Let me start off by saying something that may come as no big surprise to all of you: I was kinda confused. No big shock to anybody, right? Let me explain why I was confused though, and you might find yourself in the same boat. We got the invitation to the 2009 CVO (Custom Vehicle Operations) press launch before we got the invitation to the 2009 full-line press launch--like, a few weeks ahead of the full-line launch. Then we found out that the CVO launch was going to be a full month before the full-line launch. We had a hunch that the bagger line was going to get a new chassis (we listen when people from the Factory talk) and a 180 rear tire, so that meant we were going to get to ride the hot-rod versions of the new Road Glide and the new Ultra Classic Electra Glide before we got to ride the stock versions. Not that we're complaining, but it really didn't give us anything to compare the CVO models to--yet!
That being said, the folks from the Factory really downplayed the all-new chassis. They didn't really mention the fact that the new bagger frame has a 1/2-inch-longer wheelbase. They did mention that the new, beefier swingarm easily accommodates the 180 rear tire that comes stock on all 2009 baggers. The new chassis is supremely stable, and neither of the CVO models follows the seams in the blacktop or the grooves in the concrete like the previous models like to do. Both bikes are really tight in the corners, and the Ultra Classic even handles small jaunts off the road (you are gonna have to read my editorial to get the joke here).
Both bikes can best be described as gorillas in silk suits, because they make a ton of power and look good doing it. Both of the new models feature a 110ci Twin Cam powerplant that makes about 115 lb-ft of peak torque. The Ultra Classic and the Road Glide have atwo-into-one-into-two exhaust system that crosses over under the swingarm instead of twisting around in a circle behind the rear cylinder. This gives the exhaust a straighter shot out of the rear cylinder and cuts down on the under-seat heat that plagues earlier-model baggers. Both models are fit with a hydraulically activated clutch and a six-speed Cruise Drive transmission. Both models also feature a freeway-friendly 66-tooth rear pulley as opposed to last year's 68-tooth pulley.
All of the CVO models come with 1-inch internally wired handlebars and custom paint. They are all equipped with braided stainless steel brake and clutch lines and a ton of chrome. They also come with a fancy set of keys that are exclusive to the CVO models. It is kinda like joining a club and getting to learn the secret handshake.
But that is where the similarities end. The CVO Ultra Classic Electra Glide was built for some serious touring. From the dual-zone heated suspension seat with matching rider and passenger adjustable backrests to the lower fairings to the Tour-Pak, there is no doubt that this bike was built with the high-miler in mind. Honestly, it is a very comfortable motorcycle, and it just begs to be opened up on the highway. Maybe it is the combination of the 16- and 17- inch wheels or the rubber-mounted engine and transmission or the new chassis, but the new CVO Ultra Classic is going to be a tough bike to beat for touring the countryside. I spent the first part of the day on the Ultra Classic; we went through some of the most amazing stretches of road in rural Southern California, and I couldn't think of a better way to spend a Wednesday.
Now with all of the effort that the H-D CVO engineers put into making their Ultra Classic the best long-distance cruiser that they could, they took all of that energy and put it into making their CVO Road Glide the baddest-looking bike on the block! They completely redesigned the rear of the bike around the massive 180mm tire with a smooth fender with only a license plate mount bolted to it. They filled the gaps between the rear fender and bags with fiberglass fillers that have a pair of tail/stop/directional lights tucked in nicely. They finished off the rear with a set of bag extensions. They also replaced the stock wheels with a set of chrome-plated 18-inch wheels and lowered the front fender 3/4 inch to make the frontend as sleek as the rear. The first thing you notice when you throw a leg over the CVO Road Glide is the very low seat height. But magically there are no ground clearance issues--I really like this new chassis! I spent the second half of the day on the CVO Road Glide, and I must have gotten 100 thumbs up from different people driving by in cars or walking on the sidewalk. Heck, I even had an old man sitting on a bench waiting for the bus give me a thumbs up. And even with its lower stature, the ride quality was impeccable. The bike didn't follow the seams in the road, and the 110ci powerplant and the six-speed performed flawlessly. I was pleasantly surprised as the sun started to go down that the backlit gauges weren't at all overpowering.
Overall, the CVO line is pretty amazing. We were rather impressed with what they had to offer up, with the new chassis and all. With that said, bring on the full line of the 2009 baggers; we want to go for another ride! B