It's hard to believe, but Harley-Davidson's Custom Vehicle Operations (CVO) division is already a teenager, hitting its lucky 13th year! RoadRUNNER just viewed the latest crop of high-line Hogs at beautiful Lake Tahoe, a fitting venue for these pricey machines that are known for their fancy finishes, powerful motors, and acres of chrome and billet. Harley's CVO division is devoted to building premium motorcycles for customers who desire the exclusivity of these limited-production models with their intricate paint, custom accessories, and special engines not available with standard production. CVO models are customized using exclusive components and paint treatments combined with existing items from Harley's Genuine Motor Accessories catalog. Additionally, the CVO models often introduce new custom components before they're offered as individual accessories.
Harley's newest bikes continue this theme with big engines, premium audio systems and saddles, plus custom colors and graphics. For the 2011 model year, Harley's CVO created four limited-production motorcycles: CVO Road Glide Ultra, CVO Street Glide, CVO Softail Convertible, and Ultra Classic Electra Glide.
The CVO Road Glide Ultra sports a frame-mounted fairing and features a Road Tech Zumo 660 GPS navigation system. An upgraded Harman-Kardon audio system includes an 8gb iPod nano and dock connected to its audio system. There's a roomy touring seat with dual heat controls, adjustable backrests, and fancy leather inserts. Harley performed wind-tunnel testing to design a reshaped 16-inch windshield and deflectors that reduce buffeting at highway speeds. Lastly, a push-button, remote-control key fob activates power locks on the Tour-Pak luggage carrier, saddlebags, and ignition.
The CVO Street Glide rolls on a new taller 19-inch Agitator alloy front wheel. A ventilated fairing lowers house two of the six speakers, which are part of a high-output audio system boosted by a new high-efficiency, 100-watt-per-channel amplifier. The Street Glide's audio system also incorporates an 8gb iPod nano with its dock located in the right saddlebag. The side-fill fuel tank is topped with a flush-mount cap and trick LED gas gauge, as well as a revamped console. A new low-profile seat is faced with snake-style leather inserts, and the fairing is now topped with a seven-inch smoke-tint wind deflector. A choice of four different color combos is available for this and the other two CVO models; for the first time, each engine color and finish is color coordinated with the wheel, console, muffler end-cap, and inner fairing.
The CVO Softail Convertible is a two-in-one model that quickly transforms from custom touring bike to custom cruiser with the removal of the detachable fairing, leather saddlebags, passenger pillion, and rear backrest. This latest Softail Convertible comes equipped with a new audio system that integrates 3.5-inch, two-way speakers and a 20-watt-per-channel amplifier into a redesigned inner fairing. Tunes are delivered by an 8gb iPod nano, stored in a protective pouch. The locking leather saddlebags, leather rider seat, passenger pillion, and leather backrest pad have a new alligator-style insert. A rectangular 1.25-inch welded mini-ape handlebar gives the bike a custom look, while standard Electronic Throttle Control (ETC), cruise control, keyless ignition, and ABS ensure more touring comfort and capability for this Softail Convertible.
The CVO Ultra Classic Electra Glide now features a suspended, heated, two-up seat with leather inserts, and matching adjustable backrests for rider and passenger. Dual mufflers include chrome billet end caps with black spears, and mirrors are finished in mirror chrome. Trim panels for the CB/pod insert, Screamin' Eagle 110 intake, and Tour-Pak lid inserts share a new diamond-cut pattern. The Road Tech zumo 660 GPS navigation system and remote-control power locks on the Tour-Pak, saddlebags, and ignition are also standard equipment.
On the Road
The keyless ignitions automatically unlock as the rider approaches the bike with a coded fob - in hand or pocket. Each 2011 CVO model is powered by the fuel-injected Screamin' Eagle twin cam 110 V-twin, the largest-displacement engine produced by Harley-Davidson. Horsepower isn't listed, but these engines are rated at up to 115 lb-ft of torque, and are only available from the factory in CVO models.
Those big 110-cubic inch engines have more reciprocating mass than the original 88-inchers of this design, so it's natural that they shake a bit more at idle. However, the twin-cam engines smooth out nicely on the road, purring along at highway velocities. Fuel injection keeps the mixture adjusted for variations in altitude and air density, which is really important when you're two miles up in the mountains. Overall drivability is excellent, and the engines are torque monsters with plenty of grunt for passing and climbing the long, steep grades of the Sierra Nevada range.
Clutch lever pull is moderate and engagement sure and chatter-free. The six-speed gearboxes have tall gearing in the top cogs, which keeps revs low for relaxed highway running. They shift and operate more smoothly and quietly than ever.
Seating is comfortable and the fairings and windscreens provide welcome protection from windblast. We found the stereo systems worked well even at Interstate highway speeds, and we were able to keep up with both competing wind noise and the sound of the engine. We did notice that the audio-systems' LCD screens were difficult to read in direct sunlight, but that's true with all such designs.
Braking systems have also continued to improve on Harleys. We tried out the ABS brakes, which haul the bikes down to a stop very quickly without fuss. Studies have shown the ABS-equipped motorcycles have considerably lower accident rates and we support the use of these safety systems.
Overall, the CVOs showed the positive results of Harley's continual, conservative approach to the evolution of the model lines and overall brand, quality, and reliability. Other than the price of admission to this exclusive CVO club, it's difficult to find significant fault with these high-zoot bikes in their intended roles as plush road burners.