From Character to CharismaI guess back when a lot of us first rode a Fat Boy it was a case of putting some of its foibles down to ‘character’.
My first ride was early last decade and in the ensuing article I used that ‘character’ metaphor a lot. In hindsight it stood for ‘stuff other bikes did better’.
Take selecting neutral for example. It’s not that long ago that if you forgot to light the green N before you stopped at the traffic lights, it was a case of get ready for a lower arm workout for the duration of the light’s cycle. Engaging that heavy mother of a clutch.
You also got a lower leg workout, constantly rowing the heavy shift as it clunked between first and second gears, cunningly avoiding the ‘N’ slot - until you probably just gave up and sat there grimacing.
Generally once stopped, even with the somewhat woody pre-abs brakes mastered; you had to remain alert to give the throttle a blip in case it stumbled.
Depending on how far back you go, you also had to remember to clear its throat before you took off from the lights too.
There were other quirks; like the offset front wheel for example. On some of the late noughties models the front had a spacer to set the wheel slightly off the middle of the forks – so it lined up with the fat rear tyre further down the frame. The advent of thinner belt drives solved the problem.
My how the game has changed.
I spent a bit over two weeks cruising around South East Queensland on a brand new 2014 Fat Boy, with my Heavy Duty hat on, and what I got from the machine was smooth, easy, relaxed and quite…‘charismatic’. All those bugbears have been consigned to history.
There is still plenty of character in the latest edition, but now it’s not a metaphor. It’s in the pull, the torque and the smoothness of the 103cube, twin cam, counter-balanced, Softail engine. In the stumble free fuel injection and the ‘two finger’ ABS brakes. In the solid handling and compliant suspension that have all become just ‘that little bit better’ with every successive model year.
A quick glance at the spec sheet says not a lot has changed since the introduction of the 103 cube power plant (in 2011), only that the machine has indeed become more ‘refined’.
The Fatty’s wheelbase is still 1635mm, (a Road King is 1625mm and Street Bob is 1630mm for comparison) coupled with its 31 degree rake, 147mm trail and tried and trusted Softail chassis, it makes for a solid feel on the road. Even more than previous models, this one won’t change lines on uneven surfaces unless you tell it to.
The 6-speed ‘Cruise-drive’ transmission proved to be a complete turn-around from those early units too. It selected neutral without fail – even pushing it around the shed, with the engine off! No false neutrals or dodgey shifts either. The multi-plate clutch is now similarly efficient.
Very, very tidy.
I’ve always found the Fatty to be comfortable. The wide saddle and low profile (internally wired) handlebars are quite suitable for the larger gentleman, while the 690mm seat height will accommodate those built a bit lower to the ground too. Of course there is also the ‘Lo’ model for those that find the standard ergos a reach to far. But with feet perched on the wide footboards I found I could ride pretty much all day in good comfort and look da bomb while I did.
And that’s where the Fat Boy really sings to me. Looking at it. There is something ‘very right’ about its swooping lines, solid wheels and softy rear end.
Even it the assortment of colours that have passed my way. The 2014 orange, OK Amber Whiskey, is indeed a peach.
The wheels may no longer be cast in Adelaide as they once were, but the current versions are impeccably chromed and bring a different lustre to the entire machine.
As a starting point for a wild custom, or keep it stock, the Fatty is a great platform with real heritage.
I once asked Bill Davidson what ‘his’ bikes were. ‘I have several, but one is an original Fat Boy. Because I think that is just such an iconic Harley’ he answered enthusiastically.
Often credited with turning the company’s fortunes around when it was first released, the Fat Boy has come a long way to the modern, effortless machine it is today. Well worth another look.
Quite charismatic in fact.
GUTS & BOLTS
Bike: Harley-Davidson FLSTF Fat Boy
Type: Air-cooled, Twin Cam 103B™
Carburetion: Electronic Sequential Port Fuel Injection(ESPFI)
Air Cleaner: Paper, washable
Exhaust: Chrome, over/under shotgun
Type: 6-speed Cruise Drive®
Clutch: Multi-plate, wet
Primary Drive: Chain, 34/46 ratio
Rear Drive: Belt, 32/66 ratio
Type: Mild steel tubular frame; rectangular
section backbone; stamped, cast, and forged junctions; forged fender
supports; MIG welded
Seat: Low, narrow-cut with removable pillion section
WHEELS & TYRES
Mirror Chrome Aluminum Bullet Hole Disc
Front - 17 in. x 3.5 in. (432 mm x 89 mm)
Rear 17 in. x 6 in. (432 mm x 152 mm)
F Tyre: D408F 140/75R17 67V
R Tyre: D407 200/55R17 78V
F Brake: 292 mm
R Brake: 292 mm
Front: 41.3 mm telescopic, “beer can” covers
Rear: Hidden, horizontal-mounted, coil-over
Bars: Pull-back, internally-wired
Headlight: Chrome ball headlamp and front fork nacelle
PAINT & FINISH
Colour: Amber Whiskey