Harley Davidson usually has quirky names for its bikes, like Fat Boy, or the latest, Fat Bob. However, the characteristics of this bike are nothing as the names suggest. The size of the 2019 Fat Bob might put some chill down your spine. It appears that the bike was designed keeping World War III or a Zombie Apocalypse in mind. The flamboyant exhaust pipes are the first elements that catch your attention. Though skinny on the inside, the cover gives the exhaust a neat classic look. The modern look is delivered by the LED headlamp and the instrument cluster which houses a digital speedometer and an analogue rev meter. The way the handlebars taper on the compact and stunning Fat Bob gives the bike a more elegant look. The paint job and the added finishes on the Bob compliment its overall modern-classic look, staying true to Harley Davidson heritage.
Rider comfort is probably the most debated subject when it comes to bikes. The cruiser bikes often come with an option to adjust the handlebar, and in most of them, the footpegs and seat can also be adjusted. In the case of Bob, it's quite handy to adjust the handlebars to suit the height of the rider. The seat is well-designed and cushioned, which make long journeys comfortable. Speaking of the handlebar, the mirror placement is quite off in the new 2019 Fat Bob. The rider can just see their arms in it, and nothing else.
The bike brings an immense amount of confidence even when riding on rough roads because of the large 150-section tyre (which is 25 per cent broader than any other road bike) on the front. However, manoeuvring between traffic is slightly laboured and cumbersome. The LED headlamp is neat and the design is unique. It does compliment the overall design language of the bike. Unlike its older variants, it performs well at night, highlighting the road ahead of you.
Engine and gearbox
The engine on the Harley Davidson Bob is based on the latest motor used in HD’s tourers the Milwaukee-Eight® 107, which translates to 1745cc, producing a peak torque of 145Nm. Surprisingly, the engine on the Fat Bob is oil and air-cooled. There is no room for installation for the water-cooled heads as there is no room for the radiators. Harley Davidson has somehow managed to squeeze the oil cooler between the frame. Cruising at 100kmph gets smoother with the two balancer shafts and light clutch. Gear changes are clunky enough to scare other bikers on the road. It is a constant reminder of some serious mechanical movement going on in there.
The fuelling is spot-on, too, and this ‘two-pints-per-cylinder’ V-twin pulls easily from just below 1000rpm right through to 5500rpm, although in the first five (of six) gears you’ve changed up long before that — peak torque (145 Nm) is at 3500rpm and you feel it drop away soon afterwards. Given the fact that the bike only revs to 6000rpm, it is decent if not the best number. Ridden in isolation, the Fat Bob feels quick and punchy, but when running in heavy traffic, it does feel a bit bogged down during overtakes. With a 13.5-litre tank, you can put close to 230Km behind, which is not bad for a bike of this size (in reference to the engine).
Milwaukee: Eight® 107, Engine layout: 45° V-twin, Engine details: Oil- and air-cooled, single cam, pushrod 8v, Capacity: 1745cc (102 x 114.3mm), Power: 93bhp @ 5020rpm (claimed), Torque: 145 Nm @ 3500rpm (claimed), Tank size: 13.6 litres, Rider aids: ABS
Harley Davidson made some radical changes this year by completely moving from the Dyna twin shock chassis of the previous years to the softails which resemble a vintage hardtail by incorporating a single shock absorber that is well hidden in a frame. The Fat Bob's frame has been improved to add increased stiffness, along with new suspension and shock absorber with remote preload adjustment. On the front are the two upside-down Showa forks. The brakes are uprated too — twin four-piston callipers at the front work really well, which is good because you can’t get enough stomp on the rear pedal to do much else other than switch on the brake light. The sporty-set suspension has enough control to cope with fast corners and just about enough ride quality to be comfy too. The remote preload adjuster on the rear shock is useful but positioned so close to the exhaust that you can’t twist it while the engine is hot (I learnt this the hard way while trying to adjust it on the Fat Boy a year back). All-in-all the Fat Bob is surprisingly confident on a twisty road and that's important.
‘Most improved manufacturer’ is the award that Harley Davidson should be nominated for, had there been such a category in the motor industry. The new generations of Harley Davidson motorcycles are smooth, they have powerful engines, lightweight clutches, chassis that offer great control in the corners and suspensions that soak up bumps, and these new bikes hardly ever break down. I was also a part of a workshop Harley Davidson had hosted, where I got to see how bikes are serviced at the service centre and why there are certain service intervals required. I was impressed with the number of bikes that actually get serviced (through independent sources). The service intervals for a Harley Davidson are marginal, but surely lesser as compared to other bikes.
The design language of the bike is superb. The Harley Davidson heritage and their commitment to deliver good road bikes stand true with the Fat Bob. Some issues which can be addressed include the mirrors. You can barely see the road let alone the vehicles on it as most of the space on the mirror is occupied by my arms.
The rear brake needs some attention too; it is mostly because of the angle of the brake pedal, but then, people of different height might find it just right. Apart from these two issues, it is a great bike and most importantly, it's worth every penny spent.