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 wont 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, thats for sure. Its my job at Women Riders Now to tell you what models they are and extol their virtues.
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 wont 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.
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 its 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.
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 couldnt 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 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 Boys.
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 theres going to be forward handlebars like that, theres a natural need for forward foot controls to balance out the body stance, and the Lo doesnt have that. While you wouldnt 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.
Im pretty picky when it comes to a motorcycles ergonomics and I realize its a very subjective topic but Ive 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 theyll 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. Its all about appearing to be laid back and cool, but with a generous dose of attitude and speed when you need it. The Los 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 whats in the Lo for women other than the low seat height? Well, I enjoyed the energetic quality of the ride. Even though the Los 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. Dont 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 dont 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 doesnt exist on the Fat Boy; Im guessing the lower ground clearance of the Lo leaves you with less room to reach for the kickstand underneath the floorboard.
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 wont 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 youre 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 Id do it and I dont like the feel of that sudden jolt when footboard edge scrapes the pavement.
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.
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.
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.