2021 Restyling brightens H-D’s iconic Softail

LISTEN 08:20

Harley-Davidson pared down its Softail lineup ahead of MY2021, but its venerable Fat Boy makes the cut to continue into the current lineup. It rolls with the relatively new, 114 cubic-inch Milwaukee-Eight engine in a similarly newish Softail frame, but the overall look still displays the classic genetic markers of the Fat Boy family. Better handling and improved performance join with stock ABS protection to complete the 2021 package.

2021 Harley-Davidson Fat Boy Design

  • Signature LED headlight
  • Bright chrome styling
  • Standard-equipped keyless ignition and security system
  • Steamroller stance
2021 Harley-Davidson Fat Boy 114
- image 967972
2021 Harley-Davidson Fat Boy 114
- image 965338
2021 Harley-Davidson Fat Boy 114
- image 965337

The Fat Boy got its start as a teaser model in ’88 and ’89 before going into production for the 1990 model year, but it wasn’t until Arnold Schwarzenegger jumped one into history in the 1991 science-fiction action hit Terminator 2: Judgment Day that the Fat Boy became a household name. Ever a Softail model, the faux rigid Fat Boy hits all of the pertinent high points with fat, chrome-skirted front forks, a low 25.9-inch seat height, and solid-disc wheels front and rear.

Forward foot controls and full footboards join a short-rise/slight-pullback handlebar to put the rider in the windsock position with an upright posture that is fairly comfortable for most body types. Shorter riders may find the forward foot supports to be something less than confidence inspiring, and riders of all sort will have trouble using any sort of body English with such a rider’s triangle.

The fenders at both ends carry the suggestion of a traditional layout, but are bobbed slightly in a nod to the custom culture of old. The move to LED lighting led to a change in the actual headlight housing though the factory took steps to preserve the old chrome-nacelle look up front in spite of the modern lighting.

Out back, a set of strut-mount, bullet-shaped turn-signal housings join a slim LED lightbar taillight and side-mount license-plate holder complete the gear in the rear. Due to the beefy front end and hallmark solid rims, the Fat Boy carries lots of actual weight – like its visual weight – down low to make this a solid-feeling and solid-looking machine.

2021 Harley-Davidson Fat Boy Chassis

  • Dual bending valve front suspension
  • Responsive handling
  • Solid aluminum Lakester wheels
  • Standard-equipped ABS
2021 Harley-Davidson Fat Boy 114
- image 967971
2021 Harley-Davidson Fat Boy 114
- image 965335
2021 Harley-Davidson Fat Boy 114
- image 965336

Fat, skirted forks float the front end of the Fat Boy with cartridge technology on damping duty, but the only adjustment in the suspension is found in the under-seat shock that supports the rear end. Rake and trail are 30-degrees and 4.1-inches respectively, the former for stability and the latter for eager cornering and the Fat Boy benefits from both of these characteristics.

When the MoCo moved to discard its Dyna line and focus on the Softail as its sole heavy-cruiser platform, it started with a rebuild of the special frame to deal with handling and comfort issues associated with the original Softail skeleton. However, like the original, there’s a triangular swingarm that sells the old-school look and sets the tone for the rest of the design.

Solid cast-aluminum disc rims come machined in the Lakester pattern in an all-around 18-inch diameter. The tires are uncommonly fat as well with a 160/60 up front ahead of a 240/40, and not only does this reinforce the fat-and-low look, but it provides a relatively large contact patch at both ends for improved traction and safety.

Wet weight measures in at 699 pounds, so it’s a surprise that the MoCo decided to send its newest Fat Boy out with only one front brake. The only good news here is that you can safely get the most out of the available brakes through the stock ABS feature.

Frame: Mild steel, tubular frame; rectangular section backbone; stamped, cast, and forged junctions; MIG welded; aluminum forged fender supports
Swingarm: Mild steel, tubular sections, stamped x-member, forged axle junctions; MIG welded; removable belt spacer
Front Fork/ Travel: Dual-bending valve 49 mm telescopic with aluminum fork triple clamps; dual rate spring; "beer can" covers/ 5.1 in. (130 mm)
Rear Shocks/ Travel: Hidden, free piston, coil-over monoshock; 43mm stroke; toolless hydraulic preload adjustment/ 3.4 in. (86 mm)
Rake (steering head): 30°
Fork Angle: 32°
Trail: 4.1 in. (104 mm)
Lean Angle: Right: 25.6°, Left: 25.6°
Wheels: Machined, Lakester cast aluminum
Wheel, Front: 4.5 in. x 18 in.
Wheel, Rear: 8 in. x 18 in.
Brakes, Front: 300 mm 4-piston fixed caliper, Split 7-spoke floating rotors
Brakes, Rear: 292 mm 2-piston floating rear, Split 7-spoke floating rotors
Brakes, Anti-Lock Braking System (ABS): Standard

2021 Harley-Davidson Fat Boy Drivetrain

  • Milwaukee-8 114 engine
  • Bone-crushing torque
  • Ample roll-on
  • Reduced vibration
2021 Harley-Davidson Fat Boy 114
- image 967973
2021 Harley-Davidson Fat Boy 114
- image 967974
2021 Harley-Davidson Fat Boy 114
- image 967975

The 2021 Fat Boy runs the Milwaukee-Eight 114 mill that appeals to cruiser riders who like a little get-up-and-go. Bore and stroke mic out at 102 mm and 114.3 mm respectively for a total displacement of 1,868 cc (114 cubic-inches) with a relatively-mild 10.5-to-1 compression ratio that will accept mid-grade pusholine.

The Mil-8 114 falls in the middle of the current Big Twin range between the base Mil-8 107 and the top-shelf 117 engine from the CVO lineup. Induction management falls to an electronically-controlled throttle body while the exhaust exits via a 2-into-2 pipe setup with a catalytic converter in the exhaust to help clean up emissions by burning off free hydrocarbons in the exhaust stream.

A single camshaft in the nosecone area actuates the four-valve heads through a quartet of external pushrods that ride in their own tubes. This arrangement marks a return to the designs of old that used a single cam, before the days of the Twin Cam engine. One new thing that isn’t as readily apparent is the pair of counterbalancers in the engine that helps tame some of the V-Twin shake. Some purists maintain that it takes too much of the vibration out, but I’ll leave it to you to decide for yourself.

Engine output is measured at 119 pound-feet of torque at 3,000 rpm. Power flows over a chain-type primary drive, through a six-speed transmission, and to the rear wheel via carbon-reinforced belt for a top speed around 105 mph.

Engine: Milwaukee-Eight® 114, Pushrod-operated, overhead valves with hydraulic, self-adjusting lifters; four valves per cylinder
Displacement: 114 cu in (1,868 cc)
Bore x Stroke: 4.016 in. (102 mm) x 4.5 in. (114 mm)
Compression Ratio: 10.5:1
Engine Torque (J1349): 119 lb-ft (161 Nm) @ 3,000 rpm
Fuel System: Electronic Sequential Port Fuel Injection (ESPFI)
Air Cleaner: Ventilator intake with fiberglass media, washable exposed element with rain sock
Exhaust: 2-into-2 staggered; catalyst in muffler
Lubrication System: Pressurized, dry-sump with oil cooler
Primary Drive: Chain, 34/46 ratio
Final Drive: Belt, 32/66 ratio
Clutch: Mechanical, 10 plate wet, assist & conventional
Transmission: 6-Speed Cruise Drive®
Gear Ratios (overall): 1st: 9.311, 2nd: 6.454, 3rd: 4.793, 4th: 3.882, 5th: 3.307, 6th: 2.79

2021 Harley-Davidson Fat Boy Price

2021 Harley-Davidson Fat Boy 114
- image 967970
2021 Harley-Davidson Fat Boy 114
- image 965334
2021 Harley-Davidson Fat Boy 114
- image 965342

As usual with H-D, the price varies according to color. At the bottom of the list is the Vivid Black model with its $19,999 sticker. Black Jack Metallic and Deadwood Green roll for $20,399, and if you want that two-tone Gauntlet Gray Metallic/Vivid Black package, you’ll have to shell out a total of $20,749.

Color: Vivid Black, Black Jack Metallic, Deadwood Green, Gauntlet Gray Metallic/Vivid Black
Price: Vivid Black: $19,999, Color: $20,399, Two-Tone: $20,749

2021 Harley-Davidson Fat Boy Competitors

2021 Harley-Davidson Fat Boy 114
- image 967959
2021 Indian Vintage
- image 939869

H-D has no shortage of competition from abroad, but for someone looking for a bona fide American machine, nothing else will do but an Indian bike. With that in mind, I grabbed the Indian Vintage for this head to head.

Indian Vintage

2021 Indian Vintage
- image 939866

Right off the bat I’ll admit that the stock Indian Vintage is more of a bagger/old-school tourbike, but if you remove the quick-disconnect windshield and strike the bags, you’re left with a dandy competitor for the new Fat Boy 114. There’s no shortage of chrome to be had on the Vintage, but even more striking are the tan leather appointments that brighten up areas that are normally dominated by black leather.

ABS is a standard feature across the board, but Indian trounces H-D in engine electronics with a trio of Ride Mode profiles and a Rear-Cylinder Deactivation feature. Indian takes the extra step of building the engine to more-or-less match the same era as the rest of the machine. Faux cooling fins on the rocker boxes and parallel pushrod tubes call to mind the look of the old flathead/sidevalve engines, but it’s a thoroughly modern engine with 119 pound-feet of torque on tap.

Price is a wash as the Indian Vintage rolls for $20,499 to fall right in the middle of Harley’s range.

Read our full review of the Indian Vintage.

He Said

“It’s good to see the Fat Boy keep on keeping on, though I’ll wager that H-D more-or-less has to keep it in the lineup at this point as it’s been one of the most popular Softails through the years. I can tell you from experience, the Mil-8 114 is a very grunty engine with something to give in almost any gear, almost any speed. Personally, I’m not really put off at all by the lack of vibration from this engine family.”

She Said

My wife and fellow motorcycle writer, Allyn Hinton, says, “Complain when there’s vibration and then complain when there isn’t enough. I dunno. Seems like there’s always complainers. For 2021, the Fay Boy comes to us with refreshed styling. Bright chrome replaces the satin chrome from last year and I like it. I can never fault the performance of the Mil-8 engine. It’s grunty with ample roll-on anywhere in the rev range.

2021 Harley-Davidson Fat Boy Specifications

Engine & Drivetrain:
Engine: Milwaukee-Eight® 114, Pushrod-operated, overhead valves with hydraulic, self-adjusting lifters; four valves per cylinder
Displacement: 114 cu in (1,868 cc)
Bore x Stroke: 4.016 in. (102 mm) x 4.5 in. (114 mm)
Compression Ratio: 10.5:1
Engine Torque (J1349): 119 lb-ft (161 Nm) @ 3,000 rpm
Fuel System: Electronic Sequential Port Fuel Injection (ESPFI)
Air Cleaner: Ventilator intake with fiberglass media, washable exposed element with rain sock
Exhaust: 2-into-2 staggered; catalyst in muffler
Lubrication System: Pressurized, dry-sump with oil cooler
Primary Drive: Chain, 34/46 ratio
Final Drive: Belt, 32/66 ratio
Clutch: Mechanical, 10 plate wet, assist & conventional
Transmission: 6-Speed Cruise Drive®
Gear Ratios (overall): 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; MIG welded; aluminum forged fender supports
Swingarm: Mild steel, tubular sections, stamped x-member, forged axle junctions; MIG welded; removable belt spacer
Front Fork/ Travel: Dual-bending valve 49 mm telescopic with aluminum fork triple clamps; dual rate spring; "beer can" covers/ 5.1 in. (130 mm)
Rear Shocks/ Travel: Hidden, free piston, coil-over monoshock; 43mm stroke; toolless hydraulic preload adjustment/ 3.4 in. (86 mm)
Rake (steering head): 30°
Fork Angle: 32°
Trail: 4.1 in. (104 mm)
Lean Angle: Right: 25.6°, Left: 25.6°
Wheels: Machined, Lakester cast aluminum
Wheel, Front: 4.5 in. x 18 in.
Wheel, Rear: 8 in. x 18 in.
Brakes, Front: 300 mm 4-piston fixed caliper, Split 7-spoke floating rotors
Brakes, Rear: 292 mm 2-piston floating rear, Split 7-spoke floating rotors
Brakes, Anti-Lock Braking System (ABS): Standard
Dimensions & Capacities:
Length: 93.3 in. (2,370 mm)
Overall Width: 38.8 in. (985 mm)
Overall Height: 43.1 in. (1,095 mm)
Seat Height, Laden: 25.9 in. (658 mm)
Seat Height, Unladen: 26.6 in. (675 mm)
Ground Clearance: 4.5 in. (115 mm)
Wheelbase: 65.6 in. (1,665 mm)
Tires: Michelin® Scorcher® "11"
Tire, Front: 160/60R18,70V,BW
Tire, Rear: 240/40R18,79V,BW
Fuel Capacity: 5 gal. (18.9 l) with 1 gal. (3.8 l) reserve
Fuel Economy: 47 mpg (5 l/100 km)
Weight, As Shipped: 671 lb. (304 kg)
Curb Weight: 699 lb. (317 kg)
Gross Vehicle Weight Rating: 1,175 lb. (533 kg)
Gross Axle Weight Rating: Front: 450 lb. (204 kg), Rear: 760 lb. (345 kg)
Electrics:
Battery: Sealed, maintenance-free, absorbed glass mat (AGM) battery, 12V, 17.5Ah, 310 CCA at 0°F
Charging: Three-phase, 42 Amp system (390 Watts @13 Volts, 1000 rpm, 546 Watts max power @ 13 Volts, 2000 rpm)
Starting: 1.6 kW electric with solenoid shift starter motor engagement
Lights (as per country regulation), Indicator Lamps: High beam, turn signals, neutral, low oil pressure, engine diagnostics, ABS, security, low battery voltage, low fuel
Gauges: 5-inch analog speedometer with digital gear, odometer, fuel level, clock, trip, range and tachometer indication
Auxiliary Lamps: N/A
Electric Power Outlet: USB A-type; output 5V at 2.4A
GPS System: N/A
Details:
Color: Vivid Black, Black Jack Metallic, Deadwood Green, Gauntlet Gray Metallic/Vivid Black
Price: Vivid Black: $19,999, Color: $20,399, Two-Tone: $20,749

Further Reading

Harley-Davidson

50 New Harley-Davidson Models In Five Years?
- image 788828

Read more Harley-Davidson news.

TJ Hinton
TJ Hinton
T.J got an early start from his father and other family members who owned and rode motorcycles, and by helping with various mechanical repairs throughout childhood. That planted a seed that grew into a well-rounded appreciation of all things mechanical, and eventually, into a formal education of same. Though primarily a Harley rider, he has an appreciation for all sorts of bikes and doesn't discriminate against any particular brand or region of origin. He currently holds an Associate's degree in applied mechanical science from his time at the M.M.I.  Read full bio
About the author

All images featured on this website are copyrighted to their respective rightful owners. No infringement is intended. Image Source: harley-davidson.com, indianmotorcycle.com

Press release

Related Articles

2021 Harley-Davidson Street Bob 114

2016 - 2020 Harley-Davidson Roadster

2020 - 2021 Harley-Davidson Softail Standard

2020 - 2021 Top Speed’s 2020 Harley-Davidson Buying Guide

2020 Harley-Davidson Fat Boy 30th Anniversary

What do you think?
Show Comments
Motorcycle Finder: