2011 Harley CVO Street Glide | Review

2011 Harley-Davidson

One hand on the throttle, the other on my wife Jane’s leg, a tree-lined interstate arcs out before us. The rush of cool air syncopates the beat of the Screamin’ Eagle Twin Cam 110 engine, capturing the essence of a stampeding herd of bison.

True American Spirit is extracted from the base components of mere travel. The 2011 Harley-Davidson CVO Street Glide does not require a destination – just a road, and an enthusiast twisting the throttle.

Sitting low in the snakeskin-styled saddle, scenic mountain terrain flows by while Jane and I lounge comfortably on Harley-Davidson’s vision of a cross between a brutish boulevard cruiser and a capable touring machine. Clean bagger lines give the H-D Street Glide a silhouette that is appealing when parked at your favorite hangout.

Custom Vehicle Operations styling adds to the aura of exclusivity that draws the eye with four color-matched paint schemes, each with a complementing chrome package. However, this machine is more than a parking lot beauty because, when the desire for distance hits, the equipment provides.

The bad boy cruiser and the open highway bike both benefit from a liberal application of power. Mounted between the running gear is Harley’s largest displacement engine, the 45-degree, 110 cubic inch Screamin’ Eagle Twin Cam. This slightly undersquare, air-cooled, pushrod testimony to American engine design produces 115 ft/lbs of torque at 4000 rpm. Electronic Throttle Control coupled with Electronic Sequential Port Fuel Injection modulates the massive helping of grunt, giving smooth, linear acceleration off the line.

Even with a claimed running weight of 852 pounds, the Harley CVO Street Glide pulls hard through the gears when you need an extra jolt of adrenalin. Highway speed and above is easily maintained in overdrive, with abundant torque to spare for passing without downshifting to 5th gear.

A hydraulically actuated, nine-plate clutch with high performance springs feeds power to the six-speed Cruise Drive transmission. Clutch lever pull is surprisingly low with smooth engagement. Apropos to motorcycles in this class, the shift throw is long, but securely puts you in the gear you intend with a heel-toe lever.

The now ubiquitous belt final drive feeds power to a Harley-specific Dunlop D407 Multi-Tread touring tire fitted on an 18-inch, seven-spoke Agitator wheel. Installed up front for this year is a 19-inch Dunlop D408 on a matching wheel. Multi-Tread technology puts a band of durable rubber around the center of the tread for high mileage, with a tacky compound along the outer edges for secure turning.

Weight placement is low so the Harley-Davidson CVO Street Glide carries itself like a sub-700-pound bike. Little force is required at the wide handlebars to change direction at low speed. Lacking a travel box and high passenger saddle, the Street does not manifest the low-speed tippiness of the Electra or Road Glides.

There is little difference observed in handling between riding two-up and solo. Benefitting from years of motorcycle geometry experience and a rigid single-spar Touring chassis, the CVO Street Glide holds the intended line allowing the rider to track high-speed sweepers or tight off-camber turns with equal confidence. Harley’s customary superb straight-line steadiness is evident wherever curves are absent. Engage the electronic cruise control and the miles melt away into the distance.

A neutral riding position augments the CVO Street Glide’s stability, providing a foundation for many long journeys. Wide handlebars sweep back to within easy reach of the rider straddling a saddle that sits 26.5 inches high once laden. In addition to giving easy reach to the ground, the low seat places the rider comfortably behind the handlebar-mounted fairing with a seven-inch, smoked Electra Glide wind deflector.

Enhancing the classic look of the motorcycle, the batwing fairing effectively protects the rider while housing the normal set of gauges, electronics, and four of the six speakers. Adjustable vents in the lower fairing further control wind flow into the rider compartment for multi-season comfort. Mirrors integrated into the trailing edge of the dash achieve a clean, custom look along with giving a good rearward view. While the seven-inch wind deflector works well at pushing wind flow up onto the rider’s chest, the top edge intrudes on the forward line-of-sight, making it difficult to focus on the road directly in front of the bike.

The Harely’s passenger seat and quick-release backrest continue the snakeskin motif of the driver’s perch, and share an equal level of support at the human/machine interface. High floorboards give a slightly cramped riding position for long-legged riders, but furnish a decent lean angle of 32 degrees right and 30 degrees left.

Adding optional highway pegs will help alleviate the long legged blues. In contrast, low passenger pegs provide ample legroom for Jane to stretch out for a relaxed stint of sightseeing. A six-gallon fuel tank, with a flush-mounted filler cap and integrated LED fuel gauge, makes sure very little of your sightseeing is done next to a gas pump.

Necessary for the low-slung look, the touring end of the equation suffers slightly from the shortened rear suspension. The ride of the hydraulic shocks is not as plush as the air shocks on Harley’s two full-on touring machines, though it is perfectly acceptable for a bike intended as a well-rounded, multi-purpose mount.

Upholding the bad boy image, Harley included an incredible sound system on the CVO Street Glide. An integrated 100-watt Harman/Kardon system powers two full-range speakers and two tweeters laid out symmetrically in the dash, as well as two 6.5-inch bass speakers in the lower fairing. In addition to the normal AM/FM/Weather Band radio, and CD with MP3 capability, the CVO Street Glide comes with a custom Apple 8GB iPod Nano with Bar & Shield logo.

The Nano mounts in the right saddlebag and handlebar-mounted controls allow you to scroll through the playlist displayed on the system’s LCD along with controlling volume and radio mode.

As with any other CVO, styling and exclusivity is paramount and the CVO Street Glide is no exception. From the four luxurious paint schemes to the detail of the factory Rumble Collection, along with limited production, Harley-Davidson’s engineers have constructed a machine with a high desirability quotient. Respecting its American pedigree, the latest Harley-Davidson CVO Street Glide builds upon a long lineage of artisanship providing more than an aesthetically pleasing machine; it gives a pure riding experience for the true enthusiast. <<

Her Riding Style

  • Helmet: Harley-Davidson Destination Half Helmet
  • Eyewear: Harley-Davidson Women’s Bling Skull Performance
  • Jacket: Harley-Davidson Destination Leather
  • Gloves: Harley-Davidson Cream City Full-Finger
  • Pants: Firstgear Kwik-Dry Sport Tour Overpants
  • Boots: Harley-Davidson Hustin

His Riding Style

  • Helmet: Harley-Davidson Half Helmet
  • Jacket: Harley-Davidson Reflective Skull Leather
  • Gloves: Harley-Davidson Highway Full-Finger
  • Pants: Shift Havoc
  • Boots: Harley-Davidson Hustin

Photography by Riles & Nelson