You know what this point-to-point thing I’m talking about is, right?
You get on your bike at Point A, then you ride to Point B. Then C, D, and so on. Eventually, the plan is to return to Point A in one piece, licence intact, bragging rights secured.
Ideally, you’d be able to measure the heft of your cags against like-minded men who are also measuring the heft of theirs.
This is a righteous motorcycle thing because not only will there be someone there to help you fight with the Highway Patrol, but they shall also be able to witness any acts of glory you might engage in…um, like fighting with the Highway Patrol.
And talk about such things for years.
Regular readers will know that since I have moved to Singleton and made some new mates, I have been invited to join in an annual tradition with these blokes.
Once each year, usually at the end of autumn when everyone’s nipples are hard, they conduct a ride from Singleton to Bathurst and return, to honour the memory of Coxy, a mate of theirs who has passed. The ride starts early (0730) and proceeds via Bylong Valley Way, Rylestone, Ilford, Sofala, Bathurst (lunch), then Lithgow, Bells Line, and the Putty back to Singleton.
It’s a solid day of banging, and very little lolly-gagging thanks to the stern lash of Billy Muddle, who ensures we don’t spend too much time piss-farting about on our few stops. He does this by using bad language and calling us names. And it works. You’ve never seen men eat steaks faster.
The plan is always to get back to Singo before the kangaroos begin to swarm, and if we make it back to the old fig tree at the end of the Ten Mile just as the sun is just going down, we’re all smiling.
An excellent by-product of Bill’s encouragement is that we are all forced to ride at what can only be described as an anti-social non-Christian pace. And yes, we dare, because we have not yet surrendered to slavery, and we pick and choose our time and place. So far so good.
This year, I felt the new Pan America should be put through its paces, and if you know the route, you’ll know that any and all of your motorcycle’s issues will quickly become evident. There is everything on that route – bad bitumen, mad corners, glorious bitumen, even madder corners, and everything in-between. It’s a great run.
The 2023 Pan America is much like the 2022 Pan America, but with all of its software glitches removed. Which is right and proper. The first one had teething issues (like the one where you spin the back wheel in the dirt and the bike goes into Limp mode), and there was a recall over a demon in the dash display. They have been resolved. There was also a starting issue if the bike sat for a few days, and I’m told this was fixed, but it still doesn’t like being started in gear. The start motor seems to hesitate and lug a touch.
That aside, what we have in the Pan America is a really excellent touring bike that cracks on hard, is comfortable, handles well, looks utterly unique, and is, as a consequence of all that, the Fastest Point-To-Point Harley on earth.
That is to say that I (or any competent rider) can get from say Singleton to Bathurst on the Pan America faster that another competent rider could from Singleton to Bathurst on any other stock production Harley. This is a simple statement of fact.
The Pan America has the handling credentials, the ground clearance, the power, and the brakes, to leave Fat Boys, Ultras, Breakouts, and all the others in its wake. Let me cliché that up for you. It is what it is.
And here’s what the Pan America is not. It’s not a dirt bike. Sure, it can slay fire-trails with the best of them. But it, like most of these giant mis-named “Adventure” bikes, doesn’t do its best work in rough stuff. So they, like the Pan America, excel as all-day comfortable touring bikes that easily cope with our ravaged Australian roads.
This was wonderfully illustrated as my companions and I chased each other along the route. What was the Pan America contending with? Aaron had an FJR. Duncan was giving his beloved ZX-10 its last ride before trading it on an S1000RR. Marx was on his wicked ZX. Batesy had left his Harley at home and brought along his R1. It seems the ignominy Billy heaped on him last year when Batesy had smashed his primary cover to bits on the Bylong and was forced to retire from the race…erm, ride, tipped the big man’s hand. And he is a big man. He makes the R1 look like a 250. That left Tom on his beloved Fireblade, and Billy on his brand-new MT-01SP.
All of these bastards can and do pedal. I have to apply myself mightily to keep up, lest the shame of not keeping up turns me into a eunuch. So I did and I could, and that’s thanks to the Pan America’s integrity and it’s glorious motor.
I let both Aaron and Duncan ride it as well, and they both came away blinking in disbelief that a) it was a Harley, and b) it was actually bloody good bike no matter what badge was on the tank.
My people were divided on its looks. Personally, I love how it looks. All brutal and unique with a touch of the munt about it. Some like it, some don’t. Note how I shrug, and absent-mindedly point out there are very few Adventure bikes one actually sits in a garage with and drinks beers to because they’re so beautiful.
But there’s some stuff going on with the Pan America which caused me to furrow the brow some. Some of this stuff has always been there, and I have mentioned it in my earlier reviews.
The side-stand is crap. I know why H-D put it there, in front of the left footpeg. It could not be placed behind the footpeg (where side-stands normally go) because that’s where the centre-stand abides. It had to go where H-D put it. But it makes me crazy. It feels very weird trying to deploy it, and it feels not quite long enough when deployed. For reasons I cannot understand, H-D is making a hash of all the side-stands on all its models. Where once H-D side-stands were the best in the world, they are now stunted little bitches of things.
I’m also not a fan of the dash. It’s too busy, and much of it is too small to read when you’re riding. It would not take much to offer an option where you can turn off all the extraneous crap and just see speedo, tacho, and fuel. BMW has this nailed.
And then there was the whole sensitivity of the throttle. So it’s got a quickshifter. Works fine. But sometimes, when you’re down-changing, you can cop a bit of a surge. This also happens when you use the clutch. And usually when you’re engaged in spirited riding. I’m not enamoured of a bike that spits a gob of acceleration at me when it should be engine-braking instead.
As it turns out, and which explains the randomness of the event – sometimes it would do it, sometimes it wouldn’t – this was my fault. I am a ham-fisted rider. Think circus bear. So sometimes, during downshifting, I may not have entirely shut down the throttle. Most other bikes forgive this in me. This one does not. Nor do some of the Boxer-engined Beemers, but they do it far less regularly. And when they do it, it’s obvious the problem is me. Not so on the Pan America.
So maybe this is just a matter of the owner getting used to this. And maybe H-D can do a little bit of work in that regard.
There’s still a lot to love. The automatic ride-height thingy is brilliant. As you come to a stop, the bike lowers itself. When you ride off, it raises itself. You only notice it if you want to. The semi-active suspension is great, so are the Brembos, and the seat is wonderful for both rider and pillion.
There’s a certain mongrel about it, which is hugely appealing. It’s not overly refined, and while it has most of the electronic gewgaws its competition has, it’s somehow less pretentious in their deployment. I’m not sure. There’s just something utterly American, rather than European or Japanese, about it and the way it goes about its business.
The day Harley decides it wants to put that engine into something other than the Pan America and Sportster S, something that’s designed to be hurled into corners with venom and comes with great brakes and suspension to back it up…well, that may be the day a lot of things change.
But for the moment, I’m good with the Pan America. And it’s good with me.
Boris is a writer who has contributed to many magazines and websites over the years, edited a couple of those things as well, and written a few books. But his most important contribution is pissing people off. He feels this is his calling in life and something he takes seriously. He also enjoys whiskey, whisky and the way girls dance on tables. And riding motorcycles. He's pretty keen on that, too.