Since its introduction in the early '90s, Harley-Davidson's twin-shock Dyna has earned a reputation as the best-handling chassis in The Motor Company's diverse lineup. When the Dyna series was revamped in 2006 (with stiffer frames and improved steering geometry, among other changes), this distinction was made even clearer. The Softail line was for posers who preferred polishing chrome to putting on miles; the Dynas were built for real riders.
Harley-Davidson introduced two all-new models for 2008: One, the Softail-based Rocker (see "Up To Speed"), is just more butt-jewelry for the boulevard crowd. The other, the Fat Bob shown here, is the latest addition to the Dyna line and, based on our exclusive first ride, perhaps the best-handling one yet.
The first thing you notice about the Fat Bob is the raw, road-warrior styling. Platform Manager Peter-Michael Keppler was born and raised in Germany, and the Fat Bob's styling nods to his Continental roots. The oversized 49mm fork, chunky triple clamps and the 130mm "big-block" Dunlop front tire (exclusive to this model), are straight from the Euro-chopper handbook, as are the dual 4-inch spotlights and flat drag bar mounted on tall risers. Other styling elements underscore the massive visual presence, including the slotted-disc wheels, Full Metal Jacket rear shocks and Tommy Gun exhaust system, so named because the slots in the header shield were inspired by the vintage firearm. The second-generation Twin Cam 96 engine, complete with seamless, sequential-port fuel injection, powers the Fat Bob. Transmitting a claimed 92 lb.-ft. of torque to the pavement is the Cruise Drive six-speed transmission acting in conjunction with a heavy-duty, carbon-fiber-reinforced drive belt.
"Large and in charge" is the operative phrase when describing the Fat Bob. This is a big motorcycle, with a wide fuel tank and a long reach to the flat bar and forward-mounted foot controls (mid-mounted controls are optional)-5-foot-7 could be considered the minimum allowable height for this amusement ride. We remain impressed with the TC96 engine-last year's improvements to reduce vibration and mechanical noise give it a very put-together character, and robust power lets even this near-700-pound machine accelerate with authority, aided by the smooth-shifting, perfectly spaced, six-speed tranny.
Steering is not nearly as heavy as you might expect considering the massive cast wheel and fat front tire leading the way. Changing directions does require a decent push on the bar, but once the turn is initiated the Fat Bob responds willingly and without drama and holds your chosen line with no desire to stand back up. Dual four-piston front calipers, 300mm floating rotors and stainless lines confidently arrest forward motion (if lacking a bit in feel). The fat front tire provides plenty of traction and the stiff fork adequately communicates the front end's intentions, all suggesting careful engineering and quality specifications. Combined, the stout power, predictable handing, acceptable cornering clearance and capable brakes had us frequently attacking turns with a level of aggression that you'd never imagine possible on a bike named Fat Bob.
We imagine this bike would be even better with the optional mid-mount foot controls, which would let you better position your body for more spirited riding and also increase comfort on longer rides. The rear suspension does a decent job of taking the edge off of big hits, but by the end of a 160-mile day we wanted to use our legs to take some weight off our backs and absorb a little shock, too. But even with the forward controls the Fat Bob is an easy bike to like, and exactly the sort of Harley-Davidson we'd choose to ride ourselves. Imagine a super-sized standard that can handle its business in a variety of situations, and is full of undeniably American charm. Let the pretty boys fight over the Softails; we'll take this Dyna for a ride.
Super Glide chassis + Wide Glide bodywork + streetfighter headlight + fat fork and even fatter front tire = Fat Bob.
Sporty cruisers such as the Suzuki Boulevard M109R, Moto Guzzi Griso, Victory Hammer S, Yamaha Warrior, and The Motor Company's own Street Rod.
Engine type: a-c 45-degree V-twin
Valve train: OHV, 4v
Bore x stroke: 95.25 x 111.25mm
Clutch: Wet, multi-plate
Claimed horsepower: na
Claimed torque: 92 lb.-ft. @ 3000 rpm
Frame: Tubular-steel double-cradle
Front suspension: 49mm conventional telescopic fork
Rear suspension: Twin shocks
Front brake: Dual four-piston calipers, 300mm discs
Rear brake: Two-piston caliper, 292mm disc
Front tire: 130/90-B16 Dunlop D427F
Rear tire: 180/70-B16 Dunlop D427
Rake/trail: 29.0/4.9 in.
Seat height: 27.1 in.
Wheelbase: 63.8 in.
Fuel capacity: 5.1 gal.
Claimed dry weight: 670 lbs.
Colors: Vivid Black, Black Pearl, Dark Blue Pearl, Black Denim, Pewter Denim, Crimson Red Denim, Candy Red Sunglo
Warranty: 24 months, unlimited mi.
With great handling and Harley's robust Twin Cam 96 motor, the Fat Bob is a worthy replacement for the much-missed Super Glide T-Sport.