What does Harley-Davidson represent in the motorcycle industry? Most people immediately think of rebelliousness and outlaws clad in leather. It is an image that Harley-Davidson embraced in the 1970s and still hasn’t shed that skin decades later. Rebelliousness is so ingrained in the Harley-Davidson brand that it is nearly impossible to believe an ad campaign for a 1906 bike marketed its engine as “The Silent Gray Fellow” with a “polite” muffler. By the 1970s, polite was no longer in the Harley-Davidson vernacular.
Today, a penchant for rebellion and the outlaw spirit is ingrained in the Harley-Davidson brand, but that rebelliousness is not sacrificial. How so? It does not ask its riders to settle for less, riding a chopper or a chrome-clad Hog when their Harley-Davidson dream is entirely new. Instead, Harley-Davidson offers a more versatile type of rebelliousness in models like the 2023 Harley-Davidson CVO Street Glide, emphasis on CVO.
With the CVO moniker, the 2023 Street Glide gets top-notch treatment down to the smallest details. Its limited production makes it incredibly exclusive, heightening its appeal. Moreover, as beautiful as it is, it’s still a road warrior that begs for adventure. It is defiant, but it is also sophisticated.
The CVO Legacy
The CVO designation means something special in the Harley-Davidson fleet, and the 2023 CVO Street Glide continues that tradition. But what is the CVO treatment? It is a Harley-Davidson practice that started in the late 1990s as America’s beloved motorcycle manufacturer sought to add exclusivity and appeal to its already acclaimed lineup. Riders wanted more robust and aesthetically unique bikes, and Harley-Davidson delivered.
In the late 1990s, CVO was not yet a thing, but is it that contradictory to what we just told you? Custom Vehicle Operation, or the CVO brand, did not debut until 2009. From 1999 to 2009, these exclusive models were known as Screamin’ Eagles because Harley-Davidson fitted these bikes with its Screamin’ Eagle high-performance parts. In doing so, Harley-Davidson set a new standard of exclusivity and performance, choosing a handful of bikes from its lineup to upgrade each year. During this timeframe, models in the FXR family, Road Glide, Road King, Electra Glide, V-Rod, and Softail Springer, enjoyed the Screamin’ Eagle treatment.
So, why the switch from Screamin’ Eagle to CVO branding? Harley-Davidson took the most straightforward path in naming its exclusive lineup in the late 1990s. It made sense, with the bikes heavily relying on Screamin’ Eagle parts. However, as Harley-Davidson extended the availability of those parts to models without the Screamin’ Eagle designation, confusion ensued. There was the question of whether a Screamin’ Eagle factory-built bike was genuinely exclusive if riders could get the same parts and modify their bikes similarly. Rebranding the models as CVO or Custom Vehicle Operations solved the issue, ensuring the bikes remained exclusive and giving riders access to the high-performance parts they desperately wanted.
The CVO Treatment
Harley-Davidson designs its CVO models with a multifaceted approach. The models must be exclusive with production limited, appealing to the general principle of supply and demand. Things are often more appealing when they are out of reach or we know they are not as readily available. Moreover, we enjoy the bragging rights of being one of the few to have won the golden ticket, whether a CVO powerhouse or something else.
CVO models must also differentiate themselves from the rest of the lineup by their distinct style, pristine details, and unique components. For Harley-Davidson, a CVO model like the 2023 CVO Street Glide must represent and deliver the best of the best to riders. So, how does the 2023 CVO Street Glide follow through on the CVO promise?
A Reimagined Icon
The 2023 CVO Street Glide marks a new chapter for the iconic Grand American Touring bike. With an all-new design, the CVO Street Glide is modern, refined, and luxurious without compromising its heritage. “Achieving a greater degree of visual change than any generation prior, the design of [this] CVO is a revolutionary take on the historical art of evolution,” Harley-Davidson announced at the debut of the 2023 CVO Street Glide and the CVO Road Glide. “Like all Harley-Davidson motorcycles, these new models are meant to instill a sense of timeless desire.”
Long, low, and lean, the 2023 CVO Street Glide is more aerodynamic and sophisticated without hindering the lines and silhouette that have defined it for decades. It is a collision of the past and future. Moreover, Harley-Davidson boldly redesigns the bike’s signature batwing fairing by sculpting it into the silhouette, so it is part of the design and not an afterthought. The fairing plays a prominent role in your experience in the saddle, housing the integrated LED lighting, a split stream vent opening for more control over the airflow, and a 12.3-inch infotainment system with every feature imaginable, from smartphone integration to custom display options, navigational tools, and ride modes.
The most exciting feature of the 2023 CVO Street Glide is its heartbeat. Harley-Davidson is renowned for its V-Twin engines, often introducing more potent options in the CVO lineup. This is undoubtedly the case for 2023, which is a welcome upgrade since the 117-ci V-Twins are prominent throughout the Harley-Davidson family and, despite their potency, have lost their appeal of exclusivity. The 2023 CVO Street Glide remedies this with its all-new Milwaukee-Eight VVT 121 heartbeat.
The Milwaukee-Eight 121 introduces variable valve timing, yielding a broader power band and greater efficiency. This translates to an incredible experience in the saddle, with the Milwaukee-Eight VVT 121 producing 115 horsepower at 4,500 RPM and 139 lb-ft of torque at 3,000 RPM. With more torque, off-the-line acceleration is exceptional and enjoyable to hear, thanks to the bike’s 4.5-inch diameter mufflers that finish the high-flow exhaust system. It is the signature rumble of a Harley-Davidson V-Twin, only better because it delivers more power and heightened performance. That is the secret behind the CVO family.
All the Trimmings
Harley-Davidson knows the devil is in the details and spares no expense in trimming the 2023 CVO Street Glide with the finest components and features. Think of the 2023 CVO Street Glide as the teaser of what you can expect from the Harley-Davidson lineup in the next few years; only you can potentially enjoy those features now if you are one of the lucky few. Those trimmings include all-new 47-mm SHOWA forks and premium shocks that offer three inches of suspension travel for improved rider comfort and handling. Larger 320-mm Brembo brakes in the front and 300-mm Brembo brakes in the rear enhance your stopping power. At the same time, the entire suite of Rider Safety Enhancements works behind the scenes to improve your control and the bike’s performance as you navigate the open road.
Breaking the Mold with the CVOs
The goal with a bike like the 2023 Harley-Davidson CVO Street Glide is to break the mold and set new benchmarks in the segment. As a Grand American Touring bike, the Street Glide is no stranger to the spotlight and wears the CVO treatment regally. Its starting price of $42,999 speaks to that reality, especially if you are willing to splurge on the $6,000 Whiskey Neat paint job with airbrushed Raven Metallic details. Knowing your CVO is handpainted is well worth the upgrade if you appreciate the finer things in life, which is apparent if you are shopping for a CVO.
For those lucky enough to climb in the saddle of a powerhouse like the 2023 CVO Street Glide, you do so knowing you are riding a piece of Harley-Davidson history. While its power and innovative features may enamor you, there is far more at play than the eye can see. The CVO Street Glide embodies an incredible and transformative history of an American motorcycle brand that evolved from polite mufflers to rebelliousness and loyalty. And, somewhere along the way, it also added sophistication and refinement with its CVO models, yet again proving its rebelliousness at being pigeonholed.