It's one of the most iconic Harley-Davidson motorcycle models, at least of the current generation. And it's back, as an all-new motorcycle as the 2018 Harley-Davidson Fat Boy. The new version retains the same magnetism and road presence, and the overall silhouette remains more or less similar to the outgoing model. But look closer, and there are quite a few changes in the design and styling. But there are more significant changes under the skin. Now, for 2018, the Harley-Davidson Fat Boy gets an all-new engine, new suspension and a new chassis as well. Is it a step up in the Fat Boy's evolution? We spend some time cruising around.
Look at me!
The 2018 Harley-Davidson Fat Boy does look more planted and gets the solid aluminium disc Lakester wheels, shod in fat rubber. In fact, the 160-section front tyre is the fattest tyre the folks at Milwaukee have ever plonked on a production model. And at the rear, there is an even fatter, 240/40 R18 tyre, giving the bike an imposing stance. Most of the shiny chrome on the outgoing model has been replaced with a brushed aluminium look, called the satin chrome finish. It certainly looks classy and feels quite upmarket. The headlight nacelle gets a new design as well, and now there's a full-LED unit providing both better illumination, and a new-age touch to the bike's design.
Overall, build quality has improved quite a bit, and the new Fat Boy has appreciable fit and finish, as well as good quality components. If it's one thing which the Fat Boy excels in, it's definitely road presence! Within the city, and outside city limits, the Fat Boy turns heads everywhere. The riding position is typical cruiser, and the wide, spread out handlebar with the fat fork legs, finished in satin chrome gives the bike a lot of attitude and presence. The view from the rider's perch gives a clear view of the road ahead, with the simple analogue-digital instrument cluster sitting neatly on top of the fuel tank. The small digital screen under the large analogue speedometer gives read-outs for the rev counter, odometer, two trip meters, clock, fuel gauge and even a distance to empty reading. It's simple, but effective.
The heart of the matter
This is the most significant change in the new Fat Boy, the engine. The new 107 Milwaukee-Eight engine is new for the Fat Boy, and the 1,745 cc v-twin mill now features four valves per cylinder (so the name Milwaukee-Eight), and dual counterbalancers. There's keyless ignition, so thumb the starter and the big v-twin cranks to life with a reassuring rumble. The gears clunk into position and give a mechanical feel, but could have been slightly more precise. Finding neutral at stop lights is somewhat of a chore, and could have done with a little more finesse in operation.
The 107 Milwaukee-Eight retains the signature v-twin character, but once on the move, the counterbalanced engine makes a world of difference than the outgoing model. The clutch is slightly heavy, but it's easy to use and will not give your arm a workout, even when negotiating bumper to bumper traffic. There's some engine heat though and crawling through traffic can be a little bothersome, particularly when summer sets in. But performance is instantly likeable. Give the throttle a twist, and the Fat Boy hits the ton without so much as a whimper. High speed cruising is relaxed and 140-150 kmph is retained in a very relaxed and languid manner, before the wind blast starts getting to you. Hundred and twenty or even 130 kmph cruising is just where the Fat Boy excels in, with enough grunt on tap for more if needed.
Ride and handling
The H-D Fat Boy gets all new suspension with the Showa Dual Bending Valve fork at the front, which was introduced in the 2017 Touring range. The fork reduces weight and provides linear damping. The difference is obvious; the Fat Boy steers with surprising agility and the front end feels more comfortable and offers a better controlled ride. At the rear too, is a concealed mono-shock offering pre-load adjustment and much better performance than the dual shocks on the outgoing model. The concealed shock also helps maintain the hardtail look on the Fat Boy. Overall, the 2018 Fat Boy is lighter than the outgoing model by 14 kg.
The tubular steel chassis is redesigned too and is 65 per cent stiffer than before, and now features a solid mounted engine as part of the frame. Handling certainly has improved but you have to be careful around a corner because the footboards scrape too soon when leaned over a fair bit, even though the bike remains planted. Then again, the fat front tyre may give the Fat Boy an imposing stance, but it gives you a hint of uneasiness if you try to do mid-corner corrections. But that apart, the 2018 Harley-Davidson Fat Boy certainly has much improved ride and handling. It's best enjoyed out on a long, open highway, and the Fat Boy certainly can gobble up hundreds of kilometres on a day's riding for those inclined towards long distance touring.
The last word
The Harley-Davidson Fat Boy is a special bike, period. Immortalised in the 1990 Hollywood flick, "Terminator 2: Judgement Day", where Arnold Schwarzenneger chooses a Harley-Davidson Fat Boy as his choice of wheels. In the movie, Arnie (actually a stunt double) even jumps the bike over a bridge into a Los Angeles storm drain, creating perhaps one of the most famous motorcycle scenes in cinema history. The Fat Boy went on to become one of the largest selling Harley-Davidson models for decades. And now, in 2018, it gets leaner, meaner and gets a complete makeover. For cruiser lovers, few motorcycles will come close in road presence, attitude and charm than the H-D Fat Boy. It may not be suitable for the daily commute to work, especially in the Indian summer, but it's got it all to make a strong statement with your ride.
If you're the weekend sort of rider, Sunday morning breakfast rides will certainly feel special, more so with the amount of attention the Fat Boy gets on the road. And show it an open road, or even the occasional long distance ride, the 2018 Harley-Davidson Fat Boy will delight you with its character, personality and charm. At ₹ 17.51 lakh (ex-showroom Delhi), the Fat Boy gets a much-deserved upgrade and it's a completely transformed motorcycle, with a better engine, better suspension and better road manners overall. So, if you're in the market for an all-American cruiser, by all means check it out. And get ready to turn heads every time you get out on the road. The Fat Boy will definitely make you feel special, and you can drawl at your biker buddies, "I'll be back!"