It seems without fail, every year as the summer heat begins to reach its peak the brass at Harley-Davidson rounds up us wily moto-journalists and ships us off to some isolated location to get a glimpse of its lineup for the new model year. Traditionally, we are introduced to the CVO models first, and then a few weeks later we are presented with the OE lineup. This year was no different, and I was thoroughly pleased to hear that we would get some seat time on the new CVO models in my childhood stomping grounds, Northern California. There's a lot to cover in these few pages so I'll just jump right into it.
CVO What's it Mean?
CVO stands for Custom Vehicle Operations. No, you wont see radically raked and stretched choppers or wild, hand-crafted sheetmetal. What custom vehicle means for Harley is that these bikes are built in limited quantities, are dressed from the factory with all the chrome, horsepower, and bells and whistles you could possibly find in the H-D catalog, and are topped off with exclusive paint schemes. Well, actually let me back up a minute and correct that statement a bit. Yeah you will find a host of the parts and accessories on these bikes in the P&A; catalog, but the CVO program is also an opportunity for H-D to introduce its latest technology and innovations. The program allows H-D to develop and introduce new parts and accessories that may not be offered in the catalog (at least not for several months) and/or develop exclusive products that are only available on CVO models.
"The CVO program is an aspirational brand," stated CVO Director Julie Chichlowski. "The CVO customer aspires to have the best of the best. Customers can't build these bikes for the value that H-D offers them for." According to H-D, the CVO customer is the alpha customer, they are brand loyal and they want bragging rights and membership in the most exclusive group of H-D owners. And even though the bikes are already loaded with all the goodies and priced at a premium, CVO customers still spend more on their bikes than the average OE customer.
This year the four CVO models that will be available are an Ultra Classic Electra Glide, a Street Glide, a Softail Convertible, and a Road Glide Ultra. Right off the bat it becomes pretty evident that the MoCo had a common theme in mind when they chose these four models. With the bagger market still popular among young and old, Harley chose a lineup of bikes that would appeal to all those looking for comfort and style on long road trips. But what's not evident on the surface is another common theme among all these bikes: upgraded electronics. All the models, including the Softail Convertible, come ready to rock your favorite tunes. And while some models got upgraded speakers or GPS units, others received some really trick electronic upgrades.
What's In A Number?
2011 marks the 12th year of the CVO program
4 CVO models available (Ultra Classic Electra Glide, Street Glide, Softail Convertible, Road Glide Ultra)
10,600 CVO bikes will be produced
11 exclusive paint schemes amongst the four models
**110 **Cubic-inch Twin CamScreamin' Eagle engine packages in all models
6 gears in all the transmissions
8 letters and one number make up the longest model designation amongst the CVOs
3 free months of XM satellite radio come with the Ultra Classic Electra Glide, Street Glide, and Road Glide Ultra models.
3 models come with an 8GB iPod Nano; Street Glide, Softail Convertible, and Road Glide Ultra
Ultra Classic Electra Glide
This is the sixth time the Ultra Classic Electra Glide (FLHTCUSE6; eight letters and one number) has been a CVO model. As the elder statesmen of this year's group, it stands alone as the only model offered in one paint scheme, Black Ember and Rio Red with Flame graphics. Geared toward the long-haul rider who only leaves the seat when...well, actually probably never...this bike is the ultimate in H-D Touring. With a color-matched King Tour-Pak, a wrap-around passenger seat and rear speakers, electronic cruise control, anti-lock brakes, an integrated garage door opener and receiver, 80-watt Harmon Kardon Advanced Audio with CB/intercom, a myriad of Rumble Collection components, heated hand grips, highway pegs, interior Tour-Pak and saddlebag LED lighting, and Contrast Chrome Roulette Wheels, you wouldn't think there was much more that could be added to this bike. Oh, but there is.
New for this model is a Navigation Interface Module that provides an internal connection to the dash-mounted Road Tech zumo 660 GPS unit. This new setup allows the GPS unit to feed turn-by-turn voice commands through the speakers. A new Hammock-style-suspended, dual-control heated seat and a springboard-style suspension system in the passenger seat allow the rider and passenger to click the miles away in warmth and comfort. Dual headsets allow the rider and passenger to communicate with each other without screaming (unless you really dislike the other person). At the rear of the bike the new chrome billet end caps with black spears let people know they've just been passed by someone with style. One of the cool features on this model is the Power Locking System, which provides push-button activation to lock and unlock the ignition, Tour-Pak, and saddlebags with the touch of a button. This feature really makes getting in and out of storage a breeze as it can be clicked to unlock from the comfort of a barstool (if within range) as the wife goes to retrieve her hairbrush.
Riding the Ultra is almost like being in a convertible Cadillac, except way more fun. While it is a big bike, the 110ci engine adequately propels it down the road with good acceleration. Leaning in and out of turns, the redesigned touring frame from a few years ago helps keep everything in alignment from front to rear but can still give a little rear shimmy if you hit a bump just right. Even with its heavier weight, low-speed turning is seamless and smooth. And if you're not used to the anti-lock brakes, they can rattle your nerves a bit but will help save your butt in a pinch. The Ultra Classic Electra Glide has an MSRP of $36,499, with 1,500 units being produced.
In for its second go-around as a CVO model, this year's Street Glide (SG) is definitely for those who like to be seen and heard. The SG is loaded with great new features like a 19-inch, seven-spoke Agitator front wheel and matching 18-inch rear wheel-the 19-inch wheel is the largest front wheel ever offered on an H-D Touring model. To help exaggerate the size of the rear wheel and give the SG more of a custom look, the front fender has been trimmed, tightly hugging the wheel. Other new features include a side-fill gas tank with a flush-mounted gas cap and LED fuel gauge, a low-profile tank console and insert with a back-lit LED CVO emblem, a high-output audio system with a 100-watt-per-channel amplifier and eight speakers (two independent tweeters in the fairing, two 5 1/4-inch two-way speakers with bridged tweeters are also in the fairing, and two 6 1/2-inch speakers in the fairing lowers).
With all that audio power staring you in the face, you want to make sure your favorite song is blasting when you pull up in front of the local hang-out, so included with the bike is an 8GB iPod Nano with etched Bar and Shield logo that connects to the audio system via an iPod interface and holder in the saddlebag. Other new components include a low-profile seat with snake-style leather inserts and matching passenger pad, and a taller 7-inch smoked Electra Glide windscreen. Notable features on the SG include hydraulic rear shocks with adjustable preload and optimized rebound and damping, Rumble Collection grips, floorboard inserts, passenger pegs and shifter pegs, ABS brakes, electronic cruise control, and one-piece injection-molded extended saddlebags that help give the rear a lower look.
The CVO Street Glide is definitely a hot rod amongst the other two touring models. The lightest of the three, the SG zips around with plenty of horsepower and it's hard not to lead the pack when you're at the helm of this bike. The sweeping tree-lined highways and back roads of the Tahoe and Nevada County area were perfect for this bike. Rounding each turn, the bike slipped from side-to-side and just begged you to give it more throttle. Loud and proud, it was hard not to just crank up the stereo, leave everyone else behind, and head for the Canadian border.
The CVO Street Glide is available in four color options, Kryptonite and Black Diamond, Black Diamond and Inferno Orange, Autumn Haze and Antique Gunstock, and Black Diamond with Crimson graphics. The various color schemes come with either chrome or black engine finishes. The SG has an MSRP of $32,499, with 3,700 units being produced.
The Softail Convertible is also back for the second time as a CVO model, with last year being its debut. This year's convertible is by far the standout of the CVO bunch with all kinds of firsts and significant upgrades.
Milestones for this model include:
*** First time for tunes on a Softail; the Convertible comes with an 8GB iPod and the detachable fairing has an integrated audio system with two 3 1/2-inch two-way speakers, a 20-watt-per-channel amp, and a compartment to store the iPod.
First time for electronic throttle cruise control (according to H-D this will be the only Softail model with cruise control)
First time for ABS on a Softail. The bike utilizes a new system with the front ABS module in the fork tins and the rear located behind the trans. According to H-D, ABS will be optional on all the 2011 OE Softail models, except the Cross Bones.
First locking saddlebags on a Softail model
First time for the MoCo to use a welded mini ape handlebar. At 1 1/4 inches in diameter, the hard angled design of the new apes give the bike more of a garage-custom look and is similar in style to what the kids are running these days.
Gone is the traditional ignition switch often found on the center console and in its place is a CVO medallion that gives off an eerie red glow. The Convertible utilizes a keyless ignition system, which means with the wireless fob in your pocket you can walk up to the bike, flip the run/stop switch, hit the start button, and you're gone. When you get to your destination, you just turn the bike off, walk away, and it will arm the alarm itself. Other key features of the Convertible include 18-inch Stinger wheels with matching floating brake rotors, a 200mm rear wheel, a rear light bar with integrated stop/turn/taillights, an illuminated digital speedo with analog tach, a high-flow Ventilator intake with alligator-style insert, and obviously a ton of chrome.
As a Convertible, this Softail is definitely the best of both worlds-long distance travel and street-wise looks. After being on the highway all day, in a matter of seconds you can pop off the compact fairing and saddlebags, then head over to Main Street for stoplight challenges against the locals. With its ultra-low seat height of 26.1 inches (second lowest in the H-D lineup) and raised handlebars, you really get that "in the bike" feeling when riding. Sure you can scrape pegs pretty quickly in the tighter turns, but sparks make the people behind think you're going really fast. Being the lightest of the CVO models, the 110ci engine at the heart of the Convertible provides plenty of juice in all six gears with still more throttle to go well into Sixth. The Softail Convertible is available in three color combos: Scarlet Red Pearl and Dark Slate Pearl with Metal Grind graphics, Midnight Sky and Candy Cobalt with Blue Ice graphics, and Maple Metallic and Roman Gold with Burnished Copper graphics. All color options also include color-matched components such as the frame and swingarm, oil tank, and frame inserts. The Softail Convertible has an MSRP of $29,599, with 2,400 units being produced.
Road Glide Ultra
Now we know last year around this time there were rumors going around that Harley was going to axe the Road Glide model. Well as evidenced by last year's introduction of the Road Glide Custom in the OE lineup, that obviously wasn't the case. So back again for the fourth time as a CVO, but the first time as an Ultra, is the Road Glide Ultra. What makes a Road Glide an Ultra you ask? Well according to Harley, it's the King Tour-Pak, wraparound passenger seat and rear speakers, CB, and fairing lowers. Similar to the Ultra Classic Electra Glide, the Road Glide Ultra is also loaded to the gills with everything one would want to make long trips more enjoyable. This bike has a new Road Tech zumo 660 GPS unit with integrated handlebar mount and Navigation Interface module to allow verbal commands to come through the speakers. It also has a new 40-watt-per-channel Harman Kardon Advanced Audio System with four BOOM! Bagger Audio speakers, XM satellite radio, CB intercom with two headsets, and a new amplifier with customized equalization. Also included is an 8GB iPod that can be mounted and charged in the saddlebag. The audio functions on the stereo and hand controls can also control your iPod with the display coming up on the head unit screen.
For better aerodynamics and to limit wind buffeting, H-D conducted extensive wind tunnel testing which resulted in a new 16-inch windscreen that has been brought back 15 degrees, and developed new Road Glide wind deflectors that fit on top of the engine guard to redirect turbulent air from between the tank and fairing. The Road Glide Ultra also has a new Hammock-style suspended, dual-control heated seat with leather inserts and a reshaped rider area. And the passenger seat also has the Spring-board-style suspension system seat found on the Ultra Classic Electra Glide. The glove boxes in the fairing feature new lined compartments, and a new chrome 1-inch, internally wired handlebar with a more ergonomic shape has been added. And at the rear of the bike is a pair of chrome billet muffler end caps with black spears.
Having logged thousands of miles on an '05 Road Glide, I am kind of partial to the Road Glide Ultra. There is definitely a noticeable difference in power between the 103ci engine I am used to and the 110ci mill between the framerails of this bike. While some don't like the frame-mounted fairing, I say there is nothing better than the sharp look of the shark nose. This was the one bike I wish I could have spent all day riding, I just love the way it handles, but there were too many other editors that wanted to experience the joy of a Road Glide Ultra. The Road Glide Ultra is available in three colors: Rio Red and Black Ember with Quartzite graphics, Charcoal Slate and Black Twilight with Quartzite graphics, and Frosted Ivory and Vintage Gold with Quartzite graphics. This model has an MSRP of $35,999 and 3,000 units will be produced.
OK, so I covered a lot of ground here, skimming over some stuff and going a little deeper in others. I know I didn't delve too far into riding each bike, but with lots of switching of bikes and stops for photo shoots, the day went by way too fast. Hopefully down the line we can get our hands on a few of these models to give you a more in-depth report on how they ride and perform. To see video interviews with some of the CVO team members, log on to hotbikeweb.com.