2024 Harley-Davidson CVO Road Glide ST Review – First Ride
When racing improves the breed
You know the Harley CVO story by now. It starts with the highest-performing production bike The Motor Company can make, and then we see bits and pieces make their way down the standard production line in the years to come. But what trickles down to the CVO models in the first place? Historically, the answer would have been nothing much, but ever since Harley went head-first into racing the King of the Bagger series with MotoAmerica, and amplifying its rivalry with Indian in the process, there’s now a new answer.
2024 Harley-Davidson CVO Road Glide ST
Harley's first complete redesign of the Road Glide since it started Bagger racing, the CVO Road Glide ST is the closest connection between the production line and its racing efforts. But does it make any sense?
Editor Score: 83.0%
- Torque monster of an engine with impressive overrev and an inspiring intake growl
- Huge TFT display is a marvel to look at
- Undeniable road presence
- Lighter weight is great, but it's still 800 lbs
- 3 inches of rear suspension travel is better than before, but still not enough
- Is "performance bagger" an oxymoron?
The 2024 Harley-Davidson CVO Road Glide ST is a fresh take on one of Harley’s best-selling models, piggybacking off the complete ground-up redesign of the touring models that’s 50 years in the making. Separate reviews of the standard Road Glide and Street Glide will come soon, but for the general gist of the changes, see Dennis Chung’s First Look pieces on the Road and Street Glides here, and the CVO Road Glide ST here to get yourself up to speed.
Crucially, this is the first complete model revamp of the Road Glide since Harley started its bagger racing program. This racing mindset proved to have a heavy impact on the decisions that went into the CVO Road Glide.
Let’s Break It Down
The First Look stories above give you the nuts and bolts of what’s new for the CVO Road Glide ST, but it doesn’t give you the backstories behind the decisions, nor the influence bagger racing has had on the bike.
The biggest question mark is clearly the engine. Aside from the 131ci crate engine, the 121 is the biggest engine to date in production Harley models. Why would Harley ditch the VVT engine already? Keyboard critics will say it’s because customers were having issues with it, but Harley says this is a key area where bagger racing played a pivotal role in the direction of the bike. This is a performance bagger after all, and its engine should reflect that. As such, top end power was the priority, and VVT wasn’t conducive to that goal. You can choose to believe who you want.
“To get more power,” says Chief Engineer Scott Nash, “we have to shove more air into it.” So, gone is the VVT, and in its place is a high-performance camshaft and a new air intake Harley says flows 26% more air than the previous airbox used on the M8 VVT 121. All this pushes the power curve further to the right, and Nash admits the new 121 High Output engine loses a little bit of low-end torque compared to the VVT 121, but in return the HO engine makes 127 horsepower at 4,900 rpm and 145 lb-ft of torque at 4,000 rpm – both numbers are higher than before. The new engine also gets a slightly higher redline, from 5,600 rpm to 5,900 rpm. Lastly, losing VVT also sheds about two pounds from the engine weight.
When it comes to design, Brad Richards, Harley’s VP of Design, said, “In my 10 years at the company, this is the most exciting bike I’ve designed.” Because, even if you’re just a passing fan of racing, or not a fan at all, it should be easy to comprehend how the thrill of competition can ignite a fire under you. In this case, Richards channeled that energy into making the CVO Road Glide ST look intimidating and hold a commanding presence even (especially?) sitting still.
Little touches from the factory racing team include the “Screaming Eagle” graphic beginning on the edge of the fairing before it then bleeds over seamlessly onto the fuel tank. And if there’s one thing Harley knows how to nail, it’s paint and finishes. With the CVO Road Glide, you get two color options: Golden White Pearl or Raven Metallic. Both get red accents on the engine because, as we all know, red is the fastest color. Pictures do neither color justice, as they really do pop in the sun.
The other elephant in the room is the attention Harley’s bringing to the Road Glide’s diet plan. Yes, it’s funny to talk about weight reduction and Harley-Davidson in the same sentence. But at the same time, who’s complaining about shedding weight when a bike is this big to begin with? This was an area of importance for the CVO Road Glide. In addition to the titanium mufflers and carbon fiber bits, both the oil pan and fuel tank are formed with lighter or thinner materials, the floorboards are more compact than the standard model, and the wheels and front wave rotors also bring unsprung weight down a little. The dry weight of the CVO Road Glide is 800 lbs. Nobody’s saying that’s light, but it’s still 25 lbs lighter than the 2023 model and over 60 lbs lighter than the 2022!
Harley really wanted to bring home the connection between Kyle Wyman’s KOTB race bike and the CVO Road Glide ST, so the assembled journalists rode the bike exclusively at the outer road course at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. No, it really doesn’t make sense to ride a bagger around a racetrack, so the course was modified a little to include some stopping points and even a series of U-turns. The point was to show off the new throttle mappings and how agile the bike is, especially at low speeds.
As I walked up to my black CVO, I had to admit to myself how much of a presence the big Road Glide made. I like it. I think it looks bold. I can’t see myself ever owning one, but I definitely understand the appeal. Picking the bike off the sidestand takes a good swing of the arms and hips, but it’s been a few years since I last rode a production Harley bagger, making it impossible to really attest to the weight savings.
Any motorcycle with as passionate a following as Harley-Davidson elicits some kind of emotion, and no company has tapped into that emotion better than Harley. Thumbing the starter begins the slow, almost stalled, process of those giant pistons lumbering up and down, struggling to build compression before the twin spark plugs light the party to life. The 45-degree Vee angle produces that iconic, nearly-trademarked Harley thump.
Starting the day off in the Sport riding mode, newly-signed Harley factory rider James Rispoli led us off onto the track at a leisurely pace to get acclimated. The signature clunk into first gear was preceded by a surprisingly light clutch pull (for a Harley anyway) before we took off. And despite just how big the bike is, once you get moving, the big bagger carries itself surprisingly well. At least partial credit goes to the revised seating position of the CVO. The seat is slightly reshaped and the bars are even slightly flatter and closer to the rider compared to the standard Road Glide. You need all the leverage you can get to move this bike around.
VVT might be gone on these new Glides, but with 145 lb-ft. on tap, it’s not like the bike struggles to get up and move. The challenge becomes taming that power and making it easy to control with the right hand. As it turns out, Sport Mode actually has the most aggressive throttle mapping available. Intended for stoplight-to-stoplight drag runs with the bike mostly upright, full power is at your call right away. That said, credit to Harley engineers for still making the connection between the right wrist and the rear tire completely manageable. The initial jump off the line is strong, with power through the revs building naturally.
As we approached the U-turn section of the course, I was pleasantly surprised at how well the three brakes – yes, you definitely need all three for maximum braking on something this big – were able to shed speed. At least at first. There’s not a lot of bite in the pads, but then again, I’m not sure how much of that was because of the sheer heft being slowed from 90 mph down to 20. Combined with the massive amounts of engine braking each time the shifter clunks down a gear, the Road Glide sheds speed nicely.
But the more impressive bit comes next, as the Glide tips in smoothly for the first U-turn. Full lock on the bars isn’t needed, just a good turn-in, eyes pointed up and at the exit, and a gentle drag of rear brake, clutch, and throttle to make it. Carry that momentum again for the right U-turn and be careful not to spin the rear tire sideways when getting back on the gas and on down the road. This nimbleness for such a huge motorcycle is really impressive, and I think I understand now why I see a lot of Harleys not only competing in the police force skills challenge – but winning.
This first session was a good dip to get the feet wet, but after touting the race bike connection, the real test would come in Track and Track Plus modes. Both modes use the exact same throttle mapping as Wyman’s race bike, which actually provides less power at the first few degrees of throttle opening compared to Sport mode, so you reduce the chance of spinning the tire wildly while still leaned over. ABS and traction control settings are also reduced in both (there is no setting to turn them off entirely), and Track Plus mode completely disables linked braking, while Track mode only turns off the linked braking from rear to front.
The difference in throttle mapping between Sport and Track is noticeable quickly – because they feel like the inverse of each other. Just as it was described, the initial throttle application in Track mode is a little softer than in Sport. But once you get past the first few degrees of throttle opening, the full force of the 145 lb-ft and 127 horses comes at you hot and heavy. It’s an absolute kick in the pants that almost makes you forget you’re riding a bagger. Almost. The rush of power is addicting and the throaty growl from the intake sucking in all that air adds to the sensation, but with peak power coming at nearly 5,000 rpm, and redline kicking in shortly after, you get a quick reminder that you’re on a big Twin with less than half the revs of practically anything else you’d put on a racetrack.
Forget quickshifters and autoblippers, rowing through the gears is all done the old fashioned way and rowing up through the gears means you get to continue feeling the thrill of winding the engine out (there’s a surprising amount of overrev, too) and hearing it roar. If you feather the clutch and rear brake just right on downshifts, it’s surprisingly willing to kick the rear end out into a slideways drift. You might need to also, because as we got more comfortable with the bike and the track, naturally the pace started to pick up. Every one of those laps included hard braking from the fastest part of the track to the tight U-turn section. Yes, the brakes did start to fade, but never to the point where they were gone completely. The (adjustable) brake lever would simply inch closer to the bar and stay there. Considering the speeds we were going, the weight of the bike, and how hard I was grabbing the lever, it was surprisingly consistent.
I now know that 145 lb-ft of torque is enough to get my heart rate pumping with fun. Except my heart jumps even more when I have a momentary lapse of the Glide’s limitations and start scraping hard parts. As should come as a surprise to absolutely nobody reading this, the Road Glide in stock trim is not a race bike. It does take a pretty good tug on the bars to get it to lean over at speed, and clearly ground clearance is low. It didn’t take much lean to scrape the peg feelers down and discover its limitations.
To their credit, the 47mm inverted Showa forks and remote reservoir shocks do a nice job of controlling the bike. Over a particular section of the course, there’s a gentle left-right kink with undulations in the road. I could feel the fully adjustable, DLC coated forks extend over the undulations before compressing back through its 4.6 inches of travel before settling back down. The same goes for the twin-tube, fully adjustable, remote reservoir Showa shocks. The problem is, you only have a whopping – get this – three inches of travel to work with. I could feel the Road Glide top out at one end, then bottom out at the other. Granted, that’s more rear travel than baggers have had before, but it’s not nearly enough to provide a comfortable ride. Harley continues to say the limited rear travel is to keep the seat height accessible, but we’re simply not buying it. In this case, it is possible to have your cake and eat it too.
Harley has stepped up its game when it comes to infotainment, and the Glide (both standard and CVO) comes with a new 12.3-inch TFT touchscreen display. In short, it’s an incredible display, with a big, bright font and easy-to-read gauges. It’s beautiful to look at, but also easy to read at a glance if you need. The touchscreen works with both gloved and naked hands, though it’s optimized to work with the controls on the bar. The right switch gear controls the audio settings while the left handles basically everything else. You can also change the display on the screen to one of three modes: Cruise, Sport, or Tour.
All three display modes are 100% digital with no analog gauges at all. Cruise is the more traditional display, with a round tach and speedo in their natural spots, with a fuel gauge and battery voltage display flanking either end. Sport centers and enlarges the tach and places it right in the middle of the screen. A digital speed display then sits in the center of the tach. Trip and/or entertainment info flanks either side – or you can turn them both off and just focus on the tach and speedo in the middle. The last display, Tour, is the most impressive in my opinion. Here, the center is dominated by a map and the embedded navigation can give you turn-by-turn directions – assuming you are using Apple Carplay. Androids can still play music and take calls, but Android Auto is not supported. Harley was quick to point out this wasn’t Harley’s decision but Android’s. Opt for the base Road Glide or Street Glide and it'll cost $349.95 to activate the nav.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the Rockford Fosgate Stage II audio system with 3-way, 6.5-inch fairing speakers and a 4-channel, 500-watt amplifier. I’m sure it works well, especially considering that’s double the watts from last year’s bike, but I didn’t actually sample it to find out.
The Last Word
Look. This CVO Road Glide ST is a head scratcher. On the one hand, I applaud Harley’s decision to lean in on the performance side of things and make a more focused Road Glide that emulates its racing cousin. On the other, there’s still the fact that it’s an 800-pound bagger with low ground clearance, three inches of rear suspension travel, and I’ll say it one more time – eight hundred pounds (actually, 838 lbs ready-to-ride) to carry around.
I’m clearly not embedded in Harley culture or the lifestyle, so I freely admit that I might be missing the point. However, at $42,999, we’re not talking chump change either. For that price, you expect the best The Motor Company has to offer. In this regard, the engine is undoubtedly a beast, the TFT display is one of, if not the, best in the business today, and, at least in the black livery anyway, the bike is a statement to look at. If this is what you come to expect from a big Twin bagger, the CVO Road Glide ST is sure to please. If you’re still left scratching your head, maybe spending $25,999 for the standard Road Glide with the 117 engine is a better option. With the price difference, you can pick and choose the Screamin’ Eagle upgrades you want and make the bike your own.
2024 Harley-Davidson CVO Road Glide ST
Starts at $42,999
Milwaukee-Eight 121 High Output
Bore x Stroke
4.075 in. x 4.625 in. (103.5 mm x 117.5 mm)
121 ci (1,277cc)
Electronic Sequential Port Fuel Injection (ESPFI)
2-1-2 dual exhaust, Titanium mufflers with carbon fiber end caps
127 hp at 4,900 rpm (claimed)
145 lb-ft. at 4,000 rpm (claimed)
33° right, 32° left
44 mpg (claimed)
Chain, 34/46 ratio
47 mm Inverted 1x1 Front Forks with adjustable preload, compression damping and rebound damping
Emulsion suspension with adjustable preload, compression damping and rebound damping
Dual Brembo M4.32 four-piston radially mounted calipers, 320mm wave rotors
Single axially-mounted four-piston Brembo caliper, 300mm rotor
Black, 7-spoke Cast Aluminum
Black, 7-spoke Cast Aluminum
Dunlop Harley-Davidson Series, bias blackwall 130/60B19 M/C 61H
Dunlop Harley-Davidson Series, bias blackwall 180/55B18 M/C 80H
LED headlamp, tail/stop, front signal lights and rear turn signals
12.3-inch TFT touchscreen, Skyline OS, two 6.5-inch speakers, 125 watts per channel, AM/FM Radio, USB-C connection, Apple CarPlay, and Bluetooth
Cornering Enhanced ABS (C-ABS), Cornering Enhanced ELB (C-ELB), Cornering Enhanced TCS (C-TCS), Cornering DragTorque Slip Control System (C-DSCS), Vehicle Hold Control (VHC), Tire PRessure Monitoring System (TPMS),
Seat Height (Laden)
838 pounds (claimed)
Raven Metallic with black trim, Golden White Pearl with black trim
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Troy's been riding motorcycles and writing about them since 2006, getting his start at Rider Magazine. From there, he moved to Sport Rider Magazine before finally landing at Motorcycle.com in 2011. A lifelong gearhead who didn't fully immerse himself in motorcycles until his teenage years, Troy's interests have always been in technology, performance, and going fast. Naturally, racing was the perfect avenue to combine all three. Troy has been racing nearly as long as he's been riding and has competed at the AMA national level. He's also won multiple club races throughout the country, culminating in a Utah Sport Bike Association championship in 2011. He has been invited as a guest instructor for the Yamaha Champions Riding School, and when he's not out riding, he's either wrenching on bikes or watching MotoGP.
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