Like any alpha wolf worth its fur, Harley-Davidson's "alpha customer" needs to make a little noise to remind everyone of his position within the pack-which is exactly why the Custom Vehicle Operations line exists. Every year, Harley's CVO team selects four models and hooks them up with exclusive accoutrements, snazzy paint and, of course, the CVO-exclusive 110-cubic-inch Screamin' Eagle engine. For 2011 the Ultra Classic Electra Glide, gangsta-fave Street Glide and versatile Softail Convertible return to the CVO stage, with the revered Road Glide Ultra rolling in to replace the Fat Bob.
To clear up any confusion, the Road Glide Ultra differs from its cousins the Ultra Classic Electra Glide and Street Glide by way of its hawkish, frame-mounted fairing and cockpit-style instrumentation. The other touring rigs feature flatter, fork-mounted fairings, which impart a slightly heavier steering feel. The Road Glide's unencumbered fork, combined with the Touring chassis' recent frame and suspension upgrades, make it a terrific platform for spirited travel. The CVO Screamin' Eagle Twin Cam engine adds some much-appreciated oomph to the package, bringing it nearer to the power standards of rival touring bikes.
The Road Glide comes standard with ABS, electronic throttle control and a six-speed transmission. It offers an updated Road Tech 660 GPS system, with audio commands available through the external stereo speakers. Harmon/Kardon supplies the iPod-integrated audio/entertainment system, which includes four BOOM! (that's right, BOOM!) bagger speakers. The 'Glide also gets a suspended, heated touring saddle that it shares with the Electra Glide, as well as a remote-control power-lock system that locks/unlocks the bike's trunk, saddlebags and ignition via a pushbutton fob. The fob works fabulously, and proves a great advance from the days when you needed to unlock and lock each bag manually every time you wanted to rummage for a rainsuit or road map. Additional baubles included the Deluxe Tour-Pak luggage rack with color-matched LED brake/tail lamp and Air Wing Tour-Pak rack, plus Harley's "Rumble Collection" of rubber and chrome footboards, shifter pegs, brake pedal, saddlebag latch covers and heated handgrips.
The CVO treatment elevates the Road Glide to a whole 'nuther level. The Screamin' Eagle Tw
Aside from the flash factor, the most apparent dimensional difference between the base Road Glide and the CVO version is the use of badass 18-inch Agitator wheels. The 15-inch windshield has been reshaped as well, and brought back 15 degrees.
On the road the newest CVO Glide is everything it should be: packable, comfortable, manageable ... and deeply conspicuous. I had a chance to ride all four fresh-from-the-factory CVO models around Lake Tahoe's tranquil shores and let me tell you, a pack of flashy, cash-happy Harley riders draws huge attention. Especially among the wooden boat-wielding, alpha cabin-owning crowd that frequents Tahoe's la-dee-da lakefront.
The 110-c.i. V-twin is the most appreciated upgrade shared by the 2011 CVO models, giving all the bikes a little more real-world punch. But there are also some enticing aesthetic and electronic additions to satisfy Harley's most demanding customers. The Electra Glide boasts a new 19-inch Agitator front wheel, as well as ventilated fairing lowers that house two out of the six speakers. After all, what better to complement loud pipes than several hundred watts of Stephan Wolf? The new audio system includes an H-D-branded iPod Nano with a slick dock pocket in the right saddlebag. Additionally, the Street Glide will roll out with a snakeskin-motif leather seat, low-profile tank console and 7-inch smoked flyscreen. It comes in four daring color options, each brandishing contrasting engine, wheel, tank console and fairing finishes.