Harley Celebrates Its 120th Birthday With Seven Anniversary Models - And A Few Surprises

Troy Siahaan
by Troy Siahaan

Also, the Breakout is back and the Road Glide now comes in trike form.

Harley-Davidson turns 120 this year, and to celebrate model year 2023, The Motor Company has turned to its once-every-five-year playbook and unveiled seven limited-edition models to commemorate the occasion. Say hello to the:

  • Ultra Limited Anniversary
  • Tri Glide Ultra Anniversary
  • Street Glide Special Anniversary (Black Trim)
  • Road Glide Special Anniversary (Black Trim)
  • Fat Boy 114 Anniversary
  • Heritage Classic 114 Anniversary (Chrome Trim)
  • CVO Road Glide Limited

But that’s not all; for ’23, Harley is also gracing us with a few more models: the return of the Breakout, the Road Glide 3 Trike, the Nightster Special, and a restyled Freewheeler. More on all of those a little later.

Going back to the anniversary models, as you’d expect, all seven bikes will have special commemorative paint, finishes, and other details – but the CVO Road Glide Limited goes one step further. Being a CVO, its paint is even more special and unique. Plus, only 1,500 examples will be made for the entire world.

To give us more information about the amount of attention paid to all the ’23 models, Harley invited Motorcycle.com to listen in as Brad Richards and Mike Case, Harley’s lead designer and lead engineer, respectively, gave us the inside scoop to the intricate details that went into each bike.

Anniversary Special

Fun fact: the first year Harley celebrated its anniversary was 1954 – a year after it hit the big 5-0. Back then, the bikes got a special badge on the front fender and a special yellow color. Anniversaries were celebrated on and off after that, but it wasn’t until the 1980s that Harley took to its current tradition of celebrating every fifth birthday with something special.

As for the six 2023 Anniversary models (excluding the CVO), Richards explained that they all start with a base color called Heirloom Red. It’s a really deep gloss color. Then over that are panels outlined with a red pinstripe. Inside those panels is another, deeper red called Midnight Crimson Fade. “We really leaned into the fade technology with paints in the last few years,” says Richards as he explained how the style gained popularity internally and the paint team found ways to push the style further and further. Even the seats have oxblood inserts to match the red fade.

The CVO Road Glide takes this a step further with a livery unique to the other six anniversary models. With the CVO Road Glide, the base color is anniversary black. However, when the sun shines on it just right, it’s actually a blood red color. From there, you have inlaid panels outlined with hand-laid pinstriping. Inside the panels is a large eagle moving from front to back in Heirloom Red, with the head at the front of the bike, progressing to the bags and tail in the back. Richards says it’s super subtle, but now that you know to look for it in these photos, it may not be so subtle after all. An Alcantara seat with unique stitching and branding completes the look for the CVO Road Glide.

Breakout Is Back

For 2023, the Breakout makes a comeback in the US. In Europe, where it never left, it still sees a fairly significant overhaul. Long and low, with a fat 240-series rear wheel, Richards says it was, “first conceived as a modern chopper” and as such, is subject to changing trends over time. The previous version from 2018 had a darker image, with more blacked-out components, but Richards says he and his team are starting to notice a comeback in the chopper world’s favorite accessory: chrome.

The trend caught the team’s attention at various shows, as the cyclical trend of “what’s old is new again” circles back around. Black is lying dormant (it never really goes out of style) while chrome is back on its way up. With the ’23 Breakout, chrome is everywhere – from the forks to the exhaust, valve covers, and trim pieces. It’s still long and low with a fat rear tire, but the real distinctive features are the turbine wheels. The 26-spoke black/chrome design forces the eyes to stare at it. “It looks like it’s spinning even when it’s sitting still,” says Richards.

From a technical standpoint, customers didn’t like the small tank of the previous version, so now there’s a five-gallon tank – which is good, because it lets the rider enjoy the power from the Milwaukee-Eight 117 ci V-Twin for longer. The handlebar risers are taller and longer, closer to the rider, for a more upright riding position. The bars themselves are polished stainless steel to complement the look of the rest of the bike. Long and low, the Breakout’s 36º fork rake, combined with the 240-series rear tire, gives it plenty of straight line stability – not to mention plenty of attitude. The Breakout becomes the third Softail in Harley’s lineup to get the 117ci engine, noting its slant towards being a performance cruiser.

The Breakout will be available in Vivid Black, Black Denim, Atlas Silver, and Baja Orange (the same Baja Orange first seen on the Pan America).

Traction Control

The new year also sees the inclusion of electronic traction control as standard for the Fat Boy, Fat Bob, Breakout, and Low Rider S. It’s already standard on the Low Rider ST and Heritage Classic models. This marks the first time the Breakout, Low Rider S, and Low Rider ST have had the option of getting traction control.

Road Glide 3

For the first time, Harley-Davidson is building a trike version of the Road Glide – but it will only be available in limited markets: the US, Canada, Australia/New Zealand, and Japan. Sorry, Europe and the rest of the world. If that seems like it can’t be true because you’ve seen Road Glide trikes on the road already – all of those were made by somebody else. “Road Glide trikes have been done in the aftermarket, but now we’re making a factory version,” says Richards.

The thing that catches your eye first are the 18-inch rear wheels, a departure from the 15-inch wheels that are so popular on most aftermarket conversions. The bigger wheels are undeniably better looking and should provide better options for tires, too. Power comes from the Milwaukee-Eight 114 ci engine. Other features include the BOOM! Box GTS infotainment system, dual Daymaker LED headlights, and a bobtail rear fender for a classic hot rod look.

Interestingly, Richards told us that, despite the stereotype of trike riders being older folks, Harley surveys have revealed that there’s a greater popularity in the trike market from couples in their 20s and 30s. Maybe they’re looking for a safer way to ride together. “Or maybe they want a bigger canvas for customizing,” Richards theorized.

Michael Case, the lead engineer, gave his own interesting perspective from a technical point of view. “I’m a little embarrassed to say last year was my first time riding a trike,” says the 20-odd year veteran of the company. “But I was super impressed with the handling and fun factor [of the Road Glide].” Of course he has to say that, but since the development of the bike was under his scope, he was personally invested in making it enjoyable to ride.

He continues, “People don’t realize how much we put into the handling and safety of trikes – but it’s boring, technical stuff nobody cares about.” For example, despite the looks of the Road Glide 3, it’s not just a RG with two wheels in the back. There’s an extended rake angle to make it harder to tip over. With a different rake angle comes the need to rearrange trim pieces, brackets, and other various pieces to make every panel fit again with the proper proportions and gaps.

The Road Glide 3 will come in Vivid Black, Gray Haze, and Billiard Blue. Again, only in the US.

Nightster Special

When we complained about the Nightster’s awkward seating position in our comparo between it and the Indian Rogue, it seemed as though others felt the same way, because the new Nightster Special has a five-inch handlebar riser to move the controls closer to the rider for a more neutral stance. To be clear, however, the Nightster Special is an addition to the Nightster family. Not a replacement. The standard Nightster remains, joined by the Special. As the new kid on the block, the Special also steals the windscreen that the base Nightster used to wear, leaving the base bike a little more naked.

Power still comes from the Revolution Max 975T engine, with the four-inch TFT screen, ride modes, Brembo brakes, and rider safety aids still in place. Changes to the Nightster include a passenger seat and new wheels, giving it a rather European look, especially if you’re into European cars from the 1990s and 2000s. “They may be inspired by BBS, maybe not,” says Richards, referring to the popular aftermarket wheel company. Richards noted that the design team on the Nightster was pretty young, and they looked to the past for more design inspiration. Specifically, they turned to Harley’s AMF years and the Harley logo of the time, mimicking that style for the logo used on the Nightster Special’s tank.

The Nightster Special will be available in Vivid Black, Industrial Yellow, and Denim Blue.

Freewheeler Trike

The Freewheeler trike is again on the menu for 2023 with a blacked-out restyle. The front end, headlamp nacelle, tank console, hand and foot controls, engine and exhaust all get blacked out, going in the complete opposite direction from the chrome finish the trike had last year.

Other than that, the rear wheels are 18 inches instead of 15 (the front’s a 19-incher) with exposed lug nuts. A subtle pinstriping accents the bike, as does a stylized Harley logo. All these things align the Freewheeler’s design with the rest of the Touring Special models.

These new models and announcements are just the tip of the Harley-Davidson iceberg for 2023. More announcements and more models are coming this year. Not to mention Harley’s big 120th birthday party it has slated for July that will be full of entertainment, festivities, and yes, all things Harley-Davidson. Stay tuned.

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Troy Siahaan
Troy Siahaan

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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