Best Cruiser / Bagger of 2023

Dennis Chung
by Dennis Chung

Best Cruiser / Bagger of 2023: Harley-Davidson CVO Road Glide and Street Glide

When we sat around to deliberate our MOBO awards, the discussion over the cruiser / bagger category was relatively brief. There were only a few new models that qualified this year, and one of them was a clear head and shoulders above the rest. Well, I guess technically two, because we gave the nod to the new Harley-Davidson CVO Road Glide and CVO Street Glide.

Whether it’s with a shark-nose fairing or a batwing, the new Custom Vehicle Operation platform gives us the latest in Harley-Davidson’s R&D, and very likely, a look at what to expect from the company’s future touring models.

The redesigned fairings with their integrated lighting and “floating” windshield may take some getting used to, but Harley-Davidson did a pretty good job of introducing modern technology and aerodynamic improvements without moving too far away from their iconic profiles.

When Harley-Davidson started introducing its Milwaukee-Eight 117 into its ST models, we figured it was a matter of time before the CVOs got a bigger engine. Our expectations were correct, but Harley-Davidson went a bit further, not just bumping up the displacement to 121 ci (1,977cc), but also updating its (partial) liquid-cooling system, and introducing a variable valve timing system.

In his review of the new CVOs, Evans Brasfield found the Milwaukee-Eight VVT 121 revved quicker and smoother than previous Harley Big Twins he had ridden. Harley-Davidson also added an electronic package with five selectable ride modes (three pre-set plus two custom), plus lean sensitive linked brakes, ABS, traction control and drag torque slip control.

Add in an updated infotainment system with a TFT display, more than 30 pounds of weight savings, and, finally, some decent suspension travel, and the result is our 2023 Cruiser / Bagger MOBO winner.

Of course, the biggest thing we didn’t like is the price, but that’s part and parcel with the CVO line. Let’s see what happens when some of these updates come to other Harley-Davidson models, and whether The Motor Company will have a repeat next year.

Best Cruiser / Bagger of 2023 Runner-up: Indian Sport Chief

by Troy Siahaan

You know a sure-fire way to impress us with your cruiser? Give it some suspension travel. All the style in the world doesn’t mean anything if the ride is atrocious (hats off to you, hardtail riders). With the new Indian Sport Chief, Indian has done exactly that. Not only do you have the good looks that come with adding a bikini fairing to a Chief, but now it also has Fox shocks and a KYB fork for some usable travel to absorb bumps in the road.

Add to that the 116ci Thunderstroke V-Twin and you have a potent combination of style, performance, and muscle any sport cruiser fan can enjoy. Granted, I still think the Scout engine and/or platform would be a better platform for the Sport treatment, but maybe Indian still has that project up its sleeve.

Nonetheless, the Sport Chief delivers beyond just in suspension travel. The added length also gives it impressive handling and cornering abilities (for a cruiser), and Brembo brake components bring it down to a halt nicely, too. It gets a few points taken away for wafting some engine heat to the rider despite the rear cylinder shutting down at a stop, but there’s something fun about exploiting that V-Twin torque, and the Sport Chief is ready for shenanigans when you are.

Become a insider. Get the latest motorcycle news first by subscribing to our newsletter here.

Dennis Chung
Dennis Chung

Dennis has been a part of the team since 2008, and through his tenure, has developed a firm grasp of industry trends, and a solid sense of what's to come. A bloodhound when it comes to tracking information on new motorcycles, if there's a new model on the horizon, you'll probably hear about it from him first.

More by Dennis Chung

Join the conversation
2 of 32 comments
  • Joey Joey on Dec 15, 2023

    I have been RIDING FOR OVER 50 years non stop and am GLAD to see HARLEY move up with the NEW TECHNOLOGY it will only add to the MYSTIC of WHAT A HARLEY DAVIDSON IS AN AWESOME REFINED MOTORCYCLE

  • John Stockman John Stockman on Dec 25, 2023

    There are SO many different brands, styles, genre, etc., there is a bike for just about anyone who wants to ride. From beginner a well-trained veteran, what's that saying about a bike for every butt. My disability, a rare genetic defect where my immune system destroyed all my joint cartilage, kept me off a motorcycle from the age of 12 to 26. I had many joint replacement surgeries from 1980 to 1993. I was able to get my first street bike in May 1983 and it was a huge deal for me. I started out on an early 80s KZ250 Kawasaki. I still had the challenges that will be with me for life, but getting to the point that I could ride again was a dream come true. A dream that many did not share, so much so that I kept it to myself, especially from my orthopedic surgeon. I'd find a used bike that needed some love and repairs, fix it up, mod it to fit me and ride it for a few years. Up until 2008 when I got my first new bike, a Ural Tourist. I applaud anyone who can pay up for a CVO, even more so if they've got a garage with other bikes at that price point.