The History of Harley-Davidson CVO Motorcycles

Custom Vehicle Operation motorcycles, most commonly known as CVOs, are a line of models created by Harley-Davidson starting in 1999. Each year since the program’s inception, Harley-Davidson has selected two to five mass-produced motorcycle models and added limited-edition customizations, such as larger displacement engines, costlier paint designs, and additional accessories not found on the mainstream models.

When the idea of creating a limited production run of models came to be, assembly line time and excess parts were unavailable for the custom production effort. But when H-D’s military contract ended in the 1990s, Building 42 — which previously was used to hand assemble certain military machines — was freed for the project and the FXR2 and FXR3, limited edition models inspired by the mass produced FXR, were created.

Before they were called CVOs, these limited edition bikes were known as Screamin’ Eagles because the limited edition models were fitted with performance upgrades from H-D’s Screamin’ Eagle branded parts. H-D dropped the Screamin’ Eagle name in 2009 and started referring to the models as CVOs. In the following graphic you can view a comprehensive list of every CVO/Screamin’ Eagle model created since 1999.

The History of CVOs

Accessories created for CVO models are sometimes sold separately in Harley-Davidson’s accessories catalogs for all models in later years, but badges and paint colors are kept exclusively for the CVO model owners. If your bike is damaged or parts are stolen, heaven forbid, exclusive accessories can be replaced, but only after providing proof of ownership of a CVO to the ordering dealer.

With all the add-ons, CVO models are among the most expensive bikes created by Harley-Davidson. Some riders prefer the standard, mass-produced options because their starting prices are cheaper and they allow you to customize your bike however you choose.

If you would prefer not to make custom changes yourself, choosing a CVO with added upgrades is the most cost-effective option. Adding all the additions available on a CVO to a standard bike costs much more than purchasing the bike with the add-ons already installed. Although pricier, Harley-Davidson justifies their prices with exclusivity because only a limited amount of CVO models are made each year.

Reviews of CVOs include that they rev better and feel stronger. Among purists, FXR motorcycles are still considered to be the best-handling Harleys ever. But practicality aside, they ultimately look better because of their chrome and billet trimmings and custom paint jobs.

CVOs are not for everyone. H-D explains that the program targets “alpha customers,” those who are brand loyal and pride themselves on riding the best there is to offer. So, what about you? Are you a fan of CVOs? It’s never too late to find the perfect CVO for you.

9 comments on “The History of Harley-Davidson CVO Motorcycles”

  • I have a 2009 FLHTCUSE4 and it is a dream to ride. I love the beautiful paint and the 110 Cu in engine with power to spare. The features that I really got spoiled with is the Harmon Karden stereo along with the heated grips and seat. Once you own a CVO that is all you will ever want to ride.

  • I just bought my first CVO and by just I mean 5/5/19 and already put 300 mile on it in one day it is a sweet bike handles great I owned an 08 ultra classic that I traded in on it loved that bike but this one is WoW great job Harley

    • It’s crazy how fast the miles add up when you’re riding an extraordinary bike! Congrats on your new ride.

  • I have a 2003 cvo Softail and Harley could not find any parts for it said they don’t make them anymore very disappointed I Love the bike but sure wish I could gets parts and paint doesn’t count.

  • My first Harley-Davidson so I decided to go straight to the top, seen the limited cvo in the states in the fall of 2017 came back home to Canada and bought one, it was a long winter waiting for it. Yes it’s expensive but it’s worth it to me,

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