Good news for fans of the former Harley-Davidson Dyna Fat Bob: Now that it’s a Softail, it handles better and is more powerful with a choice of 107- and 114-cube Milwaukee Eight engines.
We’ve just ridden the Fat Bob and other former-Dyna models (Street Bob and Low Rider) that are now part of the Softail family from Pasadena up the twisting mountain roads to Big Bear Lake and back in blistering heat.
My performance pick from the eight Softails is the Fat Bob which is 11kg lighter than before, has the most cornering clearance, the best steering and menacing looks to go with its performance character.
Price has increased $2000 for the 107-cube FXFB at $27,495, while the bigger 114-cube FXFBS costs $30,250. Check all the 2018 Harley prices here.
Softail styling manager Kirk Rasmussen says they had an inside joke about the bike that it was a zombie apocalypse bike “ready to mow down zombies”.
We didn’t mow down any zombies on the test ride, but we did mow down a lot of tight and twisty roads over the mountains north of LA.
The “hero bike” of the new Softail line-up features dual front disc brakes, upside-down 43mm forks, performance shock with external preload hand adjuster and an upswept 2-1-2 exhaust.
Dyna fans may bemoan the loss of the rubber-mounted and unbalanced engine, but they will love the fact that the Fat Bob is now a much improved performer and handler.
Even though it has slightly less clearance (120mm versus 125mm), it has one degree more lean angle on each side (31 right and 32 left).
The rake and trail are also tightened up for a sharper steering experience.
It tips quickly into corners and while there is only one degree more of static corner clearance, you can lean it much further than before because the 34% stiffer frame doesn’t flex.
The stiffer suspension also prevents the bike from wallowing in corners and touching down the pegs.
After spirited riding through the mountains most journos reported they didn’t touch down at all, or only on tight hairpins.
We loved the new Milwaukee Eight engine when it was introduced in the Touring models last year.
It is mechanically quieter, more powerful, more economical, cooler and smoother.
The Touring engine, rubber mounted in the frame, was balanced 75% to retain some character.
Now that it is hard-mounted to the all-new Softail frame, it has been 100% balanced with a secondary balancer.
Harley doesn’t mention power, but torque in the 107 is slightly down from 152Nm at 3250rpm to 145Nm at 3000 revs probably thanks to the extra balancing.
There is also the option of the 114 engine with 155Nm of torque at 3000 revs, down from 168Nm at 3250rpm in the CVO Touring models.
However, with 11kg shaved off for a running weight of 306kg, it’s a lot lively performer than in any of the Touring models.
It doesn’t have that comical shaking character character of the old Dyna’s unbalanced engine that vibrated madly on its rubber mounts.
Instead, it’s smooth, sophisticated and still revs hard.
While in LA, we also visited Roland Sands Design and Roland admitted the styling would polarise Harley fans and take some getting used to.
The most confronting element in the styling is the move from twin circular headlights to a horizontal rectangular shape with rounded edges.
The unique LED headlight is tucked inside a neat, gloss-black pillar-box nacelle.
It looks strange in the photos, but in the flesh/metal/glass, it looks quite handsome yet menacing.
Of course the back end is now neater with a hidden single mono shock rather than the external dual shocks.
However, the hidden shock jacks up the rear end and the shorty rear fender leaves a massive gap above the slightly knobby-tread tyre.
Kirk’s styling department has also chosen some interesting finishes for the bike.
Despite dropping 11kg, more could have been shed if they went to plastic parts, but the “oil tank”, fenders and other parts are all metal for mowing down those zombies.
We particularly love the bronzed header pipe covers and the silver “rattle-can” painted mufflers.
While we can appreciate the continuous sloping line from the triple clamp to the swingarm, the tank-mounted analogue instrument nacelle looks out of place with the modern custom looks.
We would have preferred to dispense with the nacelle and use the new “barely legal” digital instruments on the triple clamp like on the Street Bob. They are small, but easy to read in all light conditions and they really tidy up the front end.
Speaking of tidying up the bike, the hidden cabling down the spine of the frame tucks most of the ugly plumbing out of sight.
The Dynas also get a shorter and more easily access sidestand.
However, it makes the bike stand up a bit more vertically, so you have to choose your parking spot with more care.
You also have to be careful that you have pushed the stand all the way forward and that it has slotted into the patented Harley locking mechanism. It cleverly prevents the bike rolling forward, even when parked downhill and in neutral!
Like all new Softails, it comes with new keyless ignition, more comfortable seats and new wheel designs.
Harley-Davidson FXFB and FXFBS Fat Bob
- Price: $27,495 (FXFB 107) and $30,250 (FXFBS 114) ride away
- Engine: Milwaukee-Eight 107 (1745cc) and 114 (1868cc)
- Torque: 145Nm (107) 155Nm @ 3000rpm
- Length: 2340mm
- Seat: 710mm
- Clearance: 120mm
- Rake/trail: 28 degrees/ 132mm
- Wheelbase: 1615mm
- Tyres: 150/80-16,71H,BW; 180/70B16,77H,BW
- Fuel: 13.6 litres
- Wet weight: 306kg
- Brakes: 4-piston fixed front and 2-piston floating rear