A wise man once said, “Speak softly and carry a big, fat stick.” Or something like that.
Lost in the hullabaloo of Project Rushmore was the remastering of one of Harley-Davidson’s more successful recent models, the plucky Fat Bob. The FXDF was present and accounted for at the recent 2014 H-D model launch/dealer show in Denver, Colorado but received little fanfare; in typical strong-but-silent fashion the Fat Bob was content to lurk in the shadows and bide its time, letting the big touring boys hog the glamour and waiting for the prime opportunity to make its tough-guy presence felt.
First launched in 2008 and then hopped up with the Twin Cam 103 in 2012, the Fat Bob receives entree into the Dark Custom line for 2014. Purists needn’t worry; the FXDF retains what made it distinctively robust, including the drag bar, forward controls, wide front fork, thick knobby tires and double-barreled headlamps.
Not black but badass nonetheless is the new “tommy gun” style 2-1-2 exhaust with blunt-cut, staggered dual mufflers and an industrial slotted heat shield. Harley claims “Mad Max meets NASCAR” was an inspirational touchstone on the new FXDF’s styling, and this steampunk flourish adds a layer of depth to the bit of chrome still on display. A slotted shield is also deployed front-and-center down the spine of the wide, 5-gallon fuel tank. (It’s blacked out.)
Offsetting the wide fuel tank is another new feature, a slimmer bucket seat. With its perforated cover, silver contrast stitching and sharply cut backside, it’s not only sporty but comfortable. Thanks to its drag bars and forward controls the 2013 Fat Bob scored exceptionally high on our recent Top 10 Cruisers for Tall Riders list, and there’s no reason to believe this 2014 edition won’t be just as ergonomically accommodating.
It all adds up to a tougher, meaner, leaner bobber from Harley-Davidson. But two significant stylistic upgrades lift the ’14 FXDR beyond its predecessor. The stunning new slash-cut rear fender is a beautifully crafted, drop-dead gorgeous piece of steel that does its namesake proud – but what makes it better than beautiful are the two red-ringed LED taillights that peer from behind a slanted smoked lens. They mirror the dual headlights perfectly, providing a tip-to-tail synchronicity that’s particularly eye-pleasing.
Another great innovation for 2014 is the adoption of matte paint. There’s no mistaking the new Sand Cammo for laid-back khaki; rather, the rough-and-ready Fat Bob wears its fatigues like a Ranger on a mission. Paired with the sporty slashing tank graphics and wheel ring logo, this color scheme is hotter than Kandahar – so hot, in fact, we couldn’t even get our hands on a Sand Cammo demo and had to settle for one in Amber Whiskey, a charming moniker that sounds not unlike a stage name on Amateur Night.
Riding the new Fat Bob is a lesson in attitude. It’s hard not to feel badass piloting the steadfast and sure-footed prowler, thanks to the eager drivetrain and aggressive riding position. The rider reaches outward for the drag bar, putting his “fists in the wind,” and the feet are kicked far out in front, soles forward.
Admittedly, this might sound verging on tortuous, but it’s surprisingly relaxed on the highway and eminently cool in traffic. My only concern was the feet-forward position, combined with the large brake pedal and the air cleaner on the right side of the engine, meant I had to strain to hold my right foot against the peg at cruising speed; I had trouble planting the crook of my heel on the peg, and my boot constantly felt like it was about to slide off.
The rubber-mounted V-Twin rumbles authoritatively and displays power to burn, from the dead-stop line all the way up through shift cycle. With this kind of get-up-and-go, freeway on-ramps and highway passes pose no problem for the Fat Bob.
Once rolling, the new Fat Bob handles fluidly and turns aggressively, its sharp rake, ample torque and relatively short wheelbase combining to make for a nimbler-than-expected ride from such a burly bobber. It responds better to handlebar inputs than leans; countersteering the Fat Bob requires less a push on the upper grip than a decrease in pressure on the lower, and is nothing short of a revelation. Just let up a bit on the grip in the direction you want the Fat Bob to track and bike countersteers eagerly, jumping in with poise and aplomb and standing up straight when bar pressure is equaled out.
At first glance, the Fat Bob might appear to be a boulevard show-off, but its exceptional handling characteristics make it a veritable canyon diver, despite its 700-pound curb weight. This bike was a blast to roar up Angeles Crest Highway, pouring into and pulling out of turns nearly as well as any cruiser I’ve ridden. The 49mm forks and dual coil-over shocks smoothed things out nicely, and the dual front 300mm discs provided plenty of stopping power. (Note: ABS is an optional upgrade.)
It should be noted that despite its dressed-down appearance the FXDF ain’t cheap. Not that we’d expect any Dyna would be, but despite a purposeful lack of any rider amenities it’s the second-most expensive model in the line. Still, in either color for $16,099 or in the available matte (“Denim”) or gloss (“Vivid”) black for $15,699, the Fat Bob is an unmistakably striking motorcycle, and besides, American-made distinction comes at a premium.
Early versions of the Fat Bob were stylish and eager enough, but lacked a certain gut-level ferocity, particularly once Victory unleashed its own muscle car-inspired competition, the Judge.
With its black components, sleek new rear fender and that killer Sand Cammo paint the 2014 FXDF Fat Bob backs down from no bike or challenge. Somebody better call the Judge – it’s time for a retrial.
2014 Harley-Davidson Fat Bob Specs
|MSRP||15,699 (black); $16,099 (color)|
|Engine||Air-cooled 103ci V-Twin|
|Horsepower||66.6hp @ 5200 rpm|
|Torque||88.3 ft/lbs @ 3000 rpm|
|Rake/Trail||29 degrees/4.92 inches|
|Seat Height||26.1 inches|
|Curb Weight||706 pounds|
|Fuel Capacity||5 gallons|
|Fuel Economy||42 mpg (claimed)|