They call it ‘Virtue.’ Of the multiple definitions for virtue, ‘goodness’ fits the case of Performance Machine’s Fat Boy called ‘Virtue’ best because there is plenty of goodness on this motorcycle.
It starts with the stunning seven-spoke chrome ‘Virtue’ wheels. PM and killer custom motorcycle wheels have been synonymous since the Morris Mag 7-spoke and the Invader 6-spoke hit the scene in the ‘70s. Touted as the “crowning jewel” of the Performance Machine R&D department is this
new hoop that pays homage to the Contour Wheels, “A modernization of the Contour wheel using everything we’ve learned over the past 10 years,” according to PM’s Jason Tiedeken. For the 2013 Virtue Wheel, Performance Machine used a little wider blank that allowed them to make the long, drawn-out rim cuts and to get the 3-D effect they were looking for. Rollin’ 21 inches tall up front and 240mm wide out back, there’s a lot of highly polished goodness mounted beneath the thick black chunks of Metzeler ME880 rubber.
It’d be a shame to have a wheel that looks as good as the Virtue hidden beneath a bunch of bodywork and frame rails. Fortunately, ‘Virtue’ sports PM’s Phatail 240mm Conversion Kit that really opens up the bike’s right side so you can enjoy an unobstructed view of the shining chunk of chrome. Pairing it with a set of Vance & Hines Staggered Short Shots was a smart move because the pipes stop short of the tail section, further enhancing the view of the backside. Even though you’ve got the pulley and rotor on the left side, it has a matching PM Series 9 Virtue Pulley and a clean drilled-out belt guard so it shines in its own right. The Performance Machine Phatail Kit comes with a wide swingarm and rear axle assembly, a one-piece formed steel fender and billet aluminum fender struts. In the case of ‘Virtue,’ they split and widened a 2011 H-D Fat Boy fender and fobbed in a recessed taillight. The struts, all the hardware you’ll need, taillight and tag mount are all part of the PM Phatail kit.
PM is expanding its repetoire with the addition of its new Lugged Handlebars, the ones on the 2007 Fat Boy powdercoated black.
The tall PM Virtue Wheel and thick Metzeler give the Harley cruiser a stocky look to its front end. With a name like Fat Boy, running a skinny front tire is sacrilegious. PM did swap out the bike’s fork for stock 2008 FLST legs and dressed them up with Merc Slider Covers. Another improvement to the front is the addition of new Performance Machine Lugged Handlebars. That’s right, PM is bending its own bars now, and with their track record of producing quality parts, this doesn’t bode well for the competition. The PM Lugged Bars bring the reach up a good ten inches before the Merc Grips bend back to the rider. Combine this with the Phatail kit that situates riders down and in the bike more, combined with a good stretch to the forward controls, and you’ve got an aggressive, open rider’s triangle. The bars not only inject the Fat Boy with a little extra attitude, they allow for plenty of leveraging when it comes to hustle the bike through turns, too. The PM Lugged Handlebars will soon be available for Harley Softails, Dynas and Touring bikes in either chrome or black.
Another new series of ‘virtuous’ products on the PM Fat Boy is the new Scallop line of covers. A lot of time went into the high quality machining of the Scallop line to get the desired 3-D effect. Contrast cut with a hot rod look, the stock horn cover, cam, derby and timing covers and the rocker boxes on the PM Fat Boy have all been switched out. The edgier new covers are direct replacements for the OEM ones and are shipped with all hardware and gaskets. With ‘Virtue’s’ new high bars and wider backside, the industrial-design of PM’s Scallop line injects the Fat Boy with even more attitude.
“It took a lot of expertise to get the finishes that good so we like to show it off,” added Tiedeken.
The Scallop design extends to the new PM Max HP Air Cleaner, too. The best part about the one-piece cover used on the air cleaner is its slim design. It’s one of the most compact performance air cleaners for V-Twins around, its K&N air filter tapered to match the design of its contrast cut cover. We love how the shape allows riders to easily place their foot flush on the floorboard, a feature that especially comes in handy for forward controls. Its goodness is tri-fold. It looks fantastic, boosts performance and gives you great knee clearance. Definitely one of the hot new products to be looking for coming out of PM this spring.
(R) Performance Machine’s new Max HP Air Cleaner with the Scallop design not only has a killer look, but it’s trim design allows riders to snug up tight to the bike and place their feet confidently flat on the floorboards. (M) The 2007 PM Fat Boy features the PM Phatail 240mm Conversion Kit that matches up to its new PM Primary. (R) Performance Machine’s new Scallop line of covers have a great 3-D look to them.
The Performance Machine Fat Boy serves as the launch vessel for other slick new products as well. One is its new Merc Fuel Level Gauge, an LED unit that displays fuel level in little green and red lights. The Merc gauge fits a variety of Harley tanks and in the case of ‘Virtue’ is matched to a Merc Contrast Cut Gas Cap to keep the appearance of the tank clean. Another complementary detail that adds to the custom look of the PM Fat Boy is its Vision mirrors. The new Small Leaf Mirrors have been redesigned and have a hidden pivot so they easily adjust forward and back. Compact and chromed out, they mount to PM hand controls as well as stock units.
And while Performance Machine has done plenty to spread its brand of goodness upon the 2007 Fat Boy, there are a couple of finishing touches like the paint and seat where PM enlisted the services of outside sources. The man responsible for the red metal flake paint and gold leaf trim is Matt Polosky at ColorZone. We dig how Polosky patterned the flat dark grey paint, especially on the tank, to give it dimension. The PM Phatail conversion sees the addition of a Corbin seat pan, too, that was then custom covered by Mauricio Aguilar of Azteca Customs.
It’s amazing how simple upgrades like a new intake, pipes, and cables can boost the performance of Harley’s Fat Boy.
So we’ve come to the conclusion that the sum of the parts of the PM Fat Boy has achieved show quality, but the big question is how these changes add up to real world performance. Fortunately for us, Performance Machine let us take the Fat Boy out for a day. Thumbing the electric starter, the first notable change is its exhaust note. The Vance & Hines Short Shots have been dialed in with the addition of a V&H Fuel pak and the burble is rich and deeper. Pull at the clutch lever has been reduced a touch and we like the action provided by the PM Contour Dual Cable. Gears engage earlier in the release and it gives riders an immediate connection and control over what’s going on at the back wheel.
Speaking of that back wheel, it’s amazing how a new intake, set of pipes, and a couple of fresh cables can get it spinning even quicker. The combo evens out the powerband of the Fat Boy’s Twin Cam 96, providing more mid-range punch and allowing riders to wind out gears longer. The torque-filled first hit Harley’s are known for is still there but overall the power is distributed in a much more linear manner. Though we didn’t get a chance to throw it on the dyno, the seat-of-our-pants impression we got while blasting down LA highways confirms ‘Virtue’ is definitely up on power over stock.
LA traffic keeps riders on edge. When the inevitable traffic jam brings six lanes to a standstill, we’re grateful for the firm, even pressure applied by the PM 4-piston differential bore brake calipers. Besides being more powerful than the stock units, they’re not grabby at all but still provide plenty of feel at the lever. The high-powered PM binders are paired with an 11.5-inch Virtue front rotor so you’ve got style to go along with improved performance.
We shot over to our buddy Taber Nash’s shop in West Hollywood to hang out before cruising the Sunset Strip.
After that, it was time to tear it up in the Hollywood Hills.
We take a ride on the PM Fat Boy out to visit our friends at the Perri Ink. Cartel and bring a little ‘Virtue’ to West Hollywood. The motorcycle fits right in with the crowd on the Sunset Strip, the depth of its red metal flake paint popping in the sun and its gold leaf glimmering like bling around P Diddy’s neck. Men in high-dollar suits driving Mercedes with tinted windows crane their necks as we roll by, shoot us looks that blend disgust and envy. The dolled-up Fat Boy fits right in, whether it’s parked in front of Pink’s Hot Dog stand or on the sidewalk in front of the Perri Ink tattoo parlor. The PM Fat Boy draws stares and head nods of agreement wherever we roll, testament to the job Performance Machine has done giving this bike an identity unlike any other Fat Boy out there.
Before busting out of Hollywood, we head for the hills. Hollywood Hills, that is, the winding road to the Griffith Observatory on Mount Hollywood perfect proving grounds for the Phatailed Fat Boy. The road is bumpy and uneven at times but the new Progressive shock for Softails they’re running on the PM Fat Boy is saving our kidneys from a beating. Better yet, it has a remote preload knob located externally on the left side just behind the primary so riders can easily dial in ride quality to their personal preference. The tall PM Lugged Bars provide solid leverage when the bike is leaned over hard and the boards allow for decent clearance despite its lower stance. The 240mm wide tire will push riders out wider than the stock 200mm tire in turns and wants to stand up more, but that comes as no surprise. The road has a steep grade in places but the PM Fat Boy has plenty of useable torque low in the rev range without lugging, so we seldom get above second gear. Once we acclimate ourselves to riding on a 240mm rear and the lower COG we’re able to flow into the turns, gracefully dipping into bends before twisting the Merc Grip to accelerate out. The bike cuts fluid lines as we climb and hit the parking lot of the observatory way too quick for our liking.
After a short break, we’re on I-5 headed back toward the LBC. It’s the five o’clock rush hour and we’re darting between the breaks in traffic before it grinds to a stop. Fortunately, the clutch action provided by the new cables on the PM Fat Boy makes it easier to stay in the friction zone when we start splitting lanes. The bike has enough bark to let cagers know we’re coming, it’s slim enough to filter between cars and has plenty of braking power when all else fails. For some reason, cars seem more apt to give you little wider berth when they see someone rolling up on them grabbing a set of apehangers.
A set of Vance & Hines Staggered Short Shots jut off the Harley Twin Cam 96 that’s been dressed up with Scallop Rocker Box Covers and AB Tech Pushrod Tubes.
We race the sun to Bolsa Chica State Park to catch the last rays dropping behind the Pacific. Bonfires are beginning to pepper the beach as families break out the hot dogs and S’more fixings. As a cool breeze blows in over green waters, we reflect on the ‘Virtues’ we’ve encountered during the day.
It starts with the virtue of Perry and Nancy Sands. Were it not for their talent and determination, there would be no Performance Machine. But thanks to their commitment to the SoCal chopper scene in the ‘70s and the passion they put into every sissy bar or front end that came out of their shop, Performance Machine is the industry powerhouse it is today. They pushed motorcycle wheel manufacturing to new heights and provided breakthroughs in braking performance with the release of its CNC-machined billet calipers made of aerospace grade solid aluminum bar that had never been seen before on Harleys.
The company has pushed testing methods forward with exhaustive procedures like its cornering test for wheels where the stresses applied on a wheel is duplicated and repeated for 1,000,000 cycles. Radial, torsional, and impact tests await after that, and if they don’t pass any of these, they’re thrown out and redesigned. This criteria is the reason most PM wheels and its Phatail Kit meet TUV requirements.
Virtue comes through the people you surround yourself. Performance Machine has one virtuous dude heading its research and design department as Jason Tiedeken has a keen eye for design. He’s paid his dues, learning the engineering ropes from old hard-liners in the railroad industry which gave him a strong foundation in strict engineering principles. He’s blended his passion for mountain bikes, motorcycles and hot rods into a profession and now helps steer PM into the future.
We’ve had the privilege to see bulk rods of billet trimmed down to size before being whisked off to various stations where it’s cut, stamped, grinded and pounded until it takes on new life as engine covers, brake calipers and wheels. We’ve seen the rock stars of the company, the polishers who hide their faces behind masks and goggles all day as they polish and buff parts to a lustrous sparkle. We’ve witnessed the parts being packaged before they’re whisked away to shipping headed toward destinations across the country and have seen the final product and the way it transforms the standard to stupendous, converting stock to custom. Finally, we’ve had the pleasure of testing the products in the real world, witnessing the ‘Virtue’ wheels in motion, squeezing the Merc Grips and pushing the PM Lugged Handlebars. We’ve seen how a combination of Performance Machine parts can turn a Harley Fat Boy into a rockin’ ride that turned heads wherever you go. After a day in the life of Performance Machine, we’re sold on their ‘Virtue’ and are now helping to spread the gospel about the goodness we’ve discovered.