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8 Annoying Things About the Pan America & Why You Want One Anyway

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Just when you think that you have heard it all, Harley Davidson claims it has created a modern adventure bike. I know, I know… stop chuckling. ‘Modern’ is not really a word to be easily associated with the American firm. They generally blend together as well as Mentos and Coke.

The adventure part of the claim could be slightly less ludicrous, as Harley Davidson has often supplied its customers with large doses of adventure. ‘Does the bus even stop here on a Sunday?’ or ‘Did you see it fall off?’ are questions that disciples of more boring brands such as Honda or Yamaha will not have uttered often. Harley Davidson then; could it be a definitive adventure bike brand?

For one whole week of the Covid-plagued summer of 2021, I decided to strictly quarantine myself. Sorry, what I mean to say is that, I spent the week on an island. My weapon of choice for a week-long ride on Italian gem Sardinia was the then brand new Harley Davidson Pan America 1250. I can tell you straight away that I have not had to buy a bus ticket once, and that the only thing to have fallen off the bike was my own dumb self. But, to therefore conclude that the Yank-tank is pretty much perfect, would be untrue. Here’s eight annoying things about the Harley Davidson Pan America, and why you want one anyway.

Quality

Cheapness is a very present sensation as you board the American machine. The materials used for, and the construction of certain parts just feel a tad fragile. Also, there were tiny areas on the fairings that the paint gun appeared to have missed. The manual mechanism for the windscreen takes the cake in my opinion. Adjusting this up or down will have you sweating like the bomb squad in real fear of snapping it clean off.

Our assigned steed

The Handlebars

Maybe this really should go under the quality box, but I will go ahead and give it an honorary position on this list. They were crooked. Note, they were not bent, they were crooked. Looking straight at them for seven days did my head in a bit. They were a couple degrees out of jig in relation to the forks. It could be, of course, that the bike was dropped previously or damaged in transit. But the low milage and complete lack of other visual damage would make me doubt that.

The Sound

Sound, historically the main reason for buying a Harley Davidson. Coming to think of it, all reasons for buying Harley Davidsons have been historical. As expected then, the brand new Revolution engine in this adventure bike is a big, burly 1250cc V-twin. Out of left field though, the 150 horsepower and 137Nm of torque are about twice what you would expect from the Harleys and the Davidsons. Too bad that it sounds nearly identical to the air compressor I have in the shed. Make no mistake, the engine is really, very good. But audibly one would have to almost straight-pipe it to make any sort of sense, I feel.

The Dash

In short, the dash is really good. There is a clear screen that reads well under most circumstances and the controls, layout and functionality are logical, fast and easy. I will go as far as to say that it is better than the infotainment systems in most new cars (looking at you, VW). The one thing that lets this down in my view is phone connectivity. And it is not as if the bike does not have it, because it does. There’s a USB-C port on the side of the dash even. How modern is that? As it turns out, the Pan Am tries to connect with your phone about every twenty minutes. While you are just using the USB-C slot to charge it. On long rides, this is exceptionally annoying. Here you are, using your phone’s navigation, listening to your polka playlist on Spotify, all via the Cardo setup in your helmet… nice. And then, nothing. Again and again and again.

A bit of dirt

Filler Cap

Now this might be nitpicking, in fact I am fairly certain that it is. But as this piece is about things that I found annoying, here you have it anyway. The filler cap opens towards the rider and between it and the bars very little space is left. Filling up becomes a bit of a hassle. Because the tank is quite high as well, the result is an awkward body position that I tire of in no time at all. Can we really not get this right?

Pulling Away

As the Harley comes from the factory with all the torque in the world (or at least plenty to get the average American drive-through enthusiast moving), you tend to blame yourself for stalling it. Ones, twice… maybe even three times. But the bike drops dead just a bit too easily if I’m honest. Again, this not the end of the world, but it does make the big machine feel a bit finnicky at times. Pulling away from a standstill takes more throttle then seems necessary.

Width

You know I had to get the optional aluminium (or aloominum) panniers from the rental place. I was going adventure biking and real adventure bikers have aluminium panniers. Even if they are just going 10 miles to work and back, it appears to be the law. The Harley’s panniers are on the wide side though. Or at least, they feel disproportionately wide in comparison to the bike. By the time I got back from the 1500km round trip, I had damaged both sides. I could not for the life of me figure out where though. To my recollection I had not been in any position where I was too close to anything. The possibility still exists that the rider was a bit of a clot.

Indicators

On the subject of annoying things, the Pan America’s indicator switch reigns supreme. If I could change anything on the stock bike, this would be it, no question. The indicators are (as you might know) used quite frequently and these are annoying about 95% of the time. Even with my 3XL hands (according to Alpinestars) I find it almost impossible to engage the left indicator without letting go of the bars. Then there’s the old right-left manoeuvre. Indicating right is easy. Then, when you let go of the bars slightly to indicate left, this only cancels the right indicator. This means you have to do it again. The first time, it is just a bit of an awkward reach, the fifth time it becomes very annoying. In the timespan of a full day doing B-roads, this develops into short outbursts of pure unadulterated rage. Did they get Slenderman to test this switchgear or what?

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Conclusion

So, don’t buy the Harley Davidson Pan America then? To tell you the truth, I have been dreaming of owning one ever since spending time with it. No, it is not perfect, but what bike really is? To me, this thing has heaps of character. The looks have been received as divisive to say the least. I myself have said that it looks as if someone has crashed a motorcycle into the back of a bumper car. The Pan Am’s styling has completely won me over though. Its square jaw and big LED headlight remind me of a ’69 Dodge Charger. It looks modern, yet unapologetically American muscle. I say that the designers are spot on with this bike.

The rest of the bike hardly disappoints either. The seating position is great for full days of riding, never once have I felt even remotely uncomfortable or tired. It is a relatively light machine, it feels very capable and nimble. On gravel and in the fast twisties I will even claim that it felt playful. Long story short, I had an absolute blast riding the big Harley.

Should you buy one then? All its sins are forgiven. If you like its looks, I can see no reason why you could not fall in love with the rest of this bike. I have…

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