Exclusivity is the word I think of when I see any Harley-Davidson Custom Vehicle Operations (CVO) bikes both in the showroom and on the road. The phrase I think of regarding this line of bikes is “factory custom.” Yes, this usually is a major oxymoron, but in the case of Harley’s CVO division, it truly is the proper designation.
Thirteen years ago Harley started pumping out a few aftermarket parts and showcasing them in its Parts and Accessories catalog. It since had become its own entity and items like chromed-out doo-dads, free-flowing mufflers, big motors, and show-quality paint have become a large staple of the MoCo’s business.
In 1999 H-D introduced the CVO division and set its sights on low volume models with more horsepower and loads of upgraded parts. Each bike also had CVO-only paintwork making the bikes uber exclusive. To top that, these bikes also featured accessories that couldn’t be bought anywhere else or for any other bike. If you crashed your bike and wanted it repainted to its CVO greatness, you would have to present your CVO Vehicle Identification Number to get it restored from the factory. Business must have been good, because by the next year a second assembly line was opened in Harley’s York, Pennsylvania, assembly plant and the first bagger CVO, a Screamin’ Eagle Road Glide, was produced.
Today’s CVO Road Glide Custom (CVO RGC) is light years ahead of that first CVO touring bike in many ways. Starting with the power, the 2012 CVO has a 110 Sequential-Port fuel-injected Twin Cam engine that pushes out a beefy 122 lb-ft of torque at 3750 rpm. Shifting is done of course through a six-speed Harley-designed transmission that shifts into gear flawlessly even when speed-shifting at high rpms.
Differentiating the CVO RGC from the standard Road Glide Custom is well, just about everything but the frame. The bike has just about every chrome and/or Screamin’ Eagle accessory (intake, exhaust, floorboards, hand and foot controls, fork lowers) and a ton of other componentry such as the handlebars, mirrors, primary, and fork bells all powdercoated a nicely contrasting black.
When I first sat on the bike I didn’t much find the handlebars too fitting for me, but I did find the custom saddle with removable pillion very comfortable and had no butt pain the four weeks that I had the bike, no matter what kind of miles were peeled off. In that amount of time I had the chance to ride the CVO RGC in a myriad of conditions including bumper-to-bumper traffic, deserted freeways, assorted canyons, and Pacific Coast Highway.
Once I got used to how the bike handled with the 19/17-inch wheel combo and increased ponies, I lit the wick, took it through some twisties, and was surprised at both how fast this bike was and how well it handed compared to the box-stock Road Glide Custom. It felt lighter and seemed to beg being held at almost redline before being shifted into the next gear. Ah, the joys of a big-displacement pushrod motor.