The best all-around performance Harley-Davidson cruiser ever made? You’re looking at it in the 2018 Harley-Davidson Fat Bob 114. And, in fact, of all the bikes in the overhauled 2018 Softail range, the Fat Bob 114 is the one that stretches the styling DNA the most. It definitely isn’t designed for traditionalists or even the faint of heart. It is, to paraphrase H-D, designed to scare zombies.
Helping make this the highest-performance 2018 Softail, the big-engined Fat Bob gets a 114ci Milwaukee-Eight V-twin. Like in the 107, dual counterbalancers cancel primary vibration and allow the engine to be solidly mounted in the frame. But Harley-Davidson claims the Milwaukee-Eight 114 launches the Fat Bob from 0-60 mph 9 percent faster, and improves roll-on acceleration from 60-80 in fifth gear by 13 percent, than the 107ci version.
The mild-steel tubular frame has also been redesigned and is 65 percent stiffer than the outgoing Softail frame. This new frame has 50 percent fewer component parts, 22 percent fewer welds and, with the solid-mount engine, makes for an overall 34 percent more rigid chassis. These and other changes help reduce the weight of the Fat Bob by 33 pounds for 2018. Increased lean angle and more precise steering are also benefits of the new chassis.
The Showa Dual Bending Valve (SDBV) fork Harley-Davidson introduced to much praise on the FL touring line last year is now applied to 2018 Softail motorcycles. In the case of the Fat Bob, however, a sportier inverted 43mm version is used, rake set at a relatively quick-steering 28 degrees. The Showa fork reduces weight and provides linear damping characteristics to provide a more comfortable, better controlled ride and improved handling.
At the rear, Harley ditched the Dyna twin shocks in favor of a single under-seat coil-over unit shared by all new Softails. In this new Softail design, shock action is conventional--that is the rear wheel hits a bump and compresses the shock--whereas the old Softail design extended the shocks when the wheel hit a bump. The new design improves performance by offering increased wheel travel, improved damping, and a larger range of spring preload adjustment, while still maintaining the hardtail look brought about by the “shockless” rear frame triangle. The Fat Bob gets an external knob for spring preload adjustment.