It’s a momentous event when Harley-Davidson reinvents iconic models like the Road Glide and the Street Glide, the most popular motorcycles on American roads. Aside from the shared frames and crankcases of these fraternal twins, pretty much everything else on the new Harley-Davidson CVO Glides has been reimagined.
With a quick glance, you’ll recognize familiar batwing and sharknose fairings, but a closer look reveals entirely new bodywork. Dig a little deeper, and you’ll find a new motor: the 121-cubic inch Milwaukee-Eight VVT 121 featuring variable valve timing and liquid-cooled cylinder heads.
Gaze a little longer, and you’ll notice a new inverted fork fitted with new radial-mount Brembo 4-piston calipers and larger brake rotors. You can’t see the shocks behind the restyled saddlebags, but they’re new too.
It’s the dawn of a new era for the Glides, as this refreshed styling and high-tech motor surely will migrate to Harley’s non-CVO baggers in the next year or two. For now, all this newness will cost a cool $42,999.
Mo’ Mo From the MoCo
The centerpiece of the new Harley-Davidson CVO Glides is a Milwaukee-Eight V-Twin, but the VVT 121 takes the M-8 to a higher level with variable valve timing. The system expands the powerband by electronically moving the camshaft through a 20-degree range based on factors like rpm, load, and gear selection, supplying more grunt at low revs while also enabling it to rev more freely up top.
Harley’s internal code name for the new engine is “Helix,” and it features much more than just VVT. It uses the same bore size as the 117ci motor but gets additional stroke to add up to 121ci, or 1,977cc.
(Fun fact: Remember when H-D’s old Big Twins displaced 61ci? Now we’ve got a Harley that has nearly as much displacement in just one cylinder!)
The Helix gets its intake charge from a 4-liter airbox that’s 50% larger than H-D’s Heavy Breather and combines with a larger throttle body to feed the beast. The mixture is squeezed with a higher compression ratio (11.4:1) and dumps the spent charge into a freer-flowing exhaust that sounds deep and powerful for a stock system.
Added up, H-D says its new V-Twin produces 9.5% more horsepower and 8% more torque than the Twin-Cooled 117 M-8, churning out 115 hp at 4,500 rpm and 139 lb-ft of torque at 3,000 rpm. Byproducts of this new architecture are increased fuel economy and improved durability thanks to cooler exhaust valves. Additionally, a new shift drum in the transmission makes selecting neutral when stopped easier.
Harley-Davidson CVO Cockpit Renovation
The view from behind the handlebars of the Harley-Davidson CVO Glides has been dramatically freshened and modernized. At center stage is a brilliant 12.3-inch TFT color touchscreen that can be set to display three view options: Cruise, Tour, and Sport. These can be further customized to include the displays of various widgets like tire-pressure monitoring, temperature, fuel range, and more.
If you prefer pushing buttons to touching a screen, the CVOs are blessed with new backlit handlebar switches that have a nice tactile feel and are a welcome upgrade from the previous setup. Cruise control is standard, as are heated grips. Gone is the awkwardly bulky ignition switch behind the handlebar used previously, and an adjustable front brake lever is finally fitted.
A Rockford Fosgate Stage II audio system provides 500 watts of power for bangin’ road tunes pounded out by two pairs of speakers, one in the fairings and the other in the saddlebags. The instrumentation is compatible with smartphones for wireless connections, and both models feature storage compartments with a USB-C outlet.
The Harley-Davidson CVO Glides also offer selectable ride modes (Road, Sport, and Rain) that control power delivery, engine braking, cornering ABS, traction control, and hill-hold control. These parameters can be personalized to suit rider preferences by setting up a custom map.
- Helmet: Arai Signet-X
- Jacket: Alpinestars Hoxton V2
- Gloves: Highway 21 Jab Perf
- Pants: Saint Unbreakable
- Boots: H-D Hagerman
Both models include fairings with a “floating” windscreen design that’s augmented by an adjustable air-control vane in the center vent to alter airflow to suit riders of various heights. Electric windscreen adjustment isn’t part of the package. Fine-tuning airflow is accomplished by adjustable wind deflectors. The Road Glide gets new versions of “Willie Wings” along the trailing edge of its fairing, while the Street Glide’s deflectors are located on the upper fork legs.
Weight A Minute
There’s no getting around the fact that big-inch baggers are heavy, so we’re happy to see Harley making steps to reduce the weight of their bikes. The biggest weight-loss investment is the triple clamp that’s made using a liquid aluminum forging process. It cuts 7 lb from this critical area.
Also of note is a purported 4-5 lb of wiring stripped out thanks largely to the all-in-one TFT gauge panel. The fuel tank still holds a generous 6 gallons, but thanks to using thinner-gauge steel, it’s 2 lb lighter. The net result is a Street Glide that weighs 31 lb less, and the Road Glide’s mass is cut 35 lb. Total weight of the SG is 838 lb, while the RG scales in at 862 lb.
H-D invited us to its home base to ride the new CVOs – the MoCo’s first global press launch since 2019. It was nicely timed, as I had just finished riding a Road Glide to Monterey for the KOTB races three days earlier, so I’d have recent comparative impressions. Side by side with an Indian Challenger, the OE Road Glide felt outclassed in terms of power, plushness, and technology.
We would’ve felt differently if we were aboard the new CVO model.
Harley-Davidson CVO Road Glide
We prefer the cleaner shape of the old RG’s fairing, but we must say this new CVO version looks much better in 3-D than in pictures. The finish detailing is exceptional on both models.
The buckhorn handlebar on previous RGs is replaced by a tall mini-ape bar that places fists to wind in a flatter arrangement. Full-lock turns required a big reach from my short arms, but the bar can be rotated in its nicely finished upper triple clamp to sit closer to the rider. A heel/toe shifter provides gear-shifting options above the comfy footboards. The rear brake pedal remains located awkwardly high.
We’re big fans of the 117ci M-8, but that lovable lump gets demoted with this impressive 121 VVT. It has more of everything, pulling harder from down low and revving strongly until its 5,500-rpm redline. It cruises easily at speed, even in lower gears – the motor remained smooth even in 3rd gear at 55 mph with about 3,400 rpm showing on the tach.
We’re not sure we need electronic engine controls, but we’re pleased when they operate as well as the ones here. For example, the adjustable engine braking is wonderful. I switched it to the lowest setting to yield less pitching when decelerating. Augmented by H-D’s cornering drag torque slip control, the bike felt almost like it has a slipper clutch and allowed me to control my speed with my choice of braking inputs.
Kudos to the engineers who dialed up a better suspension on these Glides. The 47mm inverted Showa fork gets some credit, even if it has the same 4.6 inches of travel as previous. More effective – and more needed – are new emulsion shocks that offer a significant improvement in suspension plushness. Although they have just 3 inches of travel, it’s a 50% increase over the 2 inches on the harsh-riding RG Special. The CVO shocks have a threaded preload adjustment on the right side, while the left-side features a remote adjuster that fine-tunes preload hydraulically. Rebound damping is also adjustable but requires removing a saddlebag to accomplish.
Harley-Davidson CVO Street Glide
To our eyes, the Street Glide’s new styling is a homerun, looking familiar but more contemporary. The integration of the turnsignal lamps into the fairing disposes of unsightly signal stalks, and the overall design looks modern without alienating fans of the beloved batwing.
The handlebar is about a foot lower than on the Road Glide, which helps make the bike feel smaller than the RG. The wind deflector flap below the windscreen proves to be effective at reducing buffeting when it’s tilted upward. Mirrors provide a blurrier rear view than the nice stalk mounts on the RG. On the plus side is the ultra-convenient spring-loaded drawer cubby below the instrumental panel on the SG.
The Glides feel – and literally are – at home on rural Wisconsin roads, ably swallowing miles as bucolic scenery rolls past. Our route took us past the fabulous Road America racetrack where the KOTB series raced six weeks earlier and then into a delightful little stretch of curvy road nestled in a forest. The bikes feel remarkably planted in the corners and provide the confidence to crank over the baggers until their footboards drag at 32 degrees. Responses from the new braking system improve upon the capable previous setup.
New seats keep riders comfortable, but we’re again perplexed why the passenger seats slope rearward. I sometimes want to leave my wife behind when I go for rides, but not if I start the ride with her behind me.
These Glides are easily the best ones yet. Their motors have more power at all points on the tach, and their instrumentation is now among the best in the business. Combined with a dramatically smoother suspension, better brakes, and a pleasing new cockpit, these new models up the ante in the bagger segment.
The bagger bar has been raised.
For more information, visit the Harley-Davidson website.