First Ride: 2011 Harley-Davidson CVOs

If anything's going to make consumers open up their wallets again, it's a cadre of innovative new products. At least that's the feeling coming out of the Motor Company lately, which just launched its blingy quartet of high-end 2011 CVO machines. Harley-Davidson was the first major OEM to announce its 2011 model releases with the unveiling of the XR1200X in early June, but it was also the first OE to offer a riding introduction for its next-year models, the 2011 Custom Vehicle Operations bikes.

Now in its 13th year of existence, the limited-run, Custom Vehicle Operations line includes one all-new CVO model for 2011, the Road Glide Ultra, as well as three returning models-the CVO Street Glide, CVO Softail Convertible, and CVO Ultra Classic Electra Glide-with each boasting fresh paint schemes and other new features.

As with all recent CVOs, the 2011 models are powered by Harley's largest engine, the fuel-injected Screamin' Eagle Twin Cam 110 V-twin. The package is further customized using exclusive components and graphic treatments combined with existing bits from the Harley accessories catalog. For 2011, all CVO bikes offer ABS and a factory security system (which includes a siren) as standard items. This year, the emphasis seems to be on audio and touring-amenity upgrades.

FLTRUSE CVO Road Glide Ultra
Each year, the CVO design crew singles out a new model for the CVO treatment, and for 2011 it's the Road Glide's turn.

The CVO Road Glide Ultra debuts as a premium touring machine that brings the popular frame-mounted shark-nose fairing to the CVO line. As you'd expect from an Ultra-designated model, the newest Road Glide blings it up plenty, ladling on a new Road Tech zumo 660 navigation system, upgraded Harman/Kardon audio with improved speakers and a solid-state iPod nano, and a two-up suspended touring seat featuring controllable heat and adjustable backrests. New deflectors reduce buffeting to the rider and a push-button, remote-control key fob activates power locks on the Tour Pak (with LED wraparound lights) out back, as well as the saddlebags and ignition.

Our short time on the Road Glide was a symphony of comfort; the H/K audio proved especially impressive, with the tweaked amp able to blast out clear notes above the ambient din of the road. Also appreciated was the cushiness of the new seat and rider-friendly zumo GPS, which audibly speaks directions so you don't have to take your eyes off the road. The new handlebars, with a longer pullback, came in especially handy when hustling the Glide through the turns, thanks to a comfortable reach and lots of leverage for the weighty machine. Despite claims of the frame-mount fairing lessening the weight being carried up front, the Road Glide feels heavier and looser through the turns than the CVO Ultra Classic.

SPECIFICATIONS
2011 H-D CVO Road Glide Ultra

MSRP: $35,999 (3,000 units)
Colors: Red/black; slate/black; ivory/gold

ENGINE
Type: Air-cooled, Twin-Cam 110 v-twin
Displacement, bore x stroke: 1803cc / 110 ci. 101.6mm x111.3mm
Valve Train: OHV actuated by pushrods; 2 valves per cylinder
Compression ratio: 9.5:1
Fuel System: Electronic Fuel Injection
Transmission: 6-speed Cruise Drive
Final Drive: Belt

CHASSIS
Overall Length: 98. 8 in.
Wheelbase:63.5 in.
Wet Weight: 943 lbs. (claimed)
Seat Height: 29.5 in.
Rake/Trail: 26°/6.69 in.
Front Tire: 130/70B 18 63H Dunlop bias
Rear Tire: 180/55B 18 80H Dunlop bias
Front Brake: 300mm discs, dual 4-piston fixed calipers
Rear Brake: 300mm disc, 4-piston caliper; ABS standard
Front Suspension: 41.3mm; 4.6 in. travel
Rear Suspension: Air-adjustable; 3 in. travel
Fuel Capacity: 6 gallons

FLHXSE CVO Street Glide
In the CVO lineup for a second year is the Street Glide, which brings changes like a Road King-style tank and new paint and graphics, as well as fresh, 19-inch Agitator wheels (the largest diameter wheel offered on a Harley Touring bike). The low, hydraulic rear shocks are hand-adjustable, and a new, high-output audio system sports 6 speakers (two of which are housed in the ventilated fairing lowers for more-directed sound quality) boosted by a 100-watt-per channel amplifier. You also get an iPod nano with dock tucked into the right saddlebag. The hot-rod bagger's side-fill tank is graced with a flush-mount cap and subtle LED fuel gauge, as well as a sleek, low profile console. The slimmer seat also gets leather inserts, and the batwing fairing supports a taller, seven-inch smoked wind deflector. Four new paint schemes can also be combined with multiple finish options for a true custom result. It's lower and leaner than the other two touring CVOs and handling is a bit crisper, but the slammed suspension occasionally impedes ride quality.

SPECIFICATIONS
2011 CVO Street Glide

MSRP: $32,499 (3700 units)
Colors: Black/crimson; brown/black; orange/black; green/black

ENGINE
Type: Air-cooled, Twin-Cam 110 v-twiin
Displacement, bore x stroke: 1803cc, 101.6mm x 111.3mm
Valve Train: OHV, pushrod-actuated, 2 valves per cylinder
Compression ratio: 9.5:1
Fuel System: Electronic fuel injection
Transmission: 6-speed Cruise Drive
Final Drive: Belt

CHASSIS
Overall Length: 96.2 in.
Wheelbase: 63.5 in.
Wet Weight: 852 lbs.
Seat Height: 27.4 in.
Rake/Trail: 26°/6.69 in.
Front Tire: 130/60B 19 61H Dunlop bias
Rear Tire: 180/55B 18 80H Dunlop bias
Front Brake: Dual 300mm discs; twin 4-piston calipers
Rear Brake: 300mm disc; 4-piston caliper
Front Suspension: 41.3mm telescopic fork; 4.6 in. travel
Rear Suspension: Hydraulic adjustable shocks; 2 in. travel
Fuel Capacity: 6 gallons

FLSTSE CVO Softail Convertible
We've been fans of the Softail Convertible concept since its debut last year, and for 2011 it brings slick refinements, like keyless ignition and a new audio system, as well as cruise control and ABS, standard.

The new audio-in the form of 2 speakers, an amp, and music player plug-are integrated within the inner fairing, and it's the first time you can now get tunes with your Softail. The 20-watt speakers are adequate, but they don't deliver as rich or immersive a sound as the big-bike units. Those leather-covered saddlebags have also been redesigned to better mesh with the rear of the bike, and they're roomier, too.

As on the prior Convertible, the passenger backrest and pillion, saddlebags and front fairing are all easily detachable, so you can quickly configure this Softail for either touring, two-up jaunts or solo rumbles just by clicking off components.

Of the four CVO bikes, we probably spent the most time on the Convertible, and were generally pleased with its performance. The slammed bike is almost too low to the ground for most average-height riders (with a 26.2 inch-tall seat, it's the lowest Harley, period); but shorter riders loved its connection to terra firma. Taller riders bemoaned the seat and windshield placement, saying it buffeted them mercilessly. But the Softail's rigid-mounted powertrain and counterbalanced engine delivered a smooth, even rush of power (even if its throttle response was more lackluster than the non-balanced Touring bikes').

Lever pull was also clunkier than necessary, due to the odd bar bend and slippery chrome interface. The new, welded 1.25inch mini-ape style handle bars put your fists fairly high. Otherwise, Harley's first welded bar responds well to most steering inputs (keep it smooth, or you'll be dragging a floorboard before you know it).

Even though this is the lowest Harley, we found the suspenders more effective than other slammed bikes in H-D's line. The best part? We never had to worry about losing the key. That keyless ignition is a revelation, and we hope to see more of it in the future.

SPECIFICATIONS
2011 H-D CVO Softail Convertible

MSRP: $29,599 (2400 units)
Colors: Red/slate; dark blue/blue; brown/gold

ENGINE
Type: Air-cooled 110B Twin Cam V-twin
Displacement, bore x stroke: 1803cc, 101.6mm x 111.3mm
Valve Train: OHV, pushrod actuated; 2 valves per cylinder
Compression ratio: 9.15:1
Fuel System: EFI
Transmission: 6-speed Cruise Drive
Final Drive: Belt

CHASSIS
Overall Length: 94.9 in.
Wheelbase: 64.2 in.
Wet Weight: 781 lbs.
Seat Height: 26.2 in.
Rake/Trail: 32° / 5.8 in.
Front Tire: 130/70R18 63V Dunlop bias
Rear Tire: 200/50R18 76V Dunlop bias
Front Brake: 292mm disc; 4-piston caliper
Rear Brake: 292mm disc; 2-piston caliper
Front Suspension: 41.3mm telescopic fork; 5.1 in. travel
Rear Suspension: Single damper; 3.3 in. travel
Fuel Capacity: 5.0 gallons

FLHTCUSE CVO Ultra Classic Electra Glide
Now in its sixth year with the CVO family, the Ultra Classic is a consumer favorite (says Harley). Built on the same innovative, revised touring chassis introed back in '09, the Ultra Classic adds even more creature comforts for 2011, with the new Garmin zumo nav system front and center (actually, up and to the left). This more intuitive version now feeds GPS verbal commands to the speakers, so you stay focused on the road. A new suspended seat with dual heat controls and extra suspension for the pillion adds two-up comfort, and there are backrests for both pilot and passenger (as well as adjustable lumbar support for the passenger). The spacious Tour-Pak again gets LED brake/tail lamp and interior lights.

Also getting a big thumbs up is the new 80-watt Harman/Kardon audio system, which delivers a thumpin soundtrack the likes of which we've never heard on a production bike before. Harley has also made security more convenient, with a single key fob that functions like many automotive systems do-simply press a button and the bike (including luggage) is locked and security is armed. The electronics even lock the steering head (after you manually turn the bars into position), and the Ultra also has an integrated garage door opener and receiver.

With ABS standard, this is one nicely-appointed piece of touring machinery. Our time on it was short, but we felt coddled anyway. The only niggles were the top-heaviness in slow speed maneuvers and a noticeable amount of heat from the rear cylinder when trundling along in traffic. Vibration was also more noticeable than we cared for, coming up through the handlebars at high revs.

SPECIFICATIONS
2011 H-D CVO Ultra Classic Electra Glid
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MSRP: $36,499 (1500 units)
Colors: Black/red with flames

ENGINE
Type: air-cooled, 110 Twin Cam V-twin
Displacement, bore x stroke: 1803cc, 101.6mm x 11.3mm
Valve Train: OHV pushrod actuated; 2 valves per cylinder
Compression ratio: 9.15:1
Fuel System: EFI
Transmission: 6-speed Cruise Drive
Final Drive: Belt

CHASSIS
Overall Length: 98.8 in.
Wheelbase: 63.5 in.
Wet Weight: 933 lbs.
Seat Height: 29.8 in.
Rake/Trail: 26° / 6.69 in.
Front Tire: 130/80B17 65H Dunlop bias
Rear Tire: 180/65B 16 81H Dunlop bias
Front Brake: 300mm discs, 4-piston calipers
Rear Brake: 300mm disc, 4-piston caliper; ABS
Front Suspension: 41.3mm telescopic fork; 4.6 in. travel
Rear Suspension: Air-adjustable shocks; 3 in. travel
Fuel Capacity: 6 gallons

2011 Harley-Davidson CVOs

2011 H-D CVO Street Glide
2011 H-D CVO Softail Convertible
2011 H-D Ultra Classic Electra Glide