The focus of the new Softail family is the all-new Softail frame (so-called as it hides the rear suspension giving a classic hardtail ‘look’) which now uses an inclined single shock, Yamaha LC style, in place of dual shorter units previously mounted beneath the transmission. The new tubular steel double cradle is also claimed to be substantially lighter, stiffer and comprise far fewer components. Three different head angles, two shock lengths and two widths of swing arm are also employed in a modular approach to create the eight different models. The Fat Bob, with a 28º head angle, has the sportiest attitude of the lot along with inverted forks and twin discs. The result is Harley’s purest, best performing hot rod ever with handling that is noticeably stiffer and with a ride that’s far more compliant, controlled and cultured than the old Softail which were often hampered by limited suspension travel and crude damping.
As with three other members of Harley’s new Softail family, the new Fat Bob now uses the four-valve, partially oil-cooled ‘Milwaukee Eight’ 107ci V-twin, as introduced in its 2017 touring range, with the option also of the 114ci version. Both are modified for Softail use via a new oil cooler subtly positioned between the downtubes and, as they’re rigidly mounted in the new Softail frames (in the tourers they’re rubber mounted) come with two, not one, balancer shafts.
Along with the new frame, uprated engine and cycle parts and new equipment such as lights and clocks, the build quality of the new Fat Bob, and indeed all the 2018 Softail family, has been noticeably improved, too. The jury necessarily has to remain out on reliability as it’s simply too early to say as we write. However, with the powertrain being based on that of the proven ‘Project Rushmore’ touring family and quality seemingly raised throughout, we’ve little cause for concern.
Harley ownership never comes cheap and with prices starting at over £14K that’s certainly not changed with the updated and improved Fat Bob. On the positive side, however, you’re also getting more performance, quality and style for your buck than ever and Harley residuals continue to be the envy of the entire industry so what goes around comes around…
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Those inverted forks and twin discs are joined by dramatic new LED headlights, stylish new clocks and more. OK, there’s still no electronics and little by way of luxury but it is a classy machine and Harley have noticeably raised their game.