Black-out is the name of the game with Harley-Davidson’s Fat Bob — a member in good standing of the Dark Custom series. While the Fat Bob only saw a new paint color for 2015, for 2016 Harley slapped that High Output Twin Cam 103™ engine in it for some extra sexiness. With fat tires, an extreme riding position, and hot-rod styling, the Fat Bob looks like a beast and yeah, it talks the talk, but it also walks the walks when it comes to performance.

Continue reading for my review of the Harley-Davidson Fat Bob.

  • 2015 - 2016 Harley-Davidson Dyna Fat Bob
  • Year:
    2015- 2016
  • Make:
  • Model:
  • Model:
  • Engine:
    Air-cooled, High-Output Twin Cam 103™
  • Displacement:
    103 cubic inches
  • Top Speed:
    115 mph (Est.)
  • Price:
    15899
  • Price:

Design

2015 - 2016 Harley-Davidson Dyna Fat Bob
- image 684017

The Fat Bob fits classic post-war bobber style with cut-down fenders, beefy hoops and the blackout treatment that more than accentuates the chrome-alious “Tommy Gun” 2-1-2 collector exhaust with dual blunt-cut mufflers, engine jug accents, and twin chrome headlamps.

Drag-style bars and forward controls clamshell you into a extreme wind-sock riding position; a position I don’t find very comfortable, but it’s like woman in high heels — it’s not supposed to be comfortable, it’s all about how it looks and the Fat Bob has no intentions of being subtle. Other folks say it’s a very comfortable position, so maybe it’s just me with my short legs. Reminiscent of the days when riding meant thumbing your nose at polite society, the Fat Bob is part of the Dyna family whose roots herald back to the original Harley-Davidson factory customs.

While I don’t find the riding position all that comfortable (opinions will vary here), it isn’t in any way because of the seat. The saddle is quite comfortable — very much like the Roadster seat — but even though the Fat Bob has passenger pegs and two-up seating, I don’t find the pillion all that inviting.

In typical cruiser style, the seat height is low — quite low, in fact, at 27 inches— and even a shorty short like me can not only find the ground with ease, but I have enough inseam left to have a break at the knee. That’s not something I get to say very often.

Twin headlamps and thick forks give the Fat Bob a very muscular, brawler look up front, which I like, but not everyone agrees. That’s okay. What a boring world this would be if we all liked the same things. Instrumentation is no-nonsense. I usually don’t like a tank-mounted speedometer, but this one is fine. The dial is high and easy to read as is the fuel gauge.

Ground clearance is adequate for taking some gnarly curves without scraping and roll-on is effortless. The deep-scoop saddle holds your butt securely and even though it looks like a big, heavy bike, it is surprisingly maneuverable.

Chassis

2015 - 2016 Harley-Davidson Dyna Fat Bob
- image 684019

As the “F” in FXDF indicates, the Fat Bob comes built on Harley’s heaviest frame similar to its tour-bike models. Made from mild steel, the skeleton sports a rectangular cross-section spine that bears the brunt of the load and forces at work.

Twin downtubes form the double-cradle loop that supports the engine, and a yoke-style steel swingarm, also with a rectangular cross section, completes the bone structure. Built more for cruising and less for cornering, the frame sports a 29-degree rake on the steering head with 4.9 inches of trail, so it will track well on the straights and at speed but won’t exactly dive into the corners, especially with the 2.5-inch wide front hoop, and 4.5-inch wide rear.

A pair of beefy 49 mm, rwu forks float the front on 5 inches of travel and start the Dark Custom theme out right off the bat with blackout fork sliders mounting the black, laser-etched, cast-aluminum front rim. A pair of coil-over shocks float the rear on 3.1 inches of travel with blackout covers to tie it in with the rest of the bike, and it comes with the bare minimum of adjustments in the form of a simple preload adjuster.

At 706 pounds soaking wet, the Fat Bob is getting on up toward the heavy end of the spectrum, but the factory gave it plenty in the way of brakes to keep it under control. A pair of four-pot, opposed-piston calipers pinch the dual, 300 mm front brake discs, and a twin-pot caliper binds the 292 mm rear disc. ABS is available as an option, but it’ll set you back an extra $795 at checkout to get it, and this model comes without any sort of linked- or combined-brake systems.

Drivetrain

2015 - 2016 Harley-Davidson Dyna Fat Bob
- image 684024

The family tree splits a bit in the engine department at this point, and as usual the engine serves as the crown jewel for the bike. For the 2015 model year the factory tucked in its 103.1 cubic-inch (1,690 cc), Air-Cooled Twin Cam 103 plant, and upgraded that to a “High Output” version for the 2016 lineup.

To be honest, there really isn’t much to choose between the two mills as far as power numbers go. The regular 103 grinds out 98.8 pound-feet of torque at 3,500 rpm and the H.O. version does the same, but it comes on a bit earlier at three grand. Both mills follow the typical, 45-degree, air-cooled format long associated with the brand. External pushrods with self-adjusting hydraulic lifters time the dual-valve heads, and the chrome pushrod tubes over black jugs make sure you don’t fail to notice them.

While much of the bike carries the blackout paint scheme, the Tommy Gun exhaust system joins the pushrod tubes in the chrome club, and thus becomes part of the overall panache and not just another piece of equipment. Bore and stroke are predictably undersquare at 3.87-inches and 4.38-inches respectively, and of course, that’s where all that lovely torque comes from.

A six-speed, constant-mesh transmission crunches the ratios and sends power to the rear wheel via the reinforced-belt final drive.

Pricing

2015 - 2016 Harley-Davidson Dyna Fat Bob
- image 684035

MSRP on the 2016 Fat Bob is $15,899 for Vivid Black, a slight increase over the 2015 price of $15,699. Colors choices for 2016 are Black Denim, Velocity Red Sunglo, or Olive Gold at $400 more.

Competitors

2016 - 2017 Victory Hammer S
- image 651658
2015 - 2016 Harley-Davidson Dyna Fat Bob
- image 684018

Up until fairly recent times, competition for H-D in the cruiser category came from the Japanese sector, and to be perfectly frank most were thinly-veiled knockoffs at best. Victory Motorcycles, under the Polaris umbrella, has been gaining momentum as of late and is putting out products with a serious Made-in-America pedigree, so I decided to see how it stacks up against H-D. The Hammer S presents itself as a likely competitor with much in common.

Right out of the gate, you will notice that both bikes carry a similar, custom-bobber look with chopped-down fenders, fat tires and blackout effect. Victory falls even further into the dark side with a blacked-out exhaust system, which is almost a shame given the pleasing sweep of the rear pipe.

A deep-scoop seat is another common feature between the two, which is fitting considering the performance and holeshot potential with these rides. Though similar in size, the swoopy design of the Hammer S makes it seem somewhat longer and more graceful than the pragmatic Fat Bob.

Brakes are more or less equal, though Victory doesn’t offer any sort of brake augmentation while Harley at least has ABS on tap as an available option. Suspension travel is likewise close enough for government work, but the Hammer S gets a set of usd forks with blackout stanchions for a dark-and-heavy look to the front end, not to mention greater fork stiffness, but neither manufacturer offers anything beyond the ubiquitous preload adjustment at the rear shock for ride control.

Now for the mills. Harley comes out swinging some serious lumber with a 103 cubic-inch mill that churns out just a hair under 100 pounds of grunt, but Victory still pulls out a win with a 106-inch lump and 106 pound-feet of torque. Nothing looks like a Harley engine but a Harley engine, however, the geometry and layout of the Hammer mill certainly appeals to the American eye and the performance certainly doesn’t hurt. As such, I’m comfortable calling it a minor win for Victory in the engine department.

Pricing is locked in a dead heat with the Hammer S rolling for $15,599, just a skosh under the Fat Bob at $15,899. Of course, the King of Paint gives you an opportunity to drive that sticker up a few bills if you just can’t live with the basic, Vivid Black sheet metal.

He Said

My husband and fellow motorcycle writer, TJ Hinton, says, “Even though I have a general dislike for Dynas, I just don’t see what was wrong with the old FXR models, I must admit I am really feeling the Fat Bob. Cut down yet solid looking, it carries a custom air that at one time could not be found on the showroom floor, but only in custom garages around the U.S. The factory-custom models are really gaining in popularity, evidenced by the fact that nearly everyone is getting in on the action, but few can yet match Harley’s deep roots and personal experience with American custom-bike culture, and it shows here.”

She Said

“When the Fat Bob was introduced in 2008, it was the first time Harley put a 130 mm front tire on a bike in the Dyna lineup. That muscular front end with those big forks and twin headlamps just seem to dare you to get in its way. I can see why this styling appeals to the rebellious in nature and harkens back to a time when riding a motorcycle meant you were one of the bad boys.”

Specifications

ENGINE:
Engine: Air-cooled, High Output Twin Cam 103™
Valves: Pushrod-operated, overhead valves with hydraulic, self-adjusting lifters; two valves per cylinder
Bore x Stroke: 3.87 in. x 4.38 in. (98.4 mm x 111.1 mm)
Displacement: 103.1 cu. in. (1690 cc)
Compression Ratio: 9.6:1
Fuel System: Electronic Sequential Port Fuel Injection (ESPFI)
Air Cleaner: Ventilator intake with fiberglass media, washable exposed element with rain
sock
Lubrication System: Pressurized, dry-sump
DRIVETRAIN:
Primary Drive: Chain, 34/46 ratio
Final Drive: Belt, 32/66 ratio
Clutch: Multi-plate, wet
Transmission: 6-Speed Cruise Drive®
Gear Ratios (overall)U.S. :
1st: 9.311
2nd: 6.454
3rd: 4.793
4th: 3.882
5th: 3.307
6th: 2.79
CHASSIS:
Frame: Mild steel, tubular frame; rectangular section backbone; stamped, cast, and forged junctions; forged fender supports; MIG welded
Swingarm: Mild steel, rectangular tube sections, stamped junctions; MIG welded
Front Forks: 49 mm with polished aluminum fork triple clamp and dual-rate springs
Rear Shocks: Fully covered, coil-over shock
Wheels: Gloss Black Cast Aluminum wheel with laser etched graphics
Front: 16 in. x 3 in. (406 mm x 76 mm)
Rear: 16 in. x 5 in. (406 mm x 127 mm)
Brakes:
Caliper Type: 4-piston fixed front, and 2-piston torque-free floating rear
Rotor Type (diameter x width): Patented, uniform expansion rotors (floating, front only)
Front (dual floating): 11.8 in. x .2 in. (300 mm x 5.1 mm)
Rear: 11.5 in. x .23 in. (292 mm x 5.8 mm)
Anti-lock Braking System: Optional
Suspension Travel:
Front Wheel: 5 in. (127 mm)
Rear Wheel: 2.13 in. (55 mm)
PERFORMANCE:
Engine Torque (per J1349) North America: 98.8 ft. lbs. @ 3500 RPM (134 Nm @ 3500 RPM)
Lean Angle (per J1168):
Right: 30°
Left: 31°
Fuel Economy (EPA urban/highway test): 42 mpg (5.6 L/100 km)
DIMENSIONS:
Length: 94.5 in. (2400 mm)
Overall Width: 35 in. (890 mm)
Overall Height: 44.7 in. (1135 mm)
Seat Height:
Laden: 26.1 in. (663 mm)
Unladen: 27.2 in. (690 mm)
Ground Clearance: 4.9 in. (125 mm)
Rake (steering head): 29°
Fork Angle: 28°
Trail: 4.9 in. (125 mm)
Wheelbase: 63.8 in. (1620 mm)
Tires (Dunlop® Harley-Davidson® Series, bias blackwall front and rear):
Front – D427F : 130/90B16 67H
Rear – D427: 180/70B16 77H
Fuel Capacity: 5 gal. (18.9 L) (warning light at approximately 0.9 gal.)
Oil Capacity (w/filter): 3 qts. (2.8 L)
Transmission Capacity: 1 qt. (.95 L)
Primary Chain Case Capacity: 1 qt. (.95 L)
Weight:
As Shipped: 673 lbs. (305 kg)
In Running Order: 706 lbs. (320 kg)
Gross Vehicle Weight Rating: 1085 lbs. (492 kg)
Gross Axle Weight Rating:
Front: 390 lbs. (177 kg)
Rear: 695 lbs. (315 kg)
ELECTRIC:
Battery (per Battery Council International Rating): Sealed, maintenance-free, 12V, 19-amp/hour, 270 cca
Charging: Three-phase, 40-amp system (493W @ 13.5V, 2000 RPM, 540W max power @ 13.5V)
Starting: 1.2 kW electric with solenoid shift starter motor engagement
Lights (as per country regulation):
Headlamp (Dual Quartz Halogen): 55-watt low beam, 60-watt high beam
Tail/Stop Lights: Integrated LED
Indicator Lamps: High beam, directional light bar, neutral, low oil pressure, engine diagnostics, turn signals, security system (optional), 6-speed, low fuel warnings
Electric Power Outlet: Standard
DETAILS:
Warranty: 24 months (unlimited mileage)
Model ID: FXDF
Colors: Vivid Black, Black Denim, Velocity Red Sunglo, Olive Gold
Price: Vivid Black: $15,899, Color Option: $16,299
What do you think?
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