2012 Harley CVO Road Glide Custom Review

More chrome! Harley riders have chanted that mantra for years, which partially accounts for the initial creation of the Custom Vehicle Operations (CVO) division back in the 20th century. Want your bike to dazzle, sparkle, and stand out in a crowded parking lot? Then add more chrome to its long list of add-ons. That’s what CVO stylists have done year in and year out with all but a handful of models spun from their ranks. The system works, making Harley’s turnkey customs among the most popular models to wear the Bar & Shield logo.

But while members of Harley-Davidson’s CVO division have busied themselves raiding the chromed parts bins, there’s recently been a subversive movement within the corporate ranks to institute black as the color of choice. Thus the Dark Custom line evolved, bringing to light such models as the Forty-Eight and FXS Blackline that’s prompted a friendly tug-of-war to see which styling treatment will prevail. The dark side struck another blow for black when the 2012 CVO line was introduced earlier this year, even though the three returnees to Harley’s exclusive lineup (CVO Street Glide, CVO Ultra Classic Electra Glide, and CVO Softail Convertible) retain their acres of chrome and flashy paint. But the newest member to the oh-12 team wears enough black to warm the heart of any Johnny Cash fan.

“This is a sinister-looking bike,” admits CVO team member Jeff Smith when the 2012 CVO Road Glide Custom was unveiled last June at a special presentation in Calistoga, California. “It’s really a badass Road Glide.”

Badass, indeed, and that’s not even taking into account its CVO standard-issue 110″ Screamin’ Eagle engine that sports a forward-facing Heavy Breather air filter — a first for any Touring model. The Heavy Breather has a black-anodized cover that matches the blacked-out engine cases and covers, which complement the Contrast Chrome Agitator custom wheels and a bevy of black parts that might otherwise be chrome-plated had they been used for any other CVO model.

Check it out, here’s a list of the major items plucked from the dark side:  braided, stainless steel brake and clutch lines; a high-torque 1.4kW starter to kick the all-black 110″ engine to life; internally wired handlebar; billet muffler end caps; mirror stanchions and round cases; antenna for the 200-watt Harman/Kardon audio system; and the Wind Splitter windscreen is smoke-tinted to enhance the sinister look. Finally, tagged to the front of the Road Glide’s patented fairing and gas tank sides, you’ll find brushed-nickel skull medallions. Oh, this bike is bad.
Look closely, too, at the paint schemes — there are three available — and you’ll see black graphics in the mix of custom colors. Moreover, all three CVO Road Glide paint schemes have color-keyed seat upholstery to match.

The White Gold Pearl/Starfire Black has a black seat with gold stitching, and the Maple Metallic/Vivid Black model has brown upholstery with gold stitching. Our Candy Cobalt/Twilight Blue cover bike sports a black seat with gray stitching. The two-piece seats easily convert into solo saddles by removing the passenger pillions, and the exposed rear fenders boast distinctive chrome accent trim.

Of course, a CVO bike wouldn’t be complete without an ear-piercing sound system. To that end, the CVO Road Glide has a pair of 5″ x 7″ fairing-mount speakers teamed with 2″ dash-mounted tweeters to broadcast the melodies. An 8GB Apple iPod Nano connects via an interface and holder located in the right saddlebag.

But, if you’re like me, once the ride begins you all but forget about music and other electronic gadgetry. It’s about the ride, and, fittingly, this factory custom delivers in spades. We’ve talked about the Road Glide’s slippery, aerodynamic fairing before, and the CVO’s shark-nose structure pierces a defined hole in the wind when you pin the throttle open. The sleek Wind Splitter windscreen helps direct the wind blast over your head up to about 70 mph, at which point, noticeable buffeting began to tap on my helmet during my stint in the saddle. I’m 5’9″ on a hot day, so that should give you an idea where you’ll sit. The view across the stationary fairing is wide and open, and the instruments are easy to read and reach. A pair of wind deflectors positioned within the fairing assembly at the top of the fork legs help further divert wind from sneaking in and onto the rider at high speeds. As with many CVO components, these snap-on deflectors are destined to be included in Harley’s 850-page P&A catalog, so owners of standard-issue Road Glides can benefit from them, too.

The Rumble Collection floorboards offer plenty of room for your boots, and the ergonomic triangle formed by the seat, handgrips, and foot controls is pretty close to what’s offered by the standard Road Glide Custom that also has more — you know — chrome. And once you start banging the Cruise Drive transmission through its six speeds, and the Screamin’ Eagle mufflers emit their deep, resonating tone, you can enjoy the 122 ft-lbs. of torque that the 110″ generates. All four CVO models benefit from this drivetrain package.

Clearly, though, this CVO is just plain fun to ride. The FL chassis is taut and responsive to your input, and adjustable rear suspension (accessible by lowering the left saddlebag to turn the preload adjuster knob) should help tailor the CVO Road Glide Custom for extreme weight loads that you’re likely to encounter in your travels. I didn’t have a chance to fiddle much with the adjustability during the
introductory ride at the press launch, but no doubt having the option certainly can’t hurt.

Is this $30,699 CVO for everybody? Based on its rather steep price, it’s intended for a rather exclusive audience. In fact, Harley-Davidson anticipates offering only about 2,000 CVO Road Glide Customs for sale, and it’s this exclusivity that has helped maintain the CVO line’s value from year to year. And who knows, this might be the model that prompts a new breed of Harley riders to chant “More black.”
As for the other CVO offerings for 2012, here are many of the specs for all four models. AIM

NEW BIKE REVIEW By Dain Gingerelli

Story as published in the October issue of American Iron Magazine.


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