Riding Impression: 2010 Harley-Davidson CVO Street Glide

Motor Company once again defines factory-custom power and style.

Photography By Riles & Nelson

2010 Harley-Davidson CVO Street Glide - Riding Impression

2010 Harley-Davidson CVO Street Glide - Riding Impression

Are you "affluent, accomplished and exclusivity-driven"? If so, you would qualify to become one of Harley-Davidson's "alpha customers." It's a very special club that lets in no more than 10,000 people per year. Price of admission? You just have to plunk down for one of four fully zooted new 2010 Custom Vehicle Operations motorcycles and ride with pride at the head of your local HOG-chapter poker runs. At the recent Northern California press introduction for these machines, we were informed that CVO owners truly do occupy a special place in Harleyland. They tend to be lifelong brand loyalists, and despite the costs involved (this year's models range from $25,299 to $35,999), they still spend more, on average, for additional P&A than "normal" H-D customers. "We're here, we're loud and we're shiny. Get used to it!" could easily be the motto for this elite club within a group within a niche...but of course, it isn't.

So what do you get for the H-D/CVO rider who has everything and wants more? That's the annual challenge for the CVO team. Carried over with a few refinements from '09 are the Fat Bob and Ultra Classic (now in its fifth continuous CVO year), while two new models lead the charge for 2010: the Softail Convertible and the 2010 CVO Street Glide (replacing last year's CVO Road Glide). Check out the gallery for photos of all the models.

The Street Glide is one of several models built on the successfully redesigned FL platform. That old rubbery feeling in corners exhibited by 2008-and-earlier models is now as anachronistic as a balky kickstarter. But there was more specialized work to be done here, and that's where in-house suspension engineer Matt Kirar aimed his sights. He works for Showa and is "resident" full time at H-D's Product Development Center in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin. His mission this year: Let the designers give the Street Glide slammed-to-the-ground styling, but also give real riders a bike that won't jar their bones to jelly. His solution involved splitting damping duty between the shocks—compression on the right and rebound on the left. The idea is that with larger chambers for each function (working through 40mm-diameter pistons), the shocks can react more quickly and accurately to impacts, in turn keeping the tires tracking while minimizing harshness transmitted through the frame. A simple knob behind the left saddlebag is your spring-preload adjuster. Set up correctly, the Street Glide is darn-near flickable. It's light on corner entry, stable at the apex and easy to pick up with the throttle on the exit of the turn. It was so sporty I turned off the radio and just listened to the "music" of the grinding floorboards. About the only time the chassis doesn't work transparently is at parking-lot speeds: The weight of the fork-mounted fairing makes steering the bike a bit of a chore in those situations. And the shorty windscreen may look cool in the photos, but buffeting was an issue out on the highway. Perhaps opt for function over form and go for a taller screen before you leave the dealership.

The wide swath of power from the 110-cubic-inch V-Twin (used in all the CVO models) is a big step up from the stock 96-incher in the standard Big Twins. And the 113 foot-pounds of torque is most welcome, too, because we're talking about an 800-pound motorcycle here. Cruise control is easily engaged and very accurate in maintaining speed, and the ABS is nearly invisible in how it comes online—you just stop without drama, even on grit-coated roads. Both features are standard. Further, the Street Glide comes with H-D's security system and a 40-watt stereo with digital-music-player input. It gets a bit tough to hear the music at speeds over 60 mph or so (the aforementioned buffeting played a role here). There's no Bluetooth interface available at all and a rider/passenger communicator costs extra. Seems like a GPS system would have been the right thing to include on both the tourable Street Glide and the full-tour Ultra Classic. Maybe next year?

On the beauty side, buyer's can choose from three paint schemes, including a retina-melting orange sparkle job they call "Tequila Sunrise" that uses real gold leaf for the sparkle part. There's a long list of special parts and processes that set the CVO apart from lesser Street Glides, but key to the bike's look are the beautiful-in-black 18-inch Agitator wheels—and your jealous neighbors will get a cleaner view of all seven spokes thanks to the cut-down front fender. The hard saddlebags are "stretched" a couple inches longer than standard FL cases, which when combined with the lower stance give the bike a definite custom-bagger countenance. And really, that's what you're buying here: The solid reliability of a full factory motorcycle that's also one of a relatively small run of semi-custom bikes, pimped by professionals. Now all you have to do is go find a parade to lead. Others will follow.

2010 Harley-Davidson CVO Street Glide

2010 Harley-Davidson CVO Fat Bob

2010 Harley-Davidson CVO Street Glide

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2010 Harley-Davidson CVO Street Glide

2010 Harley-Davidson CVO Street Glide

2010 Harley-Davidson CVO Ultra Classic Electra Glide

2010 Harley-Davidson CVO Street Glide

2010 Harley-Davidson CVO Street Glide

2010 Harley-Davidson CVO Street Glide

2010 Harley-Davidson CVO Street Glide

2010 Harley-Davidson CVO Street Glide

2010 Harley-Davidson CVO Street Glide

2010 Harley-Davidson CVO Softail Convertible

2010 Harley-Davidson CVO Fat Bob

2010 Harley-Davidson CVO Street Glide