Custom Vehicle Operations: By The Book

2016 Street Glide CVO

Story Koz Mraz, Photos Koz & Sherlonna Kirby

Every year Harley-Davidson unveils new Custom Vehicle Operations (CVO) motorcycles and we journalists wait with baited breath. These incredible bikes are all hand-built rather than line production in limited numbers at a premium price and we get to ride them. 2016 CVO’s are decked out with amazing paint, a powerful Screamin Eagle Twin Cam 110 dripping with bling.

This year’s Street Glide is an absolute CVO stunner. Shimmering metal flakes in the Atomic Red with Candy Apple Flames adorn this year’s Street Glide. The extended saddlebags, sculpted cutaways for the large exhaust pipes and flush mounted teardrop tail lights allow the eye to enjoy the stylish design without interruption of pinstripe or contrasting paint. The rear end of this CVO screams custom class but it’s what’s underneath the voluptuous veneer that elevates the pulse rate.


The Street Glide motorcycle is the Motor Company’s most popular bike for many reasons. From the beautifully proportioned and finished engine to the batwing fairing and unmistakable hard bags, the modern Street Glide motorcycle is Harley incarnate: a single street machine that is “the motorcycle”. It’s the mount of choice for fans of badass baggers, stereo-pounding street cruisers, the weekend tour set, even the custom builder’s daily workhorse. In short, the Street Glide defines the American motorcycle: by the book. That said, once the CVO branch adds their magic touch, the FLHXSE CVO Street Glide motorcycle elevates into a league of its own.

Turning an already iconic and purposeful Harley-Davidson motorcycle into a CVO machine is more than an exercise in piling parts on the bike. The finished product has to be a coherent statement, a unified blend of art, power, and tradition. The basic layout of a batwing fairing—touring chassis, Big Twin power plant, and a pair of hard bags—means the CVO motorcycle group starts with solid raw material. So instead of throwing the parts and accessories book at the CVO Street Glide, the team took a more measured approach creating a premium, exclusive Harley-Davidson motorcycle while keeping the stripped-down attitude and style. Harley CVO struck that balance: beautifully!


The maiden CVO Street Glide motorcycle hit the scene in 2010, dialed up to 11 on the luxury and style scale while keeping a sleek profile and head-turning stance. I was lucky enough to review the very first Street Glide offered by Custom Vehicle Operations for QuickThrottle Magazine in 2010. It is a stunner to this very day still stands out in the crowd at events. Maiden voyage on very first CVO Street Glide circa 2010 Harley-Davidson’s comprehensive Project Rushmore upgrades brought even more refinement to the Street Glide motorcycle. From the windtunnel-tested fairing to the key-less ignition system, plus serious lighting and braking upgrades, Project Rushmore brought a host of details that add up to more than the sum of their parts. The most iconoclastic feature is the new Twin-Cooled Twin Cam 110 engine, and no matter what you think about mixing oil and water, a cooler engine and more power is always better. This of course mandates the necessity of lower fairings which house the radiator and fans. The 110 ci Twin Cam heats up here in the southwest and Twin-Cooling is a big plus.

On the styling front, the CVO Street Glide motorcycle gets some help in the form of a set of polished chrome Aggressor wheels, 19 inches in the front and 18 inches in the back. And while handsome wheels will always turn heads, there’s something new lurking under the skin: a stereo that puts almost everything on the road to shame, no matter how many wheels we’re talking about. The 2016 CVO Street Glide motorcycle packs an all new Boom! Audio System, boasting a total of 600 watts of power from a pair of amplifiers, all integrated into the 6.5-inch touch display in the fairing. Who said luxury cars are the only places you’ll find sophisticated infotainment systems like this, and the 120 page owner’s manual supplies ample bedtime reading material.

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First and foremost: the engine. Any custom worth its salt needs the power to back up the boasts made by the paint, chrome and other unique touches, and the CVO Street Glide motorcycle delivers. The Twin Cam 110 motor, pumps out the kind of torque that gives asphalt nightmares: 115.1 foot-pounds, to be exact. It breathes in through a Screamin’ Eagle air cleaner that proudly displays the displacement, so there’s no doubt that you’ll be checked out at stoplights. At 865 lbs. this bike launches frighteningly fast on freeway onramps and the dual muffler exhausts kick out a throaty growl full throttle.

Check out that rear end: extended bags add visual length and a purposeful stance, while the rear fender blends in seamlessly with color-matched rear inserts, all integrated to frame the purposeful exhaust tips for a serious, musclebike-inspired look. Even smoother are the rear stop, tail, and turn lights built into handsome LED units with no protruding brackets or hardware to distract from the CVO Street Glide motorcycle’s handsome lines. It’s a set of custom touches that bolster the streetstalking profile of the machine with the factory quality and craftsmanship you only get from Harley-Davidson’s CVO branch. Other handsome details include custom Rumble Collection grips, pegs, and floorboard inserts, plus custom French stitching on the saddle and backrest.

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It’s a good thing the rear end is so handsome, because, thanks to the bike’s engine most will be seeing a lot of it. That powerful Twin Cam 110 sends its message to the road through the continually developed Cruise Drive six-speed transmission. ABS is standard with a trio of modern four-piston calipers clamping down on another trio of big 12-inch rotors. The CVO motorcycle team dove into the suspension to keep the experience premium. The key was to give the bike that slammed custom bagger stance that everyone loves while handling well, staying comfortable, and doing it all with luggage and a passenger: no easy task. CVO motorcycle engineers strategically separated the compression and rebound damping duties between the two rear shocks, with compression duties in the right hand shock and rebound in the left. A technique used in the front forks of racing motorcycles, the result is excellent rear-end control and comfortable compliance.

Tire Pressure Monitoring System, TPMS is exclusive to the CVO this year. The purpose is to warn you that at least one or more tires are significantly under-inflated, possibly creating unsafe driving conditions. The TPMS low tire pressure indicator is a yellow symbol that illuminates on the dashboard instrument panel in the shape of a tire cross-section (that resembles a horseshoe) with an exclamation point.

As is the slipper clutch, I really like this feature. Harley claims not only will the new clutch improve traction on the road in any condition it also reduces the force up to 30% less required to engage the clutch. A motorcycle slipper clutch is a clutch that is designed to lessen the effects of engine braking on your motorcycle. It was originally designed for high performance race motorcycles to help riders as they let off the gas when coming into a corner. This prevents the rear wheel from locking up and bouncing all over the place when you down shift. This of courses can cause loss of control of the motorcycle and even damage to the drive train of the motorcycle.

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Lucky owners of 2016 CVO Street Glide motorcycles have four delicious colors to choose from: This year features options on both ends of the showstopper scale. On the subtle-but-beautiful end, you have Carbon Crystal with Phantom Flames as well as Black Licorice with Midnight Cobalt Flames both whispering “luxury” while letting craftsmanship speak for itself. But if you want them to see your CVO motorcycle coming a mile away, check out White Amethyst with Black Licorice Flames, and the shimmering metal flakes in the Atomic Red with Candy Apple Flames. (Shown in story).

This year, I believe this Street Glide harkened back to the essence of very first Street Glide CVO. Pushing it to the front of the 2016 CVO lineup, it’s a shining example of how much motorcycle you can pack into such a versatile chassis while maintaining the stripped, slammed profile this model is known for. But as a motorcycle, it glides to the front of the pack: the king of the baggers. Harley-Davidson has once again raised the bar, defining what is CVO. They do it every year: by the book. If you want to soak up all things CVO past to present I suggest you go and… buy the book.

Harley-Davidson CVO Motorcycles:

The Motor Company’s Custom Vehicle Operations. Hardcover: 224 pages; Publisher: Motorbooks. Author: Marilyn Stemp


Fob Foibles

We all know the advantages of the key-less fob for your car. I am so spoiled I often just leave it in the car. It’s a 2014 Black Dodge Challenger R/T license plate number 7DVR363, usually parked on the street. What you don’t hear much about is the trouble motorcyclists can get into with this fancy technology.

My first experience was on a press ride with a dozen other journalists. Halfway through the day we all decided to swap bikes. The smart ones had tossed the fobs in the saddle bags but the rest of us had them in our jacket pockets. The bikes all started up just fine and we went our separate ways. Needless to say, later that day the half a dozen phone calls came in from marooned riders.

Once the bike turned off, they were stuck. That was just the beginning. I have a dozen motorcycle jackets lined up right next to my test ride of the month. Not realizing my fob is in another jacket hanging on the rack next to the bike I fire her up and all’s well until I stop for lunch at Hell’s Kitchen on a Sunday afternoon. That’s when I learned about the start codes (a code that can be entered to start the bike). You better know your code because at some point the battery in the fob will die.

Finally there’s the new-fangled 2016 CVO integrated key fob that combines the functions of the electric luggage locking system and the proximity activated security system, replacing two previous fobs. A single device with a pop out key. These don’t have much range and are not happy hidden in the dark recess of your saddle bag. After a few panicked no starts I found waving the fob over the sexy Street Glide like a stage magician reconnecting the sawed-in-half woman, she sprung to life. Moral of this story: Know your fob, know your codes, know your dealers phone number.

Features :

  • Boom! Box 6.5GT with 6.5-inch color touchscreen plus USB
  • Four, 6.5-inch speaker clusters with carbon woofer, polypro-fiber midrange and aluminum tweeter with two 300 watt amplifiers
  • Voice Recognition and hands free-mobile phone operation is standard equipment
  • Bullet LED front turn signals, molded LED rear turn signals and molded LED tail lamp
  • Custom Flame paint jobs, with graphics that flow across the color-matched sheet metal
  • 110-inch engine with 115.1 pound-feet plus Screamin’ Eagle performance components
  • Slipper clutch (A very nice addition in my opinion)
  • TPMS is exclusive to the CVO this year
  • Mirror-chrome Aggressor wheels
  • Custom painted inner fairing
  • ABS is standard equipment
  • Security is standard
  • Price: Starting at $36.799.00