2018 Harley-Davidson Fat Bob Review |
A New Softail
Harley-Davidson has begun to change all that we know about the Softail line with the 2018 model year. A consolidation of sorts, the new Softail lineup has effectively absorbed (almost all) the Dyna models, folding them into the all-new Softail platform.
This provides greater performance and comfort, without forgetting all that we’ve come to know about the Milwaukee-Eight-based brand. At the forefront of the new Softail line is the 2018 Harley-Davidson Fat Bob—a former Dyna and a bold new take on the traditional V-twin bruiser.
Let’s get to the essential facts to get you up to speed.
1. The air-/oil-cooled Milwaukee-Eight 107 powerplant sits at the heart of the new Fat Bob. Featuring a claimed 107 ft/lbs of torque at 3,500 rpm, the Milwaukee-Eight 107 offers tractable power delivery in a predictable manner, allowing riders to make use of its hearty power throughout the entire rev-range.
With an exacting throttle response and near flawless fueling, the 1746cc powerplant is at home in the city or being wrung out in the canyons, making it an incredibly versatile piece of kit. All of this delivered in a smooth, yet vibrant V-twin package thanks to dual counterbalancing. If you’re looking something with more legs, the Fat Bob 114 is powered by a Milwaukee-Eight 114 engine.
2. Bold 2-into-1-into-2 pipes draw a lot of attention to the 2018 Harley-Davidson Fat Bob. In person, the heat shielding aboard the 2018 Fat Bob takes on a more golden hue and I enjoy the look of the likely controversial stock exhaust design. That said, I can’t wait to see what the aftermarket has in store, especially when it comes to uncorking the 107ci engine.
3. Styling is of a darker shade on the Fat Bob. Harley-Davidson designers didn’t abandon their roots—that much is clear. All the American V-twin cues shine true, but with hints of modernization throughout. One thing is abundantly clear—the new Fat Bob looks mean. A prominent feature is the new hexagonal LED headlight. I’ll admit, I was taken back by its looks initially. As I spent time with the Fat Bob, it grew on me—pictures don’t do it justice.
4. A neutral riding position awaits on the Fat Bob, which is great for a wide variety of shapes and sizes. At less than 28 inches above the asphalt, the sculpted seat is one of the most comfortable of the entire 2018 Softail line. It lets the rider shift body positioning and use the tank as an anchor when cornering. Wide handlebars allow for a great deal of leverage for easy countersteering.
5. Don’t let the spec sheet fool you—the 2018 Harley-Davidson Fat Bob can lean. Although the maximum lean angles are a mere single degree greater on paper this year, it certainly doesn’t feel that way on the road. The Fat Bob does seem to like a bit of direction, which adds to the thrill of it. It is engaging—push when you want to or just relax and take in the scenery.
6. The aggressive 28-degree rake and relatively compact 63.6-inch wheelbase allows the rider to roll into corners. There is not a bit of teeth gritting wobble can be felt, something I saw a lot of on the defunct Dyna version. The Harley-Davidson branded Dunlop tires are a big help. While they have an almost ADV-style tread pattern, they put a large footprint of rubber on the road, keeping the Fat Bob stable when leaned over at any speed.
7. The footpeg position doesn’t help in corners. The foot controls can be considered neither mid nor forward. They’re somewhere in-between, and don’t allow you to completely drive your weight through the foot-pegs, as some more sport-minded Motor Company enthusiasts would like. For cruising and commuting, the footpeg position is perfectly fine and at low speeds, the Fat Bob remains quite amicable.
8. The modular Softail chassis is ushering in a new era of sophistication for Harley-Davidson. Harley-Davidson representatives claimed that the new chassis boasts 34 percent greater torsional stiffness over the previous Softail generation and 62 percent over the Dyna. While those are engineering numbers used by the marketing department, the result is real. The Fat Bob doesn’t experience any vagueness and delivers information to the rider with great precision and confidence.
9. An inverted fork and a V-twin go together like peanut butter and jelly. Ditching the traditional fork typically found on the Fat Bob, the 43mm Showa fork and new single Softail shock are tuned for a comfortable ride, but can easily handle a bit of fun in the twisties. Now equipped with commendable damping characteristics, the Fat Bob deals with any inconsistencies on the road with ease; little energy from an impact is transferred to the rider and quickly settling after a hit, even when on the edge of the tire.
10. Modern suspension means modern solutions. In stock form, the Fat Bob’s suspension set up is good and will satisfy a wide swath of riders. However, owners will be able to finely tune their bikes with greater ease. The consumer will no longer need to opt for fork bracing, as the inverted fork has much less flex than a traditional fork. With simple drop-in cartridge solutions on the table, upgrades aren’t going to break the bank.
11. The Fat Bob beckons you to ride fast, but you’ll be able to stop quickly too. With dual rotors up front clamped on by four-piston calipers, the braking power is commendable. Great brake feel can be found at the lever and pedal, allowing for positive modulation. Stopping power does feel improved over previous Softail and Dyna models, and that could be attributed to refreshed braking hardware, the new chassis geometry, and new rubber.
12. ABS is a $795 option on the 2018 Harley-Davidson Fat Bob. As they say, it’s better to have it and not need it, than need it and not have it. The ABS found on the Fat Bob behaves remarkably like previous Harley-Davidson models and do not impede the ride one bit. If there is one quirk I’ve picked up on, it’s that the rear end will begin to chirp or step out ever so slightly if you’re also hard on the front brakes. Fortunately, the ABS kicks in, saving you from a trip to the dealer for replacement components.
13. There is so much untapped potential in the Fat Bob and 2018 Softail line. The 2018 Harley-Davidson Fat Bob is without a doubt the most aggressive bike that Harley-Davidson has released since the venerable Dyna Low Rider S, which I am an unabashed fan of.
Despite my affections for the Low Rider S, the 2018 Harley-Davidson Fat Bob has it, and all other Dynas, beat in every conceivable way. With a completely new chassis set up, the Milwaukee-Eight engine, and compliant suspension, the idea of custom builders turning wrenches on this model is even more appealing and, in the end, that’s what owning a Harley-Davidson is all about—customization and personalization.
Photography by Riles & Nelson
- Helmet: Shoei RF-1200
- Jacket: Pando Moto M65
- Gloves: Racer Mickey
- Jeans: Pando Moto Karl
- Boots: TCX X-Blend Waterproof
2018 Harley-Davidson Fat Bob Specs
- Type: Milwaukee-Eight 107 V-twin
- Displacement: 107ci
- Bore x stroke: 3.937” x 4.374”
- Maximum torque: 107 ft/lbs @ 3500 rpm
- Compression ratio: 10.0:1
- Valve train: Single-cam; 4 vpc
- Exhaust: 2-into-1-into-2
- Cooling: Air and oil
- Transmission: 6-speed
- Primary drive: Chain
- Final drive: Belt
- Front suspension: Inverted fork
- Rear suspension: Spring-preload adjustable shock
- Wheels: Cast aluminum
- Front tire: 150/80-16; Harley-Davidson Dunlop
- Rear tire: 180/70-16; Harley-Davidson Dunlop
- Front brakes: Dual discs w/ 4-piston calipers
- Rear brake: Single disc
- ABS: Optional ($795)
DIMENSIONS and CAPACITIES
- Wheelbase: 63.6 inches
- Rake: 28 degrees
- Trail: 5.2 inches
- Seat height: 27.7 inches
- Fuel capacity: 3.6 gallons
- Estimated fuel consumption: 47 mpg
- Curb weight: 673 pounds
2018 HARLEY-DAVIDSON FAT BOB COLORS and PRICES
- Vivid Black: $16,999 MSRP
- Black Denim; Red Iron Denim; Bonneville Salt Denim: $17,399 MSRP