Having spent almost four days in beautiful Killarney attending their annual BikeFest event, I had to (quickly) return to Dublin in order to attend the wedding of two very good friends. The only aspect I dislike about Killarney is just how far away it is from Dublin, but as I was handed the keys to what I would be returning home on, I suddenly didn’t mind so much. For the next 320 kms or so, I would be riding one of the jewels in Harley-Davidson’s 2011 range – their CVO Softail Convertible.
For the uninitiated, CVO stands for Custom Vehicle Operations. This is essentially the performance arm of Harley-Davidson (think AMG for Mercedes, M Division for BMW, etc) and what they do is choose three to four models from their regular range each year and give it their treatment. This generally consists of applying a unique paint scheme including a colour coded frame (you’ll only find this on CVO models), bundles of additional spec as standard, and of course the colossal 110 Screamin’ Eagle engine. Naturally all of this increases the price significantly, but when you consider just how much you get with it, it actually represents relatively good value, especially considering the exclusivity you will have as CVO’s are produced in only small numbers.
As I fire up the Softail, virtually everybody within a 50m radius stop to see what is emitting that enormous rumble – my bike had also been fitted with a Vance & Hines Big Radius pipe. Try to picture a large 2 into 1 chrome drainpipe capable of hiding people in! Pulling out of Killarney, I get a huge amount of attention both from passers by & fellow bikers. It’s black & orange colour scheme really stands out, but in a cool way.
Around city streets, the Softail handles beautifully, its nicely balanced and as the vast majority of it’s mass is located below the saddle line, the manoeuvrability is similar to a bike half it’s weight. The standard ABS brakes give that extra bit of reassurance when driving in traffic just in case someone tries anything silly. They’re responsive and not snatchy, simply pulling up the bike to a very stable stop. Pulling out of town and onto the more open roads around Kerry, it’s instantly obvious that the 1802cc engine has bucket loads of torque on tap, gear choice is almost irrelevant. The Softail’s suspension soaks up way more than I would have expected it to, coping very well with some pretty poor road surfaces on the smaller roads. As I pull onto the motorway it literally starts to feel like I’m riding on a cushion of air, the ride really is that supple. My only regret once pulling onto the motorway was not having the CVO Convertible’s screen fitted. Harley called it a Convertible as it comes with a detachable screen, rear seat and back rest, allowing the rider to easily and swiftly change the look of their bike.
Despite the massive v-twin underneath me, even at higher speeds it’s a very refined motor with minimal vibrations. It’s pretty docile once in 6th gear, happily eating up the miles, but such is the performance of the engine it’s hard to resist occasionally winding back the loud grip and experiencing what a CVO Harley can really do. And what it can do is rather a lot! Due to the lack of any screen, my neck muscles ask for mercy before I reach the performance limits of the engine. It just seems to pull endlessly, it’s almost addictive! The more you wind on the throttle the more it makes you want to wind it on even further. Right handed restraint is most definitely a requirement on this machine.
Even after a solid two and a half hours in the saddle it’s still as comfortable as when I sat on it first, the only gripe I’m having, aside from the lack of wind protection is that the motorway trip I’m taking is a rather dull road (time constraints prevented me from taking the scenic route home). Pulling out of the M7 toll stop and I’m grinning from ear to ear and I get to experience again just how fast this pulls away from a standstill. A CBR rider two lanes over appears to be struggling to comprehend what he’s seeing – a Harley showing him how accelleration is really done. Once well into sixth gear, I pull over and eventually let him on his way, receiving a huge thumbs up from him as he goes.
The most noticeable difference with the CVO over the standard Softail is of course the performance, but all of the other touches, the attention to detail, the paint work (which is exquisite) do make the overall experience feel that bit more special, and for some that will go towards justifying the increased price tag. I can’t imagine any owner opening their garage door and seeing this inside not having a smile on their face.
Yes, when you push this beast to it’s limits it’s consumes its fair share of petrol, but the CVO experience is about more than just sheer performance. Buy a CVO and you will stand out from the crowd. You will get that nod of respect from people who really recognise a CVO. You will feel like you have something that bit extra special.
Thanks to Dublin Harley-Davidson for suppling this rare and special machine