2011 Harley-Davidson CVO Street Glide Review
Blinged-out Batwing Bagger
The Street Glide, with its distinctive batwing fairing, is H-D’s best-selling bike. Equally impressive is the SG’s appeal across all demographics, ensuring broad-based sales success.
So, the Street Glide is obviously one of the most desirable bikes on the market, and it reaches its zenith of appeal in the 2011 CVO edition tested here.
Harley’s Custom Vehicle Operations (CVO) division takes standard H-Ds and fits them with extra chrome, custom paint, loads of accessories, and special Screamin’ Eagle high-performance powerplants to create the pinnacle of Harley’s lineup. “CVO motorcycles,” says the Motor Company, “define the ultimate vision of Harley-Davidson styling, features and performance.”
There are four limited-production CVOs for the 2011 model year. At the top end of the scale is the $36,999 Road Glide Ultra we recently tested, followed by the Ultra Classic Electra Glide ($36,499). The CVO Street Glide slots in above the $29,599 Softail Convertible.
At a $32,499 MSRP, the Street Glide CVO is a business-class ticket among V-Twin baggers, but it takes just a cursory glance at the CVO-SG to recognize its premium quality – whether in terms of paint quality, depth of chrome or finish details. Expensive bits on are display everywhere you look, which helps justify the pricey initial outlay.
Helping distinguish the CVO from lesser Glides are new Agitator wheels in the terrific Contrast Chrome finish. The 19-incher up front is the largest-diameter wheel ever fitted to an H-D touring motorcycle, and it’s complemented by floating 300mm Agitator brake rotors and a style-matching 18-inch rear wheel. A “slammed and trimmed” front fender tightly hugs the tire’s curve.
As is typical of CVO models, the SG is slathered in deep, rich chrome. The lovely hand and foot controls are from Harley’s Rumble Collection, and the blingy brightwork is carried over to the fork sliders, dipstick and trick, push-button fuel door, among a myriad of other places.
If you’re a fan of attractive rear ends, the CVO SG will turn you on. A pair of vertical LED tail lamps are cleanly frenched in to the area between the extended saddlebags and the rear fender, providing stop lights and turn signals in one nicely integrated design under smoked lenses. The rear view is punctuated by tasteful billet end caps on the exhaust’s dual mufflers.
The CVO SG also gets a unique fuel tank. It began life as a 6.0-gallon cell from a Road King, but it’s been customized with a flush-mount gas filler on the right, with a matching LED fuel gauge on the left. A new low-profile console is accented with a unique “liquid metal” tank medallion.
As you’d expect from the CVO division, it lacks nothing in terms of standard accessories, which include cruise control, ABS, bag liners and H-D’s Smart Security System.
“The theme this year is big audio,” said Randy Klopfer, CVO’s team manager, at the CVO’s press launch.
And the SG backs up that statement with a 100-watt-per-channel stereo that delivers tunes to no less than six speakers. In addition to typical audio functions and XM Radio, the SG comes equipped with an 8GB iPod nano (etched with Harley’s bar-and-shield logo) that docks in a holder in the right saddlebag. Two full-range speakers and two tweeters kick sound at a rider from the color-matched fairing cockpit, while clarity and bass response is augmented by a pair of 6.5-inch speakers located in the fairing lowers.
All 2011 CVOs are set apart from regular OEM Harleys by the fitment of the Screamin’ Eagle Twin-Cam 110-cubic-inch motor. This fuel-injected engine’s extra displacement gives it a factory crankshaft rating of 115 ft. lbs. of torque at its 4000-rpm peak. That’s up significantly from the 96-cubic-incher’s claimed 92.6 ft-lbs at 3500 rpm. A high-torque starter and a stronger clutch handle the big engine’s extra demands.
We’ve become big fans of Harley’s Touring line since the total chassis overhaul in 2009, and the Street Glide proves to be the most manageable FL of the bunch. The low-profile 130/60-19 front tire responds with sharper reflexes than the taller rubber on other FLs, and the SG does well to hide its considerable 852-lbs fully fueled wet weight. Dual 4-piston front calipers and standard anti-lock control provides stout speed retardation.
Short riders are aided in handling that bulky mass by a new low-profile seat located just 27.4 inches off the ground, but it comes at the cost of a minute 2.0 inches of rear suspension travel. The seat itself, with simulated snakeskin inserts and matching passenger backrest, is quite comfortable, but the slammed suspension can be harsh over big bumps. The 41mm fork’s 4.6 inches of travel has an easier time sucking up large impacts. If tilting horizons is on tap, you’ll want to crank up the hydraulic rear preload to achieve Harley’s claimed 32 degrees of lean angle on the right; 30 degrees on the exhaust side.
The CVO SG’s cockpit is a pleasant place to watch the miles roll up in front of you. The 7-inch tinted windscreen (from the Electra Glide) provides better protection than lesser SGs while still offering a suitably sporty style. A very neutral riding position helps the rider feel fully in control and comfortable. The audio system sounds great, the cruise control holds steady speeds, and the self-canceling turnsignals perform flawlessly.
"The CVO SG’s cockpit is a pleasant place to watch the miles roll up in front of you."
We were grateful to have the TC110 motor on our ride around Lake Tahoe that took us upwards of one mile high, elevations that would have the TC96 gasping for air. Throttle response is exemplary, and vibration from the big-cube motor is isolated from the rider at all cruising speeds, aided by the overdrive gear in the 6-speed transmission.
The Street Glide is one of our favorite Harleys, and this CVO version ratchets up the performance, finish quality and luxury items to give it even greater appeal. As a light-duty touring rig, it’s nearly perfect, spoiled only by minimal rear suspension and a fairly limited stowage capacity.
A regular OEM Street Glide retails for nearly $18,000 with color options, which sounds reasonable next to the CVO’s $32.5K MSRP. But for the “alpha riders” who Harley says are its CVO customers and for whom money doesn’t seem to be a problem, this tarted up Glide will satisfy for its luxury, amenities and exclusivity – just 3700 or so will be built.
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