First Ride: 2015 Harley-Davidson Fat Bob
Words & Photos: Jim Turino
Can a sportbike guy learn to love a Harley?
I've never seen the appeal of Harley Davidson motorcycles, my perception has been that they are too heavy, too slow and too ill-handling; but, I've also never actually ridden one. The opportunity presented itself while at the Progressive International Motorcycle show in Long Beach, CA. First I've got to give Harley and the people running the demo a ton of credit. Easy registration, all paperwork was done quickly on laptop computers. After that's done, all you had to do was pick out what you wanted to ride and you're good to go after a brief orientation on the route and bike controls. I picked the 2015 Dyna Fat Bob simply because I liked that it had no saddle bags, no windshield, no sissy bar and a wide front tire. The bike's stripped-down good looks were merely a bonus.
So I got my helmet on and fired it up. It settled into a 950-1000 rpm idle, I could feel the motor vibrating below me, but it wasn’t too bad. It had a nice quiet rumble to the exhaust. I pulled in the clutch and hit first gear and took off. The clutch had a light feel to it and was easy to modulate. Now I had to pick up my feet and find the pegs. Coming from my Aprilia Tuono which has a sporty standard riding position, it was a reach to the forward mounted controls.
The route I took consisted of some city stop and go, a quick on-ramp with a short freeway sprint and then some tight slow speed curves and turns to get back to the convention center. So out onto the city streets, first impressions are of great slow-speed handling, good low-end torque, along with wooden brakes. The brakes definitely take a harder pull to slow the bike than I'm used to. Next we pulled onto the freeway. I found that short shifting the 6-speed transmission and using the low end torque of the motor was the best way to make quick progress. The bike felt quick up to 60 mph, which was as fast as I went. Now I exited the freeway for some slow speed curves. I found the Fat Bob easy to lean into the curves, and then used the excellent torque to pull me around. I could lug the motor as low as 1500 rpm without sputtering or hesitation. Then I headed back to the parking lot through some more city traffic.
Overall I came away impressed. The bike was actually fun to ride, which was something I didn't think I would be saying when I signed up. I would have to change the foot controls and maybe handlebars to get myself more comfortable, but with the extensive H-D parts and accessories catalog there are tons of options. I never thought I could see myself buying a Harley-Davidson, but the 2015 Fat Bob has changed my mind.