2023 Harley-Davidson CVO Road Glide Limited Anniversary Review


If nothing exceeds like excess, the Harley-Davidson CVO Road Glide Limited Anniversary can only be classed as a winner

LAUNCHED to coincide with H-D’s 120th birthday year, the Harley-Davidson 120th Anniversary range features the glossiest paint finishes and the blingiest details ever seen on the American brand's bikes.

To find out more about two of the new models in the line-up, we flew to the sunshine state of California, for a day spent cruising about Santa Barbara on both the CVO Road Glide Limited Anniversary and Street Glide Special editions.

This review will focus on the CVO, and you can check out the review of the Street Glide Special by following this link. During the event we also had a tour of the Harley-Davidson Museum in Milwaukee, you can check out that feature on this page.

Harley-Davidson CVO Road Glide Limited Anniversary price, paint and details

The CVO Limited is at the very top of Harley-Davidson’s lofty tree of bikes, and with that lofty position, it does have a high altitude price tag. At £50,395 the big CVO represents a sizable investment, although thanks to its limited edition status (just 1,500 will be produced) it does buy you access to a very exclusive club.

Probably the biggest feature of the CVO 120th anniversary model is the paint. It’s finished in a hand-applied heirloom red with gold-leaf effect pinstriping and is crowned by an eagle motif that flows from the front fairing, through the side panels and into the rear-mounted panniers. While the pictures you can see give an idea of the paint on the bike, it’s only when I saw the design in the Californian sunshine that you could actually appreciate the detailing of the colour scheme. Parked outside the hotel in Santa Barbara, the CVO’s paint comes alive, and more of the bike’s hidden easter eggs become visible.

All the bikes in the range are decked out in an heirloom red colour scheme, although the CVO’s is noticeably darker and deeper than the rest of the 120th family. Likewise, all the 120th edition bikes feature gold-coloured tank emblems, although the CVO is the only one to feature 14-karat gold plating on its medallion. Elsewhere the bike is crowned with pretty much every accessory imaginable from the H-D aftermarket catalogue, with heated seats and grips included, highway pegs and running boards, while engine bars and luggage racks also feature on the bike. The CVO is also equipped with a Rockford Fosgate Stage I stereo, boasting four speakers (two up front and two in the pillion seat) with an ear-shattering 100 watts per speaker.

Riding the new bike along Highway 101, I’m reminded by how highly Harley is respected, even in this fairly liberal state of California. Every pick-up truck I ride past was driven by a burly-looking bloke with a long beard and a baseball cap - which I think is the law out there. But they all had something else in common too, they all seemed to love the CVO. And I don’t just mean they loved the model or the name on the tank. They all seemed to pick up on the fact that this was the 120th-anniversary bike, quite possibly the first one they’d actually seen on the roads. Thumbs were raised and heads were nodded and it reaffirmed what this bike is, and the brand behind it means to people.

Harley-Davidson CVO Road Glide Limited Anniversary review

I’m not a newbie when it comes to riding heavyweight American cruisers, and as somebody who enjoys performance bikes and track riding, I really shouldn’t like them quite as much as I do. While a bike weighing 437kg in running order does require a different approach and riding style, once you get rolling, bikes like the CVO never fail to bring a massive grin to my face. The bike is powered by the 117ci (1,917cc) Milwaukee Eight engine. It’s the same engine as found in the Low Rider ST we rode last year, and it produces 105 hp (103.5 bhp) and 166 Nm (122 lb-ft) of torque. While off-the-line performance is dulled slightly compared to the Low Rider ST, the big CVO 120th does rumble its way up to motorway speeds (and a bit beyond that) with ease. Get it up to 75 mph and in top gear, you’ll be hovering around 2,000rpm, with enough grunt in reserve to waft past slower-moving vehicles without the need for a downshift from the six-speed box. 

And while we are on the subject of the gearbox… all of the big tourers from across the pond I’ve ridden require a full four-fingered pull on the lever, and the next ratio is heralded by a satisfying ‘thunk’ that reminds you that you are moving around some sizable cogs. The gear lever has a fairly long throw but is always accurate, and it was only when I got halfway through our 140-mile ride I realised the CVO comes pre-equipped with a handy heel-and-toe shifter. It did take a bit of getting used to, although it makes moving up and down the ‘box on the forward controls that little bit easier for a shorter rider like myself.

Like the clutch, the front brake needs all of your digits for anything other than very light braking, although with four-piston calipers and 300mm floating discs at the front, there is more than enough power at hand. Mated to the braking system are a couple of enhancements that make riding the CVO a bit easier than it once was. It now gains electronically linked brakes and cornering ABS both making life simpler and safer. The ABS is one area where Harley has really upped its game in recent years, and the system intervenes much more smoothly than it once did. I’m also happy to report that the linked brakes were pretty much unnoticeable on wet and dry roads. I’ve ridden bikes before where the linked brakes can be felt doing their thing, and in all honesty, I didn’t like it. Fair play to H-D for adding the system in a way that doesn’t feel like your pillion is pressing the rear stopper every time you haul on the front brake!

The majority of the riding I did on the CVO Road Glide Limited Anniversary was out on the rolling highways of Californian wine country, the natural habitat for a bike just like this. With a tall screen that cacoons you in a comfortable bubble of still air, I’m not sure I’ve ever ridden a bike that is quite as comfortable as this. It’s a bit of cliché to say that riding a Harley tourer is akin to sitting in an armchair, but if the analogy fits… The seat of the Road Glide Limited Anniversary is extremely plush and comfortable and is highlighted with oxblood and Alcantara inserts. It places you in a beautifully neutral and relaxed riding position. The tall bars are an easy reach away, and it’s only the tightest of u-turns that have me stretching a little as the front end gets close to the lock stops.

For our first photo stop of the day, we peeled off the highway and onto a kind of B-road that threaded its way along the coast and was much more twisty than the roads we had been enjoying. Here the CVO required a little more concentration, and with corners that apexed over blind crests, I was calling on the bike’s extremely strong rear brake much more frequently. It didn’t though feel like the bike was too far out of its comfort zone, and despite the weight of the thing never being far from my mind, it didn’t feel cumbersome, and I could still place the machine right where I needed it to be.

I had two bikes to ride on the touring day of our American adventure, this bike and the 120th edition of the low-slung Street Glide. Jumping between the two machines at the photo stop was an interesting back-to-back test, and while the extra weight of the CVO (around 52kg more than the bagger) does make heaving the bike off the side stand more difficult, at slow speed, it’s the heavier bike that is the easier to control. This comes down to the fairing on the CVO, and primarily the way it is mounted to the bike. With the fairing (and its associated electronics, infotainment, touchscreen and speakers) mounted directly to the chassis and not the handlebars (as found on the Street Glide) the steering is much lighter at low speed, and you get none of that walking pace handlebar wobble as you approach junctions and stop signs. Really though, this bike isn’t about tight u-turns and city slicking, it’s about cruising along the highway, and with my bespoke playlist on the 400-watt stereo (Sweet Child o’ Mine, Born in the USA… you get the picture!) I really couldn’t think of a better way to convert petrol into noise and motion.

2023 Harley-Davidson CVO Road Glide Limited Anniversary verdict

Prior to landing in California for the riding part of this bike launch, Harley flew us into the hometown of the brand, for a mooch around the Harley-Davidson museum on the banks of the Menomonee River. We were shown around the museum by Marketing - PR Manager at Harley-Davidson, Paul James. He stopped at one of the bikes in the museum, a twin-engined drag bike called ‘Chrome Horse’ which was built by Gary “Tator” Gilmore. “Nothing exceeds like excess, right?” he quipped, before quickly going on to admit that in reality, the bike wasn’t much of a success. Proof if it was ever needed that sometimes more of everything isn’t necessarily a good thing.

It’s a point that isn’t wasted on me a couple of days later, as we cross Santa Barbara County on the top-of-the-range CVO. This bike has everything, I couldn’t (and still can’t) think of an add-on that would a valuable asset to the machine. Yes, it’s big, bold, and unashamedly ostentatious, but this is a statement bike, created purely and simply to be the halo bike in the 2023 H-D range. Also, going back to Paul’s statement about the drag bike, the CVO is perfectly executed, balancing comfort, cruising performance and style to create the epitome of luxury motorcycle touring.

At a shade over £50k it is about the same price as a three-bedroom home in the city of Hull, but there are thousands of houses in Hull, and highly likely only a handful of bikes that will turn a head quite like this thing does.

More information on this and the other bikes in the 120th Harley-Davidson range can be found on the official website.

Harley-Davidson Low Rider S & ST, Road Glide ST and Street Glide ST 2022 Specs

Harley-Davidson Low Rider ST & ST, Road Glide ST and Street Glide ST 2022 Specs