2017 Harley-Davidson Fat Bob Review | Cruiser Motorcycle Test
Without any doubt, the 2017 Harley-Davidson Fat Bob throws down an unrestrained attitude. The best part, of course, is that it also has the motor to back up that assertiveness.The impressive Harley-Davidson High-Output Twin Cam 103 motor propels this latest iteration of the Fat Bob. Sporting an open air filter cover, the Fat Bob gobbles up air, mixes it with high-test, and turns it into nearly 100 ft/lbs of torque at just 3750 rpm.
Make no mistake, Fat Bob is an urban brawler. Fists and feet forward, and a perch just high enough—27+ inches—to provide a decent view of your hostile surroundings, the Fat Bob intimidates its way down city streets. The dual round headlights and beefy 49mm forks join with the fat front tire and black rim.The stock chrome Tommy Gun mufflers meet the alphabet soup of noise and emissions standards, but still manage to create a decent sound. More importantly, the power is there to move the 700+ pound Fat Bob with authority. The 180 Harley-Davidson branded Dunlop in the rear puts the power to the ground with confidence.The Fat Bob name comes from the abbreviated fenders, wide tank, and meaty tires. For those of us who rip around big cities with decaying roads, the fat rear and high-profile front tire—both 16-inchers—help the suspension. That’s a good thing, as there are barely over two inches of rear wheel travel, which isn’t much when hitting LA’s legendary potholes. Don’t ask the mayor and governor where the road tax money went—you won’t like the answer.Regardless, you can proudly push your way around town on the Fat Bob. The Dunlops are sticky and there’s enough cornering clearance to satisfy city motorcycle riding.Braking is not a strong point for the Fat Bob, however. The twin 300mm discs up front are your best bet, as the air cleaner forces your right leg out in such a way that it makes accessing the brake pedal difficult. Even when you do manage to get a toehold on the pedal, the rear 292mm disc doesn’t impress. So, the front disc gets the nod, along with plenty of engine compression braking.While the initial feel of the Fat Bob is a bit awkward, all it takes is some of time to settle in. Feet and fists forward are more about style than comfort, and the air filter is always an annoyance, even though it looks good and does its job.Emptying the five-gallon fat tank in a single go is definitely a challenge. The comfort isn’t quite there, and a full tank will take you around 200 miles. Without any question, this isn’t a highway motorcycle.Short jaunts on the freeway reveal yet another shortcoming of the air filter. It pushes your right leg out, and that causes your leg to catch the wind. The breeze is constantly working to pull your foot off the right peg at speed—not a great feeling. So, you have to focus on keeping pressure on the peg, or you boot will quickly start to migrate off.Canyon riding is okay on the Fat Bob, and with the Hollywood Hills and Santa Monica Mountains as part of the LA landscape, twisties are a welcome fact of life. The Dunlops have lots of grip, so the tires are never an issue. The first things to touch down are the heels of your boots. It doesn’t take long to angle-grind the heels, so either slow it down or make friends with your local cobbler.Otherwise, the handling of the Fat Bob isn’t bad at all. With the nearly 64-inch wheelbase and 28-degree fork angle (rake is 29 degrees), stability is what the Fat Bob is about. Still, when attacking switchbacks, the Fab Bob is willing to change direction confidently by putting muscle to the bars along with some body English. It’s a secure machine on back roads.For riders in warm climates, the Harley-Davidson Fat Bob does have one serious in-town drawback—right side exhaust heat. The high temps generated by the High-Output motor have to go somewhere, and in the case of the Fat Bob, it’s next to your right leg.The rear cylinder header has a vented heat shield, but that doesn’t deter it from roasting your right leg. It is seriously hot, and you better be man-spreading at stoplights or you risk leg scorching, even in Kevlar jeans. If you buy a Harley-Davidson Fat Bob, be sure to budget for leather jeans or chaps.Always a great ride in the past, the 2017 Harley-Davidson Fat Bob is even better thanks to the push provided by the High-Output Twin Cam 103. The rubber-mounting keeps the most excessive engine vibes away from the rider, while still offering plenty of V-twin feel.Although virtually unchanged this year, the 2017 Harley-Davidson Fat Bob remains a favorite of motorcyclists who like to make statements, with both power and style. Sure, you make a few ergonomic sacrifices for the sheen of cool the Fat Bob delivers, but when you’re getting those thumbs up and you are leaving the crowd in the dust when the light turns green, none of that matters. You’re settled in and looking good.Photography by Kelly CallanRiding Style
This week, Senior Editor Nic de Sena rides the all new Ducati Monster. Big changes have been made by Ducati–has the company ruined the considerable heritage of the iconic Monster–or are the changes worth it? In the second part of the show, we chat with Nick Ienatsch, Founder and Head Instructor at the Yamaha Champions Riding School. He says: “We aim to change your riding life by introducing you to Champions Habits: The techniques, approaches, skills, and the mindsets of the best riders in the world. These Champions Habits are the foundation of safety and consistency to whatever speed you ride, in any venue on any bike. Street riders, this is just as much for you as track riders. The best way to make safe riders is to make good riders.“ We hope you enjoy this episode!