2018 Harley-Davidson Softail Road Test

2018 Softail Fatboy Road Test
The 2018 Softail Fatboy

Today I had the opportunity to road Test a 2018 Harley-Davidson Fatboy featuring the all new mono-shock frame and suspension. The new bike houses a 114 cubic inch Milwaukee 8 motor and six-speed transmission.

Looking over the bike I noticed many changes, some obvious, some not so obvious. The front end is completely re-designed and instantly makes me think of Robo-Cop or the Terminator. It also has a 160 mm front tire that is wider then the rear tire on a lot of bikes. The new 114 inch

2018 Softail Fatboy Road Test
In this picture you can see the Milwaukee 8 motor fits nicely into the new frame. You can also see Softails no longer have a horseshoe style oil tank under the seat.

Milwaukee 8 motor fits into the chassis nicely and you hardly notice what used to be an oil tank on Softail models is now only a cover.  You do notice however, the pre-load control knob for the mono-shock is nicely mounted into the right hand “oil tank” cover and is easily accessible.  Moving to the back of the bike you notice a new “bobbed” rear fender that showcases the wide rear tire these bikes have become known for. While I’m not crazy about the new front end I think the rear fender looks great, if it can be lowered closer to the tire it will look better.

 

On start up you can tell this bike has a new primary and comp assembly. There is no knocking or slop when the starter engages and the engine lit up immediately.  As with all new production bikes the exhaust is quiet but so is the motor. The Milwaukee 8 motors have proven to be very quiet operating engines. There is little whine or gear noise coming from the motor.  The new digital gauge and dash assembly is functional and has a  tach built in, something I think is more valuable then a speedometer. After the bike was warmed up I noticed it idled at about 840 RPM’s, about 150 less then earlier Twin Cam models.

When I got on it immediately felt like a different bike. I didn’t feel like I was sitting down “in” the bike like I did on older Softails. The seating position is upright and pushed forward. I’m 5’11” and the stock seat and bars felt a little crowded to me.  Taller bars will make the bike much more comfortable.

The new Fatboy got restyled foot boards which I think will make it harder to drag them around curves. It also has new “positive engagement” passenger pegs. This is a small change unnoticed by most but it will prevent the pegs from flopping around and getting too loose like the previous versions.

2018 Softail Fatboy
You can see the new positive engagement passenger peg here. It’s a subtle change but a big upgrade.

On take off I noticed the clutch pull is very different, the clutch doesn’t engage until the lever is much further out. Throughout the ride I had a hard time getting the timing right when I was leaving a stop. Eventually I would get used to this but it definitely feels different.

The bike is quick and it has great power! Accelerating was very painless and the counterbalanced Milwaukee 8 is very smooth. First gear is a little short so I had to shift into second quickly but that doesn’t bother me, I don’t plan to ride in first much! Working through the gears it got up to 50 mph in no time and wanted to keep going.  I was surprised at how smooth and comfortably the bike went down the road. The fat tires make for a smooth ride, especially going down a straight road or highway.

2018 Softail Fatboy Road Test
The new mono-shock can easily be adjusted with a knob under the seat.

The suspension was very responsive. I stopped and played with the pre-load and noticed a difference immediately.  I think with some time someone could really get this dialed in to fit their riding preferences. Throughout the ride I did always feel like I was riding high and sitting upright. This made cornering a little less comfortable but the bike still handled well. The new frame and the ride it creates really does have characteristics of both a Dyna and a Softail.

Overall I was happy with the ride. The power was great and the bike rode smoothly however the seating and riding position left a little to be desired and I struggled to get used to the clutch release from a stop, though I’m sure with enough experience that wouldn’t be an issue.

Most importantly the bike was fun to ride, it didn’t feel like work or an obligation and I would kill a Sunday afternoon on one anytime. This is what makes this bike get a thumbs up from me!

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