THE HARLEY DAVIDSON FATBOY
The Harley Davidson Fatboy is the Motor Company's most iconic model from the last two decades.
Hugely popular with both owners and admirers alike, the Fatboy has been Australia's biggest selling model for a number of years.
Even when it was introduced in 1990, the Fat Boy instantly became one of Harley-Davidson's most popular models and is still the most copied style of cruiser motorcycle by the big Japanese manufacturers.
With a waiting list for a new Fatboy sometimes hitting the two year mark, this much sought after model is also a hot commodity in the used bike market. Prices for a good used unit are often only a couple of thousand dollars behind a new bike and Fatboys hold their value over many years.
Designed by Willie.G. himself, the original Fat Boy only came in grey. Fenders, fuel tank, oil tank and even the frame were all painted the same color. A thin yellow trim was applied around the rocker covers, ignition switch, primary inspection plate cover, timing cover and within the winged tank emblem. The 1990 machine also came with revolutionary cool touches never seen before on a factory bike. Things like; disc wheels, shotgun style exhaust, FLH style handlebars, new fenders and a hand laced leather seat and tank panel.
One of those first year Fattys is very collectible and very hard to find on the open market.
A mostly original 1990 Fatboy
There are many urban myths surrounding the inception of the Fatboy too.
Supposedly, it was the model HD used to strike back at the powerful Japanese motorcycle manufacturers who were starting to pump out cruiser style bikes by the million. Alleged parallels between the first two atomic bomb attacks on Japan and the then new Fatboy are as follows:
-That first year model (the only one ever offered in grey) was colored after the "Enola Gray", the name of the B29 bomber that dropped the first bomb on Hiroshima.
-The name Fatboy is supposedly an amalgamation of the code names "Littleboy" and "Fatman" which were the first two bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
-The 7 yellow trim rings on the first model is supposed to mimic the same markings that were on the two bombs.
-The Fatboy tank emblem is allegedly closely styled after the winged USAF symbol.
Definitely a strong set of coincidences but ones that are vigorously denied by Harley. Draw your own conclusions here.
One of the most noticeable elements of the Fat Boy's styling is the 16-inch solid wheels used both front and rear and until its 18th year of production, it was the only model equipped with them.
Fat Boys are built on the Softail frame that hides its shocks beneath the gearbox, giving the bikes that old school hardtail look combined with the comfort of modern suspension.
Originally, power came from the 80 cubic inch Evolution V-twin that was introduced six years earlier in 1984. In 2000 the Fatboy came equipped with the MoCo's new 88 cubic inch twincam engine and in 2007 the ante was upped again with the introduction of the 96 cubers.
Gearboxes were Harley's venerable and robust 5 speeders until 2006 when the new overdrive 6 speed boxes were fitted as standard equipment.
So what is a Fatboy like to ride?
Well, that depends a bit on what you are used too. If you've just stepped off a Jap crotch rocket then it will feel heavy, cumbersome and underpowered for the first few miles. After that the Harley coolness starts to seep into your blood stream and you start to appreciate things about the bike you never noticed before.
Things like how the really low center of gravity makes maneuvering easy at both low speeds and high. Things like the smooth creamy power that seems to wind on and on... a fat power curve all the way from idle to redline. You notice that there is no need to shift gears all the time on a Harley. It will pull a high gear from low revs with ease, those big pistons pumping out a delicious sound all the while.
You notice how when you pull up at a set of lights, all the cage drivers are trying to get a look at your bike because it oozes cool. It sounds cool... It looks cool... It feels cool...
You'll notice that after a long ride you don't feel beat up any more when you get off your bike.
You will be blown away at the amount of folk who come up to you in a car park and want to talk about Harleys, especially older people who want to tell you about the one they used to own back in the day, etc.
The comfy low seat and the low pullback bars make for some damn good ergonomics. The feet forward riding position feels weird at first too but you soon learn that it is brilliant after an hour or two in the saddle. Discovering the joy of stretching your legs on the move and changing your foot position on the long boards is an absolute godsend on a long trip.
If you're trading your old model Harley in on one of the new ones the first thing that grabs your attention is the lack of vibration from the new counter-balanced motors. That same stump pulling torque and fat powerband that we all know and love is still there, its just there in spades now !!
The second thing is the handling... its better. HD put some serious R&D into finetuning the whole wheelbase / rake / trail equation for the softail frame line and the new bikes don't want to flop at low speeds or feel skittish at high speeds.
The brakes are better too. Sure they're never going to rival anything found on say a Ducati but with the new style of 4 piston calipers front and rear they have some serious bite and don't require the big hand pressures the old ones did.
The new 6 speed boxes are awesome for highway duties too. There is little point getting into 6th gear under 100kmh as the revs drop too low to pull cleanly up a hill. Yes, it is geared that tall. Fuel economy figures are brilliant for a 6th gear cruise down the highway, especially considering the massive size of the engine.
2003 100th Anniversary Fatboy
F.I. is standard equipment on every new Harley across the range. The stock set up is great, its very flexible and copes with differing air temps, altitudes, engine temps, etc with ease. For those folk chasing more power there are many options available to modify the fuel injection computer, from factory injection map flashes at the dealers, to piggy back electronic units, all the way to replacement aftermarket modules.
Dudeworld has seen first hand, excellent results from both an 07 and an 08 Fatboy running Thundermax auto tuning replacement Fuel injection modules. Both of the bikes are cammed up (Andrews 37) with free flowing pipes and air cleaners. All injection parameters are easily modified at home on your laptop to fine tune any part of the power curve. Alternatively you can use the auto tune function where the computer constantly monitors the exhaust gasses via the O2 sensors and seamlessly adjusts the fuel injection map to suit. It will remap itself to any engine changes you make as long as you don't max out the fuel injectors by going for big displacement.
Big displacement builds will require a bigger throttle body and bigger injectors that flow more fuel and air. The Thundermax will also auto tune your fuel map after those changes and cope with the bigger motor just fine.
There is seemingly an endless supply of both genuine and aftermarket accessories for the Fatboy for those who have caught the customising bug. You can make your bike look ultra modern or ultra vintage or anywhere in between!
The Fatboy. A modern classic in its own right and the icon of a generation.
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