2023 Bagger Shootout: Harley-Davidson CVO Road Glide vs BMW R18B


Cruisers are undoubtedly popular, but baggers are one of the most popular types of cruisers for a few reasons. They look cool, offer decent amount of storage options, they are sportier than traditional cruisers, and they can be excellent daily rider as well as highway crushers. No matter what you do, finding the right bagger gets more challenging each year, as we have new entries in this segment.

The biggest update of the year is the 2023 Harley-Davidson CVO Road Glide, it is one of the most anticipated baggers of the year, as it is completely updated and added a bunch of tech features along with completely new looks. On the other side, we have the 2023 BMW R18B, which is the newest, and the most underrated entry in this segment. Let’s see if the new kid on the block can compete with the heavy hitter of this segment.

The Looks & Details

Both bikes are baggers, but they look quite different, you will still find a traditional bagger layout. Big front fairings, large headlight, small windscreen, low ride height, paint-matched side panniers, lots of speakers, high-quality paint job, and dual exhausts give both bikes great road presence. The details are what make both bikes different and unique.

Harley-Davidson is the bigger choice here. The front fairing is huge, giving the rider a little bit more commanding riding position. The new CVO has completely new looks, and the new headlight design is a little bit risky choice, as it offers more modern and sharp angles. The Dark Platinum gray colour may not be the most popular choice in a market where everyone loves black cruisers, but it definitely gives the CVO a nice balance of modern and premium look.

On the other hand, the BMW R18 offers a classic round headlight with slightly smaller fairing. Our tester had the “Option 719” package that comes with a special white and black colour with gold pinstripes. You will also find a lot more chrome parts, which makes it look good and shiny, but harder to keep it clean in the long term. Overall, BMW feels a little bit old school and more special if you are looking at both of them from a distance.

When you get closer to both motorcycles and park them side by side, the differences get more obvious. The CVO is still the modern choice as you won’t find any analog gauges, but Harley-Davidson did not cut any corners when it comes to the build quality. There are not many cheap plastic parts, and the physical buttons feel very solid. More importantly, Harley-Davidson decided not to take any parts from cheaper cruisers. Failure is not an option when we are talking about a cruiser that costs over $50,000 CAD, and the overall quality matches the price tag.

It’s not just the build quality and the attention to detail, but the new giant 12.3″ touchscreen and the overall button layout give the rider quite an enjoyable experience. You can not just see a lot of information through the screen, but you can also choose different screen layouts, as well as customize it based on the riding mode or just simply choose custom screen settings to create your own layout. The infotainment system is very intuitive and easy to use and it can easily compete with German automakers.

Unlike the other R18 variations, the R18B comes with the latest and greatest 10.25-inch TFT screen that you would find in other BMW models. It is not a touchscreen like the CVO, but the screen quality is top-notch. The infotainment system is specific to R18, but it also uses the same BMW layout, and the rotary knob located on the left side of the handlebar for easy operation. It is easier to get used to BMW’s button layout, as you see fewer physical buttons and can go through the menus with the rotary knob.

Despite having a relatively large digital screen, the R18B still comes with analog gauges placed on top of the infotainment screen for basic information like the speed, fuel, and RPM, meaning that you don’t have to rely on a digital screen if you are concerned about longevity. If you are looking for a traditional feeling, BMW might be the better choice as it offers a better blend of classic and modern details.

The biggest problem with the R18B is the attention to detail. The plastic panels, buttons and parts not only feel cheaper, but part sharing is not the right choice for this type of bike. You will find the same physical unpainted buttons from the M1000R or other modern BMW motorcycles, which is not a great match with the rest of the bike, especially when you see other details like the BMW emblem with pinstripes, gorgeous paint job, the buttons just look like an afterthought.

The trend continues when it comes to the side panniers. R18B panniers look gorgeous from a distance, but they are significantly smaller, opening and closing take an extra step, and they feel less sturdy than the CVO. Both bikes have usable storage spaces, BMW offers wireless charging located on top of the gas tank, and you get small storage cubbies located on both sides of the fairing with the CVO.

Even though technically both bikes are baggers and in the same class, they are completely different when it comes to ergonomics. The Harley-Davidson CVO Road Glide comes with higher handlebars and slightly more relaxed riding geometry, so you sit slightly more upright. On the other hand, the R18B has lower handlebars and riding pegs instead of the floorboards that you would find in a CVO.

Due to the engine design, the biggest limitation of the R18B is that it can only have mid-controls. Technically you can get the optional floor boards, but the cylinder heads are still blocking the foot space. I found BMW’s seats slightly more comfortable, but the difference is so minimal that you need to sit back-to-back to feel the difference.

The Drivetrain

Just like everything else, we have two completely different engine layouts here except both bikes have two cylinders and six-speed gearboxes. The Harley-Davidson has a traditional American V-Twin engine with important updates. The new engine is liquid-cooled and it comes with variable valve timing, which is a big step forward for the brand. You still get the same goodies that make the V-Twin engine feel special like pushrod valvetrain, so it didn’t lose its character.

It may not be the first attempt for the brand, but they definitely offer more liquid-cooled modern drivetrains in the last few years. The end result is, that the brand no longer hesitates to share horsepower figures on their website and makes our lives much easier. The new CVO Road Glide comes with 115 horsepower and 139 lb-ft of torque peaking just above 3000 rpm. With all of those changes and modern engineering, the new Milwaukee-Eight engine offers a broader torque curve with very impressive bottom-end grunt.

BMW’s horizontally opposed 1802 cc engine is probably the quirkiest engine layout available in the cruiser segment. The air-cooled boxer engine is the largest engine ever produced by BMW Motorrad, and it pumps out approximately 91 horsepower and 116 lb-ft of torque. However, what’s even more interesting is that it’s one of the few entries equipped with a single-disc dry clutch system, and a shaft drive.

The Ride & Experience

Both baggers are exceptionally fun in a different way. The BMW benefits from having a horizontally opposed engine placed really low to the ground, meaning that it can be quite agile at lower speed maneuvering. However, it cannot hide its weight in the mid-corner, and it’s quite limited when it comes to the lean angle. Scraping the foot pegs is a part of the experience you just cannot avoid (Sorry, BMW!). The character, sound, vibrations and overall feeling of the big-bore boxer engine make the R18B feel special, especially when it’s ridden in a calm fashion.

Unlike BMW, Harley-Davidson has been modernizing its cruiser model lineup especially when it comes to the drivetrain options, and you feel the differences as soon as you start riding. The CVO is clearly the sportier and more modern choice here. Although it still feels quite heavy at lower speeds, it gives much more confidence at higher speeds. It not only has more lean angle despite having larger floor boards, but the suspension tune is slightly firmer, and it’s a better fit for spirited riding.

Both entries are exceptionally great as a daily rider, as long as you are okay with the excessive weight. The CVO is quite hyperactive even at low throttle inputs and even in normal riding mode. On the other side of the spectrum, BMW named riding modes as Rain, Rock and Roll to add extra quirkiness to the bike. The R18B’s throttle response was quite mellow even in the sportiest “Roll” mode. The boxer engine loves the drama, it rocks from side to side, making it a little bit more fun to ride every day.

You may think the R18B is just a classic R18 with front fairing and side panniers, but you are wrong. It’s a better touring machine as it comes with a larger tank, a redesigned frame for more comfortable ergonomics and two-up riding, optional Adaptive Cruise Control feature allows the rider to just sit and watch while cruising on the highway. The sensor is located on top of the headlight – one of the perks of being both an automaker and motorcycle manufacturer, it is easier for BMW to do the technology transfer.

The Verdict

It is not easy to pick a winner in this comparison, mainly because each bike is a better fit for a different audience. The CVO Road Glide is clearly the better choice for longer trips, as it offers more cargo and passenger accommodation as well as better wind & weather protection. The bike feels slightly sportier than the R18B with its firmer suspension settings and more powerful engine, so it is definitely a better fit if you ride in a spirited fashion. If money is no object, the CVO Road Glide is the best and most expensive bagger money can buy.

The R18B is the German take on the bagger formula. It is undoubtedly the better value in this comparison, as it costs significantly less than the CVO Road Glide. You also get more colour choices and a better blend of classic and modern features. It is not as sporty and fast but might be more appealing to the traditional cruiser audience with a more comfortable ride. It feels a little bit more industrial and rough around the edges, but that also gives the R18B an old-fashioned cruiser vibe with its unique character.

Bagger Comparison2023 Harley-Davidson CVO Road Glide2023 BMW R18B
EngineLiquid-cooled 1977cc, V-TwinAir-cooled 1802cc, Horizontally-opposed
Max power115 hp @ 4500 rpm91 hp @ 4750 rpm
Max torque139 lb-ft @ 3000 rpm116 lb-ft @ 3000 rpm
Drivetrain6-speed, wet clutch, belt drive6-speed, dry clutch, shaft drive
Brakes4-piston Brembo calipers & 320/300mm discs4-piston BMW calipers & 300/300mm discs
Weight862 lbs / 391 kg877 lbs / 398 kg
Fuel Capacity6 gal / 23 lt6.3 gal / 24 lt
Base Price (starting at)$54,299 (CAD)$26,095 (CAD)

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