Have you seen the Terminator film where Big Arnie rides his 'borrowed' Harley off an overpass and into a storm-water drain to do battle with a Kenworth? Of course you have, it's one of cinema's great moments and it's part of the reason the Harley-Davidson Fat Boy is such a cult bike.
Based on the Softail, the Fat Boy - or FLSTF, to give it its proper name - oozes menace. From the big, faired mudguards to its saddle-style seat and that polished V-twin engine that dominates the landscape, the big fella is all about muscle. In its earliest guise, the Fat boy used Harley's 1340cc Evo engine, which has evolved with incremental capacity increases and minor detail changes. But one thing hasn't changed: should an anti-hero ever need to ride off an overpass for the cameras, they'd still probably choose a Fat Boy.
Harley Davidson Fat Boy on the road
Riding any big Harley-Davidson can be a fraction intimidating at first. That's mainly because the raked out frame geometry and huge weighbridge ticket mean the bikes are anything but dainty to paddle around or ride slowly. But get them rolling and it all changes. Once under way, the enormous wheelbase means there's plenty of straight-line stability and the engine feels like it will keep chugging on forever.
The gearbox can feel a bit slow, but it's bomb-proof and while the brakes improved on later models, the first examples can feel like they need a big squeeze to haul up. The Softail suspension is ultimately the limiting factor. The front end is okay (although it can feel a bit crude) but the rear end has too little travel and not enough clearance for spirited scratching. Still, that was hardly the bike's design brief, so it's not much of a criticism. Easy Arnie.
Harley Davidson Fat Boy Used Check List
Despite the big-ticket price-tags when they were new, Harley-Davidsons often have some poor detailing. Check around the steering head where it’s welded to the frame and the clamps that hold the exhaust together and you'll see what we mean.
The reliability of the Evo engine is arguably what saved H-D from the corporate scrapheap all those years ago, and a well maintained Evo should still feel good and grunt hard.
Many Fat Boys have had replacement rear suspension units and, frankly, they'd have to be an improvement.
Check for crash damage and, since you'll be paying a fair wedge for it, make sure there's no finance owing on it and that it's not stolen.
Accessories? A screen is nice but tends to spoil the bike's lines. So do panniers. Nope, the Fat boy is a toothbrush and a credit-card kind of bike.
Harley Davidson Fat Boy Final Verdict
+ Tough looks, loads of attitude
+ Reliability good post-1990
+ Excellent retained values
- Expensive to buy and insure
- Frequently stolen
- Suspension a bit crude
Harley Davidson Fat Boy Standard Specifications
Model: FLSTF Fat Boy
Engine size: 1340cc-1584cc
Fuel system: carburettors/Efi
Drive: toothed rubber belt
Standard transmission: 5/6-speed