As i told you last month in my dyna Street Bob review, Harley-Davidson did the press launch of its new models a bit differently last year. Instead of having the event before Sturgis, H-D did it right after and took us on a spectacular, three-day ride through the Cascade Mountains and into Canada to test the new bikes. What a great way to do a bike review!
However, unlike the Street Bob, which got a major makeover for 2013, the Fat Boy Lo (MSRP $16,799-$19,499) is exactly the same as the 2012 version, except for the 110th anniversary colors and badging. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t a few things to go over. So, as I usually do, let’s start with my favorite part of a motorcycle, the powertrain. According to H-D specs, the 103″ (1690cc) counterbalanced motor puts out 97.5 ft-lbs. of torque at 3000 rpm (at the crank). What’s also the same (thankfully!) is the EFI system, which is still seamless in its operation, no matter the altitude, outside temperature, or any other variables that come up on a ride. H-D has this system dialed in nicely. And though the Dynas I test rode had an odd engine vibration (rough spot?) that showed up when the engine was between 2300 and 2900 rpm (it’s at its worst at 2500), that’s not an issue on the Softails. Though definitely on the quiet side, the exhaust note from the Lo’s over and under shotgun pipes has a nice sound. And as you can see, the mufflers and muffler shields have the same satin-chrome finish as the primary cover and some other components, while the header shields are flat black. There’s no news regarding the primary system and transmission, either. As always, clutch action is smooth and clean, and the Cruise Drive six-speed shifts smoothly with a clunk. And, yes, it’s still hard to find neutral most of the time when the tranny is hot and the bike is stopped. As for the bike’s overall gearing, H-D also has this dialed in. I always had plenty of power when I wanted it, and there are no annoying gaps between gears.
As I said in the headline, the Fat Boy Lo is one of my favorite models. In fact, it’s the one I always ask for when I rent a bike for a tour and don’t need saddlebags. I enjoy riding this machine or its brother the standard Fat Boy. They’re essentially the same bike, but with slight changes made for those of short stature, such as yours truly (5’4″ with a 30″ inseam). The Lo has an unladen seat height of 26.4″ (670mm) and 4.8″ (122mm) of ground clearance. The standard Fat Boy has an unladen seat height of 27.1″ (690mm) and 5.1″ (130mm) of ground clearance. If you’re more interested in laden seat height stats, the Lo has a laden seat height of 24-1/4″ (616mm), the Fat Boy 25″ (635mm). While that half-inch or so doesn’t seem like a lot, it can get you flat-footed when you don’t have a lot of leg to work with. Especially when you add in the Lo’s narrow-cut seat.
So what’s it like to ride the Lo if you’re not a short stack? My 6’1″ assistant editor, Tyler, had this to say, “My height put my knees pretty high, up to my elbows, which shifted my weight back. That meant I wasn’t able to put as much weight as I would like on the floorboards. I felt like there was only pressure on my hands and butt. I had to work to keep my feet on the floorboards at highway speeds due to this seating position. However, the handlebars are comfortable for sport or distance cruising.”
As for the 0.3″ of ground clearance difference, that also doesn’t sound like much, but it does work against you a little in turns. I scraped the floorboards a bit sooner on the Lo than on a standard Fat Boy. However, since the floorboards will fold up a little, if I find myself scraping them when I need a bit more lean to get through a turn, I know I can take my foot out of the way and get that extra bit of leeway.
As the Fat Boy Lo was last year, the 2013 bike is a pleasure to ride. However, there are two things I should mention as far as handling. First, in a strong crosswind you’ll find yourself fighting the front end a bit, just as you would on a Fat Boy thanks to those solid wheels. Of course, this usually only happens while riding across open plains or mountain tops. Second, if you’re coasting to a stop with your hands off the handlebars, the front end will make a slight headshake at around 35-40 mph. It’s definitely nothing to worry about and goes away when you drop below 30 or go above 45. More importantly, it doesn’t happen if you keep your hands on the bars. Another test I do when reviewing a bike is to see how easy it is to steer with just my body, sans my hands. The Fat Boy Lo, like the Fat Boy, is well-balanced. Though I definitely don’t suggest you do this, I have no problem guiding the machine though sweepers using just body inputs. Handling in the corners is always predictable and smooth on the Lo. The suspension and Dunlop H-D Series 17″ tires, a 140 up front and a 200 in the rear, work well. Of course, braking is excellent since there’s an ABS-controlled four-piston caliper up front and a two-piston unit out back. With ABS, you don’t have to worry about controlling how much brake you apply to stop as fast as possible without skidding. All you have to do is grab the lever and mash the pedal as hard as you can, and hold the bike straight. From 35 mph, the average stopping distance I got without trying hard was 56′.
We should, of course, talk a bit about the only major change for 2013: the paintwork and commemorative solid bronze fuel tank badges. As you can see, the Fat Boy Lo is one of the 10 models available with the 110th anniversary colors and emblems. Each one is serialized and only 1,750 FLSTFB Anniversary models will be produced to ensure exclusivity. These bikes come with all available factory-installed options as standard equipment. Yup, that means the Smart Security System. However, you can’t get the Lo in any of the new Hard Candy Custom paints. Nor is it, like the Street Bob or 1200 Custom Sportster, part of the H-D1 Factory Customization program. If the 110th Anniversary Vintage Bronze/Anniversary Vintage Black color scheme is not your thing, the Lo is also available in Vivid Black, Candy Orange, and Black Denim.
Bottom line: the Fat Boy Lo is a great bike for riders with short shanks who love the look of the Fat Boy, ergo the Lo designation. If you’re not in this group, go for the standard Fat Boy. AIM
NEW BIKE REVIEW By Chris Maida
Story as published in the January 2013 issue of American Iron Magazine.