If you’re torn between buying a Softail or one of H-D’s line of Dark Customs, stress no longer. The Motor Company has felt your pain and delivered a machine that fits the bill on both counts. And if you’re also a rider with leg length issues, like me (29″ inseam), you’re going to feel like you just won the Triple Crown!
The Fat Boy Lo, as you can see, is the newest model in Harley-Davidson’s Dark Custom series. Decked out in satin chrome, Denim Black, gloss black, and flat black, it has just the right amount of shine popping up here and there against the otherwise all-black machine. Black Denim paint is sprayed onto the frame, swingarm, front shock covers (cowbells), derby cover, horn cover, coil cover, oil tank, and air cleaner. Gloss black is on the triple trees, headlight nacelle, headlight bucket, rear fender supports, footboards, and air cleaner cover trim ring, just for contrast.
Flat black covers all the other blacked-out components, such as those over and under shotgun exhaust pipe header shields. The Lo also boasts a few other special treatments not given to the standard Fat Boy. It rolls on a set of Bullet Hole cast-aluminum 17″ wheels with blacked-out centers and machined outer edges. In keeping with the Fat Boy image, 140mm rubber wraps the front while a fat 200 takes care of the rear. Road contact was good in all kinds of weather, which is what I hit coming over the Rockies in Colorado, including heavy driving rain and hail. (I hate hail!) And let’s not forget the high winds that were thrown in for good measure! I had to work a bit to keep my place in my lane, since those solid wheels tend to act like sails if a strong gust gets a hold on them. But don’t get the wrong impression: I loved riding the Fat Boy Lo; I just didn’t like some of the weather I had to ride in. (Guess you could chalk that up to earning my pay for the day.)
The 5-gallon Fat Bob tanks have a satin chrome and flat black console housing the speedo and ignition switch. The gap between the tanks just below the console is covered with a black leather insert, complete with H-D medallion, which finishes this awkward part of the cockpit nicely. To break up all that black, the handlebar is a fat 1-1/4″ stainless steel unit (with internal wiring), which is narrower than the standard Fat Boy bar. I liked where it put my hands, and had no trouble spending hours in the saddle.
So how does the Fat Boy Lo get to have the lowest seat height in the entire Harley-Davidson lineup? You can thank the 1.15″ lower front and rear suspension, resulting in a 24-1/4″ seat height. By the way, this seat is also narrower than the standard one, which gives you more leg to send down since less has to get around the edge of the seat. And though it’s not in any of the literature put out by H-D, I think the seat also places you a bit lower in relation to the rest of the bike. I based that on the fact that those slick, gloss black, half-moon floorboards kept my feet at a different angle than a standard Fat Boy board, which put my ankles at a slightly odd angle. Nothing major, to be sure, but it was something I noticed after 100 miles.
As for the go, turn, and stop characteristics, we’ll start with go, my favorite one. The Lo is, of course, powered by the same counterbalanced, fuel-injected Twin Cam 96 motor that resides in the rest of the Softail lineup. So I was not surprised when the crisp throttle response, smoothness, and power of my test bike matched what I’ve experienced in other Softies. Ditto for the six-speed Cruise Drive transmission and enclosed, oil-bath, chain-driven primary system. Shifts were good, although once the bike was at operating temperature finding neutral was a chore, which is something I’ve also experienced on a 2010 Road Glide. When stopped, I kept bouncing between first and second. Getting into neutral while still rolling was the way to go. Clutch action was smooth and predictable, so the neutral issue was not clutch related.
In the turn department, the Lo handles very nicely. I had no problem with it in all riding situations, such as slow parking-lot speeds, highway blasting, twisties (just remember you have floorboards!), and no hands on the highway. The Lo took it all with ease. (To keep the Lo tracking true during no-hands, I had to move my butt about 1″ to the right.)
Stop is via a single four-piston caliper up front and the same out back. These calipers and fixed rotors do their jobs well, since I could rein the Lo in at will.
I let a number of people sit on the bike while I had it and all liked the new, lower stance. This was especially true of women, who said the lower height made it easier to lift off the sidestand.
Bottom line: it looks like the Motor Company has another winner on its hands. I definitely didn’t want to give the Lo back! AIM
— Chris Maida as published in American Iron Magazine, the world’s best selling Harley magazine.