For 2010, Harley-Davidson's CVO division is marking its eleventh year with two returning favorites and two new flavors. For discriminating buyers with distinguished credit limits, these limited-edition models represent the pinnacle of panache from Milwaukee's ultimate fashionistas.
In each of the past eleven model years, Harley-Davidson's Custom Vehicle Operations has undertaken the enviable task of transforming already stylish American iron into signature motorcycles meant to stand head and shoulders above the rest. This select group of designers and engineers chooses four models from the company's lineup and applies total body makeovers compliments of the fabled 820-page Harley-Davidson Genuine Motor Accessories and Motor Parts Catalog.
For 2010, the Ultra Classic Electra Glide and Fat Bob make return CVO appearances, while the Street Glide and Softail Convertible are the newcomers receiving star treatment. These upgraded units quite simply represent the best that the Motor Company has to offer, and no expenses are spared in creating the artistic factory customs. The well-heeled CVO customers who demand them thrive on the exotic and aren't at all averse to shelling out the funds needed to belong to the most exclusive group of Harley-Davidson owners. And because production numbers run less than four percent of total vehicle output, a potential buyer is all but guaranteed that his or her bike will be the only one of its kind in town.
Despite the steep entrance fees to the CVO Club (prices range from $ 25,299 to $ 35,999), customers consistently rate their purchases as "good values." Truth be told, few Harley riders of any stripe choose to leave their bikes well enough alone, and all of the parts used to create these high-end masterpieces can be found by any do-it-yourselfer in said Harley-Davidson accessory catalog. However, if purchased and installed separately on a new motorcycle, the price of all the requisite bling would substantially eclipse the already sedan-like CVO sticker prices long before the project was completed. When viewed in that chrome-cast light, a CVO may well be worth a serious look, especially considering how all of the extra goodies, including the mechanical bits, are covered by a full factory warranty and come pre-installed.
Wanting to know what you really get for the extra money and how well it works, we happily accepted Harley-Davidson's invitation to find out while sampling their new batch of CVO wares on the twisting mountain roads surrounding beautiful Half Moon Bay, California.
FXDFSE CVO™ Fat Bob® - 1,300 Units
True to its Dyna platform's sportier heritage, the Fat Bob is the handler of the bunch. A beefy, aggressive-looking 130 series front tire leads the charge, sucking up even the roughest roads with ease. An extended FX front end teams up with a pair of chrome-covered, coil-over shocks to keep things well planted. The biggest Fat Bob riding issue left neglected in the shop appears to be its lean in tight corners, which might have led them to bevel off the sharp-looking Diamond Black Collection foot pegs, a task much easier suggested than done.
Like the other CVO offerings, the Fat Bob is powered by a Screamin' Eagle® twin-cam, 110 V-twin that slams the asphalt with 113 lb-ft of torque delivered at 3,500rpm. The CVO-standard tranny, the six-speed Cruise Drive®, shifts smoothly and is equally adept at red-light launches as it is eating Interstate miles in excess of the legal mandate.
To sweeten the custom pot, the FXDFSE also comes with a brown, two-piece, distressed leather seat. The designers told us that each saddle develops its own personality as the rider wears it in. Other cool features include the Tommy Gun exhaust, and a brand-new Midnight Pearl plating process found on the dual headlamp shell, tail light cover, and the timer, horn, and fender strut covers. Fang wheels with bolt inserts and a Heavy Breather high-flow intake are also standard features.
FLSTE CVO™ Softail® Convertible - 2,500 Units
The Softail Convertible is new to the CVO family and offers riders a unique take on functionality as well. Designed with the "two-in-one" concept in mind, this bike encompasses both the touring and cruising genres in one tidy package. Its traveling trim includes a compact fairing, leather saddlebags, and a passenger pillion with a backrest. But when the boulevard beckons all of these features can be removed for a clean, stripped-down look. With a little practice, the entire process can be accomplished in a couple of minutes.
The Softail Convertible also wows with 110 lb-ft of Screamin' Eagle® torque that hits the pavement through the Cruise Drive® six-cog gearbox. An extra dose of style is added with a full-coverage rear fender, Stinger chrome aluminum wheels, and a Ventilator high-flow air intake for the engine. Three custom color options are offered.
FLHXSE CVO™ Street Glide® - 3,500 Units
Billed as a genuine hot-rod bagger, the CVO Street Glide impresses in both the comfort and performance categories. As another new addition to the custom stable, this big boy delivers 115 lb-ft of Screamin' Eagle® V-twin adrenaline. For a bike bending the scales at nearly 850 pounds, the Street Glide has a lot more jump than its ample build implies. But with its mill rubber mounted to the frame, the hearty vibes one might expect from this thumping beast are kept nicely in check. While it does leave the line deceptively fast, the Street Glide also lives up to its name on the open road. The shorty wind deflector atop the fairing does a surprisingly good job of punching a hole in the air - and thankfully, too, taking into account that excess wind noise could interfere with the 40-watt Harman/Kardon® Advanced Audio System. After all, when you're making miles along Highway 1 and Fiona Apple is singing about being a "bad, bad girl," you need to hear all about it.
On the eye-candy front, this Harley has the sweets to compete as well. All new injection-molded saddlebags offer increased capacity. Super-cool Agitator wheels feature contrast-chrome highlights and match the seven-spoke brake rotors. Hand adjustable hydraulic rear shocks can be dialed in to handle whatever the road throws your way, and a low-profile seat with leather inserts and French stitching tops off the comfort package. Be it down the block or across the country, the CVO Street Glide is ready to ride.
FLHTCUSE CVO™ Ultra Classic® Electra Glide® - 3,450 Units
The granddaddy of Harley-Davidson's touring fleet makes another stop on the CVO circuit and gets a royal treatment that redefines the term "king of the road." Built around Harley's recently updated Touring chassis, all of the wallows and wobbles that plagued earlier Ultras are now things of the past. And that's a good thing because the beefy V motoring this Glide is pumping out 115 lb-ft of torque. Like the Street Glide, this hefty Hog (924 pounds) belies its girth and exhibits an impressive jump when the Screamin' Eagle is goosed. In the twists, the Ultra again demonstrates an impressive, light-footed nature that has floorboards screaming for mercy long before the chassis becomes unsettled. Steel braided brake lines activate three sets of four piston calipers, and ABS assures things won't get too squirrelly. Great work, Harley-Davidson.
The CVO Ultra Classic is offered in three custom color combinations, and its list of upgrades reads like a long-haul tourer's Christmas wish list. With new, low-profile LED lighting replacing the old bulb inserts, the King Tour-Pack® topcase has even more room. LED pods also illuminate the saddlebag interiors. For the passenger, a leather backrest features an adjustable lumbar support, and Custom Vehicle Operation monogrammed luggage liners are part of the deal. Heated rider and passenger seats make for a nice touch on those cooler mornings; and with this Ultra's 80-Watt Harman/Kardon® Advanced Audio System with CB/Intercom and navigation system on, you'll be able to pass the time most enjoyably without passing by your next turn.
There's no disputing that riding a Harley-Davidson is special. Granted, the regular model range stands perfectly well on its own merits, but at the same time these bikes are prime candidates to choose for owners who want to create something truly unique. And that's exactly what Custom Vehicle Operations sets out to do. The level of CVO exclusivity is undeniable, and the only way to experience that is to try and catch one of these machines at your dealer before it's snapped up - because once they're gone, they are gone. And, sad to say, it takes all of 365 days for the CVO crew to deliver a fresh new batch.