2007 Harley-Davidson Softail Fat Boy Review

H-D brings fat back into the Fat Boy


Harley-Davidson has, in a huge operation, changed the Twin Cam 88 (1450cc) to the Twin Cam 96 (1584cc) on all Dyna, Softail and Touring models for 2007. This is no small feat, but very welcome in the Harley community.

A lot of focus has been on the new engine this year, but Harley-Davidson has also added a six-speed cruise drive gear box and fuel injection on all the Softail models.

The Softail range was launched in 1984 with concealed rear shocks to recreate that ‘hardtail’ look. Softail is the name of the chassis, and even though it resembles yesterday’s motorbikes the chassis is modern enough. The result is the long and low look so many people love about the Softail models. Harley-Davidson Fat Boy is one of the most copied cruisers out there, which speaks for itself. The Fat Boy motorcycle really shot to fame after being the Terminator’s choice of escape vehicle with Guns N’ Roses blasting in the background.

The new bullet-hole disc wheels add to the Fat Boy style.
The new Twin Cam 96B engine offers more power and peak torque.

New on the 2007 Fat Boy is a fatter 200mm rear tire, redesigned rear fender, new 17-inch bullet-hole disc wheel, new fat internally-wired handlebars, new graphics and the Twin Cam 96B V-twin. In Europe we get active intake and exhaust that keeps the characteristic sound and acceleration in first fifth and sixth gear, whilst one valve in the upper exhaust remains closed in the other gears at certain rpm-All for the sake of Euro 3 and sound regulations. On the road this feels a bit strange.

There were plenty of second-gear corners up the mountain that we rode and from first to second gear it is noticeable that something is missing. There is an easy fix to the problem, though. Just swap the upper silencer with the bottom one and the exhaust valve becomes ‘unemployed’. The clutch operation is now 10% lighter and that makes it more user-friendly. The gearbox itself is now six-speed and improved, but still not as smooth as on a Japanese box. The new overdrive sixth gear is a true overdrive for use on the highway at higher speeds. When using sixth gear from 40-50mph I had to gear down to regain momentum. I would have loved to ride the CVO Fat Boy to really experience what that big air-cooled twin can do.

Fat Boy would never be my choice of escape vehicle from anything but reality. This is where the new FLSTF is so good - escapism and relaxation on two wheels. As long as I keep the speed down the Fat Boy complies by gliding steady forward. The suspension hangs in there even on poor quality alpine roads. Not that we were racing or anything, but the suspension action is sufficient for a cruiser.

Fat Boy is stopped by two powerful 292mm discs with four piston calipers, one at the front and one at the back wheel. FLSTF Fat Boy cruises comfortably at 40-50mph in fourth and fifth gear and the new seat helps in the comfort department. The distance to the fat handlebar is perfect and it keeps my back straight. The big footboards are comfortably placed forward for distance riding. The instruments now feature a clock and sixth gear indicator. The speedometer is mounted on the tank flanked by a fuel gauge on the left and the petrol filler cap on the right.

'Harley-Davidson Fat Boy is one of the most copied cruisers out there, which speaks for itself.'

The new Twin Cam 96B (1584cc) engine provides 15% more peak power and 19% more peak torque in the Fat Boy. The larger displacement was achieved by stroking the old 88 out from 101.6mm to 111.1mm whilst the cylinder bore remains the same. The Euro models feature an exhaust valve in the upper silencer to make sure new emission and noise regulation are kept. Fuel injection is now the only option on any new Harley-Davidson, but Harley-Davidson has still made sure that the trademark V-twin sound and feel is present. You get all that from the word go in first gear whilst second, third and fourth gear is limited by the exhaust valve.

The transmission in 2007 is quieter and that allows for more of the pure V-twin experience. The Harley reps talk about the new sound as if it was a high end hi-fi system, but in standard trim you start dreaming about parts from Screamin’ Eagle pretty fast - all courtesy of Brussels and California bureaucracy. Just in case you were wondering, the Screamin’ Eagle kit is road legal, even in 110ci (1803cc) trim. When all that has been said, Harley-Davidson’s are still amongst the best sounding standard bikes out there. All 117Nm of torque are available already at 3.200rpm and this helps going up the steep mountain passes and when overtaking cars. Short-shifting is the name of the game and you can use either your heel to push down or the tip of your boots to shift up.

Fat Boy is very stable, mostly due to the wide and fat 140/75-17 front tire and 200/55-17 rear tire. I also rode the new Softail Custom with a very similar rear end, but with a narrow MH90-21 front wheel.

2007 Harley-Davidson FXSTC Softail Custom

With high rising ape-hangers over the Fat Bob fuel tank and a big 21-inch front wheel, the new Softail Custom carries quite an appearance cruising past. The styling is chopper-like with the raked out FX forks. Above the new 200mm rear tire is a traditional bobtail fender and a pillion seat with what looks like a very comfy backrest.

The steering is much lighter than on the Softail Fat Boy, but the FXSTC has got the same wide 200 rear tire. My feet are stretched forward and arms up in the air, but not as extreme as on the Dyna Street Bob. The bike is long and perfect for cruising down the high street with your girlfriend, or boyfriend for that matter, on the back. The steering is light, which is the first thing I noticed after riding the Fat Boy. In the corners it is easier to dive in due to the narrow front tire, but lean is still limited by the wide rear tire.

The Softail Custom offers lighter steering with chopper-like style.

Overall the Softail Custom feels looser than the compact and stable Fat Boy. The rear brake on the test bike did not feel like it should and the foot pedal had to be pushed down hard to achieve sufficient stopping power. There shouldn’t be any difference to the discs and calliper from the Fat Boy, so I assume one of the other journalists overcooked it down the narrow mountain roads.

The engine, transmission and fuel injection is the same as on the Fat Boy. Softail Custom is a very different Softail from the Fat Boy and suits if you like the chopper looks and distinctive backrest.

Conclusion

The new Fat Boy is fatter than ever and Harley-Davidson has given the fans exactly what they wanted -  a new fuel-injected fat Twin Cam 96 with more torque, new fat 200mm rear wheel and some great looking new fenders. I don’t like that Euro exhaust valve much, but you do get some great sound from the engine before it kicks in. Not to say I didn’t want more when riding it.

The only other Harley that beats the Fat Boy in shear presence must be the Night Rod Special, but the bikes can’t be compared as such. Fat Boy is my favourite new big twin and the engine is awesome. Gearbox is still rough around the edges, but they should get better with mileage and they are better than on the Twin Cam 88. I did not get to use the sixth gear that much, but on the Touring models this is a most welcome addition.

Harley-Davidson Fat Boy
 Highs:  Sighs:
  • Presence and heritage, even if the name is only 16 years old
  • Twin Cam 96 rocks
  • Comfortable and stable
  • Euro exhaust valve


Harley-Davidson Softail Custom
 Highs:  Sighs:
  • Easy riding chopper
  • Twin Cam 96 rocks
  • Cool 200mm rear tire
  • Rear brake failed during the test


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