2023 Harley-Davidson CVO Road Glide (bike review)

To celebrate the brand’s 120th anniversary, Harley-Davidson launched two new CVO variants – the Street Glide and Road Glide. Considered the pinnacle of cruising bikes, and carrying a hefty price tag, it’s the latter we’re putting through its paces.

Before we could fire it up and ride it out of Harley-Davidson HQ in Sydney though, there was the little matter of a walkthrough of the new model, its tech, suspension and braking changes, as well as the 121 cubic inch water cooled motor it carries on board.

Looking sharper and more modern than previous offerings, the new models draw inspiration from the King of the Baggers racing series in the US, and feel more performance oriented than they have in the past.

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We were handed the keys to the CVO Road Glide in Dark Platinum with Pinstripes. It’s a genuinely nice colour, although you can opt for a Whiskey Neat paint scheme, which carries an additional $7,810 price tag.

It was in our quick walk around the bike before climbing on board that we picked one of the few faults on the CVO Road Glide, in the form of the rear suspension adjustment knob. It pokes outwards and looks completely out of place.

2023 Harley-Davidson CVO Road Glide
2023 Harley-Davidson CVO Road Glide

When you’re spending north of $62,000 for a motorcycle it’s not unreasonable to expect perfection. On that basis, we’d like to have seen the knob rotated 90-degrees, or better yet, hidden behind the pannier like it is on the 2017 Harley-Davidson Road King.

Some will argue that this is not convenient, but we’ll stand firm with how easy it is to remove a pannier on a touring bike. It’s a much better solution, especially given you’re not going to be adjusting the suspension settings very often.

Back to the good stuff. The 19-inch front wheel is stunning, and sets off the Dark Platinum paintwork brilliantly. Not to be outdone, the smoked chrome exhaust is exquisite and adds cool custom contrast to the other black and chrome highlights on the bike.

The headlight is magnificent, and the LED light with Harley Davidson embossed through the centre is cool. While we weren’t sure about the front fairing at first, it all makes delightful sense from the rider’s seat.

Ergonomically, the CVO Road Glide is brilliant. Yours truly is approximately 180cm, with a long torso and a decent portion of gut and shorter limbs. The handlebars are in perfect reach and the floor boards work well, allowing for stretching in the saddle on long rides.

2023 Harley-Davidson CVO Road Glide -rear suspension adjuster
2023 Harley-Davidson CVO Road Glide – rear suspension adjuster

The controls are new for 2023 and give a more contemporary feel to the flowing lines of the motorcycle. Simplicity remains key, with buttons that are large and easy to engage. The infotainment joystick is gone, following the introduction of new electronics.

The dash is now a 12.2-inch touchscreen display, which replaces the previous analogue gauges and puts music and navigation at your fingertips. It supports Apple CarPlay too, although you’ll need your headset to use it.

Sound can be delivered from a paired Bluetooth device, straight into the rider’s helmet or via Stage Two Fosgate speakers, which do an admirable job. We chose the latter option so we could share our quality music taste with the youth of today.

It’s a community service for the greater good of mankind. While we’re talking tech, we really have to wonder why there’s no adaptive cruise control on a bike that costs this much. It’s a definite missed opportunity.

On the road and caught in a storm, we had the opportunity to test something new on the hefty 393kg cruiser too. Selectable ride modes. A first for Harley-Davidson, it was a no brainer to flick the bike into Rain mode to see how it handled the wet.

infotainment/dash
2023 Harley-Davidson CVO Road Glide

For the record, Rain mode worked a treat and made the ride home in less than perfect conditions hassle free. Power for the 2023 Harley-Davidson CVO Road Glide comes from that 121 cubic inch engine we mentioned earlier. It now features variable valve timing.

That translates to 86kW and 183Nm from the 1977cc  powerplant. In real world terms, that’s better than what a 114 Milwaukee Eight would produce with a Stage 3 Screamin Eagle motor kit installed. Importantly, power delivery is smooth and effortless.

The VVT and new intake tract help improve fuel economy as well, and even riding in Sport mode will see you average 400km from a single tank. With the rain gone, it was time to get the big Glide onto some of our favourite twisty roads on the NSW Central Coast.

It’s in these conditions that the Road Glide shines, and in 20 plus years of riding Harley-Davidsons, this writer is happy to say this is the best handling cruiser the bike maker has ever produced.

The smile and expletive-laden outburst coming from underneath my helmet probably shouldn’t be repeated here, but it’s safe to say we were amazed how planted it feels exiting corners with a fist full of throttle.

2023 Harley-Davidson CVO Road Glide
2023 Harley-Davidson CVO Road Glide

The suspension setup includes a 47mm inverted front fork, with dual emulsion units featuring remote preload and threaded preload fitted on the left and right on the rear of the bike. How this nigh on 400kg bike changes direction the way it does, is mind blowing.

The CVO Road Glide scores a 32-degree lean angle both sides, but it feels much better than that, with real effort required for the floor boards to kiss the bitumen as you ride through tight corners.

Stopping is just as impressive, with twin 320mm discs with Brembo four piston callipers fitted up front. The rear also performs well and the overall braking package is an improvement on other touring bikes in the current Line up.

If there’s a sticking point, it’s the price, at $62,495 ride away in the colour tested here, or $70,305 for the completely sold out Whiskey Neat version. While there’s no doubt this bike is a game changer, it could be a bridge too far for some.

But, we also understand the pricing reflects the technology and development that have gone into this bike. And yes, it’s a lot of money, but let’s take a minute to put it all into perspective.

2023 Harley-Davidson CVO Road Glide
2023 Harley-Davidson CVO Road Glide

The 2012 CVO Electra Glide, an example of which yours truly actually owned, cost a tad over $63K new. Taking that into consideration, we’ll let you decide if 2023 CVO Road Glide represents value. For us, if we could afford one, it’d already be in the garage.

For more information on Harley-Davidson’s latest Custom Vehicle Operations show piece, talk to your local dealership, or visit their Harley-Davidson website.

Our test bike was provided by Harley-Davidson Australia for review purposes.

REVIEW OVERVIEW

Riding experience
10
Style and comfort
9.5
Braking and handling
9.5
Overall bike performance
9.5
Value for money
9

SUMMARY

Pros - engine performance; handling; rider ergonomics; technology package.
Cons - price point will be a bridge too far for some; suspension adjustment knob is poorly placed, no adaptive cruise control.
Andrew Jenkin
Andrew Jenkin
Andrew Jenkin is the ride editor at Exhaust Notes Australia, founding editor of Two Wheel Addicts, a contributor at Bike Review and panel judge for Harley Davidson's Breakout Boss competition. Andrew has a love for anything on two wheels whether that be sports, naked or adventure bikes, with a guilty pleasure for cruisers.

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<strong>Pros -</strong> engine performance; handling; rider ergonomics; technology package.<br> <strong>Cons -</strong> price point will be a bridge too far for some; suspension adjustment knob is poorly placed, no adaptive cruise control.2023 Harley-Davidson CVO Road Glide (bike review)