The Street Glide has made the cut for Harley’s heralded CVO line since 2015 for good reason. Since its 2006 debut the standard Street Glide has been a top seller for The Motor Company and its Batwing fairing is one of the single most recognizable features in motorcycling. It’s also popular with the fastest growing demographic in motorcycling, women riders, a fact corroborated by Heidi Skinner, Global Channel Marketing Director for The Motor Company, who stated the Street Glide is the “number one seller of all Harley-Davidson motorcycles to women” in an article about best Harleys for women.

Hopping onboard, the bike feels tailored-made for me at six-feet-tall, the reach natural with bars in-hand, knees at a right angle and feet propped on padded floorboards. The contour of the leather seat is La-Z-Boy cush and low-rise and my back’s pert-near perpendicular, ideal ergonomics if you’re looking to lay down some miles. And lay ‘em down I did. Me and Harley’s top-shelf bagger quickly got acquainted on the ride home to southern Oregon from Los Angeles. The potholes and cracks of I-5 in California’s Central Valley compressed its shocks to the limit and tested every inch of travel on the fork and it held steadfast. Between its sheer mass and stout suspension, the 2020 CVO Street Glide spoils a rider with a flowing ride over bumps and broken asphalt. After our introductory adventure home, the premium Street Glide spent the next month exploring the trio of ranges just north of my house coupled with a scenic ride up the Oregon coast which provided ample opportunities to test the grip of its Dunlop’s edges. Its tenure in Oregon also included a trip to the dyno to see what that Milwaukee-Eight 117 is pumping out at the rear wheel (See our Harley Milwaukee-Eight 117 Horsepower and Torque Dyno Results article), wrapped up by another run down I-5 to return the bike to Harley’s Fleet Center. After one month and 2,260 miles together, I reluctantly handed back the keys because I’d grown to appreciate what Harley’s premiere bagger offers beyond a Cadillac-like ride.

Ergonomics on the 2020 Harley CVO Street Glide are tailor-made for a six-foot-tall rider and comfort is premium. 

The first benefit of the big M8 117 is response at the throttle. The surge is expectedly strong off idle, impressive in both the speed it reacts to input and the amounts of torque that come on early. That standard carries over to the midrange as the powerband is consistent and even. By 2,700 rpm, Harley’s 117 is generating 100 lb-ft. of torque on its way to peaking at 108 lb-ft. @ 3,590 rpm and hovers above the 100 lb-ft. threshold until 4,900 rpm. Horsepower climbs straight-line until it flattens out after hitting its 93.8 hp @ 4,850 rpm peak, delivering 90+hp between 4,600 and 5,750 rpm. The two areas that benefit the most from the CVO Street Glide’s 117 are top-end and roll-on. Upper gears rev out higher than the stock Street Glide allowing riders to stay on the gas a little bit longer. The M8 117 keeps a steady supply of power throughout the rev range so when you roll-on, it’s readily available. Spending hours of highway miles hovering around the 80 mph range, how smoothly the engine runs made as much of a lasting impression as its power. While it still has the unmistakable pulse of a V-Twin, its pushrods and pistons work harmoniously and engine vibrations are few. Power and efficiency is a powerful elixir. During our tenure together the 2020 CVO Street Glide averaged 39.182 mpg, so theoretically if you ran it ‘till empty you could squeeze almost 240 miles out of its six-gallon tank.

Sexton Summit, Smith Hill, and Stage Road Pass form the three sisters of I-5 north of my house, the 20-mile stretch a series of short, steep inclines, broad, sweepers, and enough tight turns to keep a rider honest. An afternoon of riding along the Oregon coast and shooting photos of its lighthouses had consumed the day and the sun was quickly fading behind the mountains to the west. The trio of summits was the last leg home and the 2020 CVO Street Glide powered unflinchingly up the inclines. With the ensuing darkness I was grateful for the punch and spread of the Daymaker Adaptive LED Headlamps which allowed me to see far into the corners and carry plenty of speed in the downhill turns. The adaptive system is two-fold with an LED outer ring functioning as a position lamp teamed to additional LEDs that activate based on the lean of the bike. Between its burly fork tubes and the bulk of the Batwing fairing the front has a little heft to it, but overall the front end tracks true to the designated line. Once you’re into a turn the big bagger holds its composure like a true gentleman, the bike stable, it’s handling smooth and predictable. While there’s no shortage of lighter, sportier bikes out there, there’s something special about leaning a well-tuned bagger over, the sensation of mass in motion and the dynamics it takes to manage it making for a singular experience.

But not all experiences with the CVO Street Glide were smooth sailing. During the first highway miles there was just enough lift around 85 mph to make the front end feel loose. Before setting out I had stuffed both saddlebags and weighted the rear without adjusting for preload and the prior settings were undoubtedly not set for a 225 pound rider and probably 25 pounds of gear. First chance I got I pulled off the left saddlebag and gave the preload knob a few twists, stiffening up the rear and leveling out the front for the most part, but there was still just a little shimmy at higher speeds. Next time I pushed it hard though, this time in the local mountains, the saddlebags had been emptied and the same settings were spot-on as the front end never wavered. For $40,500, I’d love to see electronically adjustable suspension, or at least a remote reservoir you don’t have to remove a saddlebag to access. The 2020 CVO Street Glide does have the welcome convenience of an electronic tire pressure monitoring system, and not having to check it manually before every road trip was extremely helpful. If only shock adjustment came with that same convenience. Stop-and-go city traffic revealed a tight clutch lever so if you have to fan it a lot it taxes your grip. Luckily, you barely have to pull it in to get the clutch to disengage. Rowing up and down the six-speed gearbox, engagement is firm and abrupt as it deals with the heavy doses of low-end torque. Downshifting benefits from the CVO Street Glide’s drag-torque slip control which helps keep chirping the back tire to a minimum, slip control part of the motorcycle’s Reflex Defensive Rider System. The electronics suite of the rider system includes cornering ABS and linked brakes, cornering traction control, and new Vehicle Hold Control. The braking package utilizes 32mm 4-piston fixed calipers all the way around. A squeeze of the brake lever yields strong application on the front followed by steady, even pressure. The linked system works both ways, front to back and back to front, and only operate above 25 mph so frequently I was able to get away with using the front solely. One of the best parts about the CVO Street Glide’s ABS, it’s not hyper-sensitive and engaged less than a handful of times.

Bundled in the Reflex Defensive Rider System is an intriguing feature Harley’s testing out on this year’s CVO’s called Vehicle Hold Control. It’s designed to help riders stopped on inclines by preventing the motorcycle from rolling back by applying a little brake. Riders activate it by momentarily applying extra pressure to either brake after the motorcycle comes to a complete stop. A VHC indicator light will come on letting riders know it’s activated and disengages automatically when a rider takes off. Admittedly, I failed to test the system out because I generally keep a motorcycle in gear and in the friction zone on hills and didn’t think to try the hold control system out until after I had returned the bike.

I did, however, test out its sound system, much to the chagrin of my crusty neighbors. The 2020 CVO Street Glide features Harley’s Boom! Box GTS infotainment system with four Boom! Stage II bi-amplified three-way speakers, each with 150 watts of power. Each pair of speakers is powered by its own 4-channel, 300-watt amplifier for 600 watts of total power. Now you can better understand the dirty looks of my neighbors when I cranked it up to test it out. It’s one of the first factory sound systems I’ve been able to truly hear clearly at freeway speeds. Even though there’s speakers incorporated into the saddlebag lids, they don’t gobble up much space and compromise storage capacity. All functions are displayed on the 6.5-inch color screen of the Boom! Box GTS infotainment system of the CVO Street Glide which boots up much faster than Harley’s old system. The touchscreen works well with gloved fingers, from pinching and zooming to scrolling and when you’re in motion the system is easily managed by controls on the switch housing. It’s also highly visible at night.

Exclusiveness is part of the CVO experience, and paint is always a part of that exclusiveness. In the case of the 2020 CVO Street Glide, the colorway on the one we tested is called Sand Dune. The paint is part chameleon as I swear it switched from light grey to off-green depending on the light source. I dig that this monotone scheme and branding is subtly stated, from the 3-D Bar & Shield badge on the tank to the CVO initials painted on the saddlebags. Cast aluminum wheels in a combo of gloss black and satin and a Heavy Breather air cleaner round out a stylish arrangement, the one drawback being the pipe of the forward-facing air filter sticks out so far my knee pressed against it.

Pride of ownership has long been the Harley way. The company’s Custom Vehicle Operations program has been giving Harley fans a chance to own the best bikes coming out of Milwaukee for 21 years now. From engines to technology to accessories, CVOs get it first, and being among the first to wring out the throttle of the Milwaukee-Eight 117 and to test Harley’s cornering ABS and traction control and to fly exclusive colors comes at a price. A history 21 years strong proves there’s plenty of deep-pocketed Harley loyalists who willingly pay that price for the Dom Pérignon of Harley motorcycles.

Harley's Boom! Box GTS infotainment system boots up much faster these days and is easy to use. The sound system of the 2020 CVO Street Glide rocks!

2020 Harley-Davidson CVO Street Glide Specs

ENGINE

ENGINE: Milwaukee-Eight 117

BORE/STROKE: 4.075 in. X 4.5 in.

DISPLACEMENT: 117 cu. In.

COMPRESSION RATIO: 10.2:1

FUEL SYSTEM: Electronic Sequential Port Fuel Injection (ESPFI)

EXHAUST: Dual, with crossover

DIMENSIONS

LENGTH: 95.9 in.

SEAT HEIGHT, LADEN: 26.1 in.

GROUND CLEARANCE: 5.1 in.

RAKE (STEERING HEAD): 26 degrees

TRAIL: 6.7 in.

WHEELBASE: 64 in.

TIRES, FRONT: BW 130/60B19 61H TIRES

REAR: 180/55B18 80H

FUEL CAPACITY: 6 gal.

OIL CAPACITY (W/FILTER): 5 qt

WEIGHT, AS SHIPPED: 831 lbs.

WEIGHT, IN RUNNING ORDER: 866 lbs.

LUGGAGE CAPACITY (VOLUME): 2.4 cu-ft

PERFORMANCE

ENGINE TORQUE TESTING METHOD J1349 ENGINE

TORQUE (claimed): 125 lb-ft.

ENGINE TORQUE (RPM): 3,500

LEAN ANGLE, RIGHT: 32 degrees

LEAN ANGLE, LEFT: 31 degrees

FUEL ECONOMY: Estimated City/Hwy FUEL ECONOMY 41 mpg

DRIVETRAIN

PRIMARY DRIVE: Chain

CHASSIS

WHEELS, FRONT: Gloss Black Fugitive

WHEELS REAR: Gloss Black Fugitive

BRAKES

CALIPER TYPE: 32mm, 4-piston fixed front and rear

REFLEX LINKED BRAKING SYSTEM, CORNERING ABS

PRICING

CUSTOM COLOR: $40,539

ABS OPTION: Standard

REFLEX DEFENSIVE RIDER SYSTEM (RDRS): Standard

SECURITY SYSTEM: Standard

CRUISE CONTROL: Standard

PREMIUM RADIO: Standard

CALIFORNIA EMISSIONS: $200

FREIGHT: $435