Living with a Pan America 2 - 4000km update

H-D Pan America

Still taking the long way.

Like most modern Harleys tourers, the Pan America has a variety of trip data and diagnostic readouts available.

Amongst the long list of things I have come to really like about this bike is its 173cm (6.8”) touchscreen display and the clarity with which it can display a raft of data.

The odometer and trip numbers are centred on the screen, with ‘A’ and ‘B’ trip meter functions, fuel range, and other info scrollable from the toggles on the left hand switch block. 

As standard practice with HEAVY DUTY test bikes, I reset trip meter ‘A’ every time I fill up, to keep an eye on fuel consumption and accuracy of the range readout, and I set meter B to run from the day one and over the duration of the test. On a typical test bike that’s usually around 1,000km.

But in testament to how much I truly enjoy being aboard the Pan America, according to ‘B’ I’m at the 4000km mark, and have drawn one undeniable conclusion over that distance. 

This is a mighty fine motorcycle. 

It's been very good at everything I've thrown at it. Bad roads, good roads, dirt roads, no roads, freeways, touring, sports riding, commuting - and having a LOT of fun. It's handled it all with aplomb.

Another reason I’ve racked up so many Kays is that the Pan America is one of those bikes that definitely encourages taking the long way home. I just don’t want to get off it.

Quite often I’ll add an extra cruise around the Bayside Esplanade before heading back to base. 

At the end of the foreshore run is a slow 135-degree right hander around a traffic island. 

Inevitably, as I drop the bike into that turn one thought always occurs, “Man! This is just so nice.” Every time I do it. It’s such a beautifully balanced, great handling, effortless package. It’s a recurring refrain. 

Now enhanced. 

Part of the strategy of doing a long-term test is that we get to modify the bike from the genuine Harley catalogue.

The selection of components is growing now, and aftermarket products are starting to appear from the likes of Vance & Hines et al, but our customising choices are all genuine H-D. 

The first thing I requested was a ‘Tall Boy’ saddle. 

H-D don’t specify a seat height for the Pan America Special due to its semi-active suspension and the way it varies ride heights. 

Even so, with most Adv bikes and their long travel suspension, one issue has always been accommodating shorter inseams. 

While the stock sculpted saddle on the Pan Am, in concert with the self-lowering suspension, should accommodate most people, my problem is the opposite. Its relatively short seat to peg height of around 400mm was causing my knees to bend more than their age allows.

The taller saddle fixed most of that and is plush and very comfortable to sit on for all-day, long way home riding.

One thing leads to ...

What a difference a few inches make. With the stock seat fitted I was loudly extolling the efficiency of the bike’s screen and bodywork. “No buffeting … comfortable … great.” I said.

But then I found that sitting up a few inches higher my Arai was now in dirty air – the turbulence off the top of the screen. 

It didn’t matter what height I set the adjustable screen to, I had wind noise and head buffeting going on. 

Typically, ADV riders fit a bigger windscreen or add some sort of extension or lip. Harley offers the former by way of a taller screen. Which makes sense in colder climates and adverse conditions, but up here in the Sunshine state I prefer smaller screens that place my melon well above the turbulence. 

To that end, the genuine, shorter smoked screen we’ve fitted works perfectly and looks great. It really does give the bike more of a Supermoto and sportier look.

About that sound. 

The next things to go onto the bike gave it a noticeable lift in performance - and sound. A genuine Screamin’ Eagle Titanium muffler and Sports Air Cleaner were fitted by the team at Gasoline Alley H-D and boy, doesn’t it growl now. 

The new muffler is not crazy-loud, but offers a deep, rich note and the weight savings are obvious. With the easily removed spark arrestor fitted it’s not much louder than the stock system. Remove the arrestor and it sounds fantastic. 

Looking at the two systems side by side as the changeover took place it’s easy to see the how much bulk has been trimmed – especially the collector box. 

It was also interesting to observer the Air Cleaner upgrade procedure. Removing the tank and bodywork for access was reasonably complicated and the tank must come off for every scheduled service. 

But the new filter has significantly greater volume and the difference to throttle response after it and the new muffler were fitted was obvious from the first time that I really wound it on - and did I mention that the new note is sensational!

One of the many attractions of owning a Harley-Davidson has always been the ability to customise the bike to individual taste, as more options become available our Pan America has begun that journey too. 

We have plenty more accessories and upgrades on the wishlist. 

Check back next issue to see where we go. And it will be the long way home. 

(*** SIDEBAR ***)

Not so typical day.

A few days after all the new kit was installed, I tagged along with the crew from Heavy Duty Motorsports on one of their shop rides - and it proved once again why I really do like this bike so much. 

Riders and their passengers on 70 bikes met up at the Oxley store and headed south on a run through Beaudesert to Rathdowney, past Lake Moogarah and on to the Harrisville Pub for lunch. 

The first section of the ride was Freeway and open country riding across the floor of the Scenic Rim. 

The Pan America was easy to fit in with staggered convoy riding. Engine braking is comparable to a M8 or Twin Cam’s so there’s no need to ride the brakes when travelling in close company. The amount of engine braking is also programmable in the custom riding modes. 

On the freeway it’s a capable touring machine. With the new saddle and screen its very comfortable and wonderfully solid on the road. It holds a line very nicely. 

I stopped to take ride photos just past Rathdowney. By the time I packed up the cameras, kitted back up and resumed the run, the group was long gone. 

That didn’t bother me too much though. The Boonah-Rathdowney Road and out to the dam section of the route brought us to the first twisty roads of the day. I switched the bike to Sports mode and cracked it open under the premiss of ‘catching up’.

Again, the bike was fantastic. On the change of modes the semi-adaptive suspension hardens up and the throttle responses become much more immediate. It handled the conditions tight, twisty and bumpy sections like the most of capable sport-tourers. 

Self-control needed. 

I figured to catch the pack before they got to the Pub. 

That was until I started passing what looked like some very interesting dirt roads around Mt Barney. I should have gone to the Pub and been social. I didn’t. Given the option of going to the pub or the lure of ‘rarking up’ on Cotswald Road – the pull of the dirt proved too strong.

I dialled in ‘Off-road’ mode. The suspension and the immediacy of the power delivery softens, the tracking control ramps up and the fun begins. 

After several very satisfying side roads sojourn I got to the Harrisville quite some time after the main group. 

After exchanging greetings, I jumped straight back on the bike and went off looking for even more Adventures before heading back to base. 

Thanks to the crew at Heavy Duty Motorsports for letting me tag along. It was a well-run event, and I had another fantastic day on the incredibly versatile Pan America.

But a word of caution. ADV bikes are all about getting away from it all and exploring.

Being on this bike is so much fun, it can make you anti-social.

(*** ENDS ***)

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