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Review: Harley-Davidson Fat Boy Special

Driven July 2013

Review: Harley-Davidson Fat Boy Special

Harley-Davidsons are not really about outright power. You’d never end up using all of it anyway. Harleys, to surmise, are about knowing you have the power. And sometimes, you need to know you have twice the power.

That’s what this, the Fat Boy Special, gives you. Why, what’s the point, you ask? So did we, and realised that that’s something you can understand only after riding it. At which point you’ll counter your own question with a strong ‘why not?’

When a motorcycle makes 50 per cent more power than stock, it’s only fair that it gets enhanced show to match the increased go. That’s why this Fat Boy Special is all matt-blacked, projector-lamped, smoked-lensed coolness. This is one Harley with which you’ll never risk chrome-blindness, a condition endemic to Harleys. We’re not too sure about those white/blue-light projectors, though – seems a bit too futuristic to be on a Fat Boy.

What really strikes you about the Fat Boy is that it’s a simple motorcycle – but everything is super-sized in typical American fashion. Fat Boy, indeed. The overall effect is subtle but striking, and it looks like the Fat Boy a 23rd century Terminator would ride. Thankfully, you don’t need to be built like Arnie or have hydraulic-powered limbs to ride it.  

Continuing to live up to its apt name, the Fat Boy weighs in at a massive 330kg. And like all Harleys, you never really feel the weight, since like all Harleys, it carries its weight as close to the ground as possible. Especially when you start moving, you forget that you’re commandeering (sounds like the right word for a bike this size) a mothership of a motorcycle. The Fat Boy dances pretty well, well enough to outrun a golden Hayabusa with loud exhausts in fast-moving traffic. No kidding, that. It’s more nimble than a 330kg motorcycle has any right to be.

It goes where you point it with little effort and recreating Mr Schwarzenneger’s truck-overtakings is easier than we’d thought. All that’s missing is a scrawny kid to pick off a dirt bike. And a liquid-robot who’d very much like to pulp you with an 18-wheeler. Braking, with the single disc up front, isn’t as reassuring as we’d like it to be, especially given the engine’s extra power.

Often, the brakes feel as if they will lose against the sheer momentum the Fat Boy is capable of generating, but they always manage to wrestle the heft into submission in the end. ABS ensures you can drop the anchors without a care, too. But let’s get to the part that gets you into trouble in the first place – the engine.

This Fat Boy’s 1690cc V-twin heart beats stronger than usual, thanks to a Stage 4 upgrade that includes better pistons, hotter cams, an ECU remap, Screamin’ Eagle exhausts and filter, among other things. The end result is a stonking 130bhp to torture the rear tyre with, up by nearly 40 horses from stock. Now that’s an upgrade.

The first indication that this Fat Boy wants to get up and go is the hair-trigger throttle. It has an action lighter than you’d expect and delivers big fat helpings of revs on demand. On the contrary, the clutch is heavier than normal because it needs to be able to handle the extra power. Not anything you need to worry about, though.

Despite what its “You lookin’ at me, punk?” appearance, the Fat Boy’s a smooth and refined motorcycle. And then there’s that sound that follows you around. One generous blip of the throttle and people start looking for a mushroom cloud. Can’t help but love it, even more so when the sound is complemented by torque that physically gets hold of your senses and rips them into shreds.

The sensation of riding so much torque is extremely addictive and having returned the Fat Boy, we’re already suffering withdrawal symptoms. Acceleration is brutal, to say the least... for a Harley. Don’t expect it to blow away Diavels anytime soon. Nonetheless, for a proper Harley to be this quick is a feat, alright.

On our test bike, there was a hint of stuttering hesitation at anything below 1800rpm in any gear except sixth. Perhaps it was a setup issue, but it could also be the performance mods making the Fat Boy less amenable to trundling around at low speeds. This Fat Boy is most fun when you’re serving it an all-you-can-eat buffet of revs. Never thought we’d say that about a non-V-Rod Harley. Never thought it’d be assembled in India, either.

Being assembled in India helps make it a bit more affordable – to people who can afford them in the first place. But money really shouldn’t be a concern when it comes to this bike.

The Fat Boy’s desirable; just ask the kid in the Harley T-shirt at the traffic light whose mouth went, “Oh. My. God.” in slow motion. It’s iconic; imagine riding the Terminator’s bike, with people rolling out red carpets wherever you go. Yes, the performance mods cost around Rs 2 lakh extra. But the ground keeps shaking long after you’ve turned off the ignition. And you can’t put a price on that.

The numbers
V-twin, 1690cc, 130bhp, 132Nm (stock), 6M, 330kg, Rs 15.6 lakh (ex-showroom, excluding performance mods)

The verdict
Huge torque has its own field of gravity. No wonder you’ll find it impossible to resist the Fat Boy.

Kartik Ware

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