A Virile Motorcycle Imagination
Harley-Davidson is applying an exclusive twist to the old commercial aphorism-"give the people what they want"-with the return of the FLTRSE3 Road Glide to the company’s 2009 Custom Vehicle Operations (CVO) line.
The resurfacing of the sleek touring machine’s shark-like presence in H-D’s most restricted waters is, in large measure, due to the fact that the Road Glide is routinely the most requested CVO prospect at customer events and dealer meetings. Developed over a period of nine months, the new Road Glide dethrones the Road King in the CVO line of succession.
Over the last decade, Harley’s CVO program has crafted limited edition chrome and muscle showpieces using exclusive accessories, restricted paint schemes and high-performance Screamin’ Eagle parts. CVO bikes serve something of a dual purpose for the Motor Company; they provide the consumer a factory-custom motorcycle that leans heavily on the latter half of that hyphenate, while also existing as a platform to suggest what can be done with a stock Harley, a virile imagination and some discretionary funding.
Now in its third lap around the CVO track, the ’09 Road Glide cuts a lean, mellifluent figure. The bike’s aerodynamically downswept look flows from the black trim topping the fairing back to the slender saddlebags. Mounted on extensions, they settle snugly around the dual exhaust system, tucking the pipes in away from the rider’s legs and lowering the bike’s profile. The Road Glide’s angled lines are enhanced by the diminutive passenger backrest and stepped paint scheme. Thankfully, the theatrical Screamin’ Eagle emblem that once screeched across the frame-mounted fairing has been toned down to a tastefully ghosted motif.
The aforementioned saddlebags boast a 27% increase in payload; slim and stretched, they bring a touch of nostalgia to the bike’s rear profile. Integrated stop/turn/tail LEDs are housed in filler strips between the bags and the broad rear fender, eliminating the standard taillight and creating a clean, custom feel. The front fender has been lowered three-quarters of an inch, contributing to the Road Glide’s character. Both fenders shield a pair of 18-inch aluminum Blade wheels and a versatile new 180 mm Dunlop D407 Multi-Tread tire claims extended tread life and increased payload tolerance in the rear.
The Road Glide’s wardrobe is aggressively accessorized with an abundance of lustrous detail. Up front, the inner
fairing panel is color-matched. Backlit, spun aluminum gauges cluster beneath the AM/FM/WB/CD/MP3 Harmon/ Kardon head unit. A swath of chrome makes up the CVO-badged tank console. The dual headlights are recessed
into blacked-out trim, eschewing the clear headlight cover found on the production Road Glide. H-D’s Rumble
Collection supplies the chromed rider controls. Mirrors, saddlebag latches and passenger pegs are matched chrome and the touring handlebars are internally wired helping to lend the cockpit a clean, uncluttered look. Chromed engine covers and a fully chromed front-end exponentially increase the machine’s visual wattage.
The Road Glide’s sophisticated cosmetics conceal an all-new frame and swingarm, shared by all 2009 H-D Touring models. The new chassis is designed for enhanced maneuverability and incorporates a new motor-mount system that minimizes engine shake at idle. That is a useful quality when the chassis in question is cradling the largest engine made by Harley-Davidson. The CVO-only, fuel-injected Screamin’ Eagle Twin Cam 110 claims 115 ft lbs of torque at 4000 rpm, and is finished in granite powdercoat with chrome covers—another CVO exclusive.
Straddling those 110 cubes settles you comfortably into the two-up Buffalo seat. The bars are a moderate reach and the footboards place you into the standard touring posture. The vivid, frame-mounted cockpit is not as distracting as it might appear, even in its blaring Yellow Pearl variant. Thumbing the starter provokes a powerfully smooth idle, as advertised. The free-breathing SE 110 pulls away from the curb with muscular authority. The Road Glide is surprisingly responsive and stable at a traffic-addled tempo, but tapping the irresistibly potent motor puts the Road Glide comfortably in its element—wind.
On the highway, the wisdom of the broad, bulky fairing’s designers is revealed as the Road Glide punches
through the bluster with reassuring solidity. Coupled with the firm chassis and compliant suspension, the Road
Glide’s steadfast aerodynamics make for a touring machine that effectively locates the nexus of handling concerns and ride comfort. A luxe-tourer, the Glide also has a multi-function cruise control for more placid conditions.
Another arrow in the Road Glide’s quiver is sure to silence an oft-heard Harley gripe. Burly Brembo four-piston caliper brakes with ABS bring the Road Glide to a halt with authority. The addition of the Brembos adds the qualitative missing link to the Harley experience, and those accustomed to standard H-D stopping power will be pleasantly shocked at the difference it makes.
By returning the Road Glide to the CVO’s gilded stable, Harley-Davidson is responding to the vox populi and giving the people what they want—3,000 of them, anyway. The 2009 Road Glide will be limited to that exclusive yield and should prove harder to grab than a feather in the wind.
ULTIMATE MOTORCYCLING DECEMBER 2008 / JANUARY 2009 Photos by RILES & NELSON