Machine on a mission
How many ways can you scream Milwaukee?
Without question the new Dyna Fat Bob is the new boss of the Dyna platform, and that’s the toughest job in Milwaukee. This is, after all, the utility platform that for the last 15 years has been expected to be all things to all people; the entry level Big Twin, the sportbike, the sport-tourer, the darling of the distaff, the chopper, the bobber—you name it, and at one time or another there’s been a Dyna model taking on the task. But in all that time and all that multitasking there’s been one assignment that somehow got passed over, and that’s to be the quintessential Dyna; to bring all the road-ready attributes, practical virtues and fundamental Milwaukee attitude that the Dynas have demonstrated into one cohesive, eye-popping package. That’s the daunting assignment the new FXDF Dyna Fat Bob model has seemingly drawn, and to pull it off within the context of the platform’s broad mandate the model is being asked to cover a whole lot of stylistic and functional ground.
In the simplest, most rough and ready terms the Fat Bob is being asked to fill the shoes of the departed FXDX Dyna Super Glide Sport and the shoes of the presumably departing FXDWG Dyna Wide Glide which remains available this year only as a limited anniversary edition; being asked, in other words, to cover both the function and fashion extremes of Dynamism represented by those models. Oh, and everything in between.
That’s a tall order for any motorcycle, but Milwaukee’s given the new boss the tools to succeed at it. They’ve borrowed liberally from the stylish components of the Wide Glide, giving the Fat Bob that model’s dashing rear fender and struts, fat fuel tank, and elegant tank console. From the functional end of things they’ve brought back the dual front disc brakes that last appeared in 2006 on the Dyna Sport, and also given the bike the tightest rake and wheelbase of the breed. And just to keep things au courant, they’ve kicked in some rat-black bobber cred from the Street Bob. That’s a good start, but only the start, and it’s the surprising collection of Fat Bob-specific features and hardware that gives the bike its distinctive poise and personality, and results in what we can only describe as an uncompromising compromise.
Mostly it’s that imposing front end that defines the Fat Bob’s overtly aggressive tendencies. Wide-set 49mm forks, dual headlamps, chubby risers and wide drag bars, abbreviated fender, slotted disc cast-aluminum wheel and the blocky 130-section tire are all unique to the model. Visually, the elements integrate brilliantly, but more importantly, all that stoutness gives the bike a commanding presence and feel on the road. Grab those grips and you immediately have the sense of being in control of something capable of either jamming into a corner or plunging through a wall. That sense is further enhanced by a conspicuous pair of floating rotors and sufficient stiffness in the front springs to use them and use them hard. The drag-style handlebars are 32″ across, giving them something of a TT-bar feel with ample leverage for pointing that massive prow where you want it. Another advantage of that width is that, unlike the narrower drag bars found on the Night Train and Night Rod Special, these bars position the rearview mirrors out where they’re effective, giving you a full picture of the road behind rather than close-ups of your shoulders.
Adding to the Fat Bob’s brute credentials is the Tommy Gun 2-into-1-into-2 exhaust system which wraps the rear header up around the timing cover, ties both pipes together briefly and then separates and staggers them. It’s a hot setup, ornamented with slots cut in the rear pipe’s heat shield, but that’s not its most attractive feature. It’s the sound the system produces: a brash, gut-level resonance that gives a fuller voice to the TC96 motor than it’s had before.
And then there are those tires. I’ve never really thought of myself as a tire fetisher, but I have a hard time peeling my eyeballs off the gnarly reptilian tread pattern of the D427s on this bike. A fat 180/70-16 on the rear—the fattest rubber yet on a Dyna—pairs with the 130/90-16 on the front to give the bike a serious footprint. No other Harley model uses these units, and they have a jumbo supermoto look to them. They display confident manners on the pavement—both wet and dry—and behave pretty well on dirt, too, as I discovered on a long section of Central California’s Highway 198 where the asphalt had been unceremoniously removed in preparation for grading a whole new road bed, and no advance warning given of the fact that where once there’d been a highway, now there was a wide messy cow path. A dozen miles of loose dirt with the occasional surprise of vestigial beat asphalt was the result, and while I started out taking things gingerly, the Fat Bob’s gator-back rubber proved surefooted and I was well and enthusiastically on the throttle by the end of it.
The attribute of the Fat Bob that gives it the most potential market reach from a practical standpoint is another unprecedented Milwaukee move: The foot controls are offered in both mid- and forward-mount position. Our test specimen is the midmount variation which is not ideal for riders of my 35″ inseam, but that hardly came as a surprise. The Fat Bob’s low 26.1″ laden seat height puts my butt low and my knees high, and the forward controls would be the natural selection for riders of my dimensions. As it is, the midmounts are something I grew accustomed to quickly as a matter of necessity, and then settled into as a matter of routine. It helps a lot that the seat is accommodating and very comfortable, and while there have certainly been times when more leg stretch seemed like a real swell idea, mostly I’ve stopped thinking about it. On twisty back roads the positioning of the pegs, seat and handlebars has proven well suited to the hard charge. To what degree the forward mounting of the pegs would restrict the bike’s appreciable cornering clearance, if at all, would be a consideration in my choice of that option. It’s nice to have options.
Riding 1,265 miles in a month over a comprehensive sampling of road varieties and conditions, the Fat Bob performed superbly and delivered an average of 42.3 mpg overall. That’s what I’m talking about. A big bike with stump-pulling torque and a direct-drive 6-speed tranny as smooth as a televangelist. Impressive response to throttle and brake, eager and adept in the curves, composed and commodious on the long high-speed highway. All that and modern/ retro/menacing/utterly unique yet distinctively Milwaukee styling for under $15K.
Now that’s a Dyna.