Harley-Davidson FLSTSE CVO Softail Convertible

Traveling Strip Show Undressed In 90 Seconds

By Tim Carrithers, Photography by Tom Riles, Brian J. Nelson

The Convertible idea is nothing new. It's been rolling around Harley-Davidson's collective consciousness since Driving Miss Daisy took the Best Picture Oscar. But this time, the only Big Twin that goes from two-up tourer to stripped-down showpiece in 2 minutes flat rolls out of Harley's Custom Vehicle Operations-official source of Milwaukee's most powerful style, delivered in (relatively) small quantities at premium prices. Where previous Convertibles were based on the more commonsensical Dyna platform, the 2010 CVO is the newest member of the explicitly stylish Softail family, replacing the '09 Road Glide in Harley's annual rotation of its high-end lineup. And unlike the rest of this year's CVO roster, it has no counterpart in Harley's mainstream lineup. You want a Convertible? Step over to the CVO side of the showroom.

Basic underpinnings came from the now-extinct Softail Springer, with a telescopic fork leading the customary faux-hardtail rear suspension. From there, Harley's Jeff Smith and his team pulled out all the stops. Power comes from the same 110-inch Screamin' Eagle twin you'll find in the other three 2010 CVO models...almost. This is the Twin-Cam 110B, for "balance shaft," inserted to squelch the 45-degree vee's endemic shaking when it's solid-mounted in this Softail skeleton. Torque jumps from 92 lb.-ft. in the proletarian Twin-Cam 96B to 110 lb.-ft. at 3000 rpm, largely due to bigger 4-inch pistons in place of the 96-incher's 3.75-inch slugs and some creative intake/exhaust tuning. Outside the engine bay, what you see is a rolling test- ament to the sheer heft of Harley's accessory catalog.

Listing every part number would require more magazine than you're holding, but we'll hit the high spots. There's a new digital speedometer atop the 5-gallon fuel tank, ringed by a semi-circular analog speedometer. The new detachable windshield lives up to its name. So do the leather-covered pillion seat and saddlebags-complete with real buffalo-hide inserts. Bags pop off in 2 minutes or less after a little practice, but they don't hold much so pack light. Sculpted FL fenders are new, along with chromed-aluminum Stinger Wheels, complete with matching front brake rotor and rear sprocket. Convertible floorboards, passenger pegs, shifter hardware, brake pedal and mirrors come from Harley's Rumble Collection. The new CVO Fat Bob is more our pint of Guiness, but fit and finish are no less stunning if this silhouette suits your personal aesthetic.

Saddling up outside the suitably palatial Ritz Carlton Half-Moon Bay, about 45 minutes south of San Francisco, the first thing I notice about the new Convertible is it's low. That natty buffalo-hide seat actually puts about 24 inches between the Junipero Serra Freeway and my own. Bars and floorboards are far enough away to accommodate my 35-inch inseam, and the quick-detach fairing does a better job of deflecting oncoming atmosphere than the 2010 Street Glide's slammed Bat Wing fairing. Our beef begins and ends with the Softail chassis.

Despite more travel at both ends than the Dyna-based Fat Bob, the Convertible never feels quite as compliant, sending the worst freeway indiscretions up the Editorial Spinal Column seemingly undiminished. And while the latest Twin Cam 110B is a whole lot stronger than its smaller, 96-inch cousin, that balance shaft and its attendant hardware make the B-spec twin feel rougher and distinctly less lively than the shaftless version that uses rubber engine mounts to stave off the vibes. Some people like the Softail look enough to live with the difference. We are not those people.

Segue to some of my favorite Santa Cruz Mountain roads and the Convertible works fine, despite a looming sense that both of us would rather be somewhere else. Maintain a (very) conservative pace, skirt the bad bumps and all is well. Wick it up to hang with a rapidly receding Fat Bob up ahead and the sound of grinding designer metal says slow down. Cornering clearance is, shall we say, limited? Brakes are perfectly adequate and even admirable at a conservative clip. Beyond that, one disc and caliper vs. 830 lbs. of motorcycle can turn into a mismatch. Retreat to the aforementioned conservative pace and all is well.

There's not much else to argue with. The quick-change windshield and bags actually change quite quickly once you master the drill. Delphi fuel-injection is as good as anything out there, nearly making up for the extra bit of driveline slack we noticed in the all-new CVO offerings. So? If the 2-minute makeover from tourer to cruiser is all you want, other bikes do it for a lot less than the 2010 CVO Convertible's $27,999 asking price. There are more comfortable ways to cross a few state lines next weekend and cooler custom cruisers if you're settling for one or the other. But if you're dead-set on having both, and there's only room for one bike in the garage, this would be it.

Tech Spec
Evolution

Harley's bipolar Big Twin debuted as the frumpier 1989 FXRS Convertible, and survived from 1994 to 2000 as the Dyna-based FXDS Convertible.

Rivals
Honda VTX1800T, Indian Chief Roadmaster, Kawasaki Vulcan 2000 LT, Star Stratoliner S, Victory Kingpin Tour

Price $27,999
Engine type a-c 45-deg. V-twin
Valve train OHV, 4v
Displacement 1803cc
Bore x stroke 101.6 x 111.2mm
Compression 9.1:1
Fuel System Delphi EFI
Clutch Wet, multi-plate
Transmission 5-speed
Claimed horsepower na
Claimed torque 110 lb.-ft. @ 3000 rpm
Frame Tubular-steel double-cradle
Front suspension Showa 41mm fork
Rear suspension Showa shock with adjustable spring preload
Front brake Hayes four-piston caliper, 292mm disc
Rear brake Hayes four-piston caliper 292mm disc
Front tire 130/70R-18 Dunlop D407
Rear tire 200/50R-18 Dunlop D407
Rake/trail 32.0 deg./5.8 in.
Seat height 24.4 in.
Wheelbase 64.2 in.
Fuel capacity 5.0 gal.
Claimed wet weight 830 lbs.
Colors Orange/black, blue/black, red/black
Available Now
Warranty 2 yrs., unlimited mi.

Contact
Harley-Davidson Motor Co.
3700 W. Juneau Ave.
Milwaukee, WI 53208
414.343.4056
www.harley-davidson.com

Verdict 3 stars out of 5
High-profile style that can roll to Sturgis on the road, not strapped to a trailer.

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