Is there any more iconic Harley-Davidson motorcycle than the hot rod Fat Boy?
From Hollywood stardom to being immortalised as a Lego toy, the Softail Fat Boy is the “most copied motorcycle of all time” according to Harley spokesman Kevin Hintz.
It was introduced in 1989 as a 1990 model and designed by legendary Harley stylists Willie G. Davidson and Louie Netz as a modernised version of the 1949 Hydra-Glide.
The next year, it was ridden to instant stardom by Arnold Schwarzenegger in Terminator 2: Judgement Day.
The movie featured a chase scene in which the bike performed a spectacular jump in the LA sewers. Next to The Great Escape jump, it’s probably the most famous motorcycle stunt in cinematic history.
The 3m jump is impressive as stunt double Peter Kent is riding a 300+kg Fat Boy beast, not a relatively nimble little Triumph dirt bike like in The Great Escape.
However, Hollywood trickery did assist as the Fat Boy was supported by 3cm cables. So when bike and ride hit the ground, they weighed only about 80kg. The cables were later digitally erased.
The Fat Boy also played an integral role in the marketing of the film with posters depicting Arnold in leather jacket and pants straddling the bike and carrying his lever-action Winchester shotgun. It’s an image for all time that has bestowed the Fat Boy model with intrinsic and monetary value.
In 2017, Harley made major changes to its Softail range with lighter weight, improved suspension, bigger Milwaukee Eight 107 and 114 engines and two new and very stiff frames.
The wider frame accommodates the massively wide 240mm-section rear tyre of the Breakout and Fat Boy, up from 200mm.
For 2021, the Fat Boy gets minor styling updates and drops the 107 engine, only coming with the 114 plant.
The styling changes would only be noticeable to a Fat Boy tragic.
They include some cosmetic changes, a wet weather “sock” on the hi-flow air filter and a digital fuel gauge in the main instruments, replacing the analogue dial in the “dummy” left fuel cap on the tank. Traditionalists may not like that, but the old gauge was difficult to read.
Sadly, they have also dropped the cruise control that was on the previous S variant.
The remaining styling elements are very similar to those of Arnie’s Fat Boy: Solid Lakester wheels, fat forks, heavily chromed headlight nacelle and wide handlebars.
It’s a style that divides opinion, but there is no doubting it has many steadfast fans and even a legion of young fans.
I’ve ridden every Fat Boy model for the past couple of decades and have always noticed the admiring glances it gets from riders and non riders alike.
But is it a case of form over function?
Certainly the major chassis and powertrain changes of 2017 have improved its function … to a degree.
Yes it has better suspension with an external preload adjuster and dual-bending valve telescopic cartridge forks, smoother transmission and 161Nm of grunt yet even better fuel economy!
But that 240mm, low-profile rear tyre is never going to work well.
The low profile results in a harsh ride, despite the improved rear shock.
It also means you need Arnie’s biceps to counter steer the bike and hold your line in corners as the flat profile tyre tries to stand the bike upright.
We’ve all heard it said that Harleys won’t go around corners. That’s rubbish. Many modern Harleys handle quite well, albeit with limited cruiser-style clearance issues. After two weeks with a Fat Boy test bike, the wide floorboards are copping a hammering.
But the Fat Boy also has issues riding in a straight line on anything less than perfect road surfaces.
If there is a camber in the road, the rear tyre will follow it downhill.
If you hit a bump, the rear tyre will push away from it.
And if you ride over any longitudinal crack, the rear tyre will follow it.
This all makes riding the Fat Boy a tiring experience; a bit like an arms session in the gym.
But isn’t that what really appeals about this bike, anyway? Its need for some muscle behind the bars is intrinsic to its macho appeal.
Talk to any biker over a few beers at the end of the day, the same old question comes up. ‘When did you first start riding?’ For myself and many, many other Aussies, the answer is quite different to those that you’d get in Europe, the USA or Asia. For these other countries, the answer will often be ‘motorcross’ or even ‘bombing around a quiet car park on Sundays.’ But for many an Aussie, the answer will almost inevitably be, ‘as a kid on a farm.’
In Farm’s Way
Farming is to Australia as cars are to the US; it’s the industry at the heart of the country and as such, it unavoidably burrows its way into many aspects of the country’s culture and being. So even a Sydney boy like me, born and bred 30 minutes from the Sydney Opera House and the Harbour Bridge, spent many a school holiday fanging around on a bike in the dusty far western plains of New South Wales.
And while this ‘farm first’ approach to motorcycling does often feed young riders into the typical moto-cross, enduro and even track racing categories, this birth as an off-road rider from nothing but an empty paddock, an ‘ag bike’ and a whole day to waste in the dirt is uniquely Australian. With very little for learners to hit apart from wire fences and the barking Cattle Dog doing fervent loops around you, this approach affords many riders a broad foundation of basic skills that aren’t limited to the requirements of a single racing genre.
Old and Dirty
But I’m getting a little ahead of myself. The official birth of the Australian off-road scene took place on a warm night at the Maitland showground on the 15th of December, 1923. And while many international pundits from the US and the UK dispute this, it’s widely acknowledged that on this night, the first-ever speedway race in the world took place under the arena’s newly installed electric lights.
And it won’t surprise you to learn that – you guessed it – the local farmers were the ones on the bikes. Johnny Hoskins, the local who organised the yearly Agricultural show was looking for other events to broaden the event’s appeal. He noticed the local farmers on their bikes and speeds at which they were able to get across their paddocks, and the rest is history.
Horses for Courses
By the early 1970s, a full 25% of the 55,000 bikes purchased in Australia weren’t classed or registered as road-going vehicles, which really brings home just how large a part of the market the off-road sector was. Horses had been slowly replaced by farm bikes since the technology had come of age in the 1950s, meaning that it was easier and cheaper to maintain a bike than to pay for a horse’s feed and vet bills.
These ‘Ag’ bikes from the likes of BSA and other overseas firms were specially geared to allow riders to meander along while checking fences, rounding up sheep and to move cross country at the same speed as those on foot.
A ’70s Explosion
Following the global trend captured in Bruce Brown’s now famous ‘On Any Sunday’ starring Steve McQueen, the popularity of off-road riding in Australia exploded around this time, meaning that by the early 1970s, those suitably flush could partake in trail riding, enduro, sporting trials, moto-cross, minibikes and a whole raft of on-road moto pursuits, too.
And as supremely 70s as it may seem now, there was a growing interest in off-road trikes like the American-made ‘Dunecycle.’ Driven through a torque converter and made of lurid fibreglass, their ability to tackle most terrain with even the most basic of riders on board didn’t stop them from disappearing before the end of the decade.
Sand and Deliver
It’s also interesting to note that Sydney and her northern neighbor city, Newcastle, both had large, moto-friendly sand dunes nearby. With Kurnell to Sydney’s south and the Stockton Dunes to Newcastle’s north, the local inhabitants had free and easy access to sand riding right throughout the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s.
This included a dune buggy contingent that saw a ‘Baja Bug’ scene to rival the best that California or Mexico had to offer. After all, with a plethora of old VW Beetles available for chump change and the aftermarket parts scene booming, who in their right mind wouldn’t consider a little weekend sand sled to attract the opposite sex in their swimmers?
Scrambling for Meaning
But what about scrambling, you ask? Here’s the thing; scramblers weren’t always scramblers. ‘Scramble’ races were a popular event in the UK since the ’20s and ’30s, but in Australia – before the genre was really formalised – it was effectively split into two more discrete sports: trials riding and moto-cross. Australian publications from the ’70s seem to turn up very few, if any, mentions of the word.
Or maybe more to the point, the distinction between the various sports wasn’t completely clear, even to those taking part in them. I found this quote from a 1974 motorcycling publication, stating that ‘It is difficult to make clear distinctions between such events as ‘trials’, ‘sporting trials’, ‘scrambles’, ‘enduros’, ‘moto-cross and ‘cross country racing’ because there are shades of meanings, varying from State to State and even club to club.’
Of course, the last five years have seen a real renaissance of scramblers after the 21st Century cafe racing boom has had its run. This has also seen a crystallisation of the concept where previously there was much assumption, legends and endless photos of a very dusty-looking Steve McQueen. But if you’re anything like me, that’s got to be a good thing. Let’s face it; once you’ve been bitten by the dirt bug, too many moto off-roading options are barely enough.
Motorcycle jackets are one of those pieces of safety gear that it just makes sense to own. No matter if you live in a hot, humid, cold, or dry area, all roads possess the ability to be rather harsh to your skin should you ever go down. There are jackets designed for all four of those previously mentioned environmental conditions, and some of the best jackets possess the ability to handle more than one.
Since there really is no “one size fits all” type of motorcycle jacket, this list will not be ranked competitively. What we mean by this is that instead of counting down from 10 to 1, we’ll instead be showing the ten overall best motorcycle jackets for men, flat out. Simply choose the one that best suits your environment, and you’ll have many fun riding days ahead!
Alpinestars is a name that has been in motorcycle racing for a long time, and it shows with their gear. The Missile Air jacket is designed to be used for the street, yet it is made from race-grade 1.3mm cowhide leather, meaning that it offers the same level of abrasion protection that MotoGP and World SBK riders have. It is also fully perforated on the front and back, and meant to move a lot of air over the rider while carrying away heat and sweat.
In short, this jacket is meant for those who go fast, but also want to be comfortable doing so. Added protection comes in the form of CE-certified hard shell sliders on the elbows and shoulders, backed by dual-density foam over CE-certified armor on the innermost layer.
One of the best aspects about the Missile Air is that it is designed from the factory to be used with the Alpinestars TechAir Race airbag vest, which is worn under the jacket. The inner lining has attachment points so that the vest offers the best impact protection without the jacket riding up or moving around, and the jacket features a small LED panel on the left sleeve that gives riders status updates at a glance.
The only downside to the jacket is that while it does have a padded aerodynamic hump and a lower backslider, it does not include a back protector, even at this price. This is mostly because the TechAir Race has a CE level 2 back protector built-in, but if you do not use the vest with the airbag, you will need to source a separate one.
The Rev’It Cayenne Pro is one hell of an adventure jacket. ADV and dual-sport jackets have probably the crowd to please in all of motorcycling, as they have to be both extremely comfortable while providing protection against on-road and off-road hazards. On top of that, they are expected to also be three-season viable without being too complicated to switch between a summer jacket flowing a lot of air to a rainy day jacket that is waterproof.
Rev’It has designed the Cayenne Pro to check off all those boxes, and a few more that you probably aren’t thinking of. The biggest part is that the entire chassis of the jacket is 750D polyamide coated with Teflon coating. This textile, Rev’It’s own in-house design, feels like Cordura but contains 87% polyamide, 7% leather, and 6% polyester, giving it superb abrasion resistance while also making it reasonably penetration resistant as well.
The Cayenne Pro is 100% waterproof when all airflow vents are closed, and there are a few of them. This allows you to tailor the amount of air you want through the jacket, from none on a particularly chilly day to almost being a mesh jacket on super hot days. And throughout it all, this jacket carries Rev’it’s CE level 2 rated SeeFlex shoulder and elbow protectors, and a SeeSoft CE level 2 back protector.
For those that are serious about spending days, if not weeks, on a motorcycle, adventuring across the Australian outback, or touching all the big landmarks in South Africa, Klim has the jacket for you. The Adventure Rally Jacket is not for those looking to ride for a day, no. This is about as hardcore as you can get.
Using all the latest in material and protective technologies, the Adventure Rally is waterproof, windproof, stain-resistant, and shucks off salt, water, and biologicals that might get tossed into the air if you’re riding along a coastline near the sea. GoreTex interwoven with Armacor textile provides three layers of abrasion resistance and waterproofing, so even if you do take a spill and tear the outer layer, two more layers will still keep the integrity of the jacket.
The Adventure Rally also comes with a full complement of armor, all of it D3O CE level 2 or better, in the chest, shoulders, elbows, forearms, and full back. It has an internal kidney belt that helps the shoulders bear the weight of the jacket on the tops of the hips while also armoring the kidneys. A built-in, 3-liter hydration pack in the back is easily refillable, and contamination-proof when closed, with the drink tube able to be routed either internally or externally, depending on your preference.
Ten waterproof external pockets mean you can carry all the gear you need that’s too small to fit in your saddlebags or pannier lockers. Ventilation is also highly customizable with no less than 6 vent options, all closed and sealed by YKK zippers and waterproof GoreTex membranes behind the zips.
Yes, this jacket costs as much as a decent used dirt bike, but it is meant, as stated, to survive weeks, if not months, on an adventure. And for that, there is no better jacket.
The history of cafe racing personal protective gear is a bit of an interesting one, as cafe racers in the UK were the first riders to fully and truly wear head-to-toe protective gear, usually made of high-grade cowhide leather. It’s a good thing, then, that Merlin decided to not fix what’s not broken.
The Chase Cafe jacket is made of high quality, double- and triple-stitched cowhide, in varying thicknesses of 1.2 to 1.3 mm. The main chassis is backed by a smooth satin black fabric, with a removable thermal liner vest that weighs only 100g.
Keeping with the style and feel of the rock and roll racing era, the two-tone leather hides an impressive set of CE level 2 armor in the shoulders and elbows, with a back pocket in the liner designed to handle any of the top quality back protector inserts on the market, from D3O all the way to Nucleon and SeeSoft.
Also in keeping with the cafe history, all zips are high-quality YKK, with Merlin snap closures including a storm flap closure just under the collar if you want a little more airflow, or a full neck snap if it’s getting a little chilly. Other jackets made of the same materials, with the same level of protection, will cost you over $100 more, which makes the Merlin Chase Cafe jacket one of the best value-for-money options out there in today’s cafe jacket market.
“Wait,” we can hear you say. “That’s a jacket?” Indeed it is, although it is branded as a “riding shirt.” It may look like a slightly bulky cotton button-up, but that is underselling the serious protection that this jacket hides.
Looking like an average construction site work shirt, the exterior is made of 67% cotton and 33% polyester, although it is not on-brand Cordura. Instead, it is branded out as 12oz coated denim, which has about 300D ripstop equivalent. While that is not overly impressive, the 140GSM aramid knit backing to that denim is. Much like riding jeans, the aramid takes the brunt of the abrasion, with a ripstop rating of 1000D.
This is backed up with full Sas-Tec CE Level 2 armor, certified to EN 1621-1 performance, in the elbows and shoulder areas, held in by aramid and polyester lining. There is a pocket for a back protector at the rear of the shirt and will fit all major armor types in that pocket.
Hiding behind the front buttons, in case there was worry that the shirt might rip open during a slide, is a fully double-sewn YKK zipper. The collar has hidden snap-downs to prevent it from flapping in the wind, and there are belt loops hidden in the hem to keep the shirt from riding up during a slide as well.
All in all, if you want to look casual, but ride protected, REAX has a relatively inexpensive but amazingly protective riding shirt for you.
As easily seen in the top form of motorcycle racing, MotoGP, there really are only two houses of racing suits across the entire competitive field. One is Alpinestars, the other is Dainese. If there ever was a war for sportbike and supersport gear dominance, it is between these two companies. So it’s only fitting that while one of our top recommended sports jackets is Alpinestars, the other is one of Dainese’s best.
Instead of relying purely on cowhide for abrasion resistance, Dainese has invested a lot of research and development money into what is known as S1 Bielastic Fabric, developed in partnership with Cordura. While high-quality leather does make up a large part of the chassis, especially abrasion areas, it is backed by S1, and S1 is also used to form the stretch panels between leather panels. As well, the S1 in and of itself is equivalent to 600D ripstop and contains polyamides, polyester, and aramid fibers for the strongest, but most flexible, protection possible.
This allows for the jacket, which is relaxed just under a full race fit, to stretch and conform to the rider’s body without needing to be fully tailored to the rider. On top of that, the jacket features composite armor in the shoulders and elbows, with replaceable aluminum external slide points. The entire jacket is also CE Cat 2 certified, meaning it is a viable track jacket and passes all requirements to be worn for track days if you do not have a full suit.
Sometimes, riders want to have gear that serves as both protection while riding, and outerwear when they park up somewhere. While most jackets can feel a bit stuffy or even downright heavy when air is not flowing through them, Rev’It has balanced the Stealth 2 Hoody right on that razor’s edge.
In terms of protection, the Stealth 2 is made of triple-layer stretch Cordura, backed by a HydraTex pro waterproofing membrane. The elbows are reinforced with polyamide fabric to help with abrasion resistance and sliding. The shoulders and elbows are protected with Rev’It Seesmart armor, with a back protector pocket in the liner of the hoody.
In terms of outerwear, the Stealth 2 also comes with a detachable thermal liner that brings the jacket to a full three-season level of warmth and wearability. Being stretch Cordura, the hoody is also highly breathable, allowing sweat and moisture to wick away from the body. This means that when you arrive at your destination, you can wear the hoody as normal outerwear without having to lug around a heavy jacket.
The Scorpion EXO 1909 is a jacket that has both an interesting story and a specific design behind it. A cross between a sports jacket and a cruiser jacket, the 1909 in the name symbolizes the incorporation and opening of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, where throughout the years motorsports of both the two and four-wheeled varieties have taken place.
Made of distressed leather for a soft feel, it nonetheless offers over 1.1mm of cowhide abrasion protection. Sas-Tec CE level 2 armor is discreetly hidden in the shoulders and elbows, with a pocket in the rear for a Sas-Tec CE level 2 back protector. On the elbows specifically, extra leather overlays have been sewn in so that there is added protection on one of the most common slide points.
Zippered rear vents work in conjunction with discreetly hidden perforated underarm and flank panels. A removable thermal liner allows for both warm and cold weather riding. All of the zippers on the jacket are genuine YKK but in a special process antiquated brass look. The wrists are zipper closures with accordion stretch panels to create a good air seal for cruiser riding, and a good glove seal for sport riding.
The biggest thing with the EXO 1909 is not that it features a hell of a lot of protection, but that it does so while recreating the look and feel of an early 20th-century leather jacket.
Before anyone asks, yes, that is the actual retail name of this jacket. Roland Sands is a premium gear maker, and the [email protected]#k Luck definitely deserves the premium tag. Each jacket is handmade, and the entire jacket chassis is 1.1 to 1.3 mm thick premium cowhide, which is hand-finished in vegetable dye.
It comes with Knox CE level 2 armor at the shoulders and elbows, with a pocket for a back protector. All zips, as are common on high-quality jackets, are YKK. There are four mostly hidden vents, closed by zips, at the shoulders and middle of the back.
The jacket is water-resistant, with a waterproof internal device pocket. It is also articulated so that if you ride a supersport, a sportbike, an ADV, or even a cruiser, the jacket can move and adapt to each riding position without stretching or straining against your body. That alone makes it one of the best, and the fact that it technically qualifies as a track-wearable protective jacket is just the icing on the cake.
A lot of motorcycles live in places where it can get uncomfortably warm in many other types of jackets. This is why mesh jackets first started getting made back in the early 2000s. Evolutionary materials and engineering have brought what used to be bits of nylon stretched between leather panels into fully armored, abrasion-resistant, yet exceptionally comfortable modern mesh textile jackets.
Of these, Rev’It has the Ignition 3, possibly one of the finest examples of protection with maximum airflow. The third iteration, the base chassis is made of Monaco Performance cowhide leather, some of the best protective leather you can get in the world. Between the cowhide sections is tightly woven Dynax mesh, which is heat-resistant and deflects off as much heat as it allows air through, and also will not melt during a slide.
Backing up the Dynax is PWR I shell 500D stretch fabric in the arms and 600D waxed polyester in the torso. All of this is then backed with Lorica fabric. It may sound like a lot of layers, and it frankly is, but the fact is that you can hold this jacket up to a light with it fully closed and zipped up, and still see the light through it.
Because it’s Rev’It, and they over-engineer almost all their gear (which is a good thing!), there are two detachable liners, a full Hydratex 3L waterproof one, and a thermite liner in case it gets chilly. Protection comes in the form of full CE level 2 Seeflex armor on the elbows and shoulders, and there is a pocket in the back of the jacket for a Seesoft CE 2 back protector, which will fit D3O, Nucleon, and other armor types without issue.
If you need the best protection with the best airflow, Rev’It have you covered!
With promises of releasing as many as seven new models in India by August of this year, Chinese-owned Italian brand Benelli has been busy – and they’re about to drop a little treat for us rubberists.
According to RushLane, A new motorcycle with ties to both QJ Motors and Benelli has just been spotted in China via a spy shot – and it is expected that Qianjiang Motor will be releasing the new sportbike under the Benelli brand name.
As seen in the spy photo, the bike features a split seat setup, rear-set footpegs, and a clip-on handlebar, with a raised tail and compact upswept exhaust reminiscent of their 250cc superbike design.
Expected specs include a compact exhaust, USD forks at the front of the bike, a rear mono-shock, and a potential 500cc twin-cylinder motor – the same as the motor in Bellini’s Leoncino 500. It’s this last detail that has sparked rumors that the bike could sport ‘502R’ in the model name, rendering it the start of a new series.
Should the 502R harbor Leoncino’s motor, we would be looking at an engine with a hefty 46.8 bhp at 8500 rpm and 46 Nm of peak torque at 6000 rpm. That, coincidentally, would put the competition right up the alley of the Kawasaki Ninja 400 – and if it makes it across the seas, it will bring some throttle-twisting competition to today’s mid-range moto market.
Stay tuned for updates, and head over to WebBikeWorld for a peek at other comparable motors by Benelli.
“Well I mean first of all, we haven’t been here last year, a big step in bike development from the year before to last year we could not see on this track so it was very interesting for our boys to be here this weekend with a new generation of bikes,” began Beirer. “In general, everybody has respect for this track, the riders love it, a super high-speed place here and all in all a difficult track, but so far so good, we have had a good practice, we had a good first practice this morning – we had a plan with the rear tyre, we used a fresh one, we have a good pace so far.
Triumph has just partnered up with Beeline, a company that caters to two-wheeled navigation systems, to deliver an upgraded, industrial-strength navigation system with a minimalist design and laser-etched Triumph features, compatible with any motorcycle.
According to a report from AutoEvolution, the new navigation system hit the UK’s store shelves this past weekend and is anticipated to be a big hit – especially since this model is based on the trendy Beeline Moto device introduced back in 2019.
The system features an IP67 waterproof and shockproof case that sports the iconic ‘triumph-branded packaging’ and is said to fit any motorcycle handle – specifically, Triumph models (take your pick of models from this list curated on WebBikeWorld). Simply install the elasticated snap-mount onto your bike of choice, and the system locks in with an easy push and twist.
Should you decide that you can’t wait for the Triumph Beeline to make its way across the Atlantic, Beeline’s website currently has the original, non-Triumph “Beeline Moto” available for purchase – and if you really love the concept of the Triumph Beeline, the navigation company also carries modified systems outfitted for bicycles.
…Not that we’re especially keen to drop our motors and go for a pedal, but the option is there.
According to AutoEvolution, the system will be compatible with motorcycles in the UK, Europe, USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and Japan.
Looking forward to when the Triumph Beeline makes its way to the Western Hemisphere – until then, long live Triumph!
After a one-day test with us after the 2019 Austria GP, Jason’s first official appearance was in January 2020 at the Hockey Open Air in Dynamo Dresden’s stadium, and in front of a crowd of almost 32,000. With two brilliant show runs, made possible by ADAC Sachsen, Jason Dupasquier brought a true, warming MotoGP™ atmosphere into the stadium with his Moto3™-KTM in freezing cold conditions. It was a first taste of German Grand Prix, our home GP at the Sachsenring.
The Road to MotoGP™ is becoming a reality: Austria’s junior motorcycle racers will get the unique chance to fight for victory in the unique setting of the Motorcycle World Championship. At the first of two MotoGP™ events at the Red Bull Ring this summer, the Austrian Junior Cup will host two championship races. The races will be held in conjunction with the Northern Talent Cup, which, like the AJC, will be run exclusively on the KTM RC4R. However, the Austrian series will be classified separately.