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Cruising with a guy named Fat Bob

Cruising with a guy named Fat Bob

5 days, 4 nights - that’s the amount of time I had with a black pearl Harley Davidson motorcycle going by the the name of “Fat Bob.” A member of the DYNA family of Harley’s, and introduced in 2008, it’s a stretched out and unapologetic motorcycle. You won't find any frilly leathers, unnecessary add-ons, seat heaters, ipod attachments and nor will you get any protection from the elements. It's just you and the road and that's obviously got some appeal judging from the abundance of Harley's on the roads.

The Fat-Bob might look strictly old-school but there are some modern touches under the skin whilst maintaining a minimalist and custom look. The cables run inside the V-shaped stainless drag-style handlebar (which are larger diameter than normal because of this). The bars are smaller diameter at the grip but the grip itself brings the diameter back out to the size of the bar everywhere else. It helps to have a large hand if you want to be able to wrap your fingers solidly around the bar.

Another example of the technology lying beneath the surface of the Fat-Bob is that if you buy the optional $440 security system you don’t even need to use a key to start this bike. Well, I should say you have to use the key to put the bike in the ignition position or as I say the 'at the ready' position but the key fob features a proximity sensor so once this is done you can put your keys in your pocket. Then, just put the dial switch in the ignition position with your hand (there's also an 'off' and 'accessories' position), wait for the electronic fuel injection whirring sound to complete its cycle, thumb the starter and the big 45 degree v-twin burbles to life. When you stop to get off, hit the kill switch, turn the ignition switch off and walk away with the key still in your pocket. The security system automatically arms. If you're leaving the bike for a while its probably a good idea to use the key to take the bike out of the 'at the ready' mode and lock the steering particularly if you're leaving it in unmonitored areas to make it tougher for unscrupulous folks to roll it onto a waiting truck. The security system includes an immobilizer in North America and and an immobilizer and siren outside that region.

Starting this big twin produces a very satisfying, deep and distinct, Harley-Davidson potato-potato rumble. That rumble resonates through a two-into-one-into-two exhaust. The exhaust is shiny chrome; there's carefully placed protective covers where your legs might easily touch featuring oval venting slots in the outer skin, purposely designed to resemble the cooling vents on a Tommy gun. It still gets a little warm though so watch yourself.

The Fat Bob comes from a line of bikes pegged between the big touring FL bikes and the XL Sportsters - the FX series. Mating the lighter front end of a XL to the FL frame produced a family of five FX bikes, renamed as Dyna's in 2006. The Fat Bob name comes from the fat 18.93 litre tank, with centre console, and bobbed rear fender.

The fenders cover up tires that HD commissioned Dunlop to produce specifically for this bike. The rear end has a beefy 180 profile tire on a 16" slotted disc cast aluminum wheel while the front is a 130/90-16 on a solid disc cast aluminum wheel. It's the front tire that really seems to stand out - it's a really fat front tire for a production motorcycle. I must say that it looks and feels right on this bike and contributes greatly to its handling and stability. I came across several stretches of highway and secondary roads with chewed up pavement. Bikes with narrower tires tend to wander on that type of surface as the contact patch tries to find the flat point on the road. Another infamous Canadian road hazard; tar snakes, are handled in stride. You can feel these imperfections but the Fat Bob just rolls right over them.

As one might expect, "Fat Bob" isn't a lightweight and checks in at 703 lbs fully fueled. But, it's pushed along by a big 96 cubic inch (that’s 1584 cc’s), air cooled engine - which does so with ease. It's good for a whopping 92 ft-lbs of torque at 3,000 rpm and mated to a 6-speed cruise drive transmission and belt final drive. Cracking open the throttle give you the sensation that you've just been launched from a sling-shot. A tough feeling to describe, but believe me - it WILL put a smile on your face!

So, you're probably wondering - how fast will it go? The answer is pretty fast, you can break the speed limit on any Canadian highway without breaking a sweat. I didn't feel the desire to try to ride fast on this bike though. The 60-100 km/hr range seemed to be a real sweet spot that the bike was more than happy to plod along at all day; I was happy to oblige, stick to the speed limits, and enjoy the ride.

It was a pleasant surprise just how nimble the bike was once under power. The big v-twin will nearly pull away from a stop with just a slow release of the clutch. The engine in this bike is larger than the one in my old Civic hatchback! So it needs to be treated with respect even though it's remarkably easy to ride. Despite its heft the bike is a breeze to maneuver at low speeds, amazingly so even. U-turns and parking lots are nothing to fear. The only time this bike is a handful is when you're trying to push it around a parking lot - so park wisely.

My loaner was equipped with forward foot controls but mid-mount controls are also available as a factory option. I've got a 32" inseam and the forward foot controls were a little bit of a stretch and during extended rides they did put my hip flexor muscles to the test. Despite the slight stretch it is a pretty comfortable position so definitely don't rule it out, especially if you've got a longer leg. The seat height of 663 mm (26.1 in) is very low and being able to touch the ground flat footed won't be an issue for just about anybody - reaching forward mounted controls would be an issue long before seat height.

From the riders perspective the seat is deeply sculpted and quite comfortable. There's support in the rear and I'd describe it as being almost tractor style in shape. With the forward mount controls, adjusting your position means you've got to pull yourself toward the front tire using the handlebars because you can't use your legs to do it. Behind the rider the seat tapers to a narrow point over the rear fender. Reports from my passenger indicate that it's not as comfortable as the rider's position. In stock trim, there's nothing for the passenger to hang on to except the rider and it's difficult to shift your weight. A sissy bar (basically a backrest) is an available option that you might consider if you regularly have a passenger, otherwise they'll have to hang on tight! A lower body massage does come standard courtesy of the v-twin rumble.

Instrumentation on the Fat Bob is excellent and packaged into a large, round, tank mounted gauge. The round gauge includes an odometer, time-of-day clock, dual tripmeter, fuel gauge with low fuel warning light and countdown feature, low oil pressure indicator light, engine diagnostics readout, LED indicator lights, and 6-speed indicator light. A discreetly placed button on the left side of the gauge lets you toggle through the display features.

The only thing missing from the instrumentation is a tachometer. It's not really an essential bit of information given the torque this motor produces. You're never too far from being in the proper gear. The 6th gear light is an especially useful feature that illuminates a small indicator when in 6th gear. That's a helpful bit of information on the highway and puts an end to checking if you've got that one last gear left. The gas cap on the left hand side has a fuel indicator while the right hand side is the one you remove to gas up. By the way, there's even a Harley-Davidson logo stamped in the steel of the inside ring of the gas tank! Harley logo's are everywhere on this thing!

Stopping power is provided by dual disc, 4-piston fixed brakes in the front, and a 2-piston torque-free floating disc in the rear. Black stainless steel braided brake lines come standard. When you're on a bike this large you need to plan ahead a little when stopping so be sure to pay attention to traffic ahead of you. Combining liberal application of the rear brake with the front keeps things level and seemed to produce the most comfortable stops for me. Don't jam on the front brakes without using the rear as well as you'll quickly overburden the front suspension.

Suspension is by way of telescopic forks in the front while the rear consists of a twin sided swing arm with chromed shocks. The suspension on my loaner wasn't tuned for my weight so comments about it could vary from your personal experience. Over rough pavement and sharp bumps the suspension seemed quite firm. Have your dealership properly set up the suspension for your weight and type of riding.

In conclusion:

My daily rider is a Honda VFR 800 - a sport touring bike - so the HD Fat Bob is obviously a huge departure. After putting about 650 km's on this bike I must say that I was a little sad to have to give it back. One gets a feeling of invincibility riding this American made motorcycle. I felt pretty cool, like I was king of the road. One thing is certainly true - it draws the attention of other motorists and people of all ages. I don't get nearly as many "Cool bike" comments on my VFR. Plus that torque and v-twin exhaust note is highly addictive. 650 km's was enough to see some of the attraction of these big cruisers - enough to know that I'll jump at a chance to ride anything Harley makes in the future.

Specs

MSRP starting at $ 19,059 for Black and $19,499 for color
2329.94 mm

- Length or a little over 7.6 feet long.
- Dry weight 303.77 kg (~670 lbs)
- Wet weight 318.88 kg (703 lbs)
- Fuel economy (claimed) 4.44 hwy / 6.92 city per 100 km's
- Torque 124.75 Nm @ 3000 rpm
- 2-year unlimited mileage warranty.


Special thanks to Harley-Davidson Canada


Quick Hit and Slideshow - 2009 Yamaha TMAX Scooter

Quick Hit & Slideshow - 2009 Yamaha TMAX Scooter
Written by: Dan M

I'm sure you've all heard the jokes about scooters and perhaps you've ignored them because of the stereotypes often associated with them. Whatever the negative stereotype is that's keeping you from hopping on a scooter; GET OVER IT. Not only are scooters much cheaper to operate than automobiles, they're extremely practical, and they're an absolute blast to ride!

The 2009 Yamaha TMAX is new to Canada but has been available in Europe since 2001 where scooter riders have been buying them up en masse. Revamped in 2008, the TMAX now has a sporty aluminum chassis and, dare I say it, sport bike like bodywork and upswept muffler. This size scoter falls into the maxi scooter category and unlike the little 49cc scooters or even some of their larger brethren you're not limited to city, or secondary roads. Maxi scooters have the stability and power to comfortably get you whereever you want to go and whatever road you want to get their on. 2-up cross Canada trip? - the TMAX will do it with ease!

The TMAX has a liquid cooled, DOHC 499cc parallel twin engine pumps out a claimed 43 horsepower and 34.2 ft-lb of torque @ 6,500 rpm. Not earth shattering by motorcycle standards, but more than capable of propelling you at and above the speed limit on any Canadian road or highway; even if you've got a friend along for the ride.

If safety and performance is a key consideration you'll be pleased to know that the TMAX has R6 sportsbike derived brakes, with twin, monoblock four-piston front calipers and single-piston rear caliper, and a trio of 267 mm discs. If you want to stop, you can do it in a hurry; a single finger is all it takes to bring the TMAX down from speed. It doesn't feature ABS.

A huge 43mm fork up front and a single shock swingarm in the rear ensure a sportbike like ride and that road imperfections are taken in stride. 15" cast aluminum wheels with 120/70R15 front, 160/60R15 rear tires further highlight the motorcycle like package offered by the TMAX. The larger rims help with stability at higher speeds too.

The 2-piece windshield provides excellent wind and weather protection. The upper portion of the windshield features a "hard coated" finish for scratch protection. Dual 60/55-watt halogen headlights provide a bright beam of light to guide your way through the night and give the TMAX a sporty, sleek, cat-eye image.

In terms of comfort there's lots of legroom and a spacious cockpit. A seat height of 800mm (31.5'') should suit a wide range of riders. The rider portion of the seat features a 3 position back support for even more comfort and allows the rider's position to be adjusted forward or backward to add or reduce leg room.

A few things you'll immediately notice when hopping aboard the TMAX is the step through design common to scooters. It feels a little unusual at first if you're coming from a motorcycle background but I found the adjustment quick - within mere minutes I was feeling comfortable and enjoying the sporty handling. Another feature that's not as common on motorcycles is the fully automatic, CVT (constantly variable transmission) V-belt transmission. There's no gear changes to worry or think about. You're always in the proper gear and the transmission ensures easy "twist-the-throttle-and-go operation". This is especially convenient if you're a commuter or riding within the city. Stop and go traffic, and low speed maneuvers are performed effortlessly.

What about economy? Well, the TMAX features a 15-litre fuel tank and as you might anticipate it gets great gas mileage; 56 mpg or 20kpl is claimed by Yamaha. That gives you a theoretical range of approximately 300 km on a single tank. Gas prices are all over the map at the moment but lets say you're getting $1 a litre gasoline to make the math easy. That's $15 bucks to travel 300 km! You should also factor in insurance costs and scooters are generally easily insurable and at affordable rates.

On the practicality side - one of the great features of the TMAX is its lockable underseat storage. It has a large, locking under seat storage compartment can easily hold a full-face helmet. A vanity light is provided in the rear section of the trunk which is a nice touch when unloading in low light.

A multi-function instrumentation panel gives the rider all sorts of useful information. It includes analog speedometer, temp and fuel gauges with illuminated needles. Tach, odometer, dual tripmeters, clock, fuel tripmeter are digital. There's even a V-belt wear indicator warning light and an oil change indicator light too.

If you're a motorcycle rider and want the storage you get straight out of the crate with the TMAX you'll at least have to invest in a top box which also changes the appearance of the motorcycle. It's integrated into the styling of the TMAX. That makes throwing your laptop, work files, groceries, rain gear, helmet; whatever so much easier on the TMAX. The sporty performance it offers is also within the realm of many motorcycles and handling capabilities that exceeds that of many motorcycles. Those traits should make the transition from motorcycle to scooter quite a bit easier for traditional motorcycle riders. If you're a newcomer to two-wheeled riding, well, you're in for a treat!

2009 Yamaha TMAX
MSRP of $10,499
Wet weight 222kg (488.4 lb)
Colors: Dark Metallic Blue,Reddish Yellow

An instant rebate of $500 is available until September 2009 - see Yamaha's website for details.