HARLEY-DAVIDSON FAT BOB FXFB (2018 - on) Review

Highlights

  • Less vibey than previous Harley-Davidson models
  • Hardtail style hides preload adjustable shock
  • Strong aftermarket parts availability

At a glance

Owners' reliability rating: 3.8 out of 5 (3.8/5)
Annual servicing cost: £5,930
Power: 86 bhp
Seat height: Low (28.0 in / 710 mm)
Weight: High (653 lbs / 296 kg)

Prices

New £14,295
Used £12,000 - £13,900

Overall rating

Next up: Ride & brakes
3 out of 5 (3/5)

A bike that certainly turns heads, the Harley-Davidson Fat Bob is a machine that you will either love or hate and is best thought of as Harley’s take on a naked bike. And a very big one at that!

Designed to appeal to European riders who view a bike’s ability to go around corners with equal importance to straight line cruising, the Fat Bob is the sportiest model in the firm’s petrol-powered range and yet still has more than a hint of the cruiser about it with its 16-inch wheels shod in fat balloon tyres.

Long, low and imposing, the latest Fat Bob arrived in 2018 and sits in the Softail family, which was thoroughly updated that year through a new chassis (the Softail and Dyna families were combined) and the new Milwaukee-Eight motor (in two capacities, 107 and 114) to coincide with Harley’s 115th Anniversary.

Not one of Harley’s biggest selling models, the Fat Bob’s Marmite styling sees it generally owned by enthusiasts and while its fairly hefty weight and extensive use of metal parts for the running gear hints at a high level of build quality, owners are a little underwhelmed on this front and it seems as if a few corners have been cut, which is a shame on a bike that is certainly at the premium end of the price scale.

Harley-Davidson Fat Bob seats

As with all things Harley, there is a huge network out there if you need to get any extra info and the best thing to do is go to your local Harley dealership and chat to members of HOG, the Harley Owners Group. If you are uncertain about the bike itself, Harley are very proactive when it comes to test rides (they can be booked via the firm’s website) so as long as you have a full licence, you should be able to borrow one.

And if a quick blast isn’t enough, many dealerships allow you to hire a bike for an extended period of time (a weekend or even a week) and often if you buy the bike (if it is new) they will take the cost of hire into account and reduce the price a bit or even wave the hire costs.

Ride quality & brakes

Next up: Engine
3 out of 5 (3/5)

The Softail family contains everything from the Breakout to the Heritage and as such Harley have made a 'platform' tubular steel double cradle chassis that can be altered with minimal effort through different head angles or a choice of swingarms to suit the intended bike’s role in life. All-new for 2018, the Softail range has a 'hardtail' look of a solid back end but actually contains a monoshock under the seat area (previous generations had twin shocks under the transmission).

As well as being a claimed 65% stiffer than before, the new chassis also uses the engine as a stressed member and the swingarm is stiffer. Why is this important? Because it allows the Fat Bob to actually handle fairly well. Unlike most Harley models, the sporty nature of the Bob sees it come with Showa inverted forks with dual bending valve technology, but sadly no adjustment which is a shame as they are a little crude in their damping.

Harley-Davidson Fat Bob adjustment

Far from a lightweight bike, the Bob’s 296kg weight and fat 16-inch wheels is initially a bit daunting as it does give the bike a strange feeling and a slight reluctance to turn into bends, however once you get used to muscling it about you can actually build up a bit of pace and although limited by ground clearance, bends are certainly not something to be feared.

This is a bike that is happy on a twisty road and is far more than just a straight-line cruiser. Owners report the OE Harley-branded Dunlop tyres are fairly poor in their performance in the wet and dry, so updating them for European-spec alternatives is right at the top of the to-do list, but the brakes have ABS as standard and are a twin-disc four-piston per caliper set-up, which is enough to haul-up the heavy Bob.

Engine

Next up: Reliability
4 out of 5 (4/5)

When it was launched the Fat Bob was sold in two formats - 107 and 114 – which refer to the Milwaukee-Eight engine’s size in inches (1745cc or 1868cc if you don’t speak imperial) however nowadays only the bigger 114 is available.

All-new in 2017, the Milwaukee-Eight motor is different to the one used in the touring models where it debuted as its rigid-mounting instead of rubber and sees the Softail models run two, not one, balancer shafts to keep the vibrations down.

A fabulous motor that sounds and feels exactly like a Harley should, the Milwaukee-Eight marked a huge step forward over the old Twin Cam motor and as well as better reliability, it is more powerful and has a (marginally) slicker gearbox. We say marginally because there is still a hefty clunk when you select a cog.

The Fat Bob is less vibey than previous Harley-Davidsons

On the go the four-valve air-cooled motor (hence its name, as it has a total of eight valves) is a real beauty with bags of torque delivering lots of instant punch. Although Harley dislike claiming power figures, it makes 86bhp with 107ft.lb of torque in 107 guise and 94bhp and 114ft.lb in 114, so there isn’t too much of a difference if you opt for the lower capacity model. The one thing it is missing, however, is any form of traction control and given all that grunt and the poor OE tyres, on a wet road you do need to exercise a degree of caution over white lines or on slippery surfaces.

Reliability & build quality

Next up: Value
3 out of 5 (3/5)

A lot of Harley owners tend to cherish their bikes and if they are cleaned regularly, not ridden much in the wet and generally cared for the build quality seems acceptable. However should you get a bit behind or let things slip the Fat Bob starts to look very second hand very quickly, which is a real shame on a bike that costs so much.

MCN owners' reviews report that the paint finish is very poor indeed with paint rubbing off on areas where your knees touch and also the engine shedding its finish. Not only that, corrosion on exposed metal components seems rife if the bike hasn’t been treated to a lot of anti-corrosion spray. One owner has even has the clocks misting up and the fuel cap’s lock fail. When you talk to Harley dealers they say a big problem is owners cleaning their bikes and then putting them away wet, which allows the water to pool and corrosion sets in, however a slightly low level of build quality is also certainly to blame.

In terms of the motor the Milwaukee-Eight is very solid and not that expensive to get serviced with annual costs of roughly £300. Always give the belt and sprockets a good check when buying any used Harley as if a stone gets in there it can damage the belt and swapping one is a big bill as it requires removing the swingarm due to the fact there is obviously no soft link in a belt!

Value vs rivals

Next up: Equipment
3 out of 5 (3/5)

Buying a Fat Bob is not a cheap proposition and a new 114 will set you back in the region of £17,000, however they do tend to hold their value fairly well with year old examples costing around £15,000. The 107 option costs roughly £13,500 as it is less desirable however not that many were sold as most owners opted for the 114 motor.

As with all Harley models, the price tag is very much dependent on condition, mileage and extras and as the Bob is such a new model, nearly every one is sold through the dealer network rather than private sales, which boost the price tag. Official Harley extras also up the price however unlike some Harley models, very few Fat Bobs get accessorised that heavily aside from the usual exhausts and air filter. Insurance isn’t too bad and with roughly 40mpg fairly easily achieved, the Bob isn’t that thirsty on the petrol either.

Harley-Davidson Fat Bob front light

The problem with the Bob is when you look at it in terms of its value – is it really worth paying £17,000 for an air-cooled bike that lacks most modern electronic assists? That’s a decision only a serious buyer can make and when you consider a Ducati Monster 1200 S is £15,095, an Indian FTR R Carbon £15,595 or even a Ducati XDiavel £16,995 it seems very steep for what it is once you ignore the name on the tank.

Equipment

3 out of 5 (3/5)

There is no denying the Bob is lacking in terms of its equipment. There is no traction control, only basic ABS, no power modes, no quickshifter, no connectivity, little adjustment in its suspension, the list goes on and on.

Then again, this is an air-cooled Harley and they do tend to be quite basic in terms of their spec. Owners can up the ante through the H-D parts and accessories catalogue, but most simply opt for a set of loud pipes and a free-flowing air filter, which to be fair makes a huge difference to the bike’s sound levels and also releases a welcome bit of extra mid-range.

When it comes to tyres, most known brands make a hoop for the Bob and you have the choice of the likes of the Michelin Scorcher, Metzeler Cruisetec, Avon Cobra Chrome or even a non-Harley branded Dunlop D427, which are the OE fitment but better in terms of grip when made in Europe.

Specs

Engine size 1746cc
Engine type 45º pushrod V-twin
Frame type Tubular steel double cradle
Fuel capacity 13.6 litres
Seat height 710mm
Bike weight 296kg
Front suspension Showa inverted telescopic forks, no adjust
Rear suspension Monoshock, adjustable spring preload
Front brake 2 x 275mm discs, four-piston calipers. ABS
Rear brake 275mm two piston caliper. ABS
Front tyre size 150/80 x 16
Rear tyre size 180/70 x 16

Mpg, costs & insurance

Average fuel consumption -
Annual road tax £96
Annual service cost £5,930
New price £14,295
Used price £12,000 - £13,900
Insurance group 17 of 17
How much to insure?
Warranty term Two years

Top speed & performance

Max power 86 bhp
Max torque 107 ft-lb
Top speed 110 mph
1/4 mile acceleration -
Tank range -

Model history & versions

Model history

  • 2008 – the first generation of Fat Bob is launched.
  • 2018 – The all-new Fat Bob is launched. Powered by the Milwaukee-Eight motor in 107 or 114 sizes, it has an all-new chassis and even meaner look.

Owners' reviews for the HARLEY-DAVIDSON FAT BOB (2018 - on)

8 owners have reviewed their HARLEY-DAVIDSON FAT BOB (2018 - on) and rated it in a number of areas. Read what they have to say and what they like and dislike about the bike below.

Review your HARLEY-DAVIDSON FAT BOB (2018 - on)

Summary of owners' reviews

Overall rating: 3.9 out of 5 (3.9/5)
Ride quality & brakes: 4 out of 5 (4/5)
Engine: 4.4 out of 5 (4.4/5)
Reliability & build quality: 3.8 out of 5 (3.8/5)
Value vs rivals: 3.8 out of 5 (3.8/5)
Equipment: 3.8 out of 5 (3.8/5)
Annual servicing cost: £5,930
5 out of 5 Harley's are more than a niche bike
16 May 2021 by Chalky

Year: 2018

Annual servicing cost: £200

comfortable with predictable handling for a heavy bike. needs tuning to make reasonable power mine has a stage 2 tune

Ride quality & brakes 5 out of 5
Engine 5 out of 5

Great for country ride outs

Reliability & build quality 4 out of 5

no sign of corrosion unfortunately the speedo mists up ( a common fault ) which HD doesn't accept responsibility for ??

Value vs rivals 4 out of 5

HD prices are high but as a uncomplicated machine running costs are reasonable

Equipment 5 out of 5

riding position is great, standard tyres not great in wet . a screen is well worth it

Buying experience: bought at a main dealer who were great until they closed ( Birmingham HD) .Now use Wolverhampton who have been good and part of same group.

4 out of 5
09 May 2021 by Chalk

Year: 2018

Annual servicing cost: £150

Handles very well for such a heavy bike , whereas I like that all harleys are made assuming you will customise them , included are design faults that you have to change - for instance if you want mirrors that show behind you . Plus HD prices are high .

Ride quality & brakes 4 out of 5

comfortable to ride brakes are good not great

Engine 5 out of 5
Reliability & build quality 5 out of 5
Value vs rivals 5 out of 5

Servicing is fine , insurance however is not

Equipment 5 out of 5

the engine is why I bought it , great up to legalish motorway speed's its not a race bike

Buying experience: bought from dealer happy with price although HD don't really haggle

4 out of 5 Wonderful Ride Harley Davidson Fatbob all Day
16 April 2021 by Mr Philip Abram

Year: 2018

Annual servicing cost: £250

Very nice Harley comfortable seat no room for a pillion but very smooth m8 engine pulls like a train

Ride quality & brakes 4 out of 5

After 1 hour of continued riding I need a rest especially for my bum lol

Engine 5 out of 5
Reliability & build quality 4 out of 5
Value vs rivals 4 out of 5
Equipment 4 out of 5

Does what it should pulls like a train even two up you wouldn't notice a passenger on the back

Buying experience: Purchased second hand from Sykes H-D Lewes cracking service delivery was free as was the service and HOG membership and 12 months H-D warranty sales man Craig went above and beyond

4 out of 5
03 October 2020 by Ian Ransom

Version: 114

Year: 2019

Annual servicing cost: £300

If you buy this in context this is a superb bike, if you want a sports bike then look elsewhere! The engine on this is addictive, low down grunt making it superb for squirting out of corners. Amazingly, for a Harley, this thing goes round corners well and shock horror ! The brakes work and it doesn't vibrate. If you want a cruiser bruiser with V twin cred this is the bike for you.

Ride quality & brakes 4 out of 5

For a Harley this is superb, it is vastly improved by ditching the original Teflon Dunlop tyres and fitting something that actually sticks!

Engine 5 out of 5

Nice and grunty, sounds superb with a set of cans and a Vance and Hines FP3 sorts out all the issues.

Reliability & build quality 3 out of 5

The downside with this bike is the paint. I have made plastic models with better quality of paint than this. It has Lancia quality finish, definitely bio degradable!

Value vs rivals 4 out of 5

Service costs depends on mileage. I like to use my bikes so it does soon add up. It is not bad on petrol hitting high 40's if you don't drive it like you stole it.

Equipment 3 out of 5

ABS...............that it!

4 out of 5 pre-facelift was awesome for tank and big bike feel that was lost on newer model
24 April 2020 by Garry Horne

Year: 2018

Annual servicing cost: £40,000

old version is fantastic

Ride quality & brakes 3 out of 5

takes a while to embed in but strong performance

Engine 3 out of 5

lazy and lumpy :)

Reliability & build quality 5 out of 5

no issues after 2 years

Value vs rivals 4 out of 5

awesome servicing at reading

Equipment 3 out of 5

Clearer dispalys would be good

Buying experience: amazing

5 out of 5 Early days for me but delighted a Harley that can corner with stability
21 June 2019 by Nigel Clifford

Year: 2019

Best Harley I’ve owned. No more peg scraping and although no sports bike rolls into corners and bends with ease. Had to throw the rattling gas cap and buy another immediately. 16k and a two bob cap ? Can’t see out of mirrors.

Ride quality & brakes 4 out of 5

Early days no issues as yet. Rides nice and smooth with no vibration. Front a little soft.

Engine 5 out of 5

Great performance and torque. Takes a while to get the hang of which gear when slow cornering. I found first a little harsh and better to keep it in second and slip the clutch slightly otherwise your hands are removed from the bars.

Reliability & build quality 5 out of 5
Value vs rivals 5 out of 5
Equipment 5 out of 5

Great no keys and better view of cluster

Buying experience: Brought from Riders Bristol and didn’t leave the arm chair. Great service.

2 out of 5 Poor quality ultimately lets it down.
26 May 2019 by Den Crane

Version: 114

Year: 2018

Annual servicing cost: £300

Out of the box it's a lovely bike to ride. A massive step in the right direction for Harley Davidson. Unfortunately after nearly 1 years ownership and 3000 dry miles the poor build quality is starting to show. Based on my ownership experience over the last 12 months I wouldn't recommend any Harley-Davidson to anyone.

Ride quality & brakes 4 out of 5

Surprisingly usable motorcycle. Not for two up touring but pillion seat OK for my daughter on short trips. All day comfy ride below motorway speeds so best suited for A/B road cruising. The bike handles surprisingly well for it's size and the suspension is pretty good. Only adjustable for preload at the rear and at 80kg I need the shock wound right out or it's too harsh. The brakes are excellent.

Engine 3 out of 5

It's a Harley and a unique experience. Cruising along a favourite road on a sunny day and it makes a lot of sense. Try and push on and you'll soon find it's limitations.

Reliability & build quality 2 out of 5

How long have you got? Battery drain overnight. Faulty fuel cap. Faulty preload adjuster. Condensation in clock. Wonky handlebar and clock. Thin paint easily scratched on both matt and lacquered finishes. Paint rubbing off. Corrosion issues and paint flaking off all over the bike i.e. Forks, regulator, indicators, bolts and fixings, etc. I'm too scared to look underneath now. Some issues fixed but most blamed on "poor maintenance and environmental issues."

Value vs rivals 2 out of 5

Considering the bike cost over £16k I expect better so it's overpriced. Most H-D dealerships are around £100ph now. £300 for the annual oil change. Parts are ludicrously expensive. However, the engines are basic so If you can service it yourself or know a decent independent mechanic then they are relatively cheap to run. High insurance cost though.

Equipment 2 out of 5

ABS is your lot in terms of rider aids. It has keyless ignition and a factory fitted alarm which I can't help thinking will cause me issues in the future. OE tyres look the part and are fine in the warm but hopeless in the cold and/or wet. S&S slip ons improve the sound without being obnoxious.

Buying experience: Bought from Southampton H-D for list with some extras thrown in. Buying experience just OK but aftersales and customer support have been a joke. The worst motorcycle company I have dealt with in 30 years.

3 out of 5 A good cruiser let down by H-D, dealers and build quality.
14 April 2019 by Moz

Version: 114

Year: 2018

Annual servicing cost: £300

Ridden in isolation the Fat Bob is a nice cruiser. Try to keep up with other road traffic or crack on and you soon feel it's limitations. This is a motorcycle that you need to be in the 'cruiser' mindset to enjoy fully. For a Harley this is a step forward and the handling and ride is much improved but when compared to other bikes it has flaws. If you must have a H-D then this is the one to try.

Ride quality & brakes 4 out of 5

First off the brakes are excellent, some of the best I've used recently. The bike is comfortable and the stock suspension is pretty good for UK B roads, just make sure that you adjust the shock with the remote pre-load adjuster. Handling is good as long as you remember what you are riding, it takes a good old push of counter steer to turn in the front wheel but it holds a very stable line. I personally don't find it particularly comfortable on the motorway above 70 but that may be the fact that I don't exclusively ride in the cruiser position, I would rather travel distances on my XSR, but cruising on the back roads at 60 it's all day comfy. The pillion seat is fine for my 7 yo daughter, but not a grown up size.

Engine 4 out of 5

I have to love the engine. Yes it's under powered for it's size but it is a nice place to be with it thrumming away. The sheer weight of the motorcycle means that you're never going to win many races but it's nice riding the torque out of corners. Very smooth for the capacity too. I was specifically looking for a bike to cruise on as I own other sports bikes so in this market with the likes of the V7, Speedmaster, CB1100 etc, the Harley engine just has a lot more of the 'C' word than all of those other bikes so it's the one I'm happier to potter along on and not be frustrated by the traffic or get impatient.

Reliability & build quality 2 out of 5

After less than a year with 2500 dry miles the cracks are showing. Excessively vibrating (non locking) fuel cap replaced, pre-load adjuster stiff and a software patch after an overnight battery drain. However, the condensation in the clock and all the paint peeling off the regulator has been blamed on 'cosmetic and environmental issues'. Harley have not been empathic about these issues despite my assurances that I haven't taken it green laning... I'll admit that I don't have high expectations for the long term reliability of the bike and with hindsight I probably wouldn't have bought it. I expect better on a £16k+ bike.

Value vs rivals 2 out of 5

Considering the apparent lack of build quality then the purchase price seems more than excessive. Palatable if you want the 'lifestyle' though which appeals to some. Harley dealers by me tend to be around £100-110 per hour but thankfully there are some very good independents locally. Parts and accessories are as expensive as you would expect.

Equipment 3 out of 5

Some slip-on's make it sound just right, not too obnoxious. The stock tyres look the part but they are terrible in the winter and only slightly better in the wet, I may swap them for some Cruisetecs. Non-locking fuel cap and a ridiculously placed speedo are impractical and the keyless ignition/alarm comes standard but I would rather not have them. I would recommend putting on an oil cooler guard ASAP.

Buying experience: Bought from Southampton Harley. Sales experience just OK. After sales has been appalling. I wouldn't recommend.

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