motorcycle. Not that it feels as feathery as your everyday streetbike, but it does feel a lot lighter and rider friendly from the saddle than off it.

Holding the handlebars at first might seem like operating an anti-aircraft gun, but they are extremely rider friendly in operation. Steering a 330 kg motorcycle somehow feels awfully stress-free with that pair in hand. The weight, along with the 1635mm wheelbase shows up for good, rendering terrific straightline stability – numbers on the speedo don’t matter with the Fatboy running with authority of a locomotive on rails. The Harley-specific Dunlop radials provide ample bite into the tarmac. Minor undulations don’t baffle the Fatboy, but rough patches and speed breakers apart from posing underbody grinding threats, do manage to filter through. The Fatboy might be a softail, but the travel of the rear suspension isn’t enough to soak up larger impacts.

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From high speed highway runs, it was time to squeeze the Fatboy into the narrow lanes of Goa. To re-iterate, the Fatboy makes light work of its weight and with oodles of torque right from the word go – it was relatively easy to wriggle in and out of slow moving traffic and it does surprise you with its flicking ability. The discomforting factor riding the Fatboy in a stop-go scenario would be the sauna treatment meted out to your right thigh by the second cylinder exhaust pipe – the heat occasionally gets too much to bear. Also the clutch isn’t amongst the lightest in operation and would leave your wrist and fingers aching during extended stop-go runs.

Going around bends isn’t the Fatboy’s forte, not that it cannot- but is rather restricted by the footboards/exhausts that allow no more than (Harley specified) 27 degree left and 26.2 degree right leaning angles. Even with constrained lean angles, torquey long strokers have their own pleasure while going around corners- you may put your left foot and the gear lever to rest and just play around with the throttle to get in and out of twisties. The pleasure of riding the Fatboy around curves doesn’t come from making the footboard kiss the tarmac, but from the effortlessness in which the Fatboy works itself around.

Harley Davidson Fatboy disc brake

An enormous motorcycle with mindboggling torque figures needs equally good stopping power. The ABS equipped four piston front 292mm single disc and a ditto sized two piston rear disc provides adequate braking ability- but the brakes are left wanting while slowing down or stopping from high speeds. Also the ABS doesn’t feel as efficient at higher clicks as they do at regular speeds. The levers demand a harder squeeze for effective braking. I wish the Fatboy came with twin discs upfront equipping it with that added stopping ability or at least a larger diameter front rotor.

Next page for CONCLUSION & TECHNICAL SPECIFICATIONS

CONCLUSION

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With higher capacity motorcycles now available in India, the Harley Davidson Fatboy FLSTF at starting price of INR 14,99,000 is on the expensive side. But Classic Harleys have never been cheap. If one wants a bike on a budget, he should probably be looking elsewhere. The Fatboy is not meant for those looking at out and out performance – it’s about the visual appeal, the on-board feel, the unhurried, torquey character and the way it absolutely overshadows anything else on the road with its majestic presence.

The Harley Davidson Fatboy is an icon- a legendary offering from the Milwaukee manufacturer that has stood the test of time. There’d be a very few motorcycles on the planet that would come close to matching the sheer retro-attitude of the Harley Davidson Fatboy. It’s an absolute charmer!

SPECIFICATIONS

ENGINE
TypeAir-cooled, Twin Cam 103B™
Bore98.4 mm
Stroke111.1 mm
Displacement1,690 cc
Compression Ratio9.6:1
Fuel SystemElectronic Sequential Port Fuel Injection (ESPFI)
Max Power61 bhp @ 5200 rpm
Max Torque132 nm @ 3250 rpm
DRIVETRAIN
Primary DriveChain, 34/46 ratio
Final DriveBelt
CHASSIS
ExhaustChrome, over/under shotgun exhaust with dual mufflers
Wheels FrontType Silver, Bullet Hole Disc Cast Aluminum
Wheels RearType Silver, Bullet Hole Disc Cast Aluminum
DIMENSIONS
Length2,396 mm
Seat Height690 mm
Ground Clearance130 mm
Rake (steering head)31 degrees
Trail147 mm
Wheelbase1,635 mm
TYRES
Front Specification140/75R17 67V
Rear Specification200/55R17 78V
BRAKES
Front4-piston caliper with 292 single disc
Rear2-piston caliper with 292 single disc
(Optional ABS)
Fuel Tank Capacity 18.9 l
Oil Capacity3.3 l
Weight (Ride Ready)330 kg
LEAN ANGLES
Right26.2 degrees
Left27 degrees
ELECTRIC
Lights (as per country regulation)
Indicator Lamps 7High beam, neutral, low oil pressure, turn signals, engine diagnostics, security system (optional), 6-speed, low fuel warnings
GaugesTank-mounted electronic speedometer with odometer, time-of-day clock on odometer, dual tripmeter, RPM/gear display, fuel gauge with low fuel warning light and countdown feature, low oil pressure indicator light, engine diagnostics readout, LED indicator lights, 6-speed indicator light
Fuel Efficiency (as tested on the ride)14-15 kpl
Price (Ex-showroom, Delhi)INR 14,99,000/-
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