2008 Harley-Davidson Fat Bob | Motorcycle Review
The illustrious Dyna family of Harley-Davison has been in the business of fusing Big Twin muscle with lean custom styling since the introduction of the Sturgis model in 1991. The platform actually hearkens back another 20 years to the seminal 1971 Super Glide, which grafted the Sportster’s gangly front end to an Electra Glide frame, forming the FX chassis.
With that kind of rawboned ancestral input, the factory-custom clan has typically produced lithe, sinewy offspring. One glance at the burly new FXDF Fat Bob and it is evident that someone’s been in the kitchen with Dyna—and it ain’t Jenny Craig. (Click image to enlarge)
Like Charles Barkley swaggering onto a golf course, the Fat Bob rolls into Harley’s 2008 lineup as the charming brute that carries his abundant chunk with confidence. The stocky front end is grounded by a bulging 130mm Dunlop, cut with an aggressive tread pattern and wrapped around a 16-inch slotted hot rod aluminum disc wheel. A runty sport fender lends the pudgy bun a properly bobbed demeanor. Girthsome 49mm forks, with blacked-out lowers, frame the wide-eyed dual headlights that H-D hopes will distinguish the bike on the road—provided the road in question is devoid of Speed Triples and the like. Topping off the Fat Bob’s imposing frontage are hefty, internally wired drag bars which swoop back slightly in a V-bend from the blacked out risers.
The paunch continues with the distended 5-gallon Fat Bob tank, which features a new Bar and Shield medallion and a chrome and leather console-tank strap combination. A 2-1-2 staggered shorty Tommy Gun exhaust coils around the black-powdercoated and polished Twin-Cam 96 engine. The slotted exhaust shield recalls the cooling vents of the classic gangster gat and allows the rear cylinder pipe’s hues to evolve as the bike matures.
The Fat Bob’s stout hindquarters are as aggressively styled as the rest of the bike. A 180mm rear tire balances the big front rubber with its belligerent tread and 16-inch disc beneath a hefty bobtail fender. The familiar exposed Dyna coil rear shocks are enclosed in a gleaming chrome full metal jacket casing.
Helmet: Shoei RJ-Platinum R
Eyewear: Harley-Davidson Profile
Jacket: Tour Master Coaster
Gloves: Shift Primer
Pants: Shift Torque Street Jeans
Boots: Wesco Boots. (Click image to enlarge)
Despite its slow metabolism, the Fat Bob shares some family tradition with its svelte-by-comparison siblings. All bikes in the platform roll on the Dyna chassis, which was redesigned in 2006 for increased stiffness and improved handling. The familiar under-seat battery box also survives. New touches for 2008 include a redesigned airbox cover and black stainless steel braided brake lines.
Legs of all shapes and sizes are easily tossed over the roomy and plush two-up saddle. At 26 inches, it places you a wallet-width farther from the pavement than that of the Dyna Low Rider. Reaching the drag bars requires almost full extension for those of moderate arm length. Coupled with forward controls, this results in a riding position that is either laid back clamshell or stiff-limbed jackknife, depending on the rider’s dimensions. Taller pilots will certainly find the configuration relaxed and comfortable. Mid-mount pegs are available as a factory option and provide a much more orthodox, upright posture.
Whatever your seating preference, firing up the rubber mounted Twin-Cam 96 serves up a deliciously orotund steak-and-potato growl. Making 92 ft lbs of torque at a modest 3,000 rpm, the Harley powerplant offers substantial low-end pull, investing the 700-pounder with an agility that belies its heft. Sure, Bob may be a bit on the portly side, but if you pegged him for a graceless, lumbering ox, you would be mistaken.
Thwacking into first and pulling away from the curb on a Fat Bob fitted with mid-mount pegs yields some pleasant feedback through the boot soles that smoothes out as you run through the fluid 6-speed Cruise Drive gearbox. Clutch effort is light and smooth. Straight-line acceleration reveals plenty of EFI-assisted punch through the mid-range, while the porcine Dunlops collude with the suspension to iron out wrinkles in the road.
That same abundance of rubber, along with the 29-degree rake, might predict a hampered dexterity through the twisties, but once the bike starts to lean, cornering becomes surprisingly brisk for a heavyweight cruiser. The mid-mount peg setup enhances the bike’s burly athleticism and makes for a comfortable long-range perch. While the Bob can weave when called upon, the most fun to be had comes from pointing the bike straight down the highway and opening up the throttle. That is when 96 rumbling cubes, a face full of windblast and a belching exhaust amount to a sum greater than its burly parts. It is the familiar Harley formula, only now with more calories. (Click image to enlarge)
As the namesake canteen nears empty, the instrument panel’s LED insert displays a reverse countdown feature that rings the Fat Bob’s dinner bell a mile before the bike becomes a roadside attraction. If your taste runs more toward elective stoppage, 4-piston calipers pinch the dual 300mm front discs, while a familiar single 292mm disc, two-piston arrangement halts the rear wheel with decent feel at the lever. Certainly, the brakes are more than adequate to arrest the big Dyna, and the hefty front rotors add to the bike’s rugged mien. However, it would have been nice to see the Brembos that now adorn the Touring and VRSC models trickle down to the Dyna line.
The Motor Company’s tough new dual-headlight bruiser comes in a wardrobe of seven colors, but like all true hooligans, the Fat Bob musters a bit more pugnacious swagger in its matte Black Denim gear.
Harley-Davidson has chosen to commemorate its 105th anniversary by reinvigorating the company’s mojo in the factory-custom marketplace. To that end, Milwaukee’s class of 2008 has also produced the lean and flashy Rocker, a convincing take on chopper-inspired mayhem. When the bell rings at the end of the day, the skinny Rocker may well end up with the girl, but beware—the school bully is a fat kid with glasses named Bob.