I was never a big fan of one-night stands, so while in picturesque Lake Tahoe, Nevada (or California, I can’t really remember) to attend the press launch for Harley-Davidson’s four 2011 Custom Vehicle Operations (CVO) models, I was fortunate enough to acquire the keys to a 2011 CVO Road Glide Ultra for an ultra-illicit affair. It was love at first ride, and I commandeered the bike and extended our bawdy relationship a few days longer than I should have, only to have a H-D representative break my heart by making me return the bike. The good news is that I was able to ride her for over 600 miles through some of most spectacular roads this country has to offer.
Model year 2011 marks the 13th annual offering from the CVO division, which creates its limited-edition, premium products for the true Harley enthusiast. As in recent years, all 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, while the fourth, the Softail Convertible, 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 my Road Glide Ultra.
The Road Glide has been part of the CVO family before, first in 2000 and ’01, and then again in ’09, but until now the model has never appeared as an Ultra. Like all the earlier versions, the core of this RG Ultra is its aerodynamic fairing that houses dual headlamps and is mounted directly to the rigid frame, as opposed to the front end, as with the Ultra Classic Electra Glide. So, in a nutshell, this is a Road Glide with a Tour-Pak and lower leg covers added, and then warmed over, like only the folks at CVO can do.
Overall, this year’s CVOs seem to be transitioning nicely into their teenage years, fitting, since the focus for 2011 has mainly been on audio, navigation, and seating components (at least when referring to this Ultra). Foremost, this bike comes with a Road Tech Zumo 660 GPS navigation system. It features just about everything a motorcyclist would want in a GPS, is mounted to the left handlebar, and, although it’s not recommended, I found it easy to operate 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 located in the top of the right saddlebag. For even more bling this year, this bike 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 be controlled by the fairing-mounted stereo and/or thumb controls.
The riding comfort of this premium long-haul machine is first-rate. 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 on the adjustable (and easily removable) rider backrest and the 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 Road Glide Ultra windshield and the discreet, removable wind deflectors that 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 did occur, especially when wearing a full-face helmet. The chrome, 1″-diameter handlebars are internally wired, feature heated handgrips, electronic cruise control, and have been redesigned to be more ergonomically comfortable than those on previous Road Glides.
The RGU rolls on 18″ seven-spoke, mirror-chrome Agitator wheels that are wrapped in Dunlop rubber — 130 front and 180 rear. It 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 are included.
What might be one of the laziest options for a motorcyclist 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-control? Self-detaching, air bag-carrying windshields? Foot-massaging floorboards? Hey, with CVO, you never know.
Even though the frame-mounted fairing does give this bike an overall lighter feel in steering, make no mistake: this is the heaviest motorcycle in Harley’s entire lineup besides the two trikes. 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 MotorCompany’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 a small price to pay for the added performance.
The Road Glide will be available in your choice of three different paint schemes (Rio Red and Black Ember with quartzite graphics is shown here) 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.
–By Joe Knezevic, Photos by Riles and Nelson
LIST PRICE: $35,999
ENGINE: Air-cooled V-twin
VALVETRAIN: Two pushrod-activated overhead valves per cylinder
DISPLACEMENT: 1803cc (110 c.i.)
BORE X STROKE: 101.6mm x 111.3mm
COMPRESSION RATIO: 9.15:1
FUEL SYSTEM: EFI
MFR HORSEPOWER: N/A
MFR TORQUE: 115 ft.-lbs. @ 4000 rpm
FINAL DRIVE: Belt
OVERALL LENGTH: 98.8″
RAKE/TRAIL: 26 degrees/6.69″
SEAT HEIGHT: 29.5″
FUEL CAPACITY: 6 gallons
ESTIMATED MPG: 32/47
CURB WEIGHT: 943 pounds
WARRANTY: 24 months, unlimited mileage
2011 COLORS: Rio Red and Black Ember with quartzite graphics; Charcoal Slate and Black Twilight with quartzite graphic; Frosted Ivory and Vintage Gold with quartzite graphics