CVO Softail is one of Harley Davidson’s top hawgs
When you get on a bike with as much bling as the 2012 Harley-Davidson CVO Softail Convertible, you know you’re dealing with something near the top of the Harley food chain.
The company’s Custom Vehicle Operations (CVO) takes existing products and tweaks them into a limited-edition lineup of moveable art, creating factory custom bikes that give owners a head start on their ride personalization projects.
The CVO Softail Convertible has proved a popular choice, now in its third year of production and, as tested here, this latest 2012 version starts with a premium custom paint job that is individually finished in Abyss Blue with Catacomb Graphics.
I know, I know, enough with the airbrushed skulls, already. But the graphics are at least done in a subtly tasteful style and the deep shade of blue on the tank and fenders catches the eye with an almost luminescent quality. Other available colours include Satin Pewter, also with Catacomb Graphics and Crimson Red Sunglo with Scarlet Crystal Graphics.
As for the bling, well there are almost too many chrome components to count, although some of the bigger items worth mentioning include sharp-edged five-spoke, Stinger design 18-inch wheels and the chrome mini ‘ape-hanger’ handlebars that move your fists up into the wind.
Throw a leg over, slide into the seat and the first thing you will notice is one of the lowest seating positions in the Harley-Davidson lineup. You sit in this bike, not on it and the depth of the seat position somehow makes this big bike feel smaller than it actually is.
The seat is comfortable, yes, even with a H-D metal badge mounted right in the middle where the sun don’t shine. The leather is decorated with reptile inserts, a styling cue repeated on the saddlebags, and even on a leather insert on the chrome air intake cover.
The second thing you will notice is the amount of equipment spread out in front of you. The bike comes well loaded with keyless ignition and an alarm system marked by a CVO backlit medallion on the tank console.
Cruise control is at the rider’s right thumb and a Road Tech Zumo 660 navigation and MP3 system provides turn-by-turn driving commands or music through the built-in 20 watt per channel amp and dual 3.5-inch 2-way integral speakers nestled at the base of the windshield. ABS is also standard.
In contrast to the tech-happy equipment level, the gauge display is very simple, a single tank-mounted perimeter-sweeping tachometer with an inset digital display readout for the clock, odometer, dual tripmeter and gear selection indicator, along with all the usual idiot lights.
The rider can scroll through the digital readouts via the combined trip/horn button at his/her left thumb. A chrome-faced fuel gauge on the left mirrors the chromed fuel cap on the right.
The windshield has been modified for 2012, vented and redesigned to be taller and wider for enhanced wind protection. And the windshield, along with the other touring features—saddlebags, pillion seat and backrest—can all be removed quickly and easily to convert the CVO Softail from long haul touring mode to solo ride in-town cruising.
Those switchable elements give the CVO Softail Convertible a kind of two-bikes-in-one quality that is still fairly unique in the industry.
Thumb the starter and the Screamin’ Eagle Twin Cam 110B engine erupts, roaring to life. The motor is counter-balanced and smoother at idle than some of the other Harley engines but at 1802 cc it is still a beast. Harley-Davidson lists a 105 lb/ft torque rating at 2750 rpm other test reports have mentioned power ratings in the ballpark of 80 hp.
Regardless of the numbers, the bike pulls like a train and accelerates up to speed quickly, loping easily in the neighbourhood of 2000 rpm at highway speed.
I tended to prefer fourth or fifth gear for less chunky power on country road runs but with gobs of torque available in any gear, acceleration is never a problem. Neutral is occasionally hard to find and first gears thunks in with authority but, let the motor unwind, and the six-speed Cruise Drive transmission shifts neatly enough.
After two fillups, my combined fuel economy was 6.3L/100km, giving me a theoretical range of about 300 km per tank.
Full floorboards add to touring comfort but they will drag easily due to the limitations of a 26-degree lean angle. Riders might have to slow to avoid grinding on some of the twistier bits, but any road irregularities are easily handled by a smoothly capable suspension.
That smooth ride, complemented by the comfortable riding position and touring equipment makes this bike a road-friendly companion for either short cruises or even over the long haul.
How do we sum up the 2012 Harley-Davidson CVO Softail Convertible?
It’s not for the faint of heart.
An almost $34K price tag reflects its premium equipment levels and limited-edition rarity.
But this upscale ride offers a unique combination of stump-pulling power, elegantly displayed in a top-of-the-line chromed and custom painted package that only enhances its two-bikes-in-one convertible versatility.
Harley-Davidson FLSTSE3 CVO Softail Convertible 2012
Engine: 1,802 cc (110 cu in) Air-cooled, Twin Cam 110B Screamin’ Eagle V-Twin (approx. 80 hp, 105 lb/ft)
Transmission: Six-speed with chain final drive
Fuel Delivery: Electronic Sequential Port Fuel Injection (ESPFI)
Wheelbase: 1,631 mm (64.2 in)
Length: 2,410 mm (95 in)
Curb Weight: 357 kg (787 lb)
Seat Height: 620 mm (24.4 in)
Suspension: 41.3mm telescopic forks, rear hidden, horizontally-mounted coil over
Brakes: Front caliper type: four-piston fixed; Rear two-piston floating
Tires: Front 130/70R18 63V; Rear 200/50R18 76V
Fuel Capacity: 18.9 litres
Fuel Economy: 6.3L/100km (combined) as tested
Colours: Abyss Blue with Catacomb Graphics as tested; Satin Pewter with Catacomb Graphics; Crimson Red Sunglo with Scarlet Crystal Graphics