For the last few years, since Harley-Davidson has made a concerted effort to market specifically to women, there has been at least one new model every year that has features most women riders deem desirable — that being a very low seat height, reduced reach to the bars, and great styling. While The Motor Company won't come right out and say "this is a motorcycle for the ladies" because pigeonholing one motorcycle over another for a particular demographic segment is not good marketing, there are now bikes designed with women in mind, that's for sure. It's my job at Women Riders Now to tell you what models they are and extol their virtues.
Part of Harley's efforts marketing to women include shooting publicity photos that include a woman riding the motorcycle it thinks women will be drawn to, like this picture of a woman cruising on the Fat Boy Lo.
For 2010, the hot new model designed partly with women in mind, (but also young men; more on that later), is the Fat Boy Lo. While many riders may be quick to judge the bike as a low version of the popular (and now 19-year-old) Fat Boy — a younger brother or sister if you will — the Fat Boy Lo has enough differences to be more of a step sibling, almost a cousin, as Harley is marketing it as part of its new Fat Custom segment, with a "fat custom" defined by a beefy, heavy-looking front end, a fat front tire, valanced-type fenders, and non traditional finishes. I won't be surprised if a custom Fat Bob is in the works for next year as that bike already has two of the four fat custom criteria.
I'm test riding the Fat Boy Lo while touring the International Selkirk Loop that travels in Idaho, Washington and Canada. The riding stance is somewhat aggressive as I lean forward to reach the handlebars.
One of the reasons women will be attracted in the Fat Boy Lo is the simple fact that it now has bragging rights as the Harley-Davidson model with the lowest seat height — 24.25 inches. That is low! Up until then, the lowest Harley was the Softail Deluxe at 24.5 inches and it's no coincidence that the Deluxe is hugely popular among women. (Just take a look at my review of that bike and all the reader comments
.) For the record, the 2009 Rocker also has a seat height of 24.5 inches, but that model was discontinued for 2010.
My 5-foot 6.5-inch frame more than fits on the Lo — plenty of bend in the knee and a slight bend in the elbow — just enough to muscle the beefy bike around. Riders smaller than me should fit on the bike as well. I'm wearing the Electra Leather jacket and Haley leather pants from Scorpion reviewed on WRN, and the Scorpion EXO900 Transformer Helmet.
The Fat Boy Lo utilizes the same chassis as the Fat Boy (with its 25.4-inch seat height) but the rear suspension is lower by 1.15 inches and the seat is narrower. Any rider who couldn't flat foot the Fat Boy because of losing inches in the leg spread of the wide bucket saddle will mostly likely be able to flat foot the Lo.
The seat on the Fat Boy Lo, not as wide as on the Fat Boy. Also notice the leather tank panel, a nice design touch.
The biggest issue from women of average height about the original Fat Boy is its wide "fat" profile and lumbering ride. The Lo does feel "narrower" because of that new seat, but mostly because of the narrow profile of the handlebars. They are very different than the Fat Boy's.
The Lo's bars are almost drag style (straight across with a slight bend towards the rider) in that the rider must reach forward to the bars. The bars on the Lo are smaller in diameter and are positioned much more forward of the rider instead of the flat buckhorn style of the Fat Boy where the grips are brought back to the rider.
Anne Tattersall, a 23-year-old rider from the Netherlands whom I met on her tour, demonstrates the riding stance on the Fat Boy. She prefers this over the Lo, shown in next photo. Anne, who stands 5-feet-4, said the lean forward to the bars on the Lo grew uncomfortable after many miles in the saddle.
The position of the handlebars was the most noticeable ergonomic aspect of the Lo for me (even more than the low seat height) and over many miles, reaching forward like that gave me a crick in my neck. If there's going to be forward handlebars like that, there's a natural need for forward foot controls to balance out the body stance, and the Lo doesn't have that. While you wouldn't classify the foot controls on the Lo as being mid-mount (just below the knee) my legs were bent just over 90 degrees feet resting on footboards just north of the knees.
In my opinion, the handlebar and low-in-the-saddle position of the Lo begged for forward mounted foot pegs — like what's on the new Dyna Wide Glide.
I'm pretty picky when it comes to a motorcycle's ergonomics and I realize it's a very subjective topic but I've ridden enough motorcycles to know when the ergonomic triangle is dialed in just right to appeal to a variety of riders with minimal modifications. It will be interesting to see how customers react to the Fat Boy Lo, particularly when the largest segment of riders Harley-Davidson is trying to reach with this new Fat Custom is the "the young adult." Read young men ages 18+.
If these young males are not going to be attracted to the Harley-Davidson Sportster Iron (retro and cool), then they'll fall into the another category of what Gen Y riders are into when it comes to their toys –- low and bad-ass. Just look at how popular the whole low-rider truck and automobile scene is. It's all about appearing to be laid back and cool, but with a generous dose of attitude and speed when you need it. The Lo's aggressive handlebar stance mixed in with laid-back cruiser styling and a flat black attitudinal paint job is meant to appeal to what male Gen Y riders are seeking right now.
But what's in the Lo for women other than the low seat height? Well, I enjoyed the energetic quality of the ride. Even though the Lo's 731-pound weight is nearly the same as the regular Fat Boy, the forward riding stance made me feel like I could lean into the corners more –- like on a sportbike. In that respect, the bike had a more tenacious feel to it over the laid back Fat Boy. Don't let the 700-plus-pounds scare you. Being so low to the ground with a center of gravity to match, the Fat Boy Lo is a breeze to lift off the kickstand; in fact you don't have to lift very far before the bike is upright.
Speaking of the kickstand, a quirky little issue exists with the kickstand because the bike is so low. The kickstand when engaged lands on the pavement smack dab underneath the left floorboard. When reaching for the kickstand tab with your toe, your shin hits the floorboard first preventing your foot from reaching any further to the tab. (See photo below). This requires some reaching and maneuvering of your foot to grab the tab enough to pull it towards you. This issue doesn't exist on the Fat Boy; I'm guessing the lower ground clearance of the Lo leaves you with less room to reach for the kickstand underneath the floorboard.
My tour guide, Diane Norton, demonstrates the reach to the kickstand on the Lo. In this close up shot, you can see her shin hitting the footboard leaving her no leverage to reach her toe over the tab to grab it forward.
The Lo is powered by the same Twin Cam 96B motor that drives all the Softails. That translates to 1584 cc (cubic centimeters). The B means the motor is counterbalanced to the frame to reduce vibration. I did notice a little more vibration than what I normally experience on the Softails (like compared to my ride on the Fat Boy and the Softail Deluxe), coming through the seat when I rolled on the throttle, i.e. sending power to the rear wheel. Perhaps that's because of the thinner, cut down seat.
Shifting through the six gears is effortless, and neutral is easy to kick into place. New for 2010, is a helical cut 5th gear, which means the gear edge is cut at an angle so transition to and from 5th gear sounds smoother.
Clutch effort is moderate; hands with average strength won't get tired pulling it in to engage it. I find the standard finger reach from the handgrip to the clutch and brake levers on Harley Softails is a bit of a reach for women with smaller than average hands. Ergonomically shaped levers where the edges are smoothed and angled towards the grip, or an "easy clutch" type of product that reduces clutch effort and allows the lever to be adjusted closer to the grip usually solves this issue.
With the Lo being so low to the ground, there is a greater chance you're going to scrape the footboards in a turn. Since I knew it was possible, I hesitated leaning into the corners as much as I could because I knew I'd do it and I don't like the feel of that sudden jolt when footboard edge scrapes the pavement.
Shotgun exhausts feature satin-chrome mufflers and muffler shields (very nice finish) and flat black header shields.
Hope you like black because for now, the Lo is available in just two paint finishes, black (which is a gloss black), and black denim (flat black). Complimenting the black tank and fenders are black painted components that are normally chrome or billet aluminum on standard models. Items like the air cleaner cover, oil tank, coil cover, horn cover, derby cover, front shock covers, swing arm, trip clamp covers and nacelle, headlight bucket, air cleaner cover trim ring, rear fender supports and footboards are either painted gloss black or denim black depending on the black finish you pick.
The Fat Boy Lo shown in denim black. My test bike had the gloss black color. The Lo retains the Fat Boy's signature bullet hole disc wheels.
Just because it's very low to the ground, I wouldn't recommend the Lo for beginners because of its large size and powerful engine. But it's certainly a motorcycle to aspire to as one becomes a more confident rider. Harley did a good job of defining this fat custom segment with the Fat Boy Lo. It's definitely a custom with attitude. I would highly recommend a test ride on the Lo before buying to make sure the ergonomic set up is right for you.
The Fat Boy Lo is priced starting at $16,299.Specs At A Glance: 2010 Harley-Davidson Fat Boy Lo (FLSTFB)
Seat Height: 24.25 inches
Fuel Capacity: 5 gallons
Weight: 731 pounds
Price: Starts at $16,299
The Fat Boy Lo is a different sort of motorcycle ‚ just as the Rocker and Rocker C are "different." If you're a fan of the Fat Boy, you might like this bike. If you like your cruiser to err on the side of sporty, you might like this bike. The Fat Boy Lo is really in a class by itself.
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Harley-Davidson Unveils 2010 Models
The Lowest Seat Heights on the Market