2008 Harley-Davidson CVO Models

Paint, Chrome and Technology


For a motorcycle company that's been around since the dawn of time, Harley-Davidson hasn't made a name for itself by being on the cusp of ground-breaking technology. No, it’s made a name for itself by not wavering in their commitment to what has become a ubiquitous engine platform: The 45-degree V-twin. The Motor Company spent more of its energies slowly honing that tried-and-true engine rather than chasing after technology that, until recently, was complex and often too expensive to implement.

And I think it's safe to say that no other motorcycle brand has created more division in all of motorcycledom than Harley. Those that are dyed-in-the-wool devotees of the brand often see no need for any other type of motorcycle to exist. Then there are those on the other side of the fence that believe the Harley V-Twin is dated and lacking true performance-oriented qualities. I suppose there's room for both camps, although it's hard to deny the number of Harleys on the road these days.

Whichever band of loyalists you find yourself in, you'll probably be stunned with what Harley has in store for some of its 2008 units. So get with the times, grumpy old Harley owner! Hush your mouth, you faithless Harley naysayers!

Using the CVO line as a launch pad, H-D has leapt to the forefront of motorcycle tech with its version of throttle-by-wire, Electronic Throttle Control. This is technology that has just started to surface in only but a few high-performance sportbikes, most recently Yamaha's R1. But it doesn't stop there. Nope, it stops here, quite literally, with the introduction of ABS.

Both throttle-by-wire and ABS will be standard on the CVO Screamin' Eagle Road King and Screamin' Eagle Ultra Classic Electra Glide. The ABS system will be an option on all 2008 non-CVO Harley Touring and VRSC models.

The Delphi-developed anti-lock system is independent (non-linked) and works in conjunction with Brembo calipers and master cylinders. Using "encoded magnets" that are hidden inside the wheel hubs and a regulating system that is tucked underneath a body side panel rather than hogging up space behind a saddlebag, the ABS is remarkably simple and invisible to the naked eye. Harley knows that appearance is paramount for prospective purchasers of a CVO motorcycle. As such they took great pains to give the bikes a system that works well but doesn't impact the appearance whatsoever.

Here you can see the heart of the new ABS system tucked in descretly behind a side panel. Because of its relatively small size, it doesn't have to take up space behind a saddlebag.
Mmmm... 110 cubic inches.
Because the anti-lock system works with standard calipers and master cylinders, uses minimal components and is non-linked, feel at the lever is similar to most non-ABS Harleys, and the ABS only activates when absolutely necessary, unlike some systems that can have a tendency to be a bit overzealous.

Since there was a spot of rain during the press intro, I had opportunity to test the ABS. In short, it's as good a system as any I've used, and is better than some found on machines of similar expense.

Speaking of technology found on other brands and types of bikes, Harley's Electronic Throttle Control system is as seamless as the ABS is invisible. It, too, is the picture of refinement, never once making itself known with any hesitation or sputter in the fueling. Well done, Harley.

For those of you who may not yet know, CVO is short for Custom Vehicle Operations and is Harley's in-house custom line. Consisting of four basic Harleys (the Dyna, Softail Springer, Road King and Ultra Classic Electra Glide), each bike is a rolling display of the thousands of accessories found in the fabled Harley-Davidson Parts and Accessories Catalog. Covered in enough chrome to make the Silver Surfer look like a rusty nail, these bikes gleam from tip to tail.

Each CVO model gets the hopped-up Twin-Cam 110 (unveiled last year) and is the largest engine Harley offers; it's joined to the six-speed Cruise Drive tranny. The Road King and Ultra produce a claimed 115 foot-pounds of torque at 3,000 rpm, while the Dyna produces 105 foot-pounds at 3,000 rpm. The Springer model gets the Twin-Cam 110B (B is for balanced) and churns out 110 foot-pounds (five more than the previous model) at the same rpm thanks to the truly custom-looking Heavy Breather intake.

Unique to the CVO line are custom paint and graphics. Each bike has three paint scheme options with one being a celebration of H-D's 105th year of production. The Crystal Copper and Black Onyx Paint with gold leaf graphics can be had on all four CVO models for a premium of $495. What's more, each 105th Anniversary edition is serialized and in limited production. A tasteful cloisonne displaying the serial number of the bike is located on the side panel. An additional touch for 2008 is the CVO-exclusive Granite finish to the powertrain.

Here's the Heavy Breather intake on the Springer with the "110" end cap shown.Speaking of unique and individual, Harley took the press on a tour of Calibre, Inc. This is the humble company that handles all of the CVO paint works. "Big whoop," you might say. Well, it is a big whoop when you consider that a tremendous amount of hand pinstriping and painting takes place to create just one CVO bike. With over 5,000 passes of paint on 450 body parts, Cailbre Inc. is able to cover 50 CVO motorcycles a day. Considering the amount of non-mechanized labor and the array of different skill levels of each painter and pinstriper, these figures become even more impressive when Calibre management boldly claims 100% fulfillment to Harley. Plenty of CVO staff was on hand when that was boasted, and not one of them disputed it.

Finally, though quality control is of utmost importance and each painter is highly skilled, the fact is that no two paint jobs will be exactly the same. Just one more way each CVO model is a custom.

2008 FLHTCUSE Screamin' Eagle Ultra Classic Electra Glide

In its third year as a CVO model, the Screamin' Eagle Ultra Classic is all things tour but with a lot more pizzazz! Because this bike is the loaded luxury liner, weight is going to be a factor. Slow-speed parking lot maneuvers prove to be a handful. It takes a little extra effort and attention to keep the bike moving smoothly, or upright for that matter when attempting a short u-turn. The bike almost feels like it has a hinge in the middle. But once the show is on the road and under power the bike handles nicely for something of its size. Having the extra torque from the biggest of the big mills Harley makes certainly aids this American tourer haul its own heft, that of its rider, passenger and all that they can cram in the cavernous hard bags.

The Ultra is about more than just a big engine and storage capacity. This is one comfy ride. The rider triangle is well-thought and should allow most people to stay in the cozy saddle for days at a time. If distance riding is the name of your game you'll be happy you're aboard the Ultra. Load with amenities like XM radio, WB(weather band, not that crummy television studio), CB/intercom, CD changer, Harmon/Kardon speaker system cruise control, heated seats, a navigation system and so on, anyone should be more than occupied on this, the QE II of Harleys.

New to this bike beyond the list of extras that reads like career-criminal's rap sheet is the following:

  • ABS with Brembo brakes
  • Throttle-by-wire nicely hidden in the internally wired handlebar
  • Six-gallon fuel tank
  • Dual control heated seat with passenger backrest and adjustable rider backrest
  • Power locking system with remote/barrel key fob (just think of your modern automobile) that operates all the hard bags
  • Ultra King Tour Pak with premium luggage rack, color-matched wrap around lights and carry out liner
  • Isolated Drive System (cush drive, really)

The 2008 Screamin' Eagle Ultra Classic Electra Glide retails for $34,995 ($35,095 CA) and will only number 4,200 units (including 1,800 serialized 105th Anniversary models) worldwide. Add $495 for the anniversary edition.

2008 FLHRSE Screamin' Eagle Road King

The Road King is a favorite among Harley aficionados and has become an instant classic in its short life. The RK would probably be my choice for "winner" if this were a shootout between the four CVOs. The wide-set bars contribute to this bike's easy and light steering. It has a good feeling of balance in the weight bias, and ground clearance is exceptional-for-a-cruiser making it my top choice for mild twisty sections of tarmac. Big sweepers make the day even sweeter as the RK drifts effortless through such turns. Get the bike much over 80mph and you'll start to get a slightly "loose" feel in its handling, but never to the point of feeling unstable. Unlike the big Ultra the King requires no need of extra effort to flick it around while lane splitting through 30 plus miles of rush hour traffic.

And just because it's not covered in dials, switches and buttons doesn't mean that it's not as comfortable to ride as full dresser. It does have a different ergo set up that brings the rider a little closer to the bars and knees closer to elbows, but the CVO Road King is plenty accommodating with the standard windscreen and forgiving seat. This bike, like all CVOs, is adorned with chrome goodies and has one my favorite features: cruise control.

New to the 2008 CVO Road King is the following:

  • ABS with Brembo brakes
  • Throttle-by-wire
  • Six-gallon fuel tank
  • Isolated Drive System
  • Adjustable handlebar
  • Custom handlebar riser cover with indicator lights
  • Custom mirrors
  • New design for leather seat, backrests and saddlebags
  • Color-matched frame and swingarm

The 2008 Screamin' Eagle Road King retails for $29,290 ($29,390 CA) and will only number 3,150 units (including 1,800 serialized 105th Anniversary models) worldwide. Add $495 for the anniversary edition.

2008 FXDSE Screamin' Eagle Dyna

Pro Street is the inspiration of this low-ridin' bad boy. This year it picks up a few new styling touches as well as some functional changes. The Dyna was probably the least inviting of the four to ride after I had some miles on it. It has lots of visual appeal, as all the CVOs do, but the forward controls were just a tad too far out front for my stubby 5' 8" frame. Couple that reach with chrome accented foot pegs, and I had a harder time keeping my boots planted than I expected.

Despite that, initial turn in doesn't require as much effort as you would think thanks to the newly reduced steering angle. Braking is what we've come to expect from most Harleys: plenty of power but lacking in feel. Despite the presence of stainless steel brake lines, I couldn't help but think that braking might benefit further if the rotor grew by about 10mm. But when it's all said and done, the Dyna makes up for these mild deficiencies with that pavement scoring brute of an engine. Bump the tranny into first, peg the throttle and dump the clutch to produce an instant rolling burnout. Yeah... So much of cruising is about torquey power!

New to the 2008 CVO Screamin' Eagle Dyna is the following:

  • Mirror-chrome slotted six-spoke cast aluminum wheels
  • Lowered front suspension with decreased fork angle
  • Adjustable handlebar with internal wiring and integrated four-inch spun-aluminum tach
  • Chrome full-length fuel tank console which now includes the speedo, and better access to the ignition switch
  • Reduced reach saddle
  • Shortened, solid stem mirrors


The 2008 Screamin' Eagle Dyna retails for $24,995 ($25,095 CA) and will only number 2,600 units (including 1,050 serialized 105th Anniversary models) worldwide. Add $495 for the anniversary edition.


2008 FXSTSSE Screamin' Eagle Softail Springer

In its second year, this bike does a pretty darn good job of looking old skool in a new world. When I rode the Springer last year in our Godzilla Cruiser's shootout I was really impressed with just how nimble a bike with a 21-inch front wheel could be hustled through the turns. It suffered from ground clearance of course, but sometimes draggin' a peg is half the fun for me.

With the switch to an 18-inch wheel this year, handling has only gotten better. I half expected turn in to be slowed quite a bit from the wider tire. Thankfully I was wrong. The new wheel and tire combo have given the Springer more stability and better front end feel. That's a good thing to have when slinging a $25,000 bike around. This bike is best suited for cruising the strip and looking good... extended freeway time or excessive amounts of twisting roads really are outside of the scope of the Springer's design in the long run. But with all the torque and that kick ass air intake hanging out in front of you, why would you want to do anything but show the bike off on the boulevard.

Braking, like on the Dyna, has room for improvement. It would be nice to see the well-thought out ABS on the touring models trickle down into some of the other models in Harley's line-up.

New to the 2008 Screamin' Eagle Softail Springer is the following:

  • 18 x 3.5-inch front wheel and 18-inch radial tire
  • Widened front fender with restyled mounting bracket and strut
  • The single front brake moves to the left side of the front wheel
  • Reduced reach front brake lever
  • New floating rear brake caliper (this as well as bolt-on frame tails and fender support covers, a new fuel pump, line and sender will carry over to '08 non-CVO Softails)
  • "Heavy Breather" forward-facing air intake with exposed filter (includes rain cover) that gives the bike 5 more foot-pounds of torque from the previous model
  • New horn cover
The 2008 Screamin' Eagle Softail Springer retails for $24,995 ($25,095 CA) and will only number 2,500 units (including 1,050 serialized 105th Anniversary models) worldwide. Add $495 for the anniversary edition.

For more info go to: http://www.harley-davidson.com/

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