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BEAUTY & THE BEASTY – A quick run on the 2024 Harley-Davidson Pan America

It's important to put the wife to the wind now and again...

On any given day, my beloved wife will tell me to take her for a ride. On a bike, of course. This was one such day…


“What kind of Harley is that? I have never seen one like it.”


“It’s the fastest Harley ever built. You like it?”


“Um…yes, I think. It looks…brutal.”


“Which is why you married me, of course.”


“No, fool. I can’t remember what possessed me, but it wasn’t that.”


“My long, supermodel legs, my ability to dance like Nureyev, and the fact I punched every bloke who came near you until that stopped happening.”


“Oh my god, get on, let’s go.”


“Where we going?”


“Lunch, wine, a nice view – you know the drill.”


Off we went and about 20km on, she thumped me on the shoulder.

“You OK?” I asked buttoning off a touch.

“Hurry up and take the photo! It’s hot here.”

“This bike is great!”


“Really? How so?”


“It’s very comfortable. Like, seriously. The bumps aren’t smashing me, and it seems to go pretty fast, though maybe you need to stop speeding. It’s Sunday.”


That there’s the exact thing about the Pan America, though I’d qualify what I’m going to tell you by saying I don’t think the bike is “great”. But I do think it is very good, and that’s the problem right there. Had Harley built the thing say ten or so years ago, the world would have been applauding its creation. And rightly so. Ten or so years ago, the Pan America would have been a great bike. Now it’s just a very good one, because the top-end of the Adventure bike mountain is crowded with great bikes.


Since it’s advent, I have been riding Pan America’s with some regularity. I have done short trips and long trips on them. I’ve done some dirt on them. They’re not a dirt bike. Neither is any big Adventure bike. Of course, you can ride them on the dirt, and some people do, but to be honest, the dirt they’re happy with is the same dirt I can take pretty much any road bike on.


As a big-tanked, all-surfaces tourer, the Pan America certainly holds it own with ease. That motor is just lovely. The gearbox shifts smooth, the suspension is plush, the seats cosset both the rider and the pillion, you can carry metric shit-tonnes of stuff on them at quite rapid speeds. Point to point, it’s the fastest Harley ever built.


It’s a good bike, a really good bike. But that’s not enough for some people. Those people need a great bike. Those same people could not ride the great bike any faster than they could ride a good bike like this one, but that makes no difference. They want what they want, primarily so other people will think them to be wise in the way of the bike.


In some ways it’s like wearing bespoke top-end racing leathers while actually riding like a yutz. Perception is what’s important to these folks and if people look at you in a non-riding setting, and behold your gear or parked bike, they will draw a certain conclusion. And that conclusion is an important thing to the person being beheld.


And fair enough. Because the only time that conclusion is dispelled, is on the road. Those people are otherwise safe from condemnation and ridicule.


But I digress. I do that from time to time. I apologise.

Anyway, Lynette and I went belting out of Singo, to Gresford, Dungog, Patterson, and stopped in Maitland for lunch. The roads out that way, as you know, would be the glory of Romania…if they were in Romania.


But they are here, and they will test your suspension and your abilities to stay on the road every time you ride them. And I have ridden them more times than I can count on more bikes than I can remember. These roads are as nothing to the Pan America. Even at righteous speeds.


I can’t dislike the bloody thing at all. It does nothing wrong. It goes like I want it to, and when I want it to. Sure, the side-stand remains the mother of all bastards, and the dash is far too busy…but these are truly minor things. The petrol tank is gigantic, the adjustable screen works a treat, and I actually quite like its unique, brutish appearance.


I really hope Harley keeps making them and keeps developing them – which is something it hasn’t done since the Pan America was first released in 2020. Apart from sorting the initial ECU niggles, it’s the same bike. The one I was on was the base model, so there was no quickshifter or ride-height device – and that was fine. The lack of quickshifter actually sorted out the throttle sensitivity that would sometimes cause you to lurch forward when using the quickshifter. I think it’s better off without that.

The view she got was me.

Lynette really liked it. She told me how much over lunch.


“It really is lovely on the back.”


“You head-butted me a few times.”


“You were speeding. When those kids went by and you went after them…”


“Yes, well kids on Ducatis and KTMs and Yamahas sometimes need to be shown things. I did back off a bit after I showed them some of those things.”


“How old are you?”


“Too damn old…”

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Boris Mihailovic

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.

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