by Bryan Harley

2010 CVO Softail Convertible

What’s this, you say? A convertible motorcycle? Isn’t riding in the open air inherent to all bikes? Yes, for most it is, but for Harley-Davidson it means the ability to quickly convert a touring motorcycle into a cruiser, sans help, no tools required. Unlatch the two pins holding the compact fairing and smoked windscreen in place, slide the leather saddlebags off, remove the passenger pillion and small upright backrest and you’ve got a solo cruiser. CVO Softail Convertible Team Manager Jeff Smith took everything off in two minutes flat. Getting all the grooves aligned to slide the components back into place took a few minutes longer, but the factory has made the process as simple as possible.

Up front, a small, color-matched fairing houses a dark, smoked windshield. The buffer against the wind rises to about chin level and directs a good amount of windblast over a rider’s head. It is affixed to a 41.3mm telescopic fork with meaty chrome ‘beer can’ covers. Wide on top, the fork tapers down to an 18-inch Stinger wheel, a five-spoke star arrangement that looks sharp draped beneath the deep-welled front fender. With 32-degrees of rake, the CVO Softail Convertible tracks solidly in the turns until reaching the limits of the claimed 26-degree lean angle. By that time, you’re chewing up the bottom of the small floorboards, which hinder sharp cornering.

On top of the five-gallon tank sits a new two-piece tank console. The updated design raises up the round gauge of the five-inch-wide digital speedo and analog tach so it’s easier to read at speed. Below it sits a series of indicator lamps, including low fuel warning and oil pressure lights, a neutral indicator, high beam, and turn signals. The ignition knob is mounted just under the strip of warning lights on the shiny chrome strip of the new console.

Hitching a leg over the CVO Softail Convertible is easy thanks to its low 24.4-inch seat height. The rider’s triangle is mostly upright, with just a slight forward tilt in the upper body. It’s a comfortable reach to the Rumble Collection grips which sit just under chest-high, while the rubber-lined, forward-mounted footboards are scaled to fit about a size 12 foot.

The ergos provide for a relaxed ride, which is supported by the suspension package. The horizontally-mounted, coil-over rear shocks are tucked neatly out of sight into the steel tubular frame and I only felt the bottom of the 3.3 inches of travel on one particularly nasty pothole. The suspension on the rear has been lowered a tad in comparison to the OE Softails. And none of them sport the same rear fender as the CVO Softail Convertible, which has a full-coverage rear fender suspended over a new 200/50R18 Dunlop radial rear tire. As we ramble over the Santa Cruz Mountains around Boulder Creek, the new tires provide good feedback from uneven road surfaces and hold fast when encountering pebble-strewn turns.

And while the mill in the CVO Softail Convertible is the same 1803cc powerplant as the others, it is the only counterbalanced version. The Screamin’ Eagle Twin Cam 110B engine is rigid-mounted, with peak output claimed to be 110 lb-ft of torque at 3000 rpm. A high-flow Ventilator engine air intake keeps the good air flowing in while spent gases exit out of chrome, shorty dual exhausts with chrome heat shields. The bass-filled exhaust note is what you’d expect from a Harley, hearty and rhythmic.

Peel off the touring goodies, and the CVO Softail Convertible takes on a new personality. The removal of the front fairing and shield brings more attention to the wide handlebars set neatly on chrome risers. Details like the chrome clutch and brake line clamps and chrome switch housings become more apparent. It’s in the sum of these small details that sets the CVOs apart from the standard Harley. The only indicators that the cruiser version of the H-D Convertible is set up for touring duty are the small mounts on the brackets of the rear fender and two small posts on each side of the fork.

I don’t know who Harley-Davidson hires to come up with its creative names for color schemes, but the high-quality custom paint of the CVOs deserves fancy titling. The three color options for the 2010 CVO Softail Convertible are Inferno Orange/Vivid Black with Silver Blaze Graphics, Abyss Blue/Sapphire with Silver Blaze Graphics, and Crimson Red Sunglo/Autumn Haze with Metal Grind Graphics. I’ve witnessed the hand-grinding at Calibre, one of the plants that does paint for the CVOs. The amount of hand-detailing that goes into the motorcycles is impressive.

And hand craftsmanship ain’t cheap, as the 2010 CVO Softail Convertible lists for $27,999 and includes a two-year, unlimited mileage warranty on each of the 2500 custom-production motorcycles.