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Old February 9th, 2024, 06:12 PM   #1
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[] - 2024 Harley-Davidson CVO Road Glide ST First Ride

Harley-Davidson’s new CVO Road Glide ST takes lessons learned from the King of the Baggers series and applies them to the most potent bagger it has ever made.

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Baggers on a racetrack? Oh my! (Brian J. Nelson/)In the automotive industry, many companies are winding some of their most high-performance internal combustion offerings but are sending them out with a bang. Makers like Ram (TRX), Dodge (Challenger, Charger, Durango), Ford (Raptor and Mustang) are building their most potent internal-combustion-powered vehicles ever while plans for future models remain unclear in the face of electrification of many models. Fortunately for performance motorcycle buyers the switch to EVs is a bit further off than with their four-wheel counterparts.

Harley-Davidson’s CVO line celebrates 25 years of production, with the brand-new CVO Road Glide ST joining three other models for 2024. (Brian J. Nelson/)King of the Baggers Racing Inspiration

Companies like Harley-Davidson are keen to keep riding on the factory hot-rod bandwagon, building special-edition motorcycles that get snapped up year after year. 2024 marks the 25th anniversary of the Custom Vehicle Operations line, and the new CVO Road Glide ST is undoubtedly The Motor Company’s most formidable, performance-oriented limited-edition model to date. As a matter of fact, Harley says that this model was inspired and influenced directly by the company’s involvement in the MotoAmerica Mission King of the Baggers Championship, which it says is the first time that development has gone directly from track to the showroom.

Kyle Wyman returns to ride the factory Harley-Davidson in the 2024 MotoAmerica Mission King of the Baggers series. (Brian J. Nelson/)If somehow you haven’t seen a King of the Baggers race in person or on TV, do yourself a favor and check it out. In the few short years since the category’s humble beginnings as a one-off exhibition race, the series has gone from an interesting novelty to a huge commercial success with spectacular racing. But that wouldn’t have been possible if it wasn’t for the almost ridiculous performance the machines are putting out. Harley’s factory race team isn’t about to quote horsepower figures for its KOTB Road Glide racebikes, but the on-track performances speak for themselves. Last year, at Road America for instance, Vance & Hines’ Hayden Gillim ran a 2:20.834 qualifying lap which was only 2.6 seconds off of Stefano Mesa’s pole time in Supersport. The weight (620-pound minimum weight limit) and aerodynamic differences (stock-sized touring fairing) are massive compared to 600cc sportbikes, so that gives us an indication of what kind of ludicrous horsepower these heavily modified baggers are putting out.

The CVO Road Glide ST isn’t the only new Harley-Davidson bagger, as The Motor Company has just taken the wraps off its 2024 Street Glide and Road Glide motorcycles. And while those machines have a host of updates, changes, and advancements, this CVO ST takes the base Road Glide and ups the ante. The CVO version receives a unique engine, up-spec suspension, enhanced electronics, is a bit lighter, and of course features some unique touches that can only be found as standard on a CVO model. H-D’s Chief Engineer Scott Nash says that this model is much more about performance than profiling.

Exclusive to the CVO Road Glide ST is the 121 High Output engine. (Brian J. Nelson/)Harley’s 121 High Output Engine

CVO buyers have always wanted exclusivity, and the CVO ST delivers an unique engine that isn’t currently shared by any other models in Harley’s lineup. For starters, the ST gets a 121ci engine (1,977cc), a displacement that was first introduced last year in the CVO models, however, this version is called the 121 High Output. Whereas Harley’s other CVO Road Glide and Street Glide models feature engines with VVT (variable valve timing) to broaden the torque across the rev range, the 121 HO is focused on maximum power output with a high-performance camshaft and increased redline of 5,900 rpm. Claimed output is 127 hp at 4,900 rpm and 145 lb.-ft. of peak torque at 4,000 rpm. The standard VVT-equipped 121 produces a claimed 115 hp at 4,500 and 139 lb.-ft. at 3,000 rpm. Eliminating the VVT system from the 121 engine reduces weight by 2 pounds.

The air cleaner and intake are unique to the 121 High Output. (Brian J. Nelson/)Another change compared to the standard 121 VVT is a race-inspired intake unique to the HO that flows 26 percent more air through the 58mm throttle body, with the tract length designed for maximum power and torque at the expense of broader power. At the opposite end, a pair of Screamin’ Eagle Extreme Flow Titanium slip-on mufflers offer the maximum airflow possible while remaining noise and emissions legal. The mufflers have titanium shells with forged carbon fiber end caps for weight savings.

Like the standard 121, the HO shares the same updated cylinder head design, the 11.4:1 compression ratio, and redesigned aluminum intake manifold. The HO also shares the liquid-cooled cylinder heads that circulate coolant around the exhaust valves with the flow path cooling the more enclosed rear cylinder first and then the front cylinder before passing through the lower-front-frame-mounted heat exchanger. In an effort to give the CVO Road Glide ST another advantage in performance, the final drive ratio has been lowered by reducing the output pulley from 32 to 30 teeth, for better off-the-line acceleration. This is also likely to counteract the reduced low-rpm output that came with the elimination of VVT.

A view of the liquid-cooled cylinder heads. (Brian J. Nelson/)How confident is Harley-Davidson that the CVO Road Glide ST is a real performance animal and not just a flashy coffee shop poser? The press event for the bike was held at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway’s outside road course, with factory Harley-Davidson riders Kyle Wyman and James Rispoli on hand to show us the way around. A few years ago, if you told us we’d be attending a touring bagger launch at a racetrack, we’d have snickered and been highly skeptical. But the KOTB series has changed perceptions. Of course, this Road Glide ST is a far cry from the factory racebikes, but the fact that H-D has focused on every aspect of the bike’s performance from the engine to the chassis to electronic rider aids proves that this CVO isn’t just dunked in fancy paint and adorned with showy accessories.

2024 CVO Road Glide ST on the Track

Our trackday wouldn’t just involve straight-up lapping, but would also include a gymkhana-style double U-turn on the back straight to keep speeds at a reasonable level, while also highlighting the bike’s slow-speed agility. But before we headed out, we got familiar with the new rider aids. New to the Grand American Touring range this year are selectable ride modes, which have pre-mapped settings for power delivery, engine-braking, cornering ABS, and cornering traction control. The standard modes are Road, Sport, and Rain, while the ST gets four custom modes (three more than the base Road Glide), and then two more exclusive modes, including Track and Track Plus. We’d start out in Sport in the first session and then progress to the two track options.

The CVO Road Glide ST gets a total of nine modes, including four custom and two exclusive Track modes. (Brian J. Nelson/)Chasing Rispoli out of pit lane, it’s instantly obvious—even in Sport mode—that this engine is awesome. Last year, when we tested the 117-equipped Breakout, we had a ball leaving stoplights and leaping off the line. The 121 HO, however, is on an entirely different level. It still has that low-end grunt that you expect from 145 lb.-ft. of torque, but the way it keeps revving toward redline is like nothing we’ve experienced on a factory Harley Big Twin.

After our “warmup” session, we switched over to Track mode, which has more aggressive throttle delivery, unlinks the brakes rear to front (meaning that if you use the rear brake it won’t also activate the front), reduces ABS intervention, and allows more spin from the rear tire before stepping in. Track Plus takes it a step further and eliminates the linked braking altogether, greatly reduces ABS and lowest intervention from the traction control system (which can also be switched off from a button on the left handlebar).

On the track, the 121 HO revs and pulls hard, making us wish we had a quickshifter. (Brian J. Nelson/)Available engine performance, particularly when accelerating onto a straight, actually made us wish the ST had a quickshifter, as the bike picks up speed like no factory bagger before it. In the track modes, throttle delivery is snappy and aggressive and makes you appreciate the fact that there is some TC watching your back, especially considering that we were riding on the bike’s standard Dunlop Harley-Davidson Series bias-ply blackwall (130/60-19 front, 180/55-18 rear) tires.

On the ST, the modes are a welcome addition. For aggressive riding, either on the street or on the track, Track modes provide mostly unchained performance, but we’d also argue that those same settings wouldn’t make for the most relaxing time just cruising down the boulevard. That’s why it’s nice to be able to toggle the right bar-mounted mode into a more street-oriented setting which provides smoother, less abrupt engine response. Having ridden the brand-new Street Glide (powered by a non-VVT 117ci engine) a day later, we can confidently say that the 121 HO is as good as it gets without ordering up a 131 or 135 crate motor. The 117 is a very nice standard engine with a lot of performance parts available, but the 121 HO’s performance is addicting. If you’re willing to spend CVO money, do it.

The titanium exhaust silencers are finished with forged carbon fiber end caps. (Brian J. Nelson/)If straight-line performance was the ST’s only trick, that wouldn’t be the end of the world, but it would leave you wanting more. Fortunately, this model has received an equal amount of attention to the chassis. It’s not just the suspension and braking components that have been upgraded; the Road Glide ST has gone on a diet. The claimed wet weight is 838 pounds, which is a few pounds lighter than the 2023 Road Glide ST, and 24 pounds lighter than the 2023 CVO Road Glide. Part of the weight reduction (and unique look) here comes from forged carbon fiber parts like the tank console, front fender, seat cowl, and exhaust end caps. These pieces don’t have a traditional weave pattern; random-sized pieces of carbon fiber material are put into a mold and impregnated with resin and then formed under pressure and cured. THis method allows thicker, sturdy parts to be quickly made without the labor and cost of laying up layer upon layer of woven carbon sheet fabric..

Forged carbon fiber pieces are found on the ST model. (Brian J. Nelson/)Handling and Suspension

Suspension is obviously a key to handling performance, and Harley has given the ST an impressive package that includes an inverted 47mm Showa 1x1 fork with Diamond-Like Carbon coating on the inner stanchions. The unit is fully adjustable with spring preload, compression, and rebound damping adjustment, and provides 4.6 inches of travel. Like the new base-model Road Glide, the CVO ST gets 50 percent more rear-wheel travel, now measuring 3 inches. The rear suspension is also by Showa, with a pair of fully adjustable shocks that utilize remote reservoirs for better performance when they are working hard.

The fully adjustable 47mm inverted Showa fork is equipped with radial-mount, four-piston Brembos working on 320mm wave rotors. (Brian J. Nelson/)Make no mistake, an 838-pound bagger’s suspension is a big task to manage just riding around town or on the highway, but adding to the complexity is the desire to give the CVO ST high-performance handling attributes. Bombing out onto a racetrack—however unlikely this may be for the average buyer—would surely be the ultimate test, which was clearly H-D’s intent. In the case of a production bagger with forward foot controls, cornering clearance is always going to be the limiting factor, but on the ST the available lean angle when the downsized floorboard’s feelers scrape the asphalt is reasonable. Grind too deep into the feelers and the exhaust’s beautiful mufflers and then other hard parts are next in line, so a bit of sympathy is in order.

Careful when kissing down the carbon fiber pipes. (Brian J. Nelson/)From a suspension performance standpoint, the Showa units both front and rear do an excellent job of keeping the ST on line with very good compression damping to control the suspension’s stroke when encountering bumps on track and the rebound damping keeping the big bike from wallowing or weaving on extension. The latter was the most impressive, as we really expected that the bike would struggle staying composed, but that was never the case.

Peeping above the ST’s bags are the remote reservoirs for the fully adjustable Showa shocks. (Brian J. Nelson/)Comfort and Ergonomics

Unique to the CVO ST is the Moto Bar and riser that sets the handlebar 6 inches above the top clamp and leaves the arms resting at a comfortable bend. In 90 percent of riding situations, the bar is great, it was only when trying to navigate the double gymkhana-style U-turns that the outside bar suddenly feels really far away for this 5-foot-11 tester (as with most apes or tall bars).

The CVO Road Glide ST gets the Moto Bar with a 6-inch rise above the triple clamp. (Brian J. Nelson/)Speaking of those U-turns, they definitely provided contrast to every other section on the track. Yes, this ultraslow chicane was a challenge after braking from 95 mph, but it proved that the ST could slow dance too. As for the brakes, up front are a pair of Brembo Monoblock, radial-mount four-piston calipers that pinch a pair of 320mm wave-style discs, while in the rear is another four-piston Brembo and a 300mm disc. The hardest braking zone on the track was heading off the back straight into the makeshift chicane. Scrubbing speed from just under 100 mph down to 10, was never an issue. After multiple laps there was an ever-so-slightly softer feel at the front lever, but nothing that would ever lead you to believe that performance was being sacrificed. The lever itself has a slick and hidden span adjuster to help compensate for different hand sizes and or preference.

The solo seat locks the rider into a comfortable yet sporting position. (Brian J. Nelson/)Without the chance to ride the CVO ST on the street, we can’t really speak to its long-range comfort, but our time in the saddle proved that the ergonomics and seat are bagger-comfortable. Legs are bent comfortably, while the seat supports your lower back and puts you in a neutral position. Wind protection from the revised upper fairing is said to reduce helmet buffeting by 60 percent and airflow can be fine-tuned with the adjustable air vanes above the info screen. On track the air flowed over the helmet smoothly while the shape of the upper fairing never obscured the view of the track ahead.

CVO Road Glide Dash and Infotainment

One of the view options is cruise, that provides the most overall info. (Brian J. Nelson/)One of the best views from the saddle has to be the new Skyline OS infotainment system. The huge 12.3-inch-wide full-color TFT display replaces all analog instrumentation (and the previous 6.5-inch display) and has an anti-glare coating. The bright screen offers multiple viewing options including a superbright high-contrast mode. The rider can also choose between three display options including Cruise, Sport, or Tour. The Tour mode offers the largest departure from the other two, and puts the navigation map front and center with the speedometer, fuel gauge, and gear position minimized off to the left of the screen. Unlike the standard Road Glide, the CVO ST comes with navigation included (which is otherwise a $350 option).

Tour view makes navigation (standard on all CVOs) up front and dominant on the display. (Brian J. Nelson/)Navigating the menus and screens can be accomplished from the left-bar-mounted control pod, or you can utilize the touchscreen function which works very well with gloved hands and allows most features to be accessed on the fly. We found that the system takes a few seconds to load upon switching the ignition on, but the menu organization and logic is solid with only a few quirks. Users will learn their way around the system quickly. For owners wanting to utilize a smartphone for music and calls, you can either connect via Bluetooth or plug into the handy console cubby that also has a USB C lead inside for charging and connection. Our only complaint here is that if you want to utilize Apple CarPlay and navigate from a third-party app, you also have to have a helmet communicator (like a Sena or Cardo) tethered to the system. Apple requires voice control for the system to work.

The left bar control pod is busy but the layout is logical. The rider can also utilize the touchscreen for most menu/feature navigations. (Brian J. Nelson/)You can either control your music via the dash and send the audio to a helmet-mounted communicator, or you can blast the 500-watt Rockford Fosgate Stage II audio system that features a pair of 6.5-inch speakers in the fairing. Cruising around town at urban speeds or while stationary provides the best sound, as once you hit highway speeds (especially with earplugs in) your music is all but faint background noise.

The CVO Road Glide ST is fitted with more performance-oriented components than any other Touring model in the range. (Brian J. Nelson/)Part of the appeal of a Harley-Davidson CVO model is getting a factory-built bike with a ton of special features and finishes, while getting the latest and largest powerplants available before they trickle down to the standard models. In the case of the CVO Road Glide ST, there is no question that all of those boxes are checked. You get the most powerful production engine the company has ever offered, high-performance suspension that is equally at home even on a racetrack, and a lot of added features that you would normally have to shop for in the accessory catalog. The bike is available in two colors, Raven Metallic or Golden White Pearl.

And while the CVO Road Glide ST isn’t the first Harley aimed at on-track performance, it is surely the first touring bagger to really take a full crack at it, and we’d have to say it’s a huge success. There is no question that this is the best handling and most powerful production Harley-Davidson bagger we’ve ever ridden. Exclusivity and high performance doesn’t come cheap, but in the case of the CVO ST, you can make the argument that you get a whole lot of additional performance for its $42,999 asking price.

The ST’s bags offer lots of space for a day trip or even an overnighter. (Brian J. Nelson/)
The Road Glide’s LED headlights get a makeover for 2024. (Brian J. Nelson/)
The right bar control pod has stereo, communicator, and mode controls. (Brian J. Nelson/)
2024 CVO Road Glide ST left side. (Brian J. Nelson/)
2024 CVO Road Glide ST in Raven Metallic. (Brian J. Nelson/)2024 Harley-Davidson CVO Road Glide ST Specs

MSRP:$42,999Engine:Liquid-cooled, 45-degree V-twin; 4 valves/cyl.Displacement:1,977ccBore x Stroke:103.5 x 117.5mmCompression Ratio:11.4:1Transmission/Final Drive:6-speed/beltClaimed Horsepower:127 hp @ 4,900 rpmClaimed Torque:145 lb.-ft. @ 4,000 rpmFuel System:Electronic Sequential Port Fuel Injection w/ 58mm throttle bodyClutch:Wet, multiplate slipper/assistFrame:Steel tube w/ two-piece backbone and bolt-on rear subframeFront Suspension:47mm Showa inverted 1x1 fork, fully adjustable; 4.6 in. travelRear Suspension:Twin Showa shocks w/ remote reservoirs, fully adjustable; 3.0 in. travelFront Brake:Brembo 4-piston radial-mount calipers, floating 320mm discs w/ ABSRear Brake:Brembo 4-piston caliper, 300mm disc w/ ABSWheels, Front/Rear:Cast aluminum; 19 x 3.5 in. / 18 x 5 in.Tires, Front/Rear:Dunlop H-D Series bias blackwall; 130/60-19 / 180/55-18Rake/Trail:26.0°/6.7 in.Wheelbase:64.0 in.Ground Clearance:5.1 in.Seat Height:26.7 in.Fuel Capacity:6.0 gal.Claimed Wet Weight:838


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