HELMET: ARAI SIGNET Q
JACKET: AGV SPORT ELEMENT VINTAGE LEATHER
BOOTS: A-STARS SOHO
GLOVES: A-STARS SPS
I was dreaming. Harley-Davidson had built a straightforward custom. A bike whose building blocks aren’t just trick parts unified in purpose and lovingly selected because they are simply the best. Not a gimmick play on some past bike based on a customizing trend. Basically, just a badass Softail, like they used to do, only updated for today.
I awoke to a slight chill, born of a thick marine layer and an open window, and realized it wasn’t a dream. These aren’t my 50,000 thread-count sheets, this wasn’t my palatial room overlooking California’s moneyed Carmel Valley. This was Harley’s Custom Vehicle Operations Press launch, and they did indeed just introduce this bike.
Shred The Envelope, Please
The Breakout continues a long tradition of awkward names from the Motor Company; but who knows, it may become iconic, like ‘Fat Boy.’ The CVO Softail Convertible of the last couple years has disappeared, replaced with the only non-bagger in the 2013 CVO lineup. And unlike the other bikes in this CVO series, the Breakout is not just a feature-laden version of an existing model, but a standalone CVO. Perhaps it’s a test marketing ploy to judge consumer response to the model, or maybe just an exercise in excess for the CVO crowd.
At its heart, the Breakout is just a Softail. But this original “custom” cruiser from the 1980s with a tall front tire and a naked front end has been updated and reborn as Harley’s high-end version. The 21-inch front wheel is back, but now fattened out to 130mm. The familiar bobbed rear fender is there too, but wider and briefer, to better showcase a meaty 240 rear tire. Unlike just about every other fat-tire production bike, this one clears out all obstacles to enjoying the view of all that rubber, except for a small reflector. The wheels themselves are a new 21-spoke design (called ‘Turbine’), which carry their spokes all the way to the edge of the rim.
Though the tank bears the familiar Softail shape, instead of a bulky dash on top, there’s just a smooth chrome strip with a couple of tank vents popping, chopper-style, out of the top. The gauge has been relocated to the bars.
Thankfully, on the Breakout (and all the CVO models), Harley-Davidson went for neutral ergonomics, without any wacky “clamshell” riding positions. H-D’s internal research shows that the CVO customers actually ride more miles than the average Harley rider, so it stands to reason that they’d want a neutral fit. The bars are a classic “flattrack” style, not apes or buckhorns or beach bars. The internally-wired bars also host the analog tach and digital speedo (along with their color-changing display). The seat is firm but supportive, while the forward controls are in the usual place for a Softail. The passenger seat is removable with a thumbscrew at the rear if you desire a more stripped look.
2013 Harley-Davidson CVO Breakout
Design aside, no CVO would be worthy of the title without the extra window dressing. The uniquely-shaped, hand-polished and chromed oil tank under the Breakout’s seat is an interesting bright spot... but one that is entirely overshadowed by the paint. There are three unique paint options on the Breakout, with the base job being black/silver with raw, hand-polished metal showing on the tank in a vee-shape that flows onto the top. The gold version is similar, but with a gold-tinted clear over the top and heavy metalflake on the rest of the bike. The red option has a lace pattern in the vee-shape (uniquely done by hand on each bike), as well as brown leather on its patterned seat. Unlike the other CVOs, there will be no anniversary version of the Breakout; but like them, it too gets controls from the P&A catalog, as well as gallons of chrome.
Stepping up to the bike to start it, the first thing one notices is the lack of an ignition switch. Going the way of the Prius, the Breakout has a fob that does the dirty work of firing up the bike. All you have to do is flip the kill switch to “run.” That’s not hard, but when stopping, you need to remember to leave it “off” or you’ll kill the battery. The fob still has a key integrated to it to lock the forks, should the valet not be available.
You might think that the sole custom cruiser in the CVO set might be missing some functionality too, but you’d be wrong; ABS comes with the package, as does cruise control, with a cool one-dongle controller (a holdover from the Convertible). The big 110-inch motor feels plenty powerful in this relatively light cruiser package. It shifts though its six speeds with the familiar, authoritative “clunk,” pulling better down low and in the midrange compared to the now-standard 103-inch motor in the rest of the line.
We’ve suspected for years that part of the problem with handling on these monster-tire bikes is the lack of contact patch up front to match the big footprint on the rear, and conversations with H-D engineering staff confirm this. Though the Rocker was a solid effort with its 240, this one is even better.
Once I hit a huge dip mid-corner during testing, and besides a molar-rattling bang as the primary case bounced off the tarmac, the bike tracked absolutely straight afterwards, with no wiggling whatsoever. Handling is probably helped by some innovative steering geometry as well. While many cruisers and customs have (positively) raked trees to subtract trail, this one actually has a negative 2 degree rake in the trees to put some back.
That said, the cornering and ground-clearance is pretty limited, though not annoyingly so. Suspension is firm and reasonably well-damped, and even has a respectable amount of travel. Despite its limitations, the Breakout is a very fun bike to ride, whether around town or out in the country. There’s finally no real cost to having a 240 rear tire... except maybe that $26,499 sticker price.
The Breakout extends an interesting trend we hope continues at the MoCo: The CVO tail wagging the H-Dog. This smaller division seems to have a quicker turnaround for designing new models and although company representatives insisted this model isn’t coming in the 110th anniversary year, we’d be pretty surprised if it doesn’t make the main lineup at some point. For now, you’ll get 1900 units of the Breakout worldwide.
Next up in the catalog are the money makers—the bread and butter of H-D’s CVO line. Baggers continue to be hot, especially among the well-heeled crowd that rocks the far high-end of Harley-Davidson’s lineup.
The biggest news in CVO baggers is the CVO Road King. The Road King used to be just the stripped hot rod of the CVO line, due to its light weight. This year, it gives up a bit of that weight advantage with the addition of an iPod-based audio system. The compact unit sits in the rear of the left saddlebag and is controlled through thumb controls on either side of the bar. Controls are on the simple side; just volume, pause and skip forward and back. The speakers take up a little more saddlebag space in the rear, and also reside in Ultra-style fairing lowers up front. Audio performance is admirable, especially on a bike with a low-profile windshield.
The new Road King also brings the low, tinted Wind Splitter shield. Detachable, as is the norm on Road Kings, it features a vent in the middle that keeps helmet-rattling to a minimum, even at top speed. Also detachable are the passenger seat and backrest, for a slimmed-down solo look.
The King is also fully-blinged, with mirror-chromed wheels and shiny stuff everywhere. Like the other new CVOs, it sports H-D’s new Slipstream Collection of controls. The heel shifter is a new extended reach unit that gives you more floorboard space. MSRP is $29,999 with a total run of 3,650 units.
The sleeper bagger in the lineup is the CVO Road Glide Custom. With its blacked-out, subdued colors it could be mistaken for one of last year’s Road Glides, but it actually has a ton of functional upgrades. Lighting the way is Harley-Davidson’s first stab at an LED headlight, the Daymaker. It looks crazy cool, but works even better, with a great spread of white light and better “punch” down the road when on high.
Harley brass staged a show for us on a dark road in Monterey County, highlighting the difference between a conventional headlight and the Daymaker.. I have pretty horrible night vision, but with the Daymaker you could see every ripple of the pavement and into the trees on the sides of the road. Plus it has a claimed 50-percent less power consumption than a typical Halogen; good news when you’re rocking all those trick accessories.
Last year’s poster child for Harley-Davidson’s Boom! Audio brand was the CVO Street Glide. This year, it fell to the Road Glide to carry the banner for high-performance audio, and it sports a second stage 200-watt amp, and four 5x7 inch speakers in the saddlebags and fairing, along with six tweeters. The audio engineers were also able to ditch the whip antenna for one hidden in the fairing. Like the other CVO baggers it comes with an 8-gig iPod. It also sports a slightly higher shield than the standard Road Glide, which has a wind-pleasing shape for less buffeting, and still affords a good view of the road. The Glide has a newly-designed intake that makes it the horsepower king of the CVOs, despite a 855 lb. curb weight. List price is $32,999 and the total run is 3150 units.
2013 H-D CVO Ultra Classic...
2013 H-D CVO Ultra Classic Electra Glide
The CVO Ultra Classic Electra Glide is the longest running model in CVO-land, so why screw with a good thing? As its target audience tends to skew to older and high-mileage riders, the Ultra keeps the shiny parts, but goes big on comfort and convenience. This year there’s a new low-effort, high-feedback slipper clutch, new colors, and the Slipstream collection of controls. Other than that it’s the same raft of high-end features, like GPS, an electronic key fob that controls ignition and saddlebag locks, heated seats, and a more sedate version of the Premium Audio system. Stacked and popular as it is, the CVO Ultra is the most expensive production Harley-Davidson ever, at $37,599, but H-D’s pretty sure they can sell out the 3900 units being shipped worldwide.
110th Anniversary Models
This is the 15th year of the CVO program, as well as the 110th year of H-D at large, so naturally there’s something special happening. The three bagger-class bikes in the CVO lineup have a separate and even more-limited version in honor of H-D’s 110th year.
The decidedly low-key paint scheme is dubbed Diamond Dust, Obsidian, and Palladium by Harley-Davidson, but we’d just call it: Black and Silver. Besides paint, the CVO models get embroidery on the seat, unique engine side covers, and a serialized badge on the console.
The tax is an extra $1000 for one of these ultra-exclusive rides, which are probably sold out by the time you read this. Between 900 and 1100 of the Anniversary Editions will be built.