Intro: 2024 Harley-Davidson CVO Road Glide ST Is A High-Performance Hog

Intro: 2024 Harley-Davidson CVO Road Glide ST Is A High-Performance Hog

© 2024, Roadracing World Publishing, Inc. By Michael Gougis.

I kicked the shift lever, slammed the transmission into fourth and cranked the throttle open wide, taking full advantage of the immense amount of torque on hand to let the massive engine pull from the bottom of the rev range and keep spinning. I had already put a couple more clicks of compression damping into the shocks, and when the beast drove through the dip at the apex of the big sweeper at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway Classic Course, everything stayed calm and stable. I ground the floorboard all the way through the sweeper and just kissed the rev limiter, the speedometer display flashing triple digits for just a second, before it was time to grab the front brake lever and slow to a crawl for a switchback series of coned-off U-turns designed to slow us down and keep the riding relatively sane.

Harley-Davidson took journalists to the racetrack to sample The Motor Company’s 2024 CVO Road Glide ST, the day before we got the chance to briefly ride the Street Glide and Road Glide standard models on the street. Rain brought the street ride to a premature halt, but not before we had a solid first impression of all three models of the thoroughly revamped Grand American Touring motorcycle platform. “We started from the ground up, and we touched everything,” said Scott Nash, Chief Engineer.

The highlight of the new model range is the CVO (Custom Vehicle Operations) ST — the ST stands for Sport Touring. The $42,999 machine is “the quickest, fastest and most sophisticated performance bagger ever produced by Harley-Davidson,” the company says. And it owes its existence to the company’s involvement in King of the Baggers racing with MotoAmerica. Company officials say the idea for the model emerged during its first season of racing in the new class, and lessons learned on the track have been transferred to the new CVO ST. One example: The throttle mapping for the bike’s track modes  (and yes, modes as in multiple track modes, Track and Track-Plus) are cut and pasted from the factory Screamin’ Eagle Road Glide King of the Baggers racebike.

New technology for the CVO ST centers around the Milwaukee-Eight 121 High Output engine. The 1977cc (121 cubic-inch) V-Twin powerplant revs to 5,900 rpm and puts out a claimed 127 bhp at 4,900 rpm and 145 lbs.-ft. of torque at 4,000 rpm. The new intake flows 26% more air than the standard 121 intake, and the HO version eliminates the variable valve timing mechanism to make the engine more efficient at higher rpm and to save two pounds. Titanium mufflers with forged carbon-fiber end caps improve exhaust flow.

The gas tank, wheels, and brakes have been re-designed to reduce weight. How far did Harley-Davidson engineers go to make this machine lighter? The CVO ST has what one company official described as “performance floorboards.” They are shorter and lighter with cutouts to further reduce weight. The bike still weighs 800 pounds dry, but in a performance machine, every pound counts. Fully adjustable 47mm inverted Showa forks work with a pair of remote reservoir/fully adjustable rear shocks.

I was always aware of the mass, but the bike pulls away from a standing start smartly. The engine really is impressive, as it accelerates with little vibration all the way to redline and feels like it could spin significantly higher–it feels enthusiastic. But I found that riding a gear higher allowed me to access that down-low torque and avoid shifting as often. Interestingly, the Sport riding mode is a bit more aggressive right off of idle than the track modes. Softening the throttle response in that part of the rev range in Track mode allows the rider to get into the throttle more aggressively at corner exits on the track, where the rider is feeling for traction and grip and modulating rear wheel spin while leaned over. The rider in Sport mode is likely to be completely straight up and down and trying to make an impression when leaving a stoplight …

The upgraded suspension works well at speeds that are outside the machine’s design envelope. With a little more fine-tuning, the hint of wobble that occasionally reared its head likely could have been dialed out. And whenever I felt the bike starting to get uncomfortable, I’d look down at the speedometer and realize I was going far quicker than I’d go on the street! Vibration was minimal, the sound out of the pipes was a celebration of internal combustion, and the only real thing I’d want in this machine was a change in the ergonomics–specifically, lower handlebars. The CVO ST has a six-inch handlebar riser. The lower Street Glide handlebars were more to my liking.

Harley-Davidson marketeers noted a few years back that its customers were spending less money on “profiling” (flashy paint, customized aesthetics) and more on performance. Inspired by the monsters the Motor Company was building for the race team, the marketeers found that the in-house focus on performance aligned precisely with what Hayley-Davidson customers wanted. The CVO ST is the confluence of those trends. A day at the track revealed a big, solid touring motorcycle with a definite performance edge that is still true to its Harley-Davidson roots, a bike worthy of the “Fast Johnnie” stickers that are part of its livery.

(Just for fun, look up the legend of Johnnie, the pig mascot of the legendary Harley-Davidson Wrecking Crew. Somebody really, really needs to do that again!)

A more complete riding impression and technical overview of the 2024 Harley-Davidson CVO Road Glide ST and the Road Glide and Street Glide models will be available in an upcoming issue of Roadracing World.

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