Harley-Davidson CVO Pro Street Breakout | Bike Tests | Latest Tests
When it comes to breaking out of the big house, there could be fewer bigger incentives to twine a long length of rope from discarded dental floss and scale a barbwire-topped prison wall than to have a Harley-Davidson CVO Pro Street Breakout waiting for you on the outside as your getaway ride.
I pondered this as I stood in the shadow of the imposing stone walls of Parramatta jail. The CVO (Custom Vehicle Operations) makeover that the Harley-Davidson’s styling team conjured for its popular Breakout model has transformed it into the sort of bike many who are doing a stretch would happily have as posters stuck to their cell walls. Possibly as a constant reminder to get out and go straight – or to break out and not get caught.
The standard H-D Breakout already possessed the aesthetics of a long and sleek street dragster. CVO touches like the custom paint scheme, speed screen and chin spoiler have been added along with a drag-style handlebar and Airflow collection grips. The Pro Street Breakout now looks every bit as sleek as its drag racing namesake. The custom vibe is helped by a set of five-spoke Aggressor wheels, 19-inch at the front, and at the rear an 18-incher fitted with a fat 240mm-wide D407 Dunlop tyre.
These are just some of the things you would notice if you were fortunate enough to catch a glimpse of the bike sitting out on the street from your cell block windows. Once you had scaled over or dug under the walls to freedom – and made the dash across the street to your getaway bike – that’s when you would get a close look at the detailed styling touches. These are the little things that make grown men (and women) happy to part with an additional $12,000-plus over the standard Breakout just to own a limited edition CVO.
It’s at this stage of your escape that you begin to get some understanding of what the CVO is about. The blacked-out 110ci (1810cc) engine, replacing the 103ci (1690cc) mill in the standard Breakout, may not be twin-cooled like other CVOs, but it’s still a piece of mechanical art. The status-boasting Screamin’ Eagle branding is capped off by a Heavy Breather Elite Performance air cleaner and two-into-two blunt-cut black mufflers attached to satin chrome header pipes that match the pushrod, cylinder head, and timer covers.
But looks are not everything, so if we are going to talk tall tales of prison escapes on a Harley-Davidson there needs to be a good old-fashioned police chase to test the power and handling. Cue the Division 4 theme music.
For a quick getaway as the escape sirens wail and the blinding search lights swing in your direction, you need torque, and luckily the breakout delivers big dollops of the stuff – 151Nm to be precise, peaking at just 3500rpm. You would need all of it because the ruckus from the exhaust will be giving away your location from the moment you thumb the starter, until well after you are out of sight.
The hydraulic assist slipper clutch has a light feel, but be careful when powering away since it can be a little grabby. A few additional revs are required to really burst off the line and not bog down. Once away, it’s simply a case of powering through each of the first four or five gears to around 4000rpm and hanging on tight. Leave sixth gear for the freeway.
The scalloped seat with its drag-racing style helps hold you in position as your arms and neck are being stretched. Having your arse just 660mm off the ground helps with manoeuvring the long, 2.3m bike through traffic and other tight spaces, such as police road blocks.
The best escape route for a CVO Pro Street Breakout-mounted fugitive would be long straight roads. Just like its drag racing brethren, this CVO does its best work in a straight line. That’s not to say it can’t turn corners, but a 1680mm wheelbase, 35º rake, and 196mm trail do not a nimble sportsbike make. Nor does an obese 240-section rear tyre.
At low speed the front and rear of the bike are not on direct speaking terms. Steering input is telegraphed to the rear wheel like a cell-to-cell prison telegraph system, resulting in a little delay. The super-wide rear tyre also likes to stand the bike up, something which takes a bit of getting used to.
At higher speeds – possibly through a mountain run to your secret hideaway – the front and rear ends work well together, but it’s also where the low-mounted forward controls make themselves felt. The wide-set Airflow ’pegs, with matching shifter ’pegs and brake pedal, love nothing more than having a good old scrape on the road and will do so from 24.8º lean on the right and 25.5º on the left.
While being long and flat with a raked front end looks great, it does lead to a phenomenon I call counter-counter steering. Despite its drag-strip style, the Breakout tips into a medium to low-speed bend quite easily by using a bit of counter steering, however, if you tip in carrying a bit of speed you soon discover that a little extra coaxing is required to pull the big bike into the apex.
This is best achieved by switching from counter steering to positive steering input mid-corner (i.e. steering the front wheel in the direction you want to go). It takes a bit of brain training, but it does work. The alternative is to slip off the outside of the corner and into the waiting arms of Constable Plod and his mates – game over.
One of the more modern touches making its way into the H-D range of late is the inverted fork. It’s common on the liquid-cooled V-Rod range, and the CVO Breakout joins the recently released Roadster by being fitted with the upside down boingers. The 43mm inverted fork replaces the 49mm unit on the standard Breakout, and while it remains non-adjustable, the improvement in ride quality and reduction in front-end dive is instantly noticeable.
To balance out the increase in engine cubes and grunt as well as slightly greater weight, the CVO has been fitted with twin 300mm brake rotors and calipers up front. These do a much better job of stopping than the standard Breakout items. Not that stopping is something you want to do a lot of when you’re on the run.
But for everyday Joe, who is not riding in black and white stripes with a ball and chain attached to one ankle, the anchors are well matched to the bike – they will not throw you over the handlebar. The rear ABS kicks in a little early for my liking, but I’m probably right in guessing the majority of Harley-Davidson riders won’t go too mad on their CVO, and are not running from the law.
If all else fails, and you find yourself cornered by the fuzz at the end of a dead-end street with some plod shouting down a squawky megaphone “The jig is up!” the CVO Breakout has one last escape trick … er … feature up its sleeve – the LED headlight can turn night into day. The indicators and brake light are also LCD jobbies, but it’s the dazzling brightness of the headlight on full beam that could be used to blind your pursuers temporarily while you slip away.
Of course, we all know that crime does not pay, and more than likely any efforts to make a clean getaway, no matter how eye-catching and stylish, will be thwarted by the long arm of the law.
Back in your prison cell, you will be left with just your poster of the CVO to remind you of your brief dalliance with freedom. Maybe you will lie back with a smile, smug in the knowledge that the extra five years added to your sentence was worth the ride.
To CVO or not CVO
Every couple of years Harley-Davidson CVO (Custom Vehicle Operations) hand-picks four models to undergo the CVO treatment. These bikes are fitted with top-shelf parts then sold in very limited numbers with a hefty premium. It’s a price tag die-hard Harley lovers are happy to pay, and after sampling the attention a CVO receives, it’s not hard to understand the attraction. Only the best professionally built customs can trump a CVO.
The Breakout was already a popular model, but giving it a CVO makeover has turned it into a must-have item – but you’ll need to part with an extra $12,000-plus for the privilege. So what do you get for your extra investment?
1. Custom paint (three options) with hand-applied graphics. Both Starfire Black and White Gold Pearl models were ridden and the images don’t do the colours justice.
2. Race-inspired bucket seat. This not only looks and feels good, but the scalloped design also provides a fulcrum when pushing the bike backward.
3. Speed screen fairing and chin spoiler. Both accentuate the Breakout’s long lines.
4. Five-spoke Aggressor wheels. Together with the paint, the CVO’s wheels attract plenty of attention
5. Blacked out Screamin’ Eagle engine finish. There’s no bigger status symbol in the HOG world than the Screamin’ Eagle stamp on your engine cover.
6. Heavy Breather Elite Performance air cleaner. Does exactly what it says on the box.
7 . LED Headlamp. Even in daylight this is a bright unit.
8. New triple clamp with 43mm inverted fork. The CVO range likes to go modern.
9. Twin front disc brake set-up. The combination of a 110ci (1801cc) engine and 332kg of wet weight means you require big stoppers.
10. Cruise control: well it is a cruiser.
11 . Air-cooled 110ci (1801cc) Screamin’ Eagle engine. It doesn’t get the twin cooling of other CVO models, but you do get 151Nm of stump-pulling torque.
12. Hydraulic clutch (Assist & Slip). Nice light feel.