Harley Davidson has been an unlikely bestseller in India. Since it started operations in 2010, the legendary US bike-maker has sold nearly 2,000 of its expensive cruisers in the country – figures that make one pause and wonder: where do they RIDE these bikes?
Wherever. Harley for one is not complaining. And it launched the latest addition to its Dyna stable, the Fat Bob, on Thursday to celebrate its success. We got an exclusive test ride of the vehicle a few days before the launch. Here is what we found.
Harley has bestowed twin headlights to its newest bike, which was launched in the native US in 2008.
Appearance is typical Harley, but with a lot of aggression: a drag-style handle bar, flared out rear mudguard, twin tommy-gun style exhaust pipes, lots and lots of chrome (or a dangerous-looking matt black) body, and luxurious parking space for the rider’s backside (though pillion is rather a stingy place), all speak of a vehicle that can go hundreds of miles without tiring.
Putting a leg over the saddle, we find a pleasant seat height and a nice aggressive rider stance, though it gets slightly stretched by the footpegs and controls being placed far forward, making one having to reach for the brake pedal and gear lever.
However, the model that has been launched in India has conventional centre-pegs, so this grouse has been killed even before it got raised.
The Street Bob is conceptualised as a sort of bridge between the Dyna range (into which it falls) and the next one, the Softail range in which falls the company’s best-selling Fat Boy model.
The name Fat Bob itself is an amalgam of Fat Boy and Street Bob, the starting model in the Dyna range.
However, the bike is nothing like a slice and graft job, it is an entity in itself, not just in appearance, but in the ride as well.
Press the self-starter, and the engine roars out the typical Harley tommy gun exhaust note.
The 1,585-cc engine offers the same power as the larger engine (1,690-cc) Fat Boy – 126 Nm of torque at 3,500 RPM, slightly higher than the Street’s 124Nm@3,250 RPM. Just splitting hairs.
Harley does not give out engine output figures, by the way. At an estimate, this engine would be producing somewhere in the region of 90 BHP. But these are just figures. The actual ride is the test.
Handling, ride and performance
The Fat Bob has Harley’s 6-speed cruise drive, noted for smooth delivery of power to the wheels.
The belt drive and the gearing make the ride fairly effortless, and the engine keeps ticking over nicely in sixth gear even at a low 50 kph.
If one is in a hurry, the bike can hit 100 kph quite rapidly for a cruiser, in the 6 second, 3rd gear range.
Curves are a joy to handle, and the shock absorption is quite pothole-friendly.
All in all, a great ride on good roads, with 100-120 kph being comfortably held. Anything beyond that and the ride starts to get tiring, what with battling winds and holding on for dear life to the handlebar.
No point in rushing, cruisers are meant for cruising and taking in the sights. On bad roads, one steps down a couple of gears and drops most of the speed, and continues sedately. No complaints here.
Take the Fat Bob to crowded roads, and the story changes. The bigger bikes are not meant to be thrown around in city traffic, and they make their resentment known at that kind of treatment, unlike the Japanese street bikes (which have their own idiosyncrasies).
Even Harley’s Sportster family takes more kindly to traffic. The engine heats up, and the arms and shoulders tire perceptibly as one wrestles the front-end rendered heavy by the 130/90B front tyre on stop-start-stop roads.
This is the wrong place to be in: the same tyre was dishing out a great ride on the highway.
The high point in traffic was the bike’s horn: it sounded like a ship about to set sail, and cleared the way double-quick!