What’s that 19th-century saying? “’Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.” I’m not so sure, because what am I left with every time I fall in love, only to have it taken away?
This heartsick Harley bagger rips me more often than I’d care to admit. Most recently it blossomed (and later died) while in picturesque Lake Tahoe attending the press launch for the four 2011 Harley Custom Vehicle Operations (CVO) bagger models. In this latest romantic interlude, Harley gave me the keys to a new for 2011 CVO Road Glide Ultra to ride for a few lusty days. But this time round it was love at first ride, so I commandeered the bike and extended my illicit affair a few days longer than normal only to fall into the clutches of the factory representatives who broke my heart by making me return this particular Harleybagger. The good news is that I was able to ride her for over 600 miles through some of the most spectacular roads this country has to offer while falling in love.
2011 will mark the 13th year that the CVO division has been creating its limited-edition premium products. As in recent years, all the Harley CVOs are powered by the Screamin’ Eagle Twin Cam 110 V-twin engine. This year three of the four CVOs are rubber-mounted in the redesigned for 2009 Touring chassis, with the fourth being the Softail Convertible that uses a counterbalanced Twin Cam 110B motor. At this point, it’s only prudent that I mention that this year’s CVOs are updated versions of their 2010 counterparts except for the Road Glide Ultra bagger.In the past, the Road Glide model has been part of the CVO family, first in 2000 and 2001, and then again in 2009, but the model has never before appeared as an Ultra — until now. Like all earlier versions, the core of this RG Ultra is that its aerodynamic fairing houses dual headlamps, and is mounted directly to the single-spar, rigid backbone frame not to the front end as with the Ultra Classic Electra Glides. So, in a nutshell this is a Road Glide that has had the Tour-Pak and lower leg covers added to it and then nicely warmed over like only the folks at Harley CVO can do.
Overall, this year’s CVOs seem to be transitioning into their teenage years fittingly since the focus for 2011 has mainly been on audio, navigation, and seating components (at least when referring to this CVO Ultra). Foremost, this bike comes with a Road Tech Zumo 660 GPS navigation system. It features just about everything this motorcyclist would want in a GPS, is mounted to the left handlebar, and, although not recommended, I found it to be easy to operate with my left hand while riding.
To complement the new GPS, the Harman/Kardon advanced audio system has been upgraded to accommodate verbal commands from the GPS through the speakers. Also, there’s an easy-to-use, convenient iPod interface and holder that is located in the top of the right saddlebag. Adding bling, this model comes with its own 8GB iPod nano that boasts an etched Bar & Shield on the back. The best part is that when it’s installed and activated, the nano can easily be controlled by the fairing-mounted stereo and/or thumb controls. Other features of the stereo include optional XM satellite radio, CB/intercom with two headsets, a new amplifier, and the Tour-Pak-contained speakers.
The riding comfort of this bike is first-rate. I wouldn’t expect less from such a premium long-haul machine. This starts with the hammock-style suspended two-up touring seat that has dual heat controls. It has been redesigned and reshaped for 2011 and now features a springboard-style suspension system in the passenger area. Leather highlight inserts appear on the seat as well as the easily removable, adjustable rider backrest and lumbar support passenger backrest built into the Tour-Pak.
I’m told that wind tunnel testing was used to design a new, reduced angle for the 16″-tall Harley Road Glide Ultra bagger windshield and the discrete, removable wind deflectors that now appear under the fairing on top of the engine guards. Both are supposed to reduce buffeting in the rider area. To some extent they succeed, but since my 6′ 2″ frame puts my line of sight right over the top of the new windshield, some buffeting at high speeds occurred, especially with a full-face helmet on. The chrome, 1″-diameter handlebars are internally wired, feature heated handgrips, electronic cruise control, and have been redesigned to be more ergonomic than previous Road Glide bars.
The RGU rolls on 18″ seven-spoke, mirror-chrome Agitator wheels that are wrapped in Dunlop rubber — 130 front and 180 rear. As you can sees this bike comes with hard saddlebags, lower leg covers, and a Deluxe Tour-Pak that features a color-matched LED brake/taillamp and Air Wing Tour-Pak rack. CVO luggage liners and LED interior lighting make packing as easy as can be.
What might be one of the laziest options for a motorcycle, but has quickly become one of my favorites, is the remote control key fob that locks the Tour-Pak, saddlebags, and ignition with a simple push of a button. On top of that, the same fob automatically activates the security system once you walk away from the bike. This is car technology that we all have become accustomed to so why not put it on a bike, right? But what’s next, climate-controlled, self-detaching, air bag-carrying Transformer windshields and foot-massaging floorboards? Hey, you never know with CVO.
Even though the frame-mounted fairing does give this bike an overall lighter feel in steering, make no mistake, this motorcycle is the heaviest in Harley’s lineup. Between the Tour-Pak and front fairing I for one am happy that it comes with ABS for those emergency stops. Especially when barreling down the highway with a fully loaded bike. Don’t ask because I ain’t going to tell.
The fit and finish of this and all other CVOs is exceptional as always. There are tons of chromed parts and accessories, many from the Motor Company’s Rumble Collection. I especially like the color-matched inner fairing, speedometer/tachometer pod, and cockpit-style instrument display.
The biggest downfall of this bike is the excessive heat that is generated by the rear cylinder. But that is the nature of the Twin Cam 110 beast and to some a small price to pay for the added performance.
The Harley Road Glide bagger will be available in your choice of three different paint schemes for $35,999. Production will be limited to approximately 3,000 units, all of which will be assembled at the Harley-Davidson Vehicle Operations facility in York, Pennsylvania.
CVO has entered its teenage years, ripe and vivid as they are. As such, once again I have to come to grips with falling in love and, inevitably, loss. Regardless, there is something special about the CVO Road Glide Ultra you see on these pages, and I’m going to miss her — badly. You know, sometimes I hate this job! AIMB