Sleek, Sexy and a Performance-Built Fatty
When I first threw a leg over the 2019 Harley-Davidson Fat Bob at Daytona International Speedway, I was not a fan. It had already been a long day testing Harley’s new and very comfortable FLHT Electra Glide Standard (see our June issue for a review) and it was Bike Week and traffic was piling up and my legs didn’t work right and my feet couldn’t find the pegs and the only healthy thing on my mind was how early that morning, after sunrise, the shot girls had already set up their booths at the hotel I was staying at and I was determined to make good on my promise to pay them a visit, nap and venture out to the neon-lit parties after a big dinner with strong coffee.
But just as the most passionate relationships start out with a fair degree of hate, coupled with frustration and nagging curiosity, I was soon to embark on a fiery five-day tryst – all thanks to Harley-Davidson.
When the Fat Bob first debuted in 2018, after H-D abruptly snuffed out its much-loved Dyna line and unleashed a dramatically redesigned – and improved – Softail line, it was met with some gnashing of teeth by the faithful. But with the Motor Company determined to disregard norms, buck convention and invite criticism in order to reach a younger generation of riders, I would say the company nailed it with the Fat Bob.
Sure, a lot of angst over the Fat Bob came from its admittedly non-traditional look. But that is also what makes it so damn sexy and exotic, especially when you contemplate the inner workings of the sporty and smooth Milwaukee-Eight engine that sits at its core.
Instead of an abundance of chrome, the bike uses a matte finish and textured black powdercoat to stand out. This retro bobber sports a stubby rear fender, chunky tires and a massive exhaust covered by a copper-colored heat shield that terminates with two upswept cans. Pow! With ample hips and a stacked rack, the Fat Bob is tough and built for performance—exactly the thing some Harley riders demanded. This isn’t you’re your father-in-law’s Harley and his daughter sure knows that.
Ripping around the Florida swamp for days in search of some elusive twisties, at times making do by weaving through traffic at questionable speeds, the bike was stiff and the frame solid, responding instantly to inputs with plenty of feedback and lotsa torque on tap. Clearly, this is a bike meant to be ridden hard, and seeing that the lean angles are 31 and 32 degrees, respectively, only the bravest of souls are gonna get those pegs to spark.
I rode the 107 c.i. version ($17,049) but wish I’d had the 114 c.i ($18,849) version (next time Harley!) Still, the 107 is still the go-to engine for the majority of Harley’s touring line, in this case shoehorned into a smaller, Softail package.
This Softail features an adjustable handlebar that, with a few spins of an Allen wrench, can easily be manipulated to your favorite angle. Beneath is a beefy-yet-plush inverted fork held at a 28-degree rake, while dual discs up front gave quick and sure stops when the race to beat the light failed. Even the seat was well-designed, keeping me comfortably in place without much wiggle room. All told, this is a nimble performance cruiser despite being 650-odd pounds dry.
While the bike is more than comfortable on the highway for just cruising, it is nimble enough to be considered a fantastic daily commuter in any of America’s great urban hellscapes. And maybe that is how Harley should market this bike to get new riders. Great for the open road and through the twisties – and a brawler in the urban jungle while you’re playing mirror footsie with the cages.
Complaints? One, that the 5500-rpm redline maybe sneaks up a bit too quickly, especially when the engine seems to have so much more to give. And two, that sitting too long at idle can make the right thigh a little toasty. But those are just niggles.
As a dude from Alabama said as he parked his Fat Bob next to mine after a day of riding, “This is my favorite Harley ever, but the wife rode on the back once and would never ride on it again unless I got a sissybar.”
“With the way you ride, I would have been dead ten times over,” the wife said, then asked me for a light.
That’s ultimately a pretty small complaint when the Fat Bob is truly revolutionary in terms of style and performance. And that has to be respected whether you love it or hate it.
- Price as Tested: $17,049 (107 c.i. engine, Bonneville Salt Denim paint)
- Engine Type: Air-cooled, transverse 45-degree V-twin, SOHC, 4 valves per cyl.
- Displacement: 1,746cc
- Transmission: 6-speed,
- cable-actuated assist clutch
- Final Drive: Belt
- Wheelbase: 63.6 in.
- Rake/Trail: 28 degrees/5.2 in.
- Seat Height: 28 in.
- Wet Weight: 668 lbs.
- Fuel Capacity: 3.6 gals.