2023 is a significant milestone for Milwaukee’s own Harley-Davidson, who happen to be ringing in 120 years of cranking out all-American V-twin machinery right in the good ol’ US of A. That anniversary deserves a hearty bash of its own, which the Motor Company threw at its hometown—a city brimming with baggers, brats, and breweries, as far as the eye can see. But what turns our heads is the radical update to the 2023 Harley-Davidson CVO Street Glide and CVO Road Glide models. Save for the frame, the top-shelf of H-D’s Grand American Touring lineup is all new and sporting huge changes across the board.
Harley-Davidson’s Custom Vehicle Operations (CVO) models represent the MoCo’s best of the best, from performance to technology to luxurious finishing. Those points are foundational to CVO models. 2023 brings massive updates to the 45-degree V-twin powerplant, much-needed chassis improvements, an all-new infotainment system, and styling set to steer future efforts.
We packed our bags and joined H-D for its 120th Homecoming hoopla, where we had a chance to sample the 2023 Harley-Davidson CVO Street Glide in its natural habitat, exploring Midwestern country roads and taking in every fried cheese curd along the way. For those wondering about the CVO Road Glide, we became reacquainted with SG’s sister machine on the same trip, and we’ll have more on that soon. For now, let’s get on with the fast facts.
- You begin a Harley-Davidson review with the engine, of course, and the Milwaukee-Eight VVT 121 is the brand’s latest centerpiece. We’ll dive into the technical bits in a moment, but we need to focus on what this 121ci (1977cc) mill represents, and that’s progress. Torque is the cornerstone of American V-twin motorcycling, which sees the Big Twin pumping out 139 ft-lbs of torque at 3000 rpm and 115 horsepower at 4500 rpm. Those numbers are impressive, but the takeaway is how crisp, clean, and powerful the pull is anywhere in the revs—we can thank Variable Valve Timing (VVT) technology for that characteristic. The sheer on-demand grunt is exceptional, and so, too, is its smoothness, thanks to new counterbalancing strategies that leave just enough rumble on the pallet to let you know it’s one of Milwaukee’s best.
- New tech comes to the Milwaukee-Eight architecture. Starting at the top, the CVO Street Glide boasts a 50-percent-larger airbox than the Heavy Breather intake, yet it is tucked away from the rider’s leg. From there, air works through a straighter intake tract to a larger 58mm throttle body relocated between the V, passing through redesigned intake ports and valve seats that allow greater flow, finally leading to an updated combustion chamber. Together, those changes increase the compression ratio compared to the M8 117 while improving power and fuel economy stats. VVT operates the solo cam featuring higher lift and longer duration via 40 degrees of adjustment, taking much credit for the 121’s broad power distribution.
- Cooler heads prevail. Summertime in the Midwest is synonymous with humidity, and new liquid-cooling strategies go a long way in dealing with radiant heat. New cooling channels in the revised heads play a significant role here. A pump feeds coolant to the typically hotter rear cylinder first, then cycles to the front cylinder bank and back to the discrete radiator parked behind the front wheel. The obligatory plumbing isn’t apparent for the most part, though the CVO Street Glide betrays that thread with a filler tube on the left side.
- Ride modes and much more meet the eye. Three preset ride modes—Sport, Road, and Rain—adjust throttle maps, engine maps, engine braking, and lean-angle-sensitive TC settings in one fell swoop. Naturally, Sport provides the zestiest throttle response and heaviest engine braking, letting the Big Twin flex its muscle, though the initial roll-on is a touch overzealous. Otherwise, the fueling is excellent. Road mode chills things appropriately, and Rain cools it off entirely. Two customizable modes let you tailor settings as needed. Tapping into the lovely V-twin power via the Sport engine map and adding some throttle softening is my preferred configuration. TC can be disabled entirely at the left switchgear, as is tradition when looking to leave your mark at bike night. Cruise control, drag-torque slip control, hill hold control, and cornering ABS with linked braking round out the rider aids.
- Shifting is still a hearty affair, and a bit easier these days. There’s still a chunky, masculine quality to the six-speed gearbox, though a new shift drum makes finding neutral less of a chore than other big-inch H-D transmissions. A new gear position indicator displays what gear the Cruise Drive is in, even with the clutch lever pulled in—no more perplexing disappearing act.
- The modernized batwing fairing is the tip of the styling iceberg. The fork-mounted batwing design was introduced in 1969 and is an H-D fixture, sticking within its well-defined lines since its inception. There have been changes over the decades, but nothing as brash as the sleek and back-swept appearance seen here.
- From front to back, the new CVO Street Glide has a whole new vibe. Harley-Davidson is known for aesthetic consistency; depending on who you ask, that’s either a net positive or negative. A vital goal of this year’s CVO Street Glide and Road Glide was to create greater visual distancing between iterations, which has remained quite linear over the years. While the fairing certainly sets the tone, the tear-drop fuel tank retains classic cues and adds subtle twists with an alluring crease on each side, promoting the CVO range’s sharper looks. That thought process extends to the high-and-tight saddlebags, ditching the extended bags found on prior CVO models, with the shapelier design accommodating a slightly greater volume.
- Beyond the styling team’s vision, there’s functionality baked into the 2023 Harley-Davidson CVO Street Glide’s fairing. There is a claimed 60 percent reduction in helmet buffeting compared to prior iterations—we’ll run with that number since the redesigned fairing and windshield create a turbulence-free air pocket. Adjustable skirt deflectors on the fork fine-tune airflow and work well with the massive Splitstream central vent; it’s a noticeable difference. Sweeping integrated turn indicator light strips replace the longstanding bullet turn signals, sitting abreast of a new main LED headlamp to create an eagle silhouette. Fresh-faced as it might be, it’s still unmistakably Street Glide.
- The fairing also has a roomy storage drawer. The 10-by-8-inch space accommodates your mobile device with room to spare. It also includes a USB-C connection, easily integrating your phone with the bike to stream music and enjoy other functionalities. Be aware, it isn’t lockable.
- An all-new cockpit layout and infotainment system make its touring brethren seem Stone Age. Gone are the traditional round clocks and basic LCD readouts of yesteryear, replaced by a 12.3-inch diagonal touchscreen TFT display with information directly in your line of sight. Three customizable layouts—Sport, Tour, and Cruise—are easily explored by the extensive switch gear buttons found at each hand, although those wearing smaller gloves might find reaching some of the controls a stretch. Common forms of connectivity, including Apple CarPlay, are available; disappointingly, Android Auto has bowed out of motorcycle support. A Bluetooth module is standard, so riders can use voice commands for navigation and other niceties, not unlike what’s seen in the automotive space. Let’s hope that the rest of the touring lineup receives these updates, as the old school instantly feels decidedly dated.
- An updated seat greets us on the 2023 Harley-Davidson CVO Street Glide. As new as the general cockpit layout is, tried-and-true Street Glide ergonomics are still in play. The saddle is reshaped and is said to rotate the rider’s hips forward, reducing stress from the spine, although adding some shock travel does result in a marginally higher seat height of 28 inches compared to select SG models. The Street Glide and Road Glide are birds of a feather, though the SG’s handlebar pulls the rider closer to the fairing, resulting in a better front-end feel. Crosswinds can influence the fork-mounted Street Glide fairing, and there is a little extra heft in the fork itself, but it’s negligible for me. Excellent wind protection, a comfy seat, and floorboards—what else do you need for a cross-country excursion?
- Rockford Fosgate Stage II 500-watt audio system is here to kick out the jams. In a word, the dual 6.5-inch three-way fairing-loaded speakers are impressive. Naturally, a seven-band EQ is available to tweak things to your ear’s desire, though presets are provided for people who aren’t audiophiles. In short, the sound system is excellent. Luckily, the new 500-watt amp will help owners take things further via optional six-by-nine-inch saddlebag speakers.
- New Showa suspension brings the 2023 Harley-Davidson CVO Street Glide where it needs to be. Joining the party for the first time on a touring model is a non-adjustable 47mm inverted fork offering 4.6 inches of travel, accommodating niceties such as radial-mounted calipers—big stuff in the American V-twin world. The shocks have spring preload (lock-and-collar on the right side, with a remote preload adjuster on the left for fine-tuning) and rebound damping adjustment. The suspension offers improved ride quality compared to other H-D baggers via appreciably enhanced damping, soaking up rough stuff nicely. The stiffer inverted fork and slightly higher rear-ride height add a touch of enthusiasm when cornering to the SG’s gentlemanly handling traits—willing, stable, and capable through the few midwestern bends we found. The big bagger gains a single degree of lean angle (up to 32), and the Dunlops confidently use it all.
- We can give a slight nod to the weight loss regime for the CVO SG. Shedding 31 pounds is nothing to sneeze at, which brings this touring machine’s curb weight to 838 pounds. We handled the new lightweight aluminum forged triple clamp units during the tech presentation, shaving off seven whole pounds over prior iterations. Engineers nipped and clipped things where they could; tidying wiring under the fairing saves a few ounces, for example. Lastly, the six-gallon fuel tank uses lighter gauge steel and maintains its capacity. The new bolt-on chassis bits are doing their work; as they say, it takes a village.
- Maybe Harley’s efforts in MotoAmerica’s King Of The Baggers racing series are rubbing off on the brand. Besides the inverted fork and weight reduction, we’re getting radial-mounted four-piston Brembo calipers gripping larger 320mm rotors. Feel at the lever is a cut above, as you might expect, with a modest two-finger pull handily halting the giant beast. That’s not even the part I’m most excited about—it’s finally adjustable, hallelujah! At the rear, a single four-piston caliper and 300mm rotor function as effectively as ever.
- Suspension credit where credit is due, but let’s take it further, H-D. There is no doubt that the chassis is a cut above the prior generation. However, I won’t mince words here saying that the entire touring lineup should have met this bar years ago—hopefully, the non-CVOs will receive the same kit soon. Adjustability is limited, but let’s skip over the manual clickers as the CVO is primed for semi-active suspension. Features such as automatic ride height adjustment and semi-active damping entirely fit the bagger bill—all commonplace among European and Japanese tourers of this caliber. The American V-twin touring class hasn’t embraced such advancements yet, and the MoCo doesn’t have to look too far beyond its R&D department, seeing as these features have been proven successful on the Pan America ADV platform.
- Details matter to CVO designers, and buyers. Carrying H-D’s highest three-letter honor comes with an expectation that finishes will be immaculate and not a single fine point is missed, even in the “base” Dark Platinum with Bright Smoked Satin Pinstriping colorway. Those who demand even more opulence will opt for the jaw-dropping $6000 hand-painted Whiskey Neat/Raven Metallic Two-Tone livery. In this area, the Bar-and-Shield brand tends to walk away from the competition, with elegantly designed machined cast-aluminum wire-spoke wheels and eye-catching elements found at every contour and curve.
- The 2023 Harley-Davidson CVO Street Glide raises the stakes for American V-twin touring. Big miles, big twins, and big personality is the bread and butter of any red-blooded American V-twin touring machine; it’s something that the Milwaukee-based brand has down pat with its CVO Street Glide. Now, the VVT-equipped Big Twin is a shining light upon the hill, illustrating that immense torque and elegance can travel in the same circles. Meanwhile, longstanding chassis shortcomings can safely be removed from the complaints list, even if we’d like to see semi-active suspension join the party, and the new infotainment takes a massive step forward. These are features we hope and expect the wider bagger families will inherit in some fashion. One fact remains, the Street Glide’s future is looking bright.
Photography by Brian J. Nelson and Kevin Wing
2023 Harley-Davidson CVO Street Glide SpecsENGINE
- Type: Milwaukee-Eight VVT 121 V-twin
- Displacement: 121 cubic inches (1977cc)
- Bore x stroke: 4.075” x 4.625”
- Maximum torque: 139 ft-lbs @ 3000 rpm
- Maximum power: 115 horsepower @ 4500 rpm
- Fueling: EFI w/ 58mm throttle body
- Compression ratio: 11.4:1
- Valvetrain: Single cam w/ pushrods; 4 vpc
- Exhaust: 2-1-2 dual
- Cooling: Air, liquid, and oil cooling
- Lubrication: Pressurized dry sump
- Transmission: 6-speed Cruise Drive
- Clutch: Mechanically actuated wet multiplate w/ assist and slipper functions
- Primary drive: Chain
- Final drive: Belt
- Frame: Mild tubular steel w/ two-piece stamped and welded backbone
- Front suspension; travel: Non-adjustable Showa inverted 49mm Dual Bending Valve fork; 4.6 inches
- Rear suspension; travel: Rebound-damping and spring-preload adjustable Showa emulsion shocks; 3 inches
- Wheels: Combo Cast Laced
- Front wheel: 19 x 3.5
- Rear wheel: 18 x 5
- Front tire: 130/60 x 19; Dunlop Harley-Davidson Series D408F
- Rear tire: 180/55 x 18; Dunlop Harley-Davidson Series D407T
Front brakes: 320mm floating discs w/ radially mounted Brembo 4-piston calipers
- Rear brake: 300mm fixed discs w/ Brembo 4-piston caliper
- ABS: Standard
DIMENSIONS and CAPACITIES
- Wheelbase: 64 inches
- Seat height: 28.4 inches
- Rake: 26 degrees
- Fork angle: 30 degrees
- Trail: 6.7 inches
- Fuel capacity: 6 gallons
- Estimated fuel consumption: 45 mpg
- Curb weight: 838 pounds
- Colors: Dark Platinum w/ Pinstripe; Whiskey Neat w/ Raven Metallic (+$6000)
2023 Harley-Davidson CVO Street Glide Price: $44,199 (MSRP plus Surcharge)