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MOTORCYCLE REVIEW: Harley-Davidson CVO Softail Springer & Road King

Motorcycles to splurge on

By Genevieve Schmitt, Photos by Riles & Nelson
1/15/2008


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I'm all about doing what you need to do make yourself happy. For some people, that means splurging on themselves every once in awhile. Harley-Davidson's high end line of custom motorcycles called CVO is all about splurging, that is, spending a little more on yourself because you know you deserve it.    

CVO motorycles are limited production, highly accessorized niche performance custom bikes. Many of the Harley-Davidson accessories available for a regular Harley started out as standard equipment on a CVO bike.
CVO motorycles are limited production, highly accessorized niche performance custom bikes. Many of the Harley-Davidson accessories available for a regular Harley started out as standard equipment on a CVO bike.

CVO stands for Custom Vehicle Operations. It's the department within Harley-Davidson that takes a stock motorcycle and adds gobs of shiny chrome and custom pieces, splashes a high-dollar custom paint job on it, hops up the motor and then markets it as the cream of the crop of Harley-Davidsons. These are Harley-Davidsons to drool over, and the four motorcycles that make up the 2008 line up are arguably the best The Motor Company has produced since the first CVO bike, the FXR2, rolled off the assembly line in 1999.

Here's what's offered for 2008: the Screamin' Eagle Softail Springer; the Screamin' Eagle Road King; the Screamin' Eagle Dyna; the Screamin' Eagle Ultra Classic Electra Glide. They are called Screamin' Eagle is because Harley's line of performance accessories is called Screamin' Eagle (SE). So much of these CVO bikes are made up of SE accessories it only makes sense to name them as such.

The SE Ultra Classic Electra Glide shown in the 105th anniversary color scheme of Crystal Copper and Black Onyx with gold leafing graphics. All CVO bikes are available in this color scheme for an additional $495.
The SE Ultra Classic Electra Glide shown in the 105th anniversary color scheme of Crystal Copper and Black Onyx with gold leafing graphics. All CVO bikes are available in this color scheme for an additional $495.

My Favorite: Screamin' Eagle Softail Springer
This is the second year for the SE Softail Springer CVO bike. Harley improved on what it started last year by restyling the bike and adding tons more chrome. Interestingly, the Springer is not offered as a regular model for 2008.

I found the Screamin' Eagle Softail Springer to be the most user friendly of the CVO bikes for a person of my size and strength. I'm wearing Harley-Davidson's FXRG Midweight leather jacket and leather overpants, and an Arai SZ/RamIII helmet.
I found the Screamin' Eagle Softail Springer to be the most user friendly of the CVO bikes for a person of my size and strength. I'm wearing Harley-Davidson's FXRG Midweight leather jacket and leather overpants, and an Arai SZ/RamIII helmet.

The Springer is my favorite of the 2008 CVO bikes because it's the easiest to ride, in my opinion. It has a low profile with its deep sculpted seat that's just 24.5 inches off the ground so my feet easily touched the ground. The forward foot controls and drag style handlebars are both easily within reach for my size: a 30-inch inseam, 5 foot 6.5 inch frame. 

The Softail Springer has a compact, yet aggressive seating style that is very ergonomically friendly.
The Softail Springer has a compact, yet aggressive seating style that is very ergonomically friendly.

The bike has a beefy feel to it due in part to large footprint: a 130mm tire up front and the 200mm in the rear. Normally, a bike that feels beefy lumbers through the turns, but thanks to the powerful 110 cubic inch motor (that's a whopping 1800cc), the Springer shoots around the corners effortlessly. There's tons of power available in the Twin Cam 110B engine created exclusively for the CVO line. 

The "Heavy Breather" air filter with 110 end cap. It comes with a rain sock (not shown) to cover and protect it during downpours.
The "Heavy Breather" air filter with 110 end cap. It comes with a rain sock (not shown) to cover and protect it during downpours.

Most noticeable on the Springer Softail is the exposed high flow "Heavy Breather" intake filter you normally see on high-end custom motorcycles. This air filter is not only stylish but allows the bike to take in more air producing a 5 percent torque increase over the 2007 CVO Springer at 110 foot pounds of torque at 3,000 rpm. Torque is the power you feel when you roll on the throttle that propels the bike forward. 

The Softail Springer comes in three color schemes: Inferno Orange with Fireburst Flames (shown here); and Black Diamond with Smoked Candy Flames. It also comes in the 105th anniversary color scheme.
The Softail Springer comes in three color schemes: Inferno Orange with Fireburst Flames (shown here); and Black Diamond with Smoked Candy Flames. It also comes in the 105th anniversary color scheme.

Like all CVO bikes, the list of custom accessories is way too long to mention here, but pretty much everything that can be chromed is, and everything that can be color matched to the paint is. (Notice the headlight cover matches the paint.) That's why the bike retails for $24,995. Only 2,500 will be made.

My Second Favorite: Screamin' Eagle Road King
This is the fourth generation SE Road King. It's a popular model when it's all dressed up in chrome so Harley continues to offer the CVO version. What's new this year is the standard feature of the anti-lock braking system (ABS). ABS helps a rider maintain control of the bike when he or she finds oneself having to brake suddenly. Many cars are outfitted with ABS. When a driver slams on the brakes, instead of forcing the vehicle into a skid, ABS brakes slow the vehicle down by pulsating the brakes. It's the same with a motorcycle.

Custom accents on the SE Road King include a lower profile windshield, leather saddlebags and a custom Tombstone tail light.
Custom accents on the SE Road King include a lower profile windshield, leather saddlebags and a custom Tombstone tail light.

I saw demonstration of a bike outfitted with ABS. The rider slammed on the brakes when riding into gravel. Instead of skidding and swerving forcing the bike over, the bike stayed upright traveling in a relatively straight line as the bike slowed itself down. The brakes automatically pump about seven times a second -- faster than a rider could ever pump the brakes. The goal of ABS is to keep the wheels rolling to "ride out" the stop. It's worth noting that the laws of physics still apply here regardless if the bike has ABS. If you're slamming on the brakes in a curve, you're dealing with less traction because the tires are leaned over, so the bike will react as it would with less contact with the pavement.

During this ABS braking demonstration, this rider on a specially equipped bike has the ability to turn off the ABS system like he's done here. He slams on the brakes in gravel and the bike skids forcing it to turn which would tip him over. This bike outfitted with outriggers prevents him from falling over for demonstration purposes.
During this ABS braking demonstration, this rider on a specially equipped bike has the ability to turn off the ABS system like he's done here. He slams on the brakes in gravel and the bike skids forcing it to turn which would tip him over. This bike outfitted with outriggers prevents him from falling over for demonstration purposes.

With the ABS turned on, the rider slams on the brakes, the ABS kicks in and the bike coasts through the gravel staying upright and headed forward.
With the ABS turned on, the rider slams on the brakes, the ABS kicks in and the bike coasts through the gravel staying upright and headed forward.

The SE Road King is outfitted with Harley's new six-gallon fuel tank that all the 2008 touring models now have. The SE Road King has the same ergonomics of the regular Road King models, an upright seating position, arms wide and low to meet with the handlebars. Seat height is a manageable 26.3 inches. What's great about a CVO bike is that every accessory you might think you want on a motorcycle is already on it as a stock accessory. For example, the rider and passenger seat come standard with a removable backrest on this Road King. Cruise control, a detachable smoked windshield, and an accessory power outlet add to the touring features of this bike. I really like the tombstone style tail lamp that's exclusive to the SE Road King.

The SE Road King color schemes are: Black Diamond and Silver Dust with Ghost Flame graphics (shown); and Twilight Blue and Candy Cobalt with Ghost Flame graphics. It also comes in 105th anniversary colors.
The SE Road King color schemes are: Black Diamond and Silver Dust with Ghost Flame graphics (shown); and Twilight Blue and Candy Cobalt with Ghost Flame graphics. It also comes in 105th anniversary colors.

As with all the CVO bikes, the frame and swingarm are color matched to each paint scheme. Plus, the Harley-Davidson Smart Security System with Smart Siren comes standard on the CVO bikes. A storage cover with CVO logo and a commemorative CVO key in a presentation box are also included with each CVO bike. Approximtely 3,150 of the SE Road King are being produced at a retail price of $29,290.      

Related Articles
More Motorcycles to Splurge On: Screamin' Eagle Dyna & Ultra Classic Electra Glide


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Reader Comments


Love this article. The Softail Sringer is one of my favorites. Been riding on the back of a couple different friends for a while. Now it's my turn to get one. Thanks for all your insightful information.

Yvette Snoen
Chico, CA
Tuesday, January 29, 2008


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