Harley-Davidson CVO Street Glide (2017) | Road test review

 

Despite rummaging down the back of the BikeSocial sofa, the road test budget wouldn’t stretch for a trip to Chicago, USA, home of the eastern-most point of the world-famous Route 66.

It did however allow a photographer and I to head to Grangetown, Middlesbrough, home of the eastern-most point of the slightly less famous A66.

Instead of the Mother Road’s 2,451 miles, the UK version covers just 115 miles of single and dual-carriageway in the shape of a major trunk road across the north of England crossing the A1 and M6. It scythes through the lush, rolling landscape that dissects the area north of the Yorkshire Dales but south of the North Pennines before slicing through the gorgeous Lake District. As far as accessing the finest, most beautiful parts of our country, the A66 is right up there with the best of ‘em.

Anyway, I’m not about to embark on a Visit Britain tourist information monologue here, nor was I riding along this particular road to admire the distant hills, the very green scenery, the late summer harvesting or to purposefully avoid every farm vehicle in the UK.

No, I had my own land cruiser to review; Harley Davidson’s 2017 Street Glide. But not just any old Street Glide, this was the full factory spec CVO version, complete with a bundle of chrome and pretty much every bit of bling in the shape of eye-catching accessory parts and a limited-edition paint scheme Harley-Davidson can throw at it. Even though there’s a £10k price difference between this and the standard Street Glide, which is equipped with the 107 engine and not the 114 in the CVO, and it could be argued that there’s plenty of value getting hold of the top spec version instead.

 

 

The biggest upgrade for 2017 is the 114ci (1868cc) twin -cooled Milwaukee-Eight motor, so-called because it features eight valves, or four per cylinder. It also gets Screamin’ Eagle cams, Screamin’ Eagle air filter, pipes and a load of extras. There are new pre-load adjustable rear shocks and new big piston Showa front forks to make the Glide more, well, glidey.

The twin-cooled bike still relies heavily on air-cooling but thanks to the improvements in the cooling system it means there’s a lot less heat emanating from the engine. Don’t get me wrong, on a hot summer’s day there’s still a strong case for some ‘betty swollocks’ but to assist, Harley-D though about some extra manually-operate vents either side of the front wheel. Every little helps.

Other note-worthy goodies include the upgraded Boom Audio infotainment system that features sat nav, iPod and USB connection, Bluetooth, Sirius digital radio and extra tweeters in the dash, plus pannier top speakers and two 300-watt amplifier.

Even riding with earplugs in at motorway speeds, the clarity of the speakers is spot on. The easy-to-use volume adjuster on the left handlebar has to be turned up almost to max but it’s the clearest system I’ve used. The volume control is right next to the cruise control mechanism and until I became familiar with the layout I found myself speeding up on the motorway instead of hearing the details of Jay-Z’s 99 Problems. That said, when it comes to waiting at roundabouts or traffic lights, be careful of your music choice because everyone around will also get to hear the quality of the speakers, and you can guarantee the iPhone shuffle function will find Justin Bieber or Gangnam Style…somehow.

As you’d expect with a Harley-Davidson cruiser, everything is big and bold, even the numbers on the spec sheet; 121 ft-lbs torque isn’t to be messed with, a 22.7 litre fuel tank will eek out a 200-mile range, a wet weight of 398kg, 2.5 metres long and of course the £31,295 price tag. It’s an imposing beast alright, so much so that when you ping the side stand out and allow it to take the weight of the bike for the first time, there’s a moment where you think, “sh*t, it’s not going to hold”.

I climbed on for the first time and given the wide spread of my legs, I was grateful for being 6ft tall. Even without a dodgy hamstring, it takes a little confidence to pick the bike up off the side stand and find the balance point to support the Street Glide plus my own frame. I began to imagine how tricky it would be to manoeuvre around car parks, shuffling around my own driveway or when riding back and forth down the same stretch of road for photos.

But I’d already told myself not to judge a book by its cover, nor listen to preconceptions. This is a bike that will create and entice conversation, thumbs-up, stares, photos and pointing wherever you go. Of all the bikes we’ve tested at BikeSocial over the last five years, the CVO SG is the one that’s generated the most attention, without question. Ask any non-motorcyclist to name a bike brand and “Harley” will inevitably be the answer, which gives them a trigger to start a conversation especially when a chrome-laden and beautifully detailed ‘Candy Cobalt/Indigo Ink’ bagger is parked up, and I’m always up for chatting about bikes. Though this does add extra pressure not to drop the monster in front of the assembled masses once you’ve finished at Tesco though.

 

 

Is it a bike that can be used for 200 days per year or more like 20? My plan was to ride to the A66, along it, then back again to Peterborough via some of the less Harley-like roads. A trip to London then Dirt Quake in Kings Lynn, all-in-all covering 1,000 miles in four days.

With 68 litres worth of panniers crammed full of essentials (no more than 6.8kg in each, so says the sticker), keyless ignition on and massive steering lock knob turned through 45 degrees, the big 1868cc boomed into life. Agricultural at first but it soon settles into a deep burble, shaking your fillings lose and ticking over at 1,000rpm.

I set off, buried into the lush, padded, twin-seat saddle in the traditional feet forward and arm stretched position with toes directly under fingers, pootling out of town and heading towards the comfortable surroundings of the Northbound A1. The V-Twin burbling away, noise resonating off surrounding buildings while the chopped down screen providing enough protection for my AGV K5 Jet lid while the bat-wing style screen and shrouded engine bars offering plenty of additional wind and rain protection. Rev the motor hard via the big bear-like handlebar grips and it’ll quickly get to the 5,500rpm red line, plonking through its 6-speed box courtesy of the heel-and-toe gear selector that’s larger than some 125’s. Sat Nav sits colourful and central, easy to operate and follow without being distracting.

Peak power is approximately 94bhp at 4,700rpm while max torque is claimed to be a whopping 121.7 ft lbs @ 3,250rpm – more than a Kawasaki ZZR1400 and Suzuki Hyabusa – hauling the 398kg unit around impressively. The toque curve is flat which gives linear and predictable power delivery, it also makes the 180-section 18” rear tyre relatively easy to spin…if that sort of thing floats your boat.

2017 Harley Davidson CVO Street Glide road test review

 

The big Harley bagger has the expected build quality; sturdy, strong, sleek and sexy in a smooth, flowing kinda way. From the old-school dials to the modern bike tech of the top-class infotainment system with voice activation, sat nav, radio, Bluetooth, and so on, Harley has though of pretty much everything to set you up for a lengthy time in the saddle. Assuming your trip covers beautifully flat asphalt because ride over an unsuspecting pebble and a spine jar is inevitable. The latter part of my journey took me on stunningly picturesque A684 across the Yorkshire Dales – real Postman Pat country with dry stone walls, sheep-a-plenty and some gorgeous twistiness that is ideal for photographer Gareth’s KTM 1190 Adventure rather than the Harley.

I covered 400 miles in one day, not all in one go mind, but while on the open roads and without meaning to sound all ‘American’, the Street Glide does exactly what its name suggests, gliding through the miles without issue. You can tell why they are the tour company’s bike of choice for the Route 66 trips.

The bellowing motor beneath as your feet stretch out in comfort, its road presence is not aggressive despite its size but much more civilised yet the only minor downside with 1,000 miles in just a handful of days is my poor coccyx which, several weeks later, is still a little tender. It holds the road well for a big girl and two-up touring would be a cinch with all that torque and balance. Shuffling around in the car park, less so but for a few photos I carried Gareth as pillion and the bike stood firm. In fact, I barely noticed any extra weight.

The 22+ litre fuel tank in theory is good for 200+ miles which is pretty accurate if you ran it dry. The best I managed on test was 183 miles which worked out to be 48.5mpg, taking my overall test average to 43.55mpg with each tank costing approximately £20.

From Grangetown to the East of Middlesbrough to the A1, the A66 is all quite industrial with a few touristy highlights including the football stadium, a handful of modern architectural eyesores and the 20-year old brick-built Mallard steam train sculpture at Darlington but once past Scotch Corner, the surroundings get far greener.

 

 

The Harley chomped through the miles with aplomb. Cruise control was on, radio blaring and for the first time I thought, well this could be Route 66. The big rolling sky was getting greyer so I dived into Mainsgill Farm for a sandwich. After a selfie with some camel (true story) I lunged back on, clunked into first gear and released the big heavy clutch lever with delicacy because there’s enough torque to get the big bear moving without much throttle. Taking extra care over the gravel driveway and skirting around the puddles not knowing how the Harley’s suspension would react to a sudden hole, and I was back on the main carriageway with Workington, at the western most point of the A66 as my destination.

Stopping in at a few touristy destinations en route including the Lakes Distillery, Brough Castle and a mini version of Stonehenge – though not visible from the road – I got to know the Harley a little more. The front forks are coupled with a steering damper and while stiff, they offer a decent feeling when turning the big 19” front wheel and do a decent job on non-billiard table smooth tarmac too. Even the dive under heavy braking is fairly refined and not jerky or too sudden. The rear less-so. Even with a bum-shape friendly saddle to support. I found myself sitting upright and tucking my bum under just to find a more comfortable position but then on how many bikes can you comfortably cover 200 miles in one sitting with stretching or moving about?

Across the M6 at Penrith and on through the Lake District and the Harley was at home, gliding along with fifty shade of green on either side – trees, hills, lakes and minimal traffic. Perfect.

The strong, burly motor playing a deep soundtrack from the long, twin, chrome exhaust. Yes it’s almost V8-like agricultural note is pretty iconic. On the way home through the Dales, I ramped up the sportiness of my riding and pushed on, dropping gears before corners only to open the throttle fully to power out and hear its song. It made me smile to think of its unsuitability. But then folk commute on sports bikes so why shouldn’t the big mama get its groove on through the B-roads?!

 

Keeping the SG clean will be a full day’s worth of scrubbing and polishing but it you’d bought shares in a chrome polish company then you’d be quids-in.

The handy little cubby hole to the right of the infotainment display is worthy of a mention; fitted with a USB input it’s perfect for a bit of phone charging. A neat little extra touch is the CVO badge on the fuel tank which glows at night. And more than just glow is the headlight which does an astonishing job of illuminating not just the road ahead but the entire next town.

The price tag of £31,295 is a frightening prospect for some but there’s a whole lot of bike on offer in return, a bike that is eye-catching to every neighbour, pedestrian, café visitor or fellow road-user. What else can you buy for that amount of cash? A Ducati Multistrada 1200 S at £16,595 plus a 2017 Suzuki GSX-R1000 and still have enough left over to swap that stock exhaust for a Yoshimura. Neither will give you the buzz of having a CVO Street Glide in your garage though.

Throughout my week with the HD CVO SG colleagues plus current and former owners talked about ‘getting it’ – the understanding between man and machine that is neither tangible nor instant. I struggled at first to consider what that meant but the more I rode it, the more at home I felt, the weight was still an inconvenience that scared me at times but I began to enjoy riding it and the attention it received. As I said, this has been the bike that has created the most attention of all but it takes a bit of time to get used to. So, don’t judge this bike based on a one-hour test ride. It’ll take much longer to ‘get it’.

I used the bike for commuting and even a trip to and through central London and while the width prevented stealthy filtering, its sheer presence almost scared everyone from my path. It could easily be a 200 day-a-year bike but owners probably wouldn’t.

*The recently announced 2018 CVO Street Glide comes with the new 117 engine (1917 cc), an increase of 49cc for just £300 more than this, the 2017 model.

 

 

TECHNICAL SPECIFICATIONS – HARLEY-DAVIDSON CVO STREET GLIDE

 

Engine

Twin-CooledMilwaukee-Eight®114

Displacement

1,868 cc

Borex Stroke

102 mmx 114.3 mm

Torque

165Nm / 121.7 ft lbs @ 3,250rpm

Lean angle

Right: 32 degrees

Left: 31 degrees

Brakes

32 mm calipers, 4-piston fixed front and rear

Wheels

Mirror Chrome Aggressor Custom

Exhaust

Chrome dual exhaust with 4-inch touring mufflers and touring muffler shields

Tyres

Front: 130/60B19 61H

Rear: 180/55B18 80H

Length

2,435 mm

Seat Height

690 mm

Ground Clearance

125 mm

Rake (steering head)

26 degrees

Trail

170 mm

Wheelbase

1,625 mm

Fuel capacity

22.7 litres

MPG (claimed/av. on test)

49.6 / 43.55

Luggage volume

68 litres

Weight (wet)

398kg

Colours

Candy Cobalt / Indigo Ink

Sunburst Orange / Starfire Black

Dark Slate Candy / Arctic Black

Starfire Black / Atomic Red

Price

£31,295

Insurance Quote

Click here for an insurance quote

Thanks to:

Photographer – Gareth Harford

Harley-Davidson UK

Group Lloyd

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Craig Ballantyne

I love anything to do with Harley Davidson and have two beautiful children and a beautiful partner. In my spare time i like building websites and love anything to do with the internet.

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