Powered by the largest factory-fitted Harley-Davidson engine and packed full of technology, the 2023 CVO Road Glide promises to be a spectacular machine! Zane has been soaking up the road on it…
Ever wonder what nearly $63,000 gets you on two wheels? Look no further than the new Harley-Davidson CVO range; welcome to premium luxury. I took on the heavily updated CVO Road Glide with it’s massive 121ci VVT Milwaukee-Eight for two weeks…
At this point, I’ve ridden and tested so many bikes that I’ve simply lost count. The new CVO Road Glide tips the scale at the most expensive motorcycle from the factory that I have tested, which isn’t just some sort of “special edition” paint scheme.
Check out our Road Glide Special test here…
I know what you might be thinking, “$63,000? That’s outrageous.” Because I know that’s exactly what I thought the second Australian pricing got announced. Lo and behold, at the time of picking up the CVO, they were pretty much all sold out. Not only that, the Whiskey Neat colour scheme that costs an extra $7,810 is completely sold out. Wow!
Instead of a conventional motorcycle launch where we would ride the bike for a few hours over a day or two and then hand it back, Harley-Davidson Australia invited us to their Lane Cove HQ to check out the bikes with the head tech and take them home for two weeks to become acquainted with the new machine and do some big rides.
The first peek at the new Road Glide CVO and it can only be described as intimidating. The bike is humongous in all dimensions, the screen is bigger than an iPad, and the engine is the largest capacity I’ve ever tested.
The CVO Road Glide shares next to none of the same primary components that the Road Glide Special has. The most obvious is the Milwaukee-Eight being boosted from 117ci to 121ci, liquid-cooled and slapped with variable valve timing. Check out the tech talk, but there is next to nothing in terms of specifications that the 121ci shares with the 117ci. It even has different cylinder-heads!
In terms of chassis and suspension changes over the Road Glide Special, you get 47mm SHOWA inverted forks, adjustable SHOWA shocks, four-piston Brembo calipers at the front, wire-spoked tubeless wheels, changeable riding modes, a plethora of rider aids, the 12.2in touch-screen TFT with Skyline OS, a “Stage Two” Rockford Fosgate sound system and changes to the fairing aerodynamics.
Personally, in terms of styling, the CVO Road Glide certainly does something for me. That gorgeous frame-mounted fairing is dressed in the finest LED lights, running down to those little details like the subtle winglets and adjustable vents. Grey isn’t my colour, as it always just looks like primer, but Harley-Davidson has added some flake in to make it really sparkle. The frame-mounted panniers, dark chrome exhaust, beautiful wire-spoked wheels and that gorgeous seat all tie the bike together nicely.
Keeping up with the fact that this bike steals all the luxuries from the car world is a seriously impressive key fob. Usually, I’m not too fond of keyless starts, but it matches the bike so well. The panniers can be locked and unlocked by the key, and there are little compartments where the key can be stored.
A small tech briefing followed by a quick bakery breakfast, and it’s time to hit the wet Sydney roads on a 121ci monster that weighs nearly 400kg and has 183Nm of torque. To say I’m nervous is an understatement. I’ve ridden big beefy machines before, but the combination of all this torque, wet roads, 393kg and that price tag can’t help but make me seriously on edge.
Pulling out of the driveway and all that anxiety washes away within an instant, the way the CVO handles it’s weight seems to be second to none, and it’s only been five minutes. The main thing that calms my nerves on the road is the Rain profile and the fact that the CVO comes with hill hold assist.
The hill hold assist is a lifesaver. Pulling up to a stop, just have to squeeze the brakes a little harder than usual, and those electronically linked brakes will clamp on until you chuck it in gear and get moving. Perfect for a bike like this, which really need both feet on the ground at a standstill.
When it comes time to doing a tight three-point U-turn in a carpark, that nervousness picks up again. The weight becomes noticeable again at walking pace, and I suddenly realise a downfall with the manoeuvrability of the Road Glide: no reverse gear! It’s standard equipment for this heavy style of bike now, and at the price point, it should be included.
I make it home in the rain after switching to sports mode and roasting the rear tyre off every single traffic light in the rain. The only issue the CVO gave me in the rain is the fact that the grip warmers felt like they weren’t working! I lost feeling in my fingers from wet gloves, and the grip warmers didn’t put enough heat through my winter gloves. The dash said they were on.
I left the two-wheeled Titanic in the garage for a few days as I waited for the weather to clear up to really enjoy the bike for what it is. And wow, I’m glad I got a clear day, as I have no idea how Harley-Davidson has made a near 400kg motorcycle handle like this. It makes zero sense.
Smashing the CVO through my local twisties, the bike just wants to sail from side to side and holds its line so accurately. Sure, there’s some caution when riding such a large motorcycle at its max-lean angle, but it holds its line better than some bikes half the weight I’ve tested recently. Just about every corner the Road Glide takes, it wants to drag those footpegs on the ground and throw sparks!
“Smashing the CVO through my local twisties, the bike just wants to sail from side to side and holds its line so accurately.”
There is not much bad to say about the suspension. It sits comfortably when cruising at 130km/h+, it tackles the corners with confidence that is simply unheard of on a cruiser this size, and you don’t need to muck around with the setting to achieve the perfect middle ground of comfort and sport.
While the bike works well for my 83kg weight, I can’t make those exact handling and comfort claims for someone who weighs more than me. Adjustable or even electronically active forks should be present at this price point. The rear has adjustment, but I didn’t muck around with it as it works well with my size.
Building on how excellent this bike handles are those 320mm discs with four-piston Brembo calipers mated to them. The fact the CVO Road Glide has electronically linked brakes means you don’t have to worry about moving your foot onto the rear brake when coming into a corner; squeezing the lever will provide you with face-melting braking power. Everything from the lever action, initial bite and general pad traction just works…
“I have no idea how Harley-Davidson has made a near 400kg motorcycle handle like this. It makes zero sense. “
The only thing less than desirable about the CVO Road Glide’s braking system is the rear brake lever. It’s set up in a bit of an awkward spot and needs more pressure than a conventional rear brake, so lane-splitting is awkward. But the hill-hold assist makes up for that.
I’m sure you’re all dying to hear how the new 121ci Milwaukee-Eight goes. For the largest factory-fitted Harley-Davidson engine ever, it’s remarkably easy to manage. Using the rain mode, which puts the engine in its lowest power mode, provides a smooth entrée into handling nearly 200Nm of torque under 4000rpm. Switching the CVO into Sport mode is where it really comes to life.
The grunt this thing has is off chops; it almost hurts my wrists with the sudden rush of power by twisting the throttle ever so slightly. Yes, it only makes 86kW, but it can literally roast the 180/55 tyre by dumping the clutch in second and chirp it in third. It should also be worth noting that the 121ci has a 17kW and 25Nm increase over the 117ci. The new VVT allows for a little extra power on the top end, but it’s still nothing outrageously fast.
“Yes, it only makes 86kW, but it can literally roast the 180/55 tyre by dumping the clutch in second and chirp it in third.”
The thing I do notice with the new engine is that it stutters a little with too much throttle input from idle. With such a long stroke, you can’t expect it to rev like a four-cylinder high-revving machine, but it does have a similar off-balance feeling to it as the BMW R 18 I recently tested.
The factory exhaust system heavily muffles the exhaust note, as it needs to be for EURO regulations. But I feel like the comfort factor of having a loud system will take away from the touring enjoyment this bike has. I can’t say I would personally opt for an exhaust much louder than what is on it.
The wet multi-plate clutch does a fantastic job of providing excellent feel through the lever. You can drag the life out of it, and it’ll lead that torque on immaculately, making up for the lack of rear brake lever feeling to regulate the speed. As is the case with all of the Milwaukee-Eight range, sixth gear are overdrives. The CVO will happily sit at 110km/h in fourth gear without revving its head off. The massive torque figures make it pull like a freight train while in sixth gear also.
I must mention the stand; the amount of anxiety this bike gave me every time I put it on the stand was out of this world. I’ve become accustomed to the ‘locating pin’ style sidestand, but the CVO Road Glide is next level, the amount it moves around when it’s down. My life kept flashing before my eyes as I envisioned this $63k machine lying on the road. Luckily, it stayed upright…
Touring is where this bike really shines. The ability the CVO has to soak up the KM with ease is really second to none. It’s just a set your cruise control and forget type of deal. The only touring downside is that some of the valuable space in the paniers is taken up by those prominent 5×7 saddlebag speakers. You’d be lucky to fit anything sizeable and more than two nights’ worth of clothes in here.
Regarding general bike comfort, the rider triangle suits my 183cm tall frame quite nicely. The reach to the handlebars is just the right length, and although I heavily prefer footpegs, my legs aren’t overly cramped on the floorboards. The heel-toe shifter adds an elevated level of comfort, and the seat honestly feels like I’m riding on a couch.
The speakers are outrageously loud. I honestly feel a little embarrassed to have my niche music taste pumping for the whole world to hear, so I opt for the radio while I’m riding. It’s a little distracting the first few times you use the dash while riding, but after owning the bike for a while, I don’t doubt you’ll be breezing through the menus with ease.
Connecting my phone and Cardo Spirit HD intercom to the bike is a breeze. I struggle with other bikes, but the CVO doesn’t need any silly apps or setups to connect with. It works so well that I don’t doubt that the older crowd will be able to connect without having to call their grandkids around for help.
The 12.2in TFT features the Skyhook operating system with Apple CarPlay built in. You can only access all the features with your intercom hooked up as well as your phone. From here, you can access all the usual CarPlay apps, Waze, GPS, Spotify, iMessage, Phone calls and more.
“Harley-Davidson has seriously listened to what the people want and has delivered a flawless operating system on their TFT dash.“
Because I refuse to use my phone while I’m driving, I’m well-versed in controlling my phone via Siri. Learning all the commands for your phone will work wonders with this system. I had no problem sending voice-to-text messages and having the CVO read them back to me, and the phone calls were all crystal clear/easy to use through Facebook Messenger, the phone app and WhatsApp.
This TFT and its operating system are the absolute best on the market by far. There’s nothing that even comes close to how easy it is to use and the amount of functionality it has. Harley-Davidson has seriously listened to what the people want and has delivered a flawless system.
Yes, $63,000 is A LOT for a motorcycle, but nothing on the market can compare to this. The way it handles, the assists, the technology, everything is just perfect. For a bike this size, the fun factor is so high, and it’s a lot easier to ride than the spec sheets lead it on to be.
Is it worth the price? Considering they’re literally flying off the showroom floors, there’s no way Harley-Davidson needs to charge less for this bike. Although, I can’t help but think that H-D could’ve piled on things like active suspension, radar technology and a few other things at the price. But if people are willing to pay this money for what it is, then why add it?
2023 Harley Davidson CVO Road Glide Tech Talk
The new Milwaukee-Eight VVT 121 powertrain is only used in the 2023 CVO Street Glide and CVO Road Glide models. This 121-cubic-inch 45-degree V-Twin engine is the largest factory installed torque and displacement available in a Harley-Davidson Touring motorcycle – approximately 8 percent more torque and 9.5 percent more horsepower than the TwinCooled Milwaukee-Eight 117 engine.
The Milwaukee-Eight VVT 121 is equipped with a number of new features, including optimised liquid-cooled cylinder heads with a new cooling system, variable valve timing (VVT), and a new intake tract. A single counter-balancer is tuned to cancel undesirable vibration.
Milwaukee-Eight VVT 121 Specs
- Displacement: 121 cubic inches (1977cc)
- Bore x Stroke: 4.075″ (103.5mm) x 4.625″ (117.5mm)
- Compression Ratio: 11.4:1
- Torque: 183Nm@3500RPM
- Horsepower: 86kW@5020RPM
Through computer control, VVT advances or retards camshaft timing infinitely through a potential range of 40 degrees of crankshaft rotation (20 degrees of camshaft rotation).
An improved cooling system focused on the exhaust valve area of each cylinder head further improves thermal comfort. Redesigned four-valve cylinder heads incorporate new channels for coolant flow around the exhaust valve areas. An electric pump circulates a coolant solution first to the hotter rear cylinder head, then to the front cylinder head, and then to a radiator located low on the front of the frame and backed by a thermostatically controlled fan.
New cylinder heads feature a combustion chamber reshaped with oval intake ports, low-profile intake valve seats and an enhanced squish band, which combined increase intake air velocity and tumble and accelerate combustion to improve performance and fuel economy. The compression ratio is increased to 11.4:1 from 10.2:1 (2022 Milwaukee-Eight 117 engine), higher compression is enabled by improvement of the cylinder head cooling design, the burn rate in the combustion chamber, and enhanced knock sensing to protect the engine from pre-ignition.
A high-performance camshaft with higher lift and longer duration than the Milwaukee-Eight 117 camshaft contributes to increased power and torque. The valvetrain is updated with high capacity lifters and inner cam bearing, and valve springs capable of higher lift, to maintain durability with the more-aggressive camshaft in place.
A new intake tract contributes to increased power and lower exhaust emissions. The throttle body diameter is increased to 58mm from the 55mm used on Milwaukee-Eight 117 engines, and the throttle body is positioned closer to the centre of the cylinder spacing. The new contoured aluminium intake manifold offers a more-direct air path and creates a smooth transition from the round throttle body to the oval intake ports..
Front suspension is 47mm SHOWA inverted forks with 117mm of travel, while the rear sees 76mm of travel. This is a 50 percent increase in travel compared to comparable 2022 Grand American Touring models. SHOWA dual outboard emulsion technology shock absorbers feature a new remote hydraulic pre-load adjustment knob located forward of the left saddlebag.
Braking is provided by Brembo components, dual front disc brakes feature new radially mounted four-piston Brembo callipers. The front brake rotor diameter is increased to 320mm from 300mm (previous models). The single rear brake features a four-piston Brembo calliper.
For the first time the CVO Road Glide offers selectable Ride Modes. Each mode consists of a specific combination of power delivery, engine braking, Cornering-Antilock Braking System (C-ABS) and Cornering-Traction Control System (C-TCS) settings.
- Road Mode: Intended for daily use, Road Mode delivers balanced performance. This mode offers less-aggressive throttle response and less mid-range engine power than Sport Mode, with a higher level of C-ABS and C-TCS intervention.
- Sport Mode: Sport Mode can maximise the rider’s connection to the motorcycle. The rider can experience the full performance potential of the motorcycle in a direct and precise manner, with full power and the quickest throttle response. C-TCS is set to its lowest level of intervention, and engine braking is increased.
- Rain Mode: This mode is designed to give the rider greater confidence when riding in the rain or when traction is otherwise compromised. Rain Mode is also an appropriate setting for riders building confidence as they become familiar with the motorcycle. Throttle response and power output are programmed to significantly restrain the rate of acceleration, engine braking is limited, and the highest levels of C-ABS and C-TCS intervention are selected.
- Custom Mode: Within two available Custom Ride Modes the rider may create a set of performance characteristics to meet personal preference or for special situations. To create a Custom Mode the rider uses the touch screen display to select their combined preference of engine torque delivery characteristics, engine braking, throttle response, and C-TCS and C-ABS intervention, within specific ranges.
Rider Safety Enhancements by Harley-Davidson, a collection of technologies designed to enhance rider confidence, are featured on the CVO Street Glide and CVO Road Glide models. These models include the following elements of Rider Safety Enhancements by Harley-Davidson:
- Cornering Electronically Linked Brakes (C-ELB)
- Cornering ABS (C-ABS)
- Cornering Traction Control (C-TCS) with modes
- Cornering Drag Torque Slip Control (C-DTSC)
- Vehicle Hold Control (VHC)
- Tyre Pressure Monitoring (TPMS)
. Each aero system element was created using CFD (computational fluid dynamics) tools, wind tunnel analysis and real-world subjective testing with an emphasis on reducing rider helmet buffeting at highway speed. The new adjustable control vane in the fairing centre vent of both models allows the rider to dial in airflow for comfort in most conditions..
The CVO Street Glide and CVO Road Glide models introduce an all-new suite of infotainment technology powered by the new Skyline OS. This premium display is bright and well-organised, is customisable within three distinct view options, and is compatible with Apple and Android devices.
The CVO Street Glide and CVO Road Glide feature the following new infotainment features:
- The 12.3-inch Touch Screen TFT
- New Wi-Fi connectivity enables wireless connection to a rider’s device and to provide live services such as traffic, weather and navigation map updates.
- The new Voice Recognition System is conversational rather than “fixed prompts” and allows the rider to make general commands like “Find me a gas station” to perform a search on Navigation.
- The new built-in user interface on the touch screen allows the owner to activate the ECU programming required for installation of certain accessories.
- DAB (Digital Audio Broadcasting) is now available for Australia and certain other markets.
- The Bluetooth receiver for wireless headsets is now built into the system.
- The CVO Street Glide and CVO Road Glide models are equipped with a premium, Harley-Davidson Audio powered by Rockford Fosgat ® Stage II audio system powered by a new 4-channel, 500-watt RMS amplifier.
Pricing for the both the CVO Road Glide and the CVO Street Glide starts from $62,495 rideaway. If you’re interested in checking them out, head here.
The new CVO Street Glide and CVO Road Glide models will be offered with two paint/finish choices: Standard Dark Platinum with Bright Smoked Satin pinstriping and colour-matched inner fairing. And, optional for an additional charge, Whiskey Neat/Raven Metallic two-tone with colour matched inner fairing. This complex paint scheme is hand-applied.
2023 Harley-Davidson CVO Road Glide Specifications
Price: From $62,495 (ride away)
Colours: Dark Platinum, Whiskey Neat/Raven Metallic (+$7,810)
Warranty: Two-years unlimited km
Service: 1600km then every 8000km
Claimed Fuel Consumption: N/A
Claimed Power: 86kW@5020rpm
Claimed Torque: 183Nm@3500rpm
Wet Weight: 393kg
Fuel capacity: 22.7L
Engine: Milwaukee-Eight 121 V-Twin, 1977cc (121 cu. in.), 103.5 x 117.5mm bore x stroke, 11.4:1 compression ratio, VVTI, ESPFI two-into-one-into-two exhaust
Gearbox: Primary drive: 34/46. Six-speed – 1st: 9.593, 6.65, 4.938, 4.0, 3.407, 6th: 2.875 Final Belt 32/68, Wet multi-plate, cable actuation
Chassis: Mild steel; tubular frame; two-piece stamped and welded backbone; cast and forged junctions; twin downtubes; bolt-on rear frame with forged fender supports; MIG welded.
Rake: 26° Trail: 170mm
Suspension: 47mm Inverted 1×1 Front Forks, 117mm travel, Dual adjustable emulsions suspension with remote preload adjustment on the left shock, and threaded preload on the right shock, 76mm travel.
Brakes: 300mm rotors, Brembo Four-piston fixed calipers (f), 300mm rotor, two-piston floating caliper (r), ABS
Wheels & Tyres 130/60 – 19in (f), 180/55 – 18in (r), Dunlop
Seat height: 720mm
Ground clearance: 145mm
Overall Length: 2410mm
Lean Angle: N/A
Instruments: Skyline OS, 12.2in TFT, Two 6.5in fairing speakers, and two 5x7in saddlebag speakers, Cornering Electronically Linked Brakes (C-ELB), Cornering ABS (C-ABS), Cornering Traction Control (C-TCS) with modes, Cornering Drag Torque Slip Control (C-DTSC), Vehicle Hold Control (VHC), Tyre Pressure Monitoring (TPMS). Apple Carplay.
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The Verdict | Review: 2023 Harley-Davidson CVO Road Glide 121