Harley-Davidson 2010 CVOs - First Ride!

A Changeling Joins The Ranks

*Softail Convertible
*Fat Bob
*Street Glide
*Ultra Classic Electra Glide

**Half Moon Bay, CA **
Doesn't seem like so long ago that a couple of guys in Milwaukee came up with the brilliant idea of bolting on some top-shelf parts from Harley's beefy P&A; catalog to new model year bikes. They figured these de facto factory customs-ready-made and upmarket-would appeal to consumers who wanted the bling right away without the backbreaking work.

Now in its 11th year, the CVO experiment has succeeded beyond Willie G's wildest dreams. What started out as an FXR reboot with a few tweaks and extra dollops of chrome in 1999 has exploded into a four bike extravaganza flush with performance upgrades, head-turning paintwork and top-shelf rider amenities. Rather than just a side project for Harley's creative types, it has evolved into the Motor Company's showcase division. CVO, by the way, stands for Custom Vehicle Operations, and is H-D's in-house custom line.

As such, Harley also hopes to evoke a sense of exclusivity by keeping CVO production runs low (though last year's orders topped 10,000 units). The CVO design crew often joins forces with H-D OE Engineering and Styling, so these limited edition models frequently become test beds for new ideas that can potentially go full OE on standard production models the next season.

There's also no question aesthetics play a major part in each model's final design, but if you're wondering whether that's worth the CVOs' $25,000 + asking price, the MoCo folks would answer with an unabashed "yes". They reckon that if you were to buy a stock Harley and personalize it with copious amounts of Screamin' Eagle bits, you wouldn't be able to build a CVO-like one for close to the same price.

Fortunately, this year's cream-of-the-crop Harleys give you little reason to suspect you're getting fleeced. To keep things fresh, there are two all-new CVO models for 2010. First up is the debut of the CVO Street Glide, which replaces last year's Screamin' Eagle Road Glide. The minimalist bagger is a welcome addition to the CVO group, given its popularity in the regular lineup. The next two new CVO machines have been down this road before; making the cut again for 2010 are the CVO Ultra Classic Electra Glide and the CVO Fat Bob, which both appeared as '09 CVOs, and enjoy heaps of interest in the standard lineup as well.

But everybody knows there's one model at every CVO launch that's destined to raise collective eyebrows: this year that bike is the FLSTSE CVO Convertible. The all-new model, which is based on the Softail platform, reintroduces the always-appealing concept of a machine capable of adapting to a rider's preferred style just with the swap of a few components (Super-Glide T-Sport anyone?).

Powering the 2010 CVO quartet once again is Screamin' Eagle's Twin Cam 110 power plant, which first made its appearance in 2007. The 1,803 cc V-twin continues to be the largest-displacement factory engine Harley produces, with 4-inch forged pistons cranking out as much as 115 lb-ft of torque at 3750 rpm (claimed). Jetting and exhaust systems tweak that figure slightly in each model, but you can definitely count on spinning the Fat Bob's rear rubber without trying too hard.

The fuel-injected Big Twin engine is again joined to the six-speed Cruise Drive tranny on all CVOs, and Harley's proprietary security system comes standard here as well. All touring CVOs also get ABS and electronic cruise control as standard features.

But the CVO staff didn't waste time going over the bikes' standard features at the unveiling; it looked like they just wanted us to ride the things (as much as we could ride four bikes in one day, anyway). That was fine by us, so after a quick presentation, we headed for the lovely San Mateo hills and eventually the Pacific coast, on our choice of Ultra Classic Electra Glide ($35,999), Street Glide ($30,999), Softail Convertible ($27,999) or Fat Bob ($25,299), all in CVO trim.

Joining The Club
As we mentioned, the undisputed torchbearer for this year's CVO line is the Convertible-a bike definitely Not Like the Others.

The conceit behind the Softail-based Convertible is a simple one-it's designed to be a "two-into-one" bike configurable for a variety of riding situations. The Convertible can be set up for all-day touring, two-up cruising or solo profiling simply by adding or detaching a few key components, thus changing its look, character and purpose. The compact fairing with smoked shield, leather saddlebags, passenger pillion and sissybar (called an upright) with backrest pad can all be popped on or off easily, in two minutes-without tools. That makes for pretty nice versatility and overall value. Adding CVO-style panache to the leather bits are Buffalo hide inserts, but otherwise, we expect to see these components in current form trickle down to the standard line.

Alas, the sight of this Softail reclining 'neath the warm California sun doesn't immediately draw admiring glances, especially when it's in full touring regalia. The small windshield's tapered shape feels like an awkward compromise (and is no wind-deflecting champ, either) while the compact headlight and nacelle disappear into the fairing, making for a less-than-grand entrance. The Convertible's better off naked with all the touring bits removed, where it can strike a clean, custom (and cooler) pose.

Other bits are more pleasing, like the full length tank console and new tank-mounted combination digital speedometer and analog tachometer. New elegantly shaped 18-inch chrome Stinger wheels with matching sprocket and floating brake rotors add some high-end shine to the package. The distinctly retro-flavored Ventilator air intake debuted last year, sporting an exposed element that advertises its high-flow, performance intent. A full-coverage wide rear fender shades the 200-series rear radial (the widest in this CVO bunch) while also serving as a backdrop for the trick new rear light bar with integrated stop/turn/taillights.

The FLSTSE's profile is a keeper too, with a heavy-lidded front fender tucked between thickly-shrouded "beer-can" 41.3mm fork legs. The 110B Granite powder coated powertrain gets identifying etchings on the covers and cylinder heads, so bystanders know how you roll.

Down below, it's business as usual: with Harley's evergreen Softail platform, the Convertible features a rear suspension design that apes the clean lines of a vintage hardtail frame, but with the benefits of a modern suspension hidden beneath the chassis.

That suspension isn't exactly long-travel here, but I was surprised at the harshness of the ride over big bumps; 3.3 inches of rear-wheel play should be enough to do the job (in fact, it's the most in this group). Of course, a short suspension is how Harley managed to get the Convertible's seat height down to a subterranean 24.4 inches-one of the lowest out there. I'm just 5'7", and even for me, the riding position felt a touch slammed. The wide bar with a moderate rise fell to hand nicely and I had no complaint with foot positioning on the just-barely forward-mounted floorboards, but while ergonomics felt decent, floorboards would drag early and often. Passengers have a fairly wide pillion pad to rest their glutes on, though long-haul capability remains to be seen.

Rumbling away from the curb, I could instantly feel the eerie smoothness of the counterbalanced 110B mill. Of course, that comes with a price; the initial rush as you twist the throttle isn't as pronounced as on the other, non-balanced engines in the group. I'd think 110 ft-lb of torque would be harder to miss. Turn-in on the Convertible isn't as laser-like as, say, the Fat Bob, either; steering feels a bit looser, as on most Softails. And the front disc brake is merely adequate-that lever needs to be really squeezed for effect.

Luckily you get a hydraulic clutch on the Convertible, which makes actuation easier, and with the 6-speed Cruise Drive transmission (with new helical-cut fifth gear), gear shifts are positive and gearing nicely spaced. For relaxed pilots, it's an easy-to-ride machine.

In all, I'd say the Convertible is a great idea that needs a touch more tweaking to yield its full potential. Production will be limited to 2,500 units.

'Bob's Your Uncle

Like the inappropriately bawdy uncle (on your Dad's side) who's more interested in a good laugh at Aunt Ethel's expense than acting his age at the family reunion, the CVO Fat Bob is way more fun than any other guest here; the taut, smooth combo of an FX front end coupled with Big Twin grunt and jammed onto a Dyna chassis makes for a rollicking good time in the twisties, the freeway-really anywhere.

Wide, muscular and just a tad alien (c'mon with those front headlights), the 2010 CVO Fat Bob makes a swift return to its more subtle, sinister roots with a new finish called Midnight Pearl. The trick plating process is applied to the headlight shell, derby cover, fender strut covers and various other components, and it's a welcome change from last year's CVO 'Bob, which Bartels called out as a "thug (in) a sequined dress, garish lipstick, clear heels, and glitter", thanks to its flamboyant paint job. Welcome home, Bob.

Big news (well, sorta) on the 'Bob this year is a brown distressed leather seat available in a two-piece convertible configuration that can be swapped to a solo setup. Problem with that was, that with the Satin Pewter color option, the machine ended up looking so dang rustic we couldn't help but dub it "The Eddie Bauer Bike".

Luckily, Bob also gets a powder-coated Granite finish on the 110 cubic inch powertrain to help reassert his masculinity, while a high performance clutch with hydraulic actuation makes shifting a breeze. New chrome and rubber rear fender protectors, diamond black accents on the speedo, tach and a color-matched chin spoiler and custom color frame and swingarm round out the cosmetic strokes.

Standard issue CVO touches include internal wiring on the 1.25 inch handlebar, and the return of the powder coated Fang wheels as well as the Heavy Breather Air Intake. And let's not forget that ultra-cool Tommy Gun 2-into-1-into-2 exhaust with chrome blunt cut mufflers and black header pipe. The bars are low-rise, with a neutral, easy-to-reach position.

Out on the road, I couldn't feel any significant changes from last year's model and was happy to wring out a fairly plush ride most of the time. Still, the bike had a tendency to bottom out on the big dips, no doubt a result of just 2.13 inches of available rear wheel travel. You have to wrestle Bob through initial turn-ins in the bends as well, but once leaned over, the bugger tracks as well as any Union Pacific locomotive.

The 110-inch Twin Cam engine is a perfect match for the Fat Bob's 719 lb. tonnage, and actually feels like a nicely modded big-bore motor here. The long-stroke 110 engine makes most of its power down low and likes to be short-shifted, but once you add in H-D's Heavy Breather high-flow element and freer-flowing mufflers along with the positive-shifting Cruise Drive 6-Speed tranny, the result is big fun with plenty of power on tap. Because of a stiffer clutch spring (due to the larger motor), the Fat Bob uses a hydraulic clutch to allow for easier actuation at the lever, and that top gear makes for easy cruising in low revs for all legal highway speeds.

With a neutral riding position, mid-length rides are a cakewalk. The seat is somewhat hard, but offers good support and the forward controls tend to favor those of long inseam. With the Fat Bob's chunky 16-inch front wheel, relatively light weight and a 29-degree steering head angle, and you can see why this bike's overall personality is really pretty appealing...unless you're a staunch traditionalist.

Takin' it to the Street
Making its debut on the CVO stage for 2010 is the Street Glide. The tuned and tricked out version of Harley's popular hot-rod bagger is powered by the same Twin Cam 110 found on the other CVO bikes, rubber-mounted to the frame and churning out 115 ft-lbs of torque (claimed) at 3750 rpm with a 6-speed Cruise Drive tranny taking it to the wheel.

The Glide rocks a lean profile behind a fork-mounted "batwing" fairing with a smoked low profile wind deflector (even Harley doesn't bother to call it a shield) and solo headlamp, slammed and trimmed front fender and hard saddlebags with just a small passenger backrest rather than a trunk. Forward-bias floorboards make for very accommodating ergonomics.

Making their first appearance are black 18-inch Agitator wheels with a seven spoke design and contrast chrome highlights. Floating front brake rotors match the wheels, naturally. If nothing else, the Glide is truly a looker. But more than that, Harley wanted us to note the Glide's new extended saddlebags, which now have a one-piece full-depth design offering increased capacity over the standard bags. The color-matched locking latches eliminate visual clutter, as does a new color-matched rear fascia panel filling in the space between each saddlebag and the rear fender. That totally custom bit incorporates new LED stop/turn/taillights for a super-clean and flush appearance.

You'll also find new hydraulic rear shocks with 40mm pistons and 14mm rods, said to offer optimized rebound and damping (though with just 2 inches of travel out back, they have their work cut out for them). Preload can be adjusted by hand via a convenient knob just behind the left saddlebag. The custom, low profile seat and matching backrest pad also emphasize the sleek silhouette. Standard ABS brakes, electronic cruise control, an H-D factory security system and a 40 watt Harmon Kardon Advanced Audio system round out the long list of premium amenities found on this CVO machine.

Though the engine is the same for all 2010 CVOs, I was still impressed with how much linear power the Twin Cam 110 mill cranks out on the Street Glide. Compared with the Ultra, the slightly slimmer CVO Glide makes that 110 motor feel positively spirited. The non-counterbalanced, rubber-mounted engine shakes a bit at idle, but once you roll over 1100 RPM, the ride is as smooth as silk. The sixth gear too, is a godsend on the interstate: even in top gear, the bike pulls with aplomb way beyond 90 mph, and cruising down the interstate beyond legal speeds is child's play. Fueling is flawless, and response from the throttle-by-wire system is sharp indeed.

Ergonomically, the Glide is made-to-order for my 5-foot-7-inch frame. The reach from seat to bars and seat to floorboards is spot-on and the slightly sculpted saddle was comfy throughout my relatively short journey. Harley's intuitive, new-gen ABS system continues to inspire heaps of confidence in tricky braking situations, and the Harmon Kardon audio made the ride down Pacific Coast Highway seem positively cinematic.

The only concerns I might have are regarding long-haul wind protection and rear suspension; I experienced the occasional face-full of wind buffeting from the low fairing on the open road, and as you can imagine with such short travel shocks (adjustable preload or not), the bottom would occasionally hit on deep potholes. Other than that, there just isn't too much for me to criticize on the 2009 Street Glide.

Production of the 2010 CVO Street Glide will be limited to 3500 units.

Return of a Classic
Like the Fat Bob, the Ultra is a returning CVO favorite, but unlike the Dyna, the Electra Glide has enjoyed the longest continuous CVO run of any bike; this is its 5th appearance in the line. Seems people like their Harley tourers, CVO or otherwise.

The premier grand American Touring vehicle, as Harley calls it, receives notable updates for '10. We all know about last year's frame revamp that dramatically improved the big rig's maneuverability, but the bigger deal on the 2010 CVO Ultra Classic Electra Glide is lighting redesign- a combination of upgraded rear lighting and new LED taillight components now allow the bike to meet international standards, so it can be street-legal overseas. Another nice side benefit-because LEDs don't require bulb housings-is increased capacity inside the Tour Pak trunk section.

The Ultra gets other road-ready tweaks; passengers will especially stoked to see the new passenger backrest with adjustable lumbar support (and an interior up/down adjustment), as well as a new Tour Pak 112 volt outlet along with the aforementioned color matched LED King Tour Pak Brake/tail lamp. Another part of the lighting upgrade is a series of brilliant white LED light pods positioned to illuminate the saddlebag and Tour Pak interiors. The luggage also now offers carry-out liners and gets a power lock system to boot.

New stylish Roulette rims frame the 17-inch front wheel and 16 rear. The signature twin antennas sprouting behind the Tour Pak (and Air Wing rack) are now connected to an impressive sound system by Harmon Kardon that will go a long way toward drowning out the engine braking of the semi in the next lane. On the Ultra CVO, it's an 80-watt setup, complete with CB/intercom and navigation system options. As if that wasn't enough, and there's an integrated garage door opener and receiver tucked in among the Ultra's high-end electronics system, too.

In the ultra-heavy Ultra Classic Electra Glide, the 110 motor performs well enough to allow it get it out of its own way; in fact, this motor should come standard on all of Harley's touring models. Anything less is, well, not enough (especially on the Ultra). In my short time on the Ultra, the tight canyon roads were very manageable once you understood the mass you were squiring around and the throttle response required therein. While the new frame (introduced in '09) does a superhuman (and vastly improved) job of addressing the Ultra's age-old handling issues, at the end of the day, you're still muscling a lot of weight. And I'd rather be doing all that heavy lifting on the CVO version, with the persuasive 110 motor and ultra-user-friendly ABS, than on a mainline Ultra.

BASE PRICE $27,999 $25,299 $30,999 $35,999
TYPE Air-cooled 45-degree Twin Cam 110B V-Twin Air-cooled 45-degree Twin Cam 110 V-Twin Air-cooled 45-degree Twin Cam 110 V-Twin Air-cooled 45-degree Twin Cam 110 V-Twin
DISPLACEMENT, BORE X STROKE 1,803 cc, 101.6 x 111.25mm 1,803 cc, 101.60 x 111.25mm 1,803 cc, 101.6 x 111.25mm 1,803 cc, 101.6 x 111.25mm
**VALVE TRAIN ** Pushrod operated overhead valves, 2 valves per cylinder Pushrod operated overhead valves, 2 valves per cylinder Pushrod operated overhead valves, 2 valves per cylinder Pushrod operated overhead valves, 2 valves per cylinder
COMPRESSION 9.15:1 9.15:1 9.15:1 9.15:1
TRANSMISSION Six speed Cruise Drive Six speed Cruise Drive Six speed Cruise Drive Six speed Cruise Drive
**FINAL DRIVE ** Belt Belt Belt Belt
FRONT SUSPENSION 41.3mm hydraulic fork, 5.10 in. travel 49mm fork w/ dual springs, 4.33 in. travel 41.3mm telescopic fork, 4.6 in. travel 43mm hydraulic fork, 5.5 in. travel
**REAR SUSPENSION ** Single damper, 3.3 in. travel Dual dampers, 2.13 in. travel Dual dampers, preload-adjustable, 2.0 in. travel Dual dampers, preload-adjustable, 3.1 in. travel
FRONT BRAKE 300mm disc, four-piston caliper 300mm discs, four-piston calipers ABS, dual 300mm discs, four-piston calipers ABS. dual 300mm discs, four-piston calipers
REAR BRAKE 292mm disc, twin-piston caliper 292mm disc, twin-piston caliper 292mm disc, four-piston caliper 292mm disc, four-piston caliper
FRONT TIRE Dunlop D407 130/70R18 63V Dunlop D427F 130/90B16 67H Dunlop D408 130/70B18 63H Dunlop D408 130/80B17 65H
REAR TIRE Dunlop D407 {{{200}}}/50R18 76V Dunlop D427 180/70B16 77H Dunlop 180/55B18 80H Dunlop D407 180/65B16 81H
WHEELS Cast aluminum, "Stinger" style Powder coated, cast 7-spoke, contrast chrome 'Agitator' style 9-spoke, cast
**OVERALL LENGTH ** 95.10 in. 91.0 in. 96.20 in. 98.4 in.
WHEELBASE 64.20 in. 63.6 in. 63.50 in. 65.6 in.
RAKE/TRAIL 32 degrees/5.80in. 29 degrees/5.53 in. 26 degrees/6.69 in. 26 degrees/6.7 in.
SEAT HEIGHT 25.60 in. 27.9 in. 27.{{{90}}} in. 28.3 in.
WEIGHT (WET) 756 lbs. (claimed) 719 lbs. (claimed) 848 lbs. (claimed) 887 lbs. (dry claimed)
**FUEL CAPACITY ** 5 gal. 5 gal. 6 gal. 6 gal.