Harley-Davidson’s CVO machines allow you to rumble your way to hog heaven.
By Bill Heald

You could certainly argue that all Harleys are special, because despite competition from some of the best manufacturers in the world, there’s still no motorcycle that has the look, sound, and feel of what the faithful call the genuine article. But if you want something truly unique that’s still 100 percent a product of the company’s factories, you need to look at Harley’s Custom Vehicle Operations (CVOs). These low-production, in-house custom machines are furnished with Harley’s latest, greatest performance, appearance, and tour-oriented accessories. Here are our two favorites from the quartet of 2012 CVOs.

CVO Softail Convertible

CVO Softail Convertible
You might think all motorcycles are “convertibles” since they go topless all the time. But in the two-wheeled world, “convertible” means a bike you can reconfigure for either touring or cruising in mere minutes. The Softail Convertible is as at home trolling down your own personal mean streets as it is loaded down for a trip to the opposite coast. The CVO Edition boasts Harley’s huge Screamin’ Eagle Twin Cam 110B granite powdercoated engine, which possesses 105 foot-pounds of ground-pounding torque, and is bolted solidly in the frame yet internally counterbalanced for smoothness. Cruise control is standard, as is a big windshield and lockable leather saddlebags that (like the passenger pillion) are easily removed when you don’t need them. Standard Garmin 660 Navigation module, ABS brakes, and a boatload of chrome accessories tastefully applied by CVO specialists are supplemented by a choice of three stunning paint schemes (even hotter than Harley’s usual excellent finishes).

Engine type Air-cooled, 45-degree counterbalanced V-twin
Bore x stroke 101.6 mm x 111.3 mm
Displacement 1,802 cc
Fuel system Electronic sequential port fuel injection
Ignition Electronic
Transmission Six-speed cruise drive
Front suspension 41.3-mm telescopic forks
Rear suspension Twin hidden horizontally mounted forks
Front brakes Single 292-mm four-piston disc
Rear brake Single 292-mm two-piston disc
Front tire 130/70 R18 63V
Rear tire 200/50 R18 76V
Fuel tank Five-gallon capacity
Wheelbase 64.2 inches
Seat height 26.2 inches
Dry weight 788 pounds
Base price $29,699

CVO Ultra Classic Electra Glide
Perhaps you’re not into the more minimalist aspects of Harley’s glorious V-twin architecture, and prefer your first-class iron to be armed with all the trimmings. The Ultra Classic Electra Glide is the company’s flagship two-wheeled long-haul traveler, and when given the CVO treatment it’s even more than the sum of its small warehouse full of well polished parts. The Screamin’ Eagle Twin Cam 110 is rubber-mounted into the frame, but not counterbalanced like the Softail’s mill, so it feels like a more traditional Harley tour bike (lots of V-twin character, but still smooth enough for long, punishment-free days on the road). In addition to the full-fairing, sumptuous seating, and a roomy, well-finished Tour-Pak trunk and saddlebags, there are BOOM! Audio High Performance components, including 40 watts per channel front and rear speakers to go with the Harman/Kardon Advanced sound system. Naturally, the seats are heated, and a power-locking system secures the luggage and ignition with the push of a key fob. But as great as this premium kit is (and I’ve barely scratched the surface on all the features of this bike), nothing can prepare you for the superb attention to every last detail that makes a Custom Vehicle Operation Harley such a rare, glorious ride. Production numbers are small, so get one before they’re gone.

Engine type Air-cooled 45-degree V-twin
Bore x stroke 101.6 mm x 11.3 mm
Displacement 1,802 cc
Fuel system Electronic sequential port fuel injection
Ignition Electronic
Transmission Six-speed cruise drive
Front suspension 41.3-mm telescopic forks
Rear suspension Twin shocks, air adjustable
Front brakes Dual 300-mm four-piston discs
Rear brake Single 300-mm four-piston disc
Front tire 130/80 B17 65H
Rear tire 180/65 B16 81H
Fuel tank Six-gallon capacity
Wheelbase 63.5 inches
Seat height 29.8 inches
Dry weight 927 pounds
Base price $37,249
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