2012 Harley-Davidson Fat Bob in India first rideBy Abhay Verma
Is it a mix of the Fat Boy and Street Bob? That was the immediate question that sprung to mind when I first heard about the Fat Bob. And when I finally saw the motorcycle and then spent some time riding it I realised that it actually is a mix. Not exactly between the Street Bob and Fat Boy, but its low stance and drag-style handlebars make the Fat Bob a mix between the choppers that enjoy a cult status with their classic styling, and drag bikes. And it gets the ‘Fat’ tag thanks to its massive front end, which uses a fat 130-section tyre and a set of thick forks. The past couple of years have seen Harley-Davidson steadily raise the count of CKD motorcycles in its line-up, which has helped it become one of the most prominent players in the CKD/CBU segment in the country. The Fat Bob is the sixth CKD product from Harley’s stables, and one that should help it strengthen its position in the Indian motorcycle market further.
So what’s the Fat Bob like? Typically American to be honest – it sits low, but is quite big, and looks imposing. Our test bike wore a bright orange colour, which made it instantly identifiable. Orange suddenly seems to be the preferred colour – the shade which hardly adorned a motorcycle sold in the country until a year back, but nearly half a dozen orange motorcycles have been launched in the last twelve months! The shade looked out of place on a Harley initially – we are used to seeing Harleys in darker shades, but orange does give the Fat Bob a very distinct identity. The distinctiveness is further enhanced by the dual round headlights finished in chrome. Twin headlights were trending a decade back, the most popular example being Triumph’s Speed Triple. But even today they do not look outdated, and with the chrome finish they get on the Fat Bob, they do look nice.
The handlebar is flat, but sits on high risers, which makes it very comfortable even for shorter riders. The tear-drop tank ends in a wide comfortable seat for the rider. The seat is a single piece unit including the pillion perch as well, which is a tad too small. This is a bit surprising since the tail piece continues well beyond the seat. The clocks sit on the fuel tank like most other Harleys, and the dummy fuel cap on the left which is actually the fuel gauge is a nice touch. There’s loads of chrome all around – right from the front forks, handlebar, instrument pod, airbox, engine, exhausts to the tail piece and rear suspension. Overall the styling is hinged towards the classic look, no modern design cues here. Presence? The Fat Bob offers loads of it, just like any of its siblings – the imposing dimensions and the chrome (and in this case the bright orange colour) ensure you get the stares.
Sitting under the fuel tank is the familiar fuel-injected 1690cc V-twin (popularly known as the Twin Cam 103 engine). Peak torque produced is 135Nm at 3500rpm. This engine is known for the loads of torque it offers even at low revs, and is mated to a six-speed gearbox with adequately spaced ratios, making it well suited for both city and highway. The first thing I noticed on cranking the engine is that it is not as loud as several other Harleys. The typical V-twin sound is eminent, but at idle it sounds muted. Even when revved it isn’t exactly loud and it hints towards the Night Rod’s sporty sound, but has the distinctness of a Harley-Davidson. Open the throttle in any gear, and there’s tractor-like torque on offer. It’s as if the torque delivery is not a curve, but a straight line. There’s a sense of solidness to the engine that is peculiar to most of the Harleys – that’s how the Americans like it – big, burly motorcycles with torque enough to uproot a tree stump! The Fat Bob’s light front end is a bit of a surprise, but very welcome. This makes riding the bike in traffic a breeze, and despite its imposing dimensions the bike is at ease in the city. The ride quality is surprisingly supple, and this Bob was super happy even on Mumbai’s broken roads. The rear dampers are actually one of the most comfortable ones, and along with the plush seat make the bike really comfortable. This in conjunction with the relaxed riding position makes it an ideal highway machine too. And the gearbox ensures you have enough torque, be it accelerating or simply passing someone on the road.
So how much does this dream burn your pockets? The Fat Bob will cost Rs 12.8 lakh, ex-Delhi, which puts it between the Street Bob and the Street Glide Custom. And going by first impressions, this motorcycle should offer great value for money at the price – it has all the presence you could ask for, but isn’t loud enough to wake up your neighbours in the wee hours, and is comfortable and powerful on the highway and in city.