Preview: Harley-Davidson CVO Softail Convertible
David Booth. National Post · Jul. 31, 2009 | Last Updated: Jul. 31, 2009 12:36 PM ET
Yes, you read the label right — this Harley is a convertible. Yes, I know motorcycles don’t have a top. And, no, it doesn’t have a power-operated umbrella to protect faux bikers who ride Harleys from the occasional rain splatter.
Some explanation is obviously required.
In case you haven’t noticed, cruiser riders are incredibly fashion conscious. Choppers are the two-wheeled equivalent of high heels — style and trend are their raison d’etre and woe to anyone wanting to sully them with an accouterment to make them more practical.
Of course, even divas have to walk sometimes, spiked heels or not, and the motorcycling equivalent is that, occasionally, cruiser riders want to ride their steeds further than their favourite watering hole. For these occasions, Harley-Davidson’s Custom Vehicles Operation graciously offers the Softail Convertible.
On initial inspection, the Convertible looks like a touring-outfitted Softail, its fork sporting a smallish wind-deflecting screen, its rear twin leather saddlebags offering a modicum of luggage capacity and there’s even a dual passenger seat with an included backrest in case the significant other also wants to partake in some long-distance styling.
What makes the Convertible different, though, is that all this equipment can be stripped off the Softail in less than two minutes and without the need for a single, solitary tool. Unsnap two spring-loaded grommets and the front screen disappears. Twist one knurled knob inside each saddlebag and each snaps off as well. Even the backrest has only two, easily manipulated latches, while getting rid of the rear buddy seat is just another knurled knob away.
In less than two minutes, the Softail is back to its stripped, single-seater, badass self. Of course, the intimation is that someone could ride in comfort to Sturgis and then quickly detach all the paraphernalia so he or she looks cool profiling on Main Street.
As long as you put that aforementioned qualifier — modicum — in front of comfort, luggage capacity and wind protection, there is some truth in advertising. Remember, though, the Softail does offer the shortest travel suspension of a Harley, so the ride is not going to be Electra Glide soft.
The Softail’s big V-twin engine is also rigidly mounted to its frame, so there’s more vibration through the handlebars and pegs than on many other cruisers, though it’s far from the Harley paint shakers of yore. And let’s not forget the Convertible’s windscreen and saddlebags are smaller than normal, meaning there’s less protection and storage capacity than on any full-fledged touring bike.
All that said, none of these disadvantages would sway me from buying the newest addition to the CVO line. In fact, my major complaint remains the same as the one with a few of the division’s previous Softail models — namely, that in the pursuit of style, even this higher-performance edition still makes do with a single front disc brake. The CVOedition Electra Glide, on the other hand, gets twin front discs and a nifty ABS system.
On stock Softails with their 88-cubic-inch motors, that’s not much of a loss. But the CVO Softail is powered by a much more potent 110-cu.-in. variant that, despite its slow-revving nature, hustles the Convertible along quite briskly. More brakes are needed and fashion be damned, when I pull on that front brake lever I want serious whoa power.
Nonetheless, the Softail Convertible is currently my favourite CVO product after the touring-oriented Electra Glide. It has that Kong Kong V-twin that is both vastly more powerful and smoother than its smaller, stock counterpart. Most of all, despite its role as fashion diva, the ability to transport me (and possibly a significant other) over long distances with a semblance of touring abilities is the real reason I admire its versatility. After all, I am a guy.
I don’t give a damn if my shoes are fashionable as long as they’re comfortable.
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