2013 Harley CVO Ultra Classic First Ride

October 25, 2012
Bryan Harley
Bryan Harley
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Our resident road warrior has earned his stripes covering the rally circuit, from riding the Black Hills of Sturgis to cruising Main Street in Daytona Beach. Whether it's chopped, bobbed, or bored, metric to 'Merican, he rides 'em all.

The 2013 CVO Ultra Classic Electra Glide sees the addition of Harleys Slipstream Collection of accessories  a Harman Kardon audio system  and Road Tech Zumo 660 GPS.
The 2013 CVO Ultra Classic Electra Glide feature Harley’s Slipstream Collection accessories, a Harman/Kardon audio system, and Road Tech zumo 660 GPS.
Introducing Harleys ultimate luxury touring motorcycle  the 2013 Ultra Classic Electra Glide.

While our first day riding Harley-Davidson’s 2013 CVO motorcycles was spent in the cool climes of California’s central coast, our second day of exploring the top-shelf offerings from The Motor Company ventured inland to the fertile grounds of the Salinas Valley. Workers in the fields busily tended to the artichoke and strawberry fields as our procession rolled by, a parade of Harleys gussied up in premium paint and blinding chrome drumming along to the beat of the big four-inch pistons of the 1802cc Twin Cam 110 and its four-stroke cadence. The sun sits low above the tan hills but temperatures are already approaching triple digits as the road snakes down into the valley.
Despite the imposing façade of Harley’s fully-dressed tourer, Batwing and lower leg fairings up front teamed with full-sized bags and a topcase on the backside, the bike is flowing smoothly through the turns. The 2013 CVO Ultra Classic Electra Glide has a surprisingly compact rider’s triangle, the rider perched astutely erect in the saddle with bars at an intuitive reach on a motorcycle that doesn’t require much rider input to coerce into leaning into turns.

The 2013 CVO Ultra Classic hugs the curvy roads at speed with more alacrity than you’d expect from a bike that tips the scales at almost 930 laden-pounds. The two-piece stamped and welded backbone exhibits no flex and the floorboards are up high enough to allow for generous lean angles as the series of switchbacks leads our group down to the valley floor. The Dunlops developed for Harley-Davidson are glued to the blazing asphalt even when contact patches grow thin, a combination of a relatively slight 26-degree steering head angle and 63.5-inch wheelbase contributing to its predictable nature. A 17-inch front tire and a 27.8-inch laden seat height doesn’t hurt the handling equation, either. Occasionally, rough patches in the middle of turns at higher speeds are relaying a bit of chatter in the front end when we tag bumps at lean, but otherwise Harley’s luxo-tourer remains stable and true as it tracks through turns.

It’s at least 10 degrees warmer as we hit the valley floor and midday temps are well above 100 as I try to hide from the furnace-like temperatures behind the windscreen of the 2013 CVO Ultra Classic. Overall, the Batwing fairing and leg lowers provide an excellent buffer from the elements but there’s no way to keep direct sunlight from beating down on fully geared riders. There’s definitely no need for the motorcycle’s standard heated grips and heated seats, features we covet when fall weather arrives.

Though it looks big  the CVO Ultra Classic has a fairly compact riders triangle and handles well.
Though its size can be imposing, the 2013 CVO Ultra Classic has a fairly compact rider’s triangle and handles well.

We take advantage of the bike’s Harman/Karman audio system, setting its Sirius system (an optional upgrade) on some good riding music provided by Ozzy’s Boneyard. The 2013 CVO Ultra Classic has a serious sound system, four 5 1/4-inch speakers with 40W per channel and a BOOM! bass booster pumping out the music loud and clear. If we were riding an Ultra Classic without the optional satellite radio, we still have the luxury of playing our tunes via an 8GB iPod nano tucked in the right saddlebag or by using the conventional AM/FM radio. The CVO Ultra Classic is loaded with techno goodies, from a CB and intercom system to its dash-mounted Road Tech zumo 660 GPS to its electronic cruise control. It takes a little time to familiarize yourself with the system, but most of it is operated by controls built into housings on the handlebars and before long riders can file through them without taking their concentration off the road.

Now that we’ve dropped out of the passes, the roads are more open and straight as they run through sun-baked hills broken by the green of the occasional well-irrigated vineyard. This allows us to open up the 2013 CVO Ultra Classic Electra Glide and enjoy one of its strongest features, the torque-filled Twin Cam 110 engine. It’s a shame this engine is relegated solely to CVO models because the extra boost you get in comparison to the standard Electra Glide makes getting up to freeway speeds a snap. Twist the throttle and the bike pulls hard, the torque immediate and urgent without being spikey. As with most Harley tourers, it’s geared to deliver the majority of power in the low- and mid-ranges before settling in to a milder top end with a claimed 118 lb-ft of max torque coming on at only 3750 rpm. A Ventilator High Flow Air Cleaner gets an assist in achieving the impressive low-end torque output, while a new hydraulic clutch with a claimed 10% reduction in clutch pull and a 17% reduction in hold-in force keeps the power manageable.

Not only does the big V-Twin deliver the goods, it’s not hard on the eyes either thanks to machined cooling fins on granite heads and cylinders in addition to highly polished chrome for all the covers. One thing the oppressively hot day illustrated though is the heat coming off the engine, particularly the right side which was roasting our leg to medium-rare. The motorcycle does come standard with Harley’s Engine Idle Temperature Management System, but seldom did our motorcycle sit at idle long enough to drop below the 1200 rpm mark needed for the system to engage and shut down spark to the rear cylinder.

Theres plenty to see inside the cockpit of the 2013 CVO Ultra Classic.
There’s plenty to see inside the cockpit of the 2013 CVO Ultra Classic, but the layout is attractive and intuitive.
Now thats a seat I could do an Iron Butt ride on!
Harley’s CVO Ultra Classic has one of the most comfortable seats you’ll find on any motorcycle.
The smooth badging on the 2013 CVO Ultra Classic is in celebration of Harleys 110th Anniversary.
The fashionable badging on this 2013 CVO Ultra Classic is in celebration of Harley’s 110th Anniversary. It also has an exclusive Diamond Dust and Obsidian with Paladium Graphics paint scheme.

A short run on a secluded stretch of road within CordeValle Resort out of San Martin allowed us to quickly bang through some gears on the six-speed Cruise Drive transmission and get on the Brembo brakes. The new Assist & Slip Clutch Pack primarily aims to give the clutch longer life but it’s also developed to reduce loading of the driveline during downshifts. The motorcycle demonstrates strong engine braking without lashing the belt. Shifts are audible and reliable, the cogs engaging firmly.

Grab a handful of brakes and pressure applied by the Brembo four-piston calipers on the dual 300mm discs is even and strong. The fixed rotor on the rear also has a 32mm fixed four-piston caliper with a firm bite and as a tandem the system is up to the task of halting the forward momentum of over 1000 pounds of man and machine. It also has the safeguard of standard ABS which at times engages easier than our personal preference, but is effective nonetheless. The ABS is hidden discretely in the wheel hub and exerts a noticeable pulse in the ball of a rider’s foot when it employs.

Though the high dollar paint and classy disposition feels right at home at the posh CordeValle Resort, the 2013 CVO Ultra Classic is built for the long haul so we hit Highway 101 north heading toward the Bay Area. Highway miles melt away as we settle in to one of the most comfortable stock seats around. More than ample wind protection, upright ergos and useful accessories make it easy to ride Harley’s luxo-tourer all day long. If we had a passenger, they’d be equally as pleased courtesy of a thick padded seat with lumbar support, their own passenger floorboards and speakers on both sides of them. Thanks to injection-molded hard bags with 2.26 cubic feet of storage and a huge Tour-Pak topcase, bringing along your best riding buddy is a cinch. Saddlebag and Tour-Pak liners will make it easy to transfer clothes and gear from bike to hotel room. 

Passengers will also be impressed by the quality of the ride as the 41.3mm fork and dual rear shocks have plenty of travel and seldom bottom out, rolling over bumps in the road instead of delivering jarring blows. They are air adjustable, the valve residing between the left saddlebag and rear fender, allowing the motorcycle’s suspension to be dialed-in for load when it’s time to roll out two-up.

Harley’s Ultra Classic Electra Glide has become the senior statesman of the CVO line, the 2013 model making nine straight years of making the cut for CVOs. This is not surprising considering the motorcycle’s popularity. The one bike you’ll see more than any other at just about every motorcycle rally here in America is the Electra Glide. So what features separate the 2013 CVO Electra Glide from the stock bike? Harley has decked it out in its new chrome and rubber Slipstream Collection, the design featured on the bike’s heated hand grips, rider and passenger footboard inserts, brake lever pad, shifter, highway pegs, and windshield trim. The motorcycle comes in a triad of striking paint and graphic schemes with a focus on details like hand-painting the “Thunderblade” graphics. There’s also a 110th Anniversary edition with Diamond Dust & Obsidian paint with Palladium Graphics and special anniversary badging. Auxiliary lights, Mirror Chrome Chisel Custom Wheels, and four-inch High Flow Mufflers only sweeten the deal. It also comes with the Harley Smart Security System and an indoor/outdoor storage cover with CVO logo as standard issue.
Harley makes no bones about it. This is their apex tourer, the highest priced motorcycle in the line at $37,599. It is a motorcycle that appeals to its most ardent fans, but despite having the looks of a showpiece, this bike is designed to be ridden for long miles while getting to your destination in style and comfort. Its list of rider amenities is long, it is equipped with the most potent powerplant The Motor Company offers in a factory bike, it’s handling will surprise you and then there’s that ultra-comfortable seat. Factor in unparalleled factory paint, killer audio, storage that is plentiful and accessible then throw in a healthy range courtesy of its six-gallon tank and it’s easy to understand why Harley’s luxury touring motorcycle has made the CVO lineup for the ninth year straight.