ROAD TEST: 2019 Harley-Davidson CVO Road Glide 117 Review

By Gary Mraz
Photos by Mike Cupp

In 1979 the “Tour Glide,” Harley-Davidson’s first fixed-fairing motorcycle was introduced with only nineteen made that year. The following year Harley produced 4,480 of these bikes.  In 1998 the Tour Glide became the FLTR Road Glide, using the same frame and motor assembly as the Electra Glide but with a completely redesigned “Shark Nose” fairing.  Aerodynamically refined in 2016, the shark nose fairing remains to this day.  A very popular motorcycle to customize because of its aggressive stance and lots of paintable surface.

Although the Road Glide is known as a touring standard, what this 2019 Glide CVO lacks in function it reeks in style.  No windscreen, low stance, lack of trunk and lowers; this Road Glide definitely prefers asphalt of California’s famed Pacific Coast Highway rather than the gravel of the Alcan to Alaska.

The paint on this blue Mako Shark fade is unreal. It literally fades from a stunning royal blue to black depending on the viewing angle. I really like the new approach to the H-D Bar and Shield sans lettering, clean and bold.  I want one of those badges as a ring, a belt buckle, on the grill of my car!  Custom comes out kicking and screaming with a full-length but high-sided fender that leaves ample view of the exclusive 21-inch Knockout front wheel. Low and wide, the shark nose fairing houses dual headlights with low riding turn signals.

Engine guards lend the bike even more visual weight down low to accentuate the low-and-wide look, and the lack of a windshield keeps its lines  clean as well as affording that low custom vibe.

The handlebars have a comfortable rise and place the average rider in an upright riding posture with hands up in position. A slammed saddle cradles the rider’s butt at a low 25.9-inches off the ground, providing you weigh at least 180-pounds to compress the system, and that lowness plays right into this custom look.

All topped off with a ferocious Milwaukee-Eight 117ci engine. The Blaze Red band on the engine rocker boxes identifies the upgraded M-8 117 engine, while the new Kahuna Collection features a red bar and shield inset on some components (shifter pegs, brake pedal cover, muffler end caps, heated grips, and rider and passenger boards). It’s the largest stock engine displacement ever offered by Harley-Davidson and available only in CVO models which include upgraded Screamin’ Eagle power and rated at up to 125 ft. lbs. of torque.

For 2019 the 117ci CVO Road Glide pumps up to 1925cc but ditched twin cooling. This motor depends on oil and air flow to keep the motor cool. Because this engine relies so heavily on oil for cooling it has a high output oil pump with larger gears then the water cooled models. Oil is pumped out of the cam compartment, via external lines, towards the top of the motor. From there it enters the cylinder head, is channeled around the exhaust valve guides and then back out of the head and to the return side of the oil pan creating a standalone oiling system for the heads.

Inside the fairing is a pair of analog gauges that reflect the speed and rpm, but the real star here is the new Boom! Box GTS feature with its 6.5-inch, color touchscreen interface that responds to pinch/drag/swipe commands and lets you navigate the various menus with ease, even with gloves on or in wet conditions. Four Boom! Stage II bi-amped speakers, two in the fairing and two in the saddlebag lids, pump 150 watts per channel for 600 watts total. You have complete control of your tunes and can  pinch, drag, and swipe your way around the musical menu, as well as the navigation screen, bike systems display, and mobile phone interface to cover all the bases. It’s Apple CarPlay compatible, and though the touchscreen works in wet or dry conditions, with gloves or without, you can even go touch-free through the voice-recognition feature that pipes your phone into your helmet via Bluetooth.

The tubular-steel frame follows a familiar pattern with a double-down tube/double-cradle layout that completely supports the engine, rather than the other way around. Showa forks handle the front end with the dual bending valve technology that delivers an otherwise superior ride that you just can’t get from a stock front end. Emulsion shocks spring off the yoke-style swingarm with a hand wheel that lets you quickly adjust the preload.

CVO Road Glide’s front end sports a 130/60-19 with 180/55-18 rear Dunlops.  A stock ABS feature works with the dual, four-piston linked front brakes and matching caliper on the rear. For a big bike, it’s still reasonably proportioned with a 64-inch wheelbase and 26.1-inch, laden seat height.

The hand controls are for manly men (or womanly women) and the 117ci just wants to jump out of its skin. The clutch is predictably hard and late engagement of the hydraulic clutch lever took some getting used to, but when you let this beast out of its box, look out, the results are almost frightening.

The CVO security system has a one button feature on the fob that locks the saddlebags and the fork. Of course the stretched hard bags dominate the rear end and provide 2.4 cubic-feet of storage that come full of goodies like a Bluetooth headset and saddlebag liners.

This 2019 Harley-Davidson CVO Road Glide in Red Pepper and Magnetic Grey with Black Hole accents may be a contender for the CVO bad-ass award of the decade (Shown in title photo on pages 6 & 7).

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