VRSCDX

37 months ago

 - via web

- Story

The Pan America Harley Davidson

Woodside, California, United States

PAN AM

PAN AM

The newly released Harley Davidson Pan America, as seen on display at Alice's restaurant in Woodside California. This was a Harley Davidson sponsored test ride event, and I got a chance to throw a leg over, and formed an opinion other than what I've been reading about this new bike.

  • the good
  • the bad
  • and the ugly

When I first saw the Prototype of this bike along time ago, I just discounted it as another poser bike. I was certain they would never create anything off-road oriented that would spec-out as an actual usable dual sport. Everyone thought it would be too heavy, and lacking on true off-road capability. Looks like we were wrong. Unfortunately most of the reviews read a lot more like advertisements than actual usability reviews. No surprise that most of the test ride reviews skew more toward on road riding, and fire trail dirt with more limited off Road hard-core testing. But that is probably the niche sales market for this bike. It feels more like a crossover (SUV not Jeep) that fits in with several other crossover dual sports on the market. This is quite a departure from the Harley playbook. Harley stopped selling motorcycles a long time ago, and started selling lifestyles, clothing, accessories, and nostalgia. There was only so much you could do with old school engineering that for many years no one wanted changed.

Where does this bike fit in on a scale of BMW GS to KTM adventure? Well it does not…..

Yes I know, the BMW GS is the workhorse that leans more toward on road than off, and the KTM is the off road king that's not that great on road. Where is the balance? That would be a Honda African Twin Adventure right in the middle of the two. So where does the Pan America fit? Right next to the Ducati Multistrada and above the Kawasaki Super Tenere. Like I said, a crossover bike…….. I would love to see Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman take this on a little adventure. Maybe Long Way Upside Down filmed in Australia 😉

The Good:

The revolution max engine is based on the now defunct V-Rod engine that Porsche designed. This engine is a leap forward in that design by the engineers at Harley, Not Buell or Porsche. The frame is rather interesting as there really isn't much of one. Everything just attaches to the engine structure. A stripped-down base model geared toward the daily commuter is also available, but that has none of the computerized suspension adjustments of the higher end model, and some rather cheesy looking rims. The adjustable suspension has a full array of presets, and is customizable, but only within each category's pre-programmed settings.

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The Bad:

I wasn't really comfortable with how much front end dive this bike has. With the cross-link brakes you can just grab a big handful of front brake with no worries, but to stop smoothly without a lot of front end dive you need to use the rear brake just before applying front so it will stop flat and smooth like a BMW GS. One thing I really dislike is the throttle response. I wouldn't say it's a quarter turn throttle, it's more like a 16th turn. Comes in way to fast, and I think Harley knows it. I would expect there will be a slight change at some point to make the throttle smoother. I found that even in rain mode, if the back tire is stopped on gravel, mud or slippery wet, when you take off from the side of the road onto the pavement it's way too easy to break the bike loose to the point of fishtailing back onto the road.

The one thing that really holds me back from considering this bike is again (just like on the V-Rod for on road) the way the suspension travel, ground clearance, approach and departure angles will effect true off Road capability. This leaves a bad taste in my mouth due to the years it took me to get the poorly designed suspension of my V-Rod to stop dragging on the pavement due to the severely cantilevered frame. In the corners when the suspension would compress it was a nightmare. On this bike the rear suspension components sit low and cantilevered on the swing arm frame. Not as bad as a V-Rod, but still a place for concern traveling over objects or in ruts. The bigger concern is that battleship bulbous bash plate sticking out low and right up to the front tire. When riding in deep ruts, over rocks, or down trees, I just think it's going to plow in as the front suspension compresses. The big question for me is what is the usable approach angle when the front suspension is compressed. Yes you can get the heavy duty bash plate but that bulky chunk of metal sticking out the front holds the battery, and the antifreeze bottle, not to mention the regulator crammed in the front. I would think literally crammed if you hit something off-road.

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The ugly:

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. With this bike I think they tried to do something very different and very the same to try and snag a few of the Harley brand riders. They went with the gas tank blast from the past, and tossed in the Road Glide style faring light. So do we call it the Off Road Glide? or the Dirt Glide?

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Overall, I think they did an amazing job! What scares me is why I am so amazed……..

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VRSCDX

32 months ago

@marina

It is a good crossover bike, but a very awkward ride. Still needs a bit of refinement, and there's already talk of oil leaks because the frame is the engine. Heavy duty Off-road durability does not look good. As a cross over on fire-roads you're probably fine. They're going for the short inseam rider crowd with the automatic self lowering seat height. It has a good niche market and should do well. But the off-road capability is not quite up to par yet.