2016 Harley-Davidson Fat Boy S Review
Establishing a foothold in a brand that is filled with iconic models with decades-long legacies is no easy task, yet the Fat Boy has survived for 26 years in the Harley- Davidson lineup. This year, The Motor Company gives the Fat Boy a new powerplant to help the bruiser maintain its place in the Softail line. While he may be fat, this boy is now also very muscular.
The original 1990 Fat Boy (aka the now-collectible Gray Ghost) would certainly recognize the styling cues of the 2016 Fat Boy S, from the bullet-hole riddled solid wheels borrowed from the drag racing world to the one-percenter inspired color-free paint schemes. The Fat Boy S is available in any color you want, as long as it’s black. Now, that is not as limiting as you might think, as both Vivid Black and Black Denim are available. Regardless, the Fat Boy S is a statement machine and black paint matters.
Harley-Davidson’s Director of Styling Brad Richard describes the design approach to the Fat Boy S this way: “When we started styling the Fat Boy S, we took it completely black, and then we pulled it back a little until our gut told us it was right. We kept the highlights on the wheels and the tank badge, but this is still the darkest Fat Boy ever.”
Making its way in the world with the 83 cubic inch Evo motor, the original Fat Boy would be impressed at how the Fat Boy S has hit the gym and is now sporting big guns—a Screamin’ Eagle Twin Cam 110B motor with the attitudinal Screamin’ Eagle Ventilator intake. The wheels’ nod to dragstrip culture is now backed up by a motor that cranks out a massive 108 ft/lbs of torque at 4000 rpm.
The reality is, the standard 2016 Fat Boy gets the very impressive High Output Twin Cam 103B engine, which is good for 100 ft/lbs of torque at just 3000 rpm. In the real world of riding, the two motors aren’t going to represent themselves all that much differently.
However, image is indisputably important, and there’s a gravitas that comes with a Screamin’ Eagle Twin Cam 110B and matching external intake to make sure everyone knows which Fat Boy you are on—just in case the opulent black- on-black color scheme did not make it clear enough.
Numbers and colors aside, the true magic of the long run of the Fat Boy is that it is an outstanding urban mount. A wide 140mm footprint up front and 200mm taking up the rear, both mounted on good-sized 17-inch cast aluminum wheels, helps cushion you from potholes and other indignities your local mismanaged roads may suffer.
Although the Softail chassis isn’t known for particularly effective suspension, the combination of the high-profile Dunlops and the relatively generous travel—over five inches in the front, and nearly three- and-a-half from the hidden rear shocks— makes cruising around town potentially an all-day experience.
By going up to 110 cubic inches—courtesy of a piston that is a full four inches wide—one might think that the vibration level of the Fat Boy S is going to be increased. If it is, it’s not a significant increase. Certainly, going with the balanced engine means you never escape the thump of the fully air-cooled pushrod V-twin. Of course, that pulse is one of the features that led you to a Harley-Davidson in the rst place, and the Fat Boy S falls on the right side of the line dividing rattling and satisfying.
With a cavernous five-gallon fuel tank and a 200-mile range, you won’t be tempted to empty the tank without stops, though you might come close now and then. The cupped seat is comfortable, and the separate rear seat adds a tad of lower back support, which reduces fatigue.
The ergonomics are perfection. Wide bars give the leverage required to muscle the beefy front tire, and the floorboards are a properly placed platform with room for most boots to move fore-and-aft, as needed.
Put plainly, this is how a cruiser is supposed to feel—relaxed, yet giving your body language just a touch of attitude to match the menacing paint. Add in the growl of the shotgun muf ers and the ability to accelerate with undeniable authority from stoplights, and the table is set for a satisfying ride.
Braking isn’t quite up to Screamin’ Eagle standards. You get a single disc up front, and the 300mm rotor and four-piston caliper can only do so much with a bike that weighs 730 pounds, ready to roll. A 292mm rear disc does help, as there’s not much dive when using the front. The tires’ large contact patches are here to help, as is the standard clunky ABS.
I’m not here to tell you that you can’t take the Fat Boy S up into the mountains and canyons, but this is more of a city boy. Lean angle, just a tad over 25 degrees, is modest. Aggressive riding is permitted by the Dunlops, and restricted by the floorboards.
So, go for that ride on the twisties in the backcountry, with the expectation that you will take your time and enjoy the scenery—cruising is cruising, after all. Now, if it’s a straight shot out to that favorite roadhouse, all that’s going to hold you back is the wind. Those wide bars turn you into something of a sail, though the motor and chassis are willing to take the Fat Boy S up to serious ticket speeds.
With three Fat Boy versions to choose from, Harley-Davidson shows that it knows how to make the most of a great thing. Ultimate MotorCycling Editor-At-Large Dianne Zicarelli Johnson loved her Fat Boy Lo; for those with a shorter inseam, that’s an attractive option.
Picking between the Fat Boy and the new S is a bit trickier. There’s a $3000 premium for the S version, and for that you get lots of black, and a Screamin’ Eagle motor. Alpha males will definitely be riding out on the 2016 Harley-Davidson Fat Boy S, and you won’t want to argue with them.
Photography by Riles & Nelson