The Harley-Davidson Softail Fat Boy hit a chord with customers on its 1990 debut that catapulted it into one of The Motor Company’s most popular models. For 2018 the all-new Fat Boy reaps the benefit of a host of major updates bestowed upon the entire Softail family.

The defining characteristic of the Fat Boy remains its disc wheels. These 18-inchers are updated with a new ribbed look called “Lakester” and are shod with wider 160mm front and 240mm rear rubber. Styling remains recognizably Fat Boy, but pushes new boundaries. Take the modern interpretation of the headlight nacelle, a chunky round-meets-square metal box shaped like “an Atomic Age TV” and housing an all-new LED headlight.

2018 Harley-Davidson Fat Boy
2018 Harley-Davidson Fat BoyHarley-Davidson

As with the rest of the new 2018 Softail model lineup, the Fat Boy now features a new version of the four-valve-per-cylinder Milwaukee-Eight 107ci V-twin with dual counterbalancers to cancel primary vibration. This allows the engine to be rigid mounted in the frame, which increases chassis stiffness for improved handling. Harley-Davidson claims the 107ci Milwaukee-Eight makes the new bikes 10 percent faster from 0-60 than the High Output Twin Cam 103 engine used previously.

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. This new frame (along with other changes) help reduce the weight of the Fat Boy by 31 pounds for 2018. Lighter, more precise steering and increased lean angle are further benefits.

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. 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 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.

2018 Harley-Davidson Fat Boy
2018 Harley-Davidson Fat BoyHarley-Davidson

The 2018 Harley-Davidson Fat Boy starts at $18,999 in vivid black, $19,399 for color option and $19,749 for the two-tone paint scheme. Keyless ignition, H-D Factory Security System and ABS come standard.

2018 Harley-Davidson Fat Boy
Engine: New Milwaukee-Eight 107
Displacement: 107 cu. in./1746cc
Transmission: 6-Speed Cruise Drive
Torque: 109 lb.-ft. @ 3000 RPM
Fuel Economy: 47 mpg
Overall Length: 93.3 in.
Overall Width: 38.8 in.
Seat Height: 25.9 in.
Ground Clearance: 4.5 in.
Lean Angle (left/right): 26/26 deg.
Wheelbase: 65.6 in.
Wheel Size Front: 18 in.
Wheel Size Rear: 18 in.
Fuel Capacity: 5.0 gal.
Running Weight: 699 lb.
GVWR: 1175 lb.