Harley-Davidson FLSTF Fat Boy

So who says Harleys all handle like pigs? Tim Luckhurst learns to lean - and love - the latest Fat Boy

Specifications
Engine: 1,584cc air-cooled V-twin
Maximum power: Not given
Maximum torque: 120Nm @ 3,300rpm
Brakes: 292mm discs at front and rear
Transmission: six-speed gearbox, belt final drive
Dry weight: 313kg
Seat height: 645mm
Tank capacity: 18.9 litres
Price: from £13,295

Urban myth alleges that the best-selling Harley-Davidson FLSTF Fat Boy was named after the atom bombs dropped on Japan in 1945. It's a combination of "Fat Man" and "Little Boy" - the devices that destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Conspiracy theorists believe the Milwaukee company chose the tag as a kind of symbolic revenge against the Japanese bike manufacturers, whose superior technology dominated their markets in the 1970s and 1980s.

That's all nonsense. A glance at the motorcycle reveals that its name is purely descriptive. Viewed head on, it is simply the widest thing on two wheels; a road-going Billy Bunter.

Until recently, I loathed it. Acres of chrome, disc wheels and the profile of a pregnant brontosaurus are poetry to some people, but my problem was that most such folk I met referred to Elvis Presley as "the King," called their wives "honey" and had dead-end jobs in local government. Their motorcycles were foundations for escapist fantasies, not vehicles to be ridden and enjoyed.

I was guilty of extreme prejudice, and it got more intense every time I saw a Harley owners group sailing past in fingerless gloves, open-faced helmets and tasselled leather.

The Fat Boy was launched in 1990, and for 16 years I resisted riding it. I was right. It would not be unfair to say that the Fat Boy was a lumbering throwback fit only for stately procession up broad straight highways. I understand that its 1,455cc V-twin could propel it to illegal speeds and, provided the plans were submitted well in advance, it could negotiate corners as well. But it was a bike you bought for looks alone, not for travel. The 2007 version fulfils both purposes and - I confess - it brought a big smile to my nasty, cynical face.

True, the new Fat Boy is even porkier. The front tyre has been enlarged and the rear is now 200mm wide. Low-profile risers deliberately accentuate the breadth of the internally wired handlebars. Those disc wheels are slabs of solid-cast aluminium perforated with .50 calibre bullet-sized holes. Tank graphics emphasise the machine's girth. But now it looks subtle rather than naff.

The mechanical components have been upgraded. The Fat Boy is now powered by Harley-Davidson's new-generation Twin Cam 96B 1,584cc unit. Linked to six-speed transmission, this provides all the thrust the bike's vast bulk requires. The first time I let slip the butter-smooth and butterfly-light clutch, this corpulent mound of metal actually felt coltish, not sluggish.

There could be few more incongruous locations in which to ride this all-American behemoth than Stapleford Park. The converted 14th-century stately home has played host to the delicate and refined. But, as fellow guests smiled at the huge Harley's appearance and tantalising roar, I began to see my mount as others see it - as an aristocrat among motorcycles, not a fool.

It remains a style statement, but the Fat Boy has entered the modern world. It has a thrilling blend of power and torque. The transmission is flexible, crisp and silent in a way its predecessor wasn't.

If you have always liked covered fork-legs, wide footboards, chrome airboxes and sculptured metal, the old Fat Boy was already desirable. But if it has ever crossed your mind to ride one quickly along bendy roads and enjoy the riding as well as the image, the new version is a revelation. Of course, any 600cc sports bike will leave you for dead. Harley-Davidson does not make performance motorcycles, but it does now make machines that combine iconic looks with impressive functionality.

Is it expensive? You could buy two basic family cars for the price of a Fat Boy and still have enough left over to take the children to Florida. But it will hold its value and, as I discovered, this is what many people want a big twin to look and sound like. At least, I think that is why the Stapleford Park gardeners were giving me the thumbs-up. Or maybe I'd just run over their boss. On a Fat Boy, you could do that without noticing.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Robert De Niro, Martin Scorsese and DiCaprio, at an awards show in 2010
filmsDe Niro, DiCaprio and Pitt to star
News
i100
News
In this photo illustration a school student eats a hamburger as part of his lunch which was brought from a fast food shop near his school, on October 5, 2005 in London, England. The British government has announced plans to remove junk food from school lunches. From September 2006, food that is high in fat, sugar or salt will be banned from meals and removed from vending machines in schools across England. The move comes in response to a campaign by celebrity TV chef Jamie Oliver to improve school meals.
science
Sport
England captain Wayne Rooney during training
FOOTBALLNew captain vows side will deliver against Norway for small crowd
Life and Style
Red or dead: An actor portrays Hungarian countess Elizabeth Báthory, rumoured to have bathed in blood to keep youthful
health
News
peopleJustin Bieber charged with assault and dangerous driving after crashing quad bike into a minivan
News
peopleHis band Survivor was due to resume touring this month
News
people'It can last and it's terrifying'
Life and Style
fashionModel of the moment shoots for first time with catwalk veteran
Sport
Radamel Falcao poses with his United shirt
FOOTBALLRadamel Falcao's journey from teenage debutant in Colombia to Manchester United's star signing
Life and Style
fashionAngelina Jolie's wedding dressed revealed
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Front-Office Developer (C#, .NET, Java,Artificial Intelligence)

    £30000 - £45000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: Front-Of...

    C++ Quant Developer

    £700 per day: Harrington Starr: Quantitative Developer C++, Python, STL, R, PD...

    Java/Calypso Developer

    £700 per day: Harrington Starr: Java/Calypso Developer Java, Calypso, J2EE, J...

    SQL Developer

    £500 per day: Harrington Starr: SQL Developer SQL, C#, Stored Procedures, MDX...

    Day In a Page

    Chief inspector of GPs: ‘Most doctors don’t really know what bad practice can be like for patients’

    Steve Field: ‘Most doctors don’t really know what bad practice can be like for patients’

    The man charged with inspecting doctors explains why he may not be welcome in every surgery
    Stolen youth: Younger blood can reverse many of the effects of ageing

    Stolen youth

    Younger blood can reverse many of the effects of ageing
    Bob Willoughby: Hollywood's first behind the scenes photographer

    Bob Willoughby: The reel deal

    He was the photographer who brought documentary photojournalism to Hollywood, changing the way film stars would be portrayed for ever
    Hollywood heavyweights produce world's most expensive corporate video - for Macau casino

    Hollywood heavyweights produce world's most expensive corporate video - for Macau casino

    Scorsese in the director's chair with De Niro, DiCaprio and Pitt to star
    Angelina Jolie's wedding dress: made by Versace, designed by her children

    Made by Versace, designed by her children

    Angelina Jolie's wedding dressed revealed
    Anyone for pulled chicken?

    Pulling chicks

    Pulled pork has gone from being a US barbecue secret to a regular on supermarket shelves. Now KFC is trying to tempt us with a chicken version
    9 best steam generator irons

    9 best steam generator irons

    To get through your ironing as swiftly as possible, invest in one of these efficient gadgets
    England v Norway: Wayne Rooney admits England must ‘put on a show’ to regain faith

    Rooney admits England must ‘put on a show’ to regain faith

    New captain vows side will deliver for small Wembley crowd
    ‘We knew he was something special:’ Radamel Falcao's journey from teenage debutant to Manchester United's star signing

    ‘We knew he was something special’

    Radamel Falcao's journey from teenage debutant to Manchester United's star signing
    'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

    'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

    US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
    Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

    A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

    Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
    Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

    James Frey's literary treasure hunt

    Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
    Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

    Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

    What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
    Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

    Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

    Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
    Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

    The big names to look for this fashion week

    This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York