First Ride: 2009 Harley-Davidson CVO models

Click above for high-res image of the Harely-Davidson CVO models

There is no doubting that Harley-Davidson motorcycles have stood the test of time. Though sales of both mainstream and higher-end models from The Motor Company are down, Harley-Davidson has seen fit to continue its line of factory custom models. Custom Vehicle Operations offers complete models featuring Screaming Eagle parts.

HD has no problems selling its entire allotment of CVO SE bikes each year despite their high cost of entry, so we surmise that folks looking for full custom bikes complete with Harley-Davidson warranties must have fairly deep pockets. Surely then, these machines had better be quite different from their more standard countarparts. Let's take a closer look.

Photos copyright ©2008 Jeremy Korzeniewski / Weblogs, Inc.

The '09 model year marks the tenth anniversary of the Screaming Eagle line, and customers have come to expect everything in HD's substantial accessory catalog to be incorporated into these special editions. Never mind all the chrome goodies -- a stronger powerplant is high on shoppers' lists. This year, each of the CVO models features a fuel-injected 1800cc Screamin' Eagle Twin Cam 110 engine. That's a big mill, those two mammoth pistons make their presence known as the TC110 rumbles to life. An exclusive granite powdercoat, further differentiates the engine from the V-Twins in lesser models. The newly-enlarged mill is mated to a six-speed tranny across the entire CVO line. From there, things diverge into four separate models for 2009.

CVO Fat Bob

Thanks to the success of the softail-based Fat Boy, HD recently introed a fattened version of its sportier Dyna known as the Fat Bob. Roughly 2,450 CVO'd 'Bobs will roll out the doors this year, each priced a little over $25 grand. What does that lofty MSRP get you? Well, for starters, HD debuts brand new 16-inch Fang wheels with black powdercoated centers and chrome inserts around the outer rim. A 130 mm tire is used up front along with a 180 at the rear. The front and rear suspensions are dropped, bringing the Fat Bob very close to the ground. It goes without saying that everything that can be chromed has been chromed. The one omission is a color-matched tank console, which we thought looked great. The CVO Fat Bob also marks Harley's first-ever use of Alcantara, which covers the portion of the seat your hindquarters will touch.

In Fat Bob guise, the Screamin' Eagle 110 produces 114 lb.-ft. or torque. Breathing is enhanced by conical air filter, and spent gases are exhausted through a a 2-1-2 Tommy Gun system. We like the look of the matte black header tubes that peak through the ehaust's chrome heat shields. In fact, the Fat Bob is probably the best-looking CVO model for '09. It also happens to be the least expensive, though at $25K it's anything but cheap. Available color combinations include Sunrise Yellow Pearl with Platinum Quartz highlights, Black Diamond with Fire Quartz and our personal favorite: Denim Granite with Electric Blue fade.

CVO Softail Springer

The Softail platform is the most popular choice for custom Harleys, and it's used to good effect on the '09 CVO Springer. We like the look and ride that the Springer front end offers. That chrome springer fork holds an eighteen inch front wheel with a 130 mm front tire. At the rear is a very wide 240 that's held in place by a chromed swingarm. HD did an admirable job tuning the bike for that fat tire, as its precence doesn't manifest itself in the form of pronounced handling deficiencies. During our ride, we also noticed that stopping the customized Springer does requires a particularly hard pull of the front brake lever.

The CVO Springer uses the Twin Cam 110B engine. It's fairly smooth and offers 110 lb.-ft. of torque in this application. Every surface that could be chromed has been, and while it's a bit much for our personal tastes, it certainly stands out from the crowd. The available finishes are Black Diamond with Emerald Ice flames, Candy Cobalt with Blue Steel flames or Sunrise Yellow Pearl with Volcanic Fury flames. If you really want to be seen, the chromed-out CVO Springer in yellow will clearly do the trick. If you want one, you'd better get your name on the list for one of the estimated 2,500 that are planned for the year.

CVO Road Glide

Baggers are hot, even among the retracting custom crowd. With the new CVO Road Glide, you get a custom cruiser with enough storage for a long weekend trip, minus all of the extra gadgetry standard on the Ultra (see below). Nice idea, but a $31,000 custom bike doesn't currently fit our lifestyle. For those who can afford it, the Road Glide offers plenty to keep its rider entertained, including a Harmon/Kardon AM/FM/CD/MP3 stereo with an aux jack for your portable player. The handsome spun aluminum speedo and tach get matching accessory gauges and are nestled into the frame-mounted fairing that differentiates the Road Glide from the rest of Harley's touring line.

All Touring models get a revised frame with a new rubber mounting system for the engine. Considering that the SE TC110 engine offers up 115 lb.-ft. of torque in the Road Glide, that the overall machine felt so solid bodes well for the rest of the updated Touring lineup. We especially appreciate the revised exhaust on the new models, which keeps the hot pipes further from the legs of the rider and passenger. Brembo ABS brakes provide ample stopping power. The bike has been lowered a bit and extensions on the rear bags and fender make it appear even more so. Eighteen-inch wheels make the Road Glide unique among HD's line of tourers. Some 3,000 examples will be produced this year in Yellow Pearl with Charcoal Slate highlights, Stardust Silver with Titanium Dust and Electric Orange with Vivid Black.

CVO Ultra Classic Electra Glide

The most expensive model in HD's '09 line is the CVO Ultra. As a full-featured bagger with every accessory Harley-Davidson could throw its way, the Ultra checks in at a staggering $35,499. That's a lot of money, though we're sure that The Motor Company will have no trouble moving all 4,200 examples it plans to offer. For that sum, buyers get a new Tour Pak that can carry even more stuff than before. All that weight will be ably moved by 113 lb.-ft of torque transmitted through the cruise-friendly six-speed. We found the ABS to be extremely sensitive, though it did bring the huge machine down from speed very quickly.

Up front, a seventeen-inch wheel is shod with a 130 mm tire while the rear gets a sixteen-incher with 180 mm rubber. The rider will enjoy heated hand grips and a full Harmon/Kardon sound system that adds a CB radio and intercom to the AM/FM stereo with CD and MP3 player. Also standard are cruise control, ABS brakes, XM radio and navigation. An air-adjustable suspension keeps things as comfortable as is possible, aided by an extremely well-padded seat. Color choices for the CVO Ultra qare Ruby Red with Typhoon Maroon, Autumn Haze with High Octane Orange and Stardust Silver with Twilight Blue.

Each of the '09 CVO models brings something different to the table. While we thoroughly enjoyed the time we spent with the bikes, they cost as much as many of the automobiles we feature every day on these pages. Interestingly, though, HD claims that it would cost the consumer thousands more to replicate the bikes themselves. If you feel the desire to ride the ultimate expression of the classic American motorcycle, Harley-Davidson would like you to pay them a visit. And a fair sum of money, to boot.

Our travel and lodging expenses for this trip were handled by the manufacturer. Photos of the author riding the motorcycles discussed were taken by the manufacturer.

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