By Glenn Roberts, photos Riles & Nelson
this year’s press launch of the Harley-Davidson CVO models happened to take place in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, hometown to some of America’s favourite suds, sausages and, of course, the Motor Company itself.
The 2008 launch of the CVO Screamin’ Eagle models, which also happens to include a few of the company’s 105th anniversary models, had some surprises and some let downs. All right, let downs is pretty harsh, maybe I should say, minor disappointments.
For those who don’t know, CVO stands for Custom Vehicle Operations, and that is exactly what these bikes are, custom through and through. Surprises were to be expected considering the CVO lineup showcases Harley-Davidson’s top of the line production motorcycles with lots and lots of goodies thrown in the mix. These bikes provide a rolling showcase for the company’s Parts and Accessories Department and lets everyone know that the company means business when it comes to dressing up your new Milwaukee iron. It also creates awareness for the owners of older Harleys of what can be done and chances are some of that bling may be available for those bikes as well. Enough about talking anything older than 2008, lets get into what’s new with these factory customs.
As I mentioned, there was lots of excitement and a little disappointment with this year’s models. Since the disappointment was a minor issue I’ll get it out of the way and then I’ll let you in on some of the exciting stuff.
The new 2008 models that were selected as being worthy of brandishing the CVO medallion are… well… they’re the same models as last year. Not that there is anything wrong with once again making the Softail Springer, the Dyna, the Road King and the Ultra Classic CVO models. I just think that many were expecting a somewhat different line-up. I had heard rumours from many riders on the road that they thought the Road Glide would be one of the selected few but it isn’t to be, at least not this year. See, that wasn’t too disappointing. Now on to the exciting stuff.
First off, all the CVO models have the largest engine offered by Harley-Davidson. The Twin Cam 110 is just that, 110 ci (1800 cc) and as the size indicates, they deliver a large wallop of torque. All four models come with a new engine colour called ‘Granite’ which includes stainless steel flakes in the paint. Toss in some chrome against the granite and the combination is very impressive. The Twin Cam 110 is mated to Harley-Davidson’s Cruise Drive six-speed transmission and provides a nice touch when travelling on the larger highways, as owners of the 2007 Twin Cams already know. I was riding through the prairies this summer on my own bike with a five-speed and I sure could have used a sixth gear. While I was test-riding the CVO Softail Springer at 80 km/h in sixth gear, the engine was only revving at approximately 1,800 rpm. With the price of fuel these days, that should save a few bucks over the long run while giving a nice low rumble out of the shotgun slash down mufflers. Even at 1,800 rpm, the 110 ci engine had plenty of torque to safely pass a car, but downshifting makes the same pass a lot more fun. The Ultra was the only one of the four that seemed a little slow on the uptake and although it shares the 115 ft lbs of torque with the Road King, the FLH tips the scales at a whopping 408 kg (901 lbs) in running order whereas the Road King slides in at 356 kg (786 lbs) ready to ride. No wonder the Ultra is slower, lugging around an extra 100 plus pounds. While the Softail and the Dyna weigh in at a comparatively svelte 335 kg (740 lbs) and 316 kg (698 lbs), respectively, soaking wet. The spec sheet also rates these 110 engines torque output to be 110 ft lbs for the Softail and 105 ft lbs for the Dyna, all torque specs are at 3000 rpm.
While all the models share some unique features like colour matched frames and body components, internal handlebar wiring for a much cleaner look up front, among many other items, it’s the individual items that set these bikes apart from each other, and from the previous year. These customs carry way too many accessories to list here, but some of the highlights follow. Each CVO family will also have a 105th anniversary model that includes a special paint package available in very limited numbers.
The Dyna has changed from last years model in that it is way more comfortable for the average size person. As soon as I sat on it I realized that the bars and the footpegs were in a much better position in relation to the seat, which sits at only 26.5 in (673 mm) above the pavement. Last year, I felt a little uncomfortable riding the 07 model since it was quite a stretch for my arms and feet to hit their mark. Suspension on the CVO Dyna is lowered by way of covered adjustable shocks on the rear and lowered inverted forks on the front.
The biggest news on the Softail Springer this year is the redesigned front-end that sports a colour matched fork and a redesigned front fender and mounting system. Up front is a fat 130 mm tire mounted on an 18-inch wheel with the single rotor moving to the left side. The rear 17-inch wheel uses a 200 mm tire for pavement contact. Also fitting to the custom world is a forward facing free-flowing air breather. It’s because of this breather that lays claim to the Softail having the extra 5 ft lbs of torque over the Dyna.
I’m a sucker for a Softail Springer and enjoyed this bike most of all again this year. While all the changes to the Softail and Dyna are impressive, they pale in comparison to the technological changes that the engineers have seen fit to add to the Road King and the Ultra. These Screamin’ Eagles are flying by a wire and have some pretty trick brakes when these birds need to come in for a landing.
The most exciting news in the CVO line-up is that Harley-Davidson has seen fit to outfit the CVO Road King and the Ultra with Anti-lock Brembo Brakes and Electronic Throttle Control Technology.
An Anti-lock Braking System (ABS) has been available on Police models in the past few years but never on the consumer models. In the previous Police version of ABS, the biggest part of the system took up a substantial amount of room in the right saddlebag. With Harley’s new ABS system, the whole unit has been reduced in size and now fits neatly behind the right side cover. The existence of ABS is almost invisible except for a discreet single wire that emerges from the right side wheel bearing on both wheels. In fact, the sensors are nowhere to be seen since they hide inside the front and rear wheel bearings. The engineers didn’t want to take away from the classic styling by adding a slotted sensor plate on the rotor that is so common on other ABS equipped bikes.
This ABS system comes standard standard on the CVO Ultra and Road King but is an option on all Harley-Davidson Touring and VRSC models. A video also comes with the ABS equipped bikes that explain when and how the system works.
Electronic Throttle Control is state-of-the-art technology. A sensor in the throttle handgrip sends a throttle position signal to the ECU (Electronic Control Unit) that in turn electronically operates the Electronic Fuel Injection throttle-body butterfly. Apart from freeing up the handle bar area of mechanical cables, it allows the engine and the fuel injection system to operate more efficiently. The new Electronic Throttle Control is available on all Touring models in 2008.
It wasn’t until lunch that I was asked what I thought of the Electronic Throttle Control. I must have had a blank stare on my face when I said I forgot all about it. I was told that was a common reaction of many of the journalists who were in attendance because it was so seamless and works so well.
The Ultra and the Road King also uses Harley’s Isolated Drive System which absorbs the engine’s power pulses for a smoother ride during acceleration, cruising and shifting.
While attending the press launch we had the opportunity to tour the paint facilities at Calibre Paint. This facility is where all the CVO model body components are painted…by hand. Harley-Davidson has a long-standing reputation for the quality of their fit and finish and one of the reasons is that the painting process has lots of eyes to ensure quality control. This plant has an unbelievable amount of employees sanding, painting, polishing, inspecting and approving every piece that leaves the facility. We watched in awe as one woman meticulously pinstriped one of the new CVO fuel tanks.
We were told this plant produces painted body parts for 50 bikes per day. That breaks down to 450 pieces per day or 5000 layers of paint and clear coat per day. It was quite an operation to watch.
All of the CVO models are available in limited numbers, especially the 105th Anniversary models that number as low as 1050 units for the Softail and Dyna. Prices range from $29,099 for the Dyna and the Softail Springer to $34,189 for the Road King and $40,879 for the Ultra. Add approximately $600 more for the 105th anniversary package. They are definitely expensive, but if you were to consider how much it would cost you to add all that bling and increase the size of the engine from the stock 96 ci to 110 ci engine, you would have to agree that these prices are quite a deal.
What else is new at Harley-Davidson for 2008?
Harley has released three new 2008 models; the ‘Rocker’ and the ‘Rocker C’ fall under the Softail line and the new Dyna Fat Bob.
The Rocker looks more like a rigid framed motorcycle than the Softail does, simply because the rear fender mounts to the swingarm and hugs the rear tire making it look like a slammed hard tail custom. As the swingarm and tire move up and down, so does the fender. The new rear end has been dubbed the ‘Rockertail’. The Rocker’s 24.5-inch high solo seat is therefore cantilevered above the fender.
During the National HOG Rally in London, ON, in July, I caught up with Dave Rank who is the Platform Director for the Softail line of motorcycles in Milwaukee. Since Rank oversees the whole Softail Division, what better person to ask about the new Rocker?
Although it is obvious, my first question to him was, “What was the inspiration for the new FXCW Rocker and FXCWC Rocker C models?”. An excited Rank said, “The Rocker was inspired by the TV shows and what the custom shops are doing. Those bikes are fun to look at and all that, but they’re not always the best to ride. We’re all about having motorcycles that should be ridden; should be used. So we looked at putting a 240 on the back, stretch it out a bit, a bit more rake, keeping some of the essentials and keeping it low and long.” The rake on the Rocker is 36.5 degrees while the forks have a 38 degrees fork angle, as opposed to the regular Softail that is 32 degrees. According to Rank, who has put about 800 miles on the new design, the bike handles very well and is easily manoeuvrable in slow tight corners. To keep the clean look out back, the LED rear turn signals mounted to the rear fender serve triple duty as turn/brake/tail lights.
Unfortunately, a Rocker was not in the fleet for the demo rides at Rocky’s Harley-Davidson, the host dealer for the National Rally. There was, however, a prototype Rocker at the dealership and it certainly garnered a lot of attention. The frame on the Rocker is colour-matched to the body components and uses a satin finish for many other items such as the oil tank, swingarm, risers and many other trim items. The Rocker is a solo seat bike only.
The Rocker C, on the other hand looks like a solo seat but uses an ingenious storage area for its pillion seat. The pillion seat is stored inside the 25.5-inch tall front seat. By lifting up the main seat, the passenger seat unfolds out of it. The Rocker C loses the satin finish and comes decked out in painted body components and chrome.
Production of the Rocker models will begin in September of this year.
V-Rod gets a boost
All the VRSC V-Rod models will receive a power boost for 2008 and will have the 1250 cc engine as standard equipment. The 1250 engine produces 125 horsepower and 85 ft lbs of torque at 7000 rpm. The clutch in all the ’08 V-Rods will use a new slipper-style clutch and as a bonus, the new clutch provides a lighter lever pull. ABS will be available as an option on all 2008 V-Rods.
Another new model released this year is the Dyna Fat Bob. And it’s no wonder they call it fat… cuz it is. With a 19-litre fuel tank, a fat chunky tread patterned 130 tire on the front and a 180 on the rear combined with a double headlight, this bike looks like it means business. Throw in a new style seat and drag bars that complement the wrap-around 2-1-2 ‘Tommy Gun’ style exhaust and this bike exudes attitude. The rear fender is styled after a Softail Custom and the black engine, black fork lowers and handlebar risers contrast nicely with bits of chrome placed throughout. To stop those big tires, the front uses 4-piston calipers on dual discs while the rear has a double pot caliper.
Like the Rockers, this bike will be entering into production in September so only a prototype was available to view at Rocky’s Harley-Davidson during the National HOG Rally.