Every Harley-Davidson new model launch I’ve attended over the years has been a rewarding experience in some way or another, but none more so than the ones hosted by the Motor Company’s Custom Vehicle Operations (CVO) division. It seems that when the CVO team launches their new models, they do it in a special and exclusive way, giving you the sense of what it might be like to actually own a CVO. This year’s press launch (CVO’s 11th year in existence) kept with tradition and made us all feel grand for many reasons, not the least of which was because we were bunking at the Ritz- Carlton in Half Moon Bay, California.
For 2010 there will be four models offered: two reprised, one all new, and one all new and exclusive to CVO (see page 110 for specs on each model). It’s no surprise that for a fifth time, the CVO Ultra Classic Electra Glide has made the lineup. And it’s nice to see one of my favorite Harleys, the CVO Fat Bob, make the grade for the second straight year. The other two models are the first-year CVO Street Glide, and the exclusive-to-CVO Softail Convertible. As a side note, these four bikes (as well as all Big Twins) will now feature a new helical-cut fifth gear in their six-speed Cruise Drive transmissions, eliminating that fifth gear whine which created a lot of business for Bert Baker. Although I did get to rack up some miles on all four models, I was most intrigued by the exclusive-to-CVO Softail Convertible, so I procured as much seat time as I could on it, figuring I should discuss it here.
The convertible is not necessarily a bold new concept for the Motor Company. In the ’80s, there were the FXR Convertibles, followed by the Dyna Convertibles of the ’90s. Neither of those models sold well, and the idea lay dormant at Juneau Avenue until this CVO interpretation came to fruition. Right from the start, you can see that special care was taken to make sure the 2010 CVO Softail Convertible was designed to be a two-in-one, touring-and-cruising factory custom, and it was going to look good doing it in either configuration.
Attention to detail is obvious in the quality of its detachable parts, and how they work together on the bike as a whole. The combination of the color-matched compact fairing with the smoked windshield nicely integrates with the bike’s style, and is as simple to install or remove as any of the other detachable windshields Harley offers. The leather, semi-ridged saddlebags feature genuine buffalo-hide inserts. They can be removed in seconds by simply pulling and then turning a lock tab on the backside of the bags, and sliding the whole setup backward. The best part is that all that’s left behind are two mounting pegs on each fender strut. Installation of the bags takes a tad longer because everything needs to line up, including the lower mounting tabs. Once I got used to the installation process, I was able to attach each bag in under a minute, which leads me to believe even a monkey (or a buffalo) could learn how to do it.
An obvious and noticeable difference between this and all previous H-D convertibles is the fact that the custom leather seat has a detachable passenger pillion and detachable backrest pad, meaning, when not in touring mode, you have a solo seat cruiser. Note for styling continuity: all three of these parts feature genuine buffalo-hide inserts that match those on the saddlebags.
When I initially sat on this bike, I couldn’t help but notice the low seat height (24.4″ laden) and high mounted position of the floorboards, which combined to give me a cramped feel while in the cockpit. Anyone with a large body take note because you might not like this bike on long hauls. The rear suspension has been lowered a full 1″, which forced me to smooth out my riding lines and not make any abrupt directional changes to prevent the floorboards from scraping. The good thing here is that by simply installing stock Softail shocks, you get that whole inch of ground clearance back. Better yet, in my opinion, a sweet air-ride setup would work righteously on this bike because you pump it up in touring mode and slam it down in cruiser mode. However, those of you who just plan on burning highway miles probably won’t have as many touchdowns, so this stock setup should be fine.
In terms of performance, what is there not to like about the TC 110B granite-powdercoated engine driving a 200mm, 18″, chrome aluminum Stinger rear wheel? The all-new combination digital speedometer and analog tachometer is a thing of beauty, and works wonderfully. The bike’s speed is displayed digitally in the center of the gauge, while the rpm is indicated by an arm that sweeps around the outer edge of the gauge. Easy to read, and looks hot, too!
The fit and finish of this CVO, like all of them, is exquisite. The full coverage wide rear fender and close-cropped, trimmed front fender do wonders to visually ground the bike. Add to that the fact that this chrome-laden bike also has many color-matched parts, including the frame, swingarm, frame inserts, saddlebag brackets, and horseshoe oil tank. You have a visually striking motorcycle, no matter how it’s configured.
Over the years, I’ve seen many deals advertised as BOGO (buy one, get one). To me, the 2010 Softail Convertible has a Fat Boy-esque look in cruiser trim, while in touring trim it reminds me of a Heritage Classic. That said, the way I see it is that you’re really getting two bikes for the price of one: $27,999. Add to that the value inherently built into buying a limited-production, factory-custom CVO Harley, and you can see why this bike is a steal.
–Joe Knezevic as published in American Iron Magazine, the world’s best selling Harley magazine.