A Pan America Parts Line is Born
Our Adventure with the Harley Pan Am
I love motorcycles. All motorcycles. Choppers. FXRs. Touring bikes. Dirt bikes. Sport bikes. I fucking love motorcycles! Years ago I was getting a little bored with the same old roads around our shop and home. Don’t get me wrong; the area of Missouri where we live and operate Bare Knuckle Performance is beautiful. We have a very diverse landscape, from rolling hills to prairie, river bottoms to the northern edge of the Ozark Mountains. There is something for everyone here. But I was stuck on pavement for the most part. Every time I passed a gravel road, fire road, timber trail, I wondered, what is down that road? So I bought a BMW GSA.
The GSA has been the leader in the adventure bike market for decades. And for good reason. The GSA handles damn near anything and everything you throw at it. It will corner through the canyons like a sport bike, then pull off onto a logging road and throw rooster tails as tall as the trees. On the highway you can make time quick, thanks to the 8 gallon tank and 137 horsepower. It’s comfortable. It’s nimble. It’s fast. It’s the king of the ADV Bike world, until Harley Davidson released the Pan America in 2021. HD turned the adventure bike world on its ear in 2021, as the Pan America outsold all adventure bikes that year.
The Pan America has the incredible new RevMax 1250 engine, kicking out an impressive 150 horsepower. The PAS, or Pan Am Sport, offers the rider adaptive ride control. You can have heated grips, navigation, adjustable ride height… all the right stuff for the adventure enthusiast. Is the Pan Am truly better than the BMW, Ducati, and KTM adventure bikes? That decision is honestly up to each individual rider and what they really want out of their bike. What I can tell you, is that the Pan America is an amazing motorcycle.
Now, let me tell you how I came to enjoy this bike, and why we are expanding our current Performance Parts Lineup and jumping into the Pan America world with some performance and protection upgrades. Awhile back I got a call from Danger Dan, of the Danger Dan Podcast. Dan and I got to know each other real well last year on our motorcycle tour around the Himalayas of Nepal. Dan is the same kind of motorcycle enthusiast as I; he doesn’t really care what brand or style of bike you’re on, as long as you’re riding and smiling. So Dan tells me he has another Pan Am showing up in the next couple days, and he has some parts ideas he would like to see made, and asks if I would be interested in using his bike to make some new stuff. His goal is to make the Pan America experience a little better. Of course I said yes. Two days later I found myself at Dan's house just this side of the Brazos River in Texas.
Being New Year’s Eve, we ate chicken fried steak and played card games with Dan’s family, and went to bed well before the ball dropped anywhere on this continent. I had to. I had a long ride home ahead of me the next day. The next morning Dan and I spent a bunch of time looking the bike over, listening to his ideas, coming up with new ones, and just admiring the bike. A lot of what Dan is looking for is protective gear. He’s had his bike all over North and South America, and he has run into some issues with some parts of the bike being exposed to an occasional limb, whether vegetative or human, being laid own, etc. So we made a plan to R&D some parts for Dan, and I hopped on the bike and headed northwest into Arkansas.
The first day of the ride home was fairly uneventful; mostly 90-100 mph across Texas on the interstate. I really enjoy staying off the highways and on two lane roads, but Dan had shared a very interesting chunk of the Arkansas BDR (backcountry discovery route) just west of Hot Springs, and I wanted to get there asap. One thing I noticed about the Pan America this first day was the fuel tank did not allow me to go as far between gas stops as I would’ve liked. My first stop was right at 150 miles, and I called it a night after about 300 total for the day (mind you, I didn’t leave Dan’s until well after noon this day). I really like hitting 250 between stops when I’m trying to make good time. But the fact that I had never been on this bike more than a quick lap around town prior to this trip, and my muscles and body were definitely not accustomed to the ergonomics, yet I was able to knock out two 150 mile legs in a row without being in pain says a lot for the bike. Especially for a guy that’s 6’6”.
I woke up the next day ready to get after it. After examining the map a little closer, I noticed many of the roads I would be on this day, and roads intersecting my route, bore the names of certain lumber manufacturers. Timber roads! Fuck yes! To add to the adventure, it started raining shortly after I got on the bike. I wasn’t even mad. I knew this would make the timber roads all the more fun. And I was right. I was lightly following the map, but more than anything just took whatever road looked fun or challenging. I got into some hills and mushy stuff that I told Dan about, and we both promised to meet back there this spring and fully explore the area. It was great. The bike did quite well in all of this terrain. I was impressed with the bikes ability to “lug” through slow and technical spots without stalling, but the handlebars low and somewhat awkward positioning left me somewhat handicapped.
When riding off-road, you will often want to stand up on the pegs. This allows you to better see the trail directly in front of you, and more importantly, lowers your center of gravity, as all of your weight is now on the pegs, and not on the seat and pegs. You will often maneuver the bike using your feet and thighs to push the bike from side to side, rather than lean with your body and handlebars. To do this properly, you want your knees slightly bent, and your back straight, or close to straight. I was leaning over. A lot. That puts your hands where you cannot properly operate the clutch and brake. In many instances I found myself seated so I could operate the controls. It slowed me down quite a bit. Since we already make some amazing Strong Arm Risers and Flex Modular Risers, we knew we obviously needed a riser solution.
Additionally, a lot of mud gets caked up on top of the rear fender. I’m talking inches and inches of mud. This affects the spring/shock, as it eventually builds up enough that the suspension is covered in mud. Dan warned me this could happen, just like he warned me the radiator gets the shit beat out of it. After less than 1000 miles, this radiator is absolutely riddled with damage and small rocks lodged in it. Ideas two and three came about, maybe something similar to our Softail Oil Cooler Guard. As I continued North, the rain picked up, the temperatures dropped, and I went hauling ass right past a tornado. I guess that’s part of the adventure.
Once I got back to the shop and got the bike on a lift, Mike, Sam, and I started immediately tearing the bike apart. I told them about Dan’s ideas, my ideas, and then their ideas started rolling. This is my favorite part about creating new parts; all of us putting our heads together and working through the design. It really is a team effort, and we have the best team. I’m not going to fully divulge what we will be offering for the Pan Am just yet, other than we will be bringing a line to market with Danger Dan. These will be simply called DANGER. We will have our own lineups as well. Yes lineupS. We will have an adventure based lineup, but also something a little different; something “modular” that fits a few different styles of riding. We are very excited about it. As I write this, the first batch of parts is actually showing up from one of our fab shops. Check out our entire Pan America Series on our YouTube Channel. Part 1 of the series was so much fun! We have a multi part series starting with my visit to Dan’s house, continuing through the ride home, parts development, and the parts lineup release at Mama Tried in Milwaukee February 18-19.
Until then, FTW