Harley-Davidson has offered up a few more tidbits about its new liquid-cooled V-twin powerplant, as well as two of its more eagerly anticipated models. Or, well, should-be eagerly anticipated.
BABY IT’S COLD OUTSIDE
Get Yourself a TMO Hoodie
Since we’ve known for more than a year that these models were coming, the impact of last week’s EICMA annoucements may not have been quite as dramatic as the 116-year-old company would have hoped. Which is a shame because I feel this really is a big step forward for the company. I’m looking forward to seeing these things in the flesh and, hopefully, getting to ride them. Hell, if the Pan America.. ahem… pans out to be the bike that I think it can be, I might even find myself buying one of these models someday.
Let’s start, though, with the Revolution Max engine that will be driving the new models. Not to be confused with the Revolution X powerplant found in Harley’s existing Street 500/750 and Street Rod 750 models, though probably quite similar.
In both cases you’re dealing with a liquid-cooled 60-degree V-twin engine that can be modified to create different capacities. Right off the bat we know this new Rev Max engine will be tweaked to create a 975cc and 1250cc variant. I think it’s fair to say that once the Revolution platform is fully off the ground and powering multiple bikes we’ll see the long anticipated retirement of the Evolution engine that’s been the heart of the Sportster range for roughly 35 years. I’d put my money on a Revolution-powered Sportster to arrive in 2021*.
HARLEY-DAVIDSON PAN AMERICA
Before then, however, we have the 1250cc Pan America, set to arrive at some point next year. I’ve written quite a bit about the Pan America in the past (article 1 – article 2), and, to be honest, Harley hasn’t offered up a great deal more info than what we already knew. But there are some tiny morsels for obsessives like me to chew on.
For example, Milwaukee’s most famous motorcycle company has given horsepower and torque figures of “more than” 145 hp and “more than” 90 lb-ft of torque. I suspect the company’s giving itself wiggle room there to take into account the different regulations of different markets, but I reckon it’s safe to say that every bike will be EU-compliant right out of the box. That means hitting Euro 5 emissions standards, being equipped with ABS as standard and being neutered by a gargantuan but anemic-sounding exhaust.
Indeed, one of my first thoughts upon watching the Pan America promo video was: “That exhaust doesn’t sound very Harley-like. They’re gonna have to fix that before it hits dealerships.”
KEEP READING: Harley-Davidson Plans to Make You Buy a Harley by 2022
It occurs to me that Harley-Davidson may be seeking to counter the idea that it only makes bikes for loud-pipes-save-lives dickheads by creating a motorcycle that sounds thoroughly efficient, but I think that’s the wrong strategy. Even the exalted BMW R 1250 GS has a famously wicked growl, and no one is expecting or asking for soulless precision from Harley-Davidson. I suggest taking a page out of Ducati’s book and making the Pan America as loud as the law will allow. Make the thing sound not just a little wild.
That’s probably not something I should be concerned about, though. If any bike is going to come with a wealth of manufacturer accessories it’s going to be this one. There will probably be several Screamin’ Eagle modifications put forward when the bike eventually hits showrooms. And, unsurprisingly, it appears Harley-Davidson is already working on an adventure line of clothing. Take a close look at the gear worn by the rider in promo photos and you’ll notice it’s all branded. Look particularly close and you’ll see the REV’IT logo on the rider’s jacket.
This is very clever, I think. Partnering with known and respected clothing brands is a great way forward for motorcycle brands. Indian Motorcycle does this with its Spirit Lake boots, which are made by Red Wing. I like it because it means I get a product that I actually want combined with the aspirational aspect of wearing branded gear. Harley is already doing this with its (expensive) Harley-Davidson Originals Cycle King jacket made by Vanson. I’d like to see more of these type of collaborations.
“The Harley-Davidson Pan America is an all-new advanced adventure touring motorcycle of equal parts campfire, wanderlust, and grit,” states Harley-Davidson’s press release. “The Pan America 1250 is a two-wheel multi-tool built to endure, designed to explore, and engineered for the unknown.”
God bless Harley for its confidence. In the November/December issue of Adventure Bike Rider (which you should totally go out and buy because your favorite writer has an article in it), editor Bryn Davies’ opening letter observes that the Pan America is coming “like it or not.” This makes me think Harley-Davidson will face something of an uphill battle when it comes to winning the hearts and minds of hardcore adventure bike guys, so I worry about the risk of overpromising. But, hey, fortune favors the brave and it’s good to see Harley throwing its weight behind the project.
I am more confident that the Pan America will be an incredible touring machine. This is what Harley does best, after all. Without any idea of how the thing rides nor how much it weighs I am willing to bet the Pan America will sit at or very near the top of the adventure bike scene when it comes to covering big distance.
A picture of the dashboard (see image gallery below) suggests all kinds of fancy technowhizzbangery – so much that there is apparently a need for no less than 12 buttons on the left grip. A complex menu of options is implied by the KTM-esque button square. There are also buttons for cruise control, heated grips and… uh… who knows? What does that circle graphic mean? Resurrection?
There will inevitably be a number of ride modes and probably the ability to tweak traction control and ABS settings. The screen is blank at the moment, suggesting Harley-Davidson hasn’t yet completely decided on the look it wants but I’m guessing it will be a TFT set-up. I wonder if proper built-in satellite navigation might be an option.
No one else does that on an adventure bike, that I can think of. BMW has a set-up that will take an integrated sat-nav, the screen for which can be used to check diagnostic this and that, but I can’t think of a manufacturer that offers a full sat-nav experience within its TFT display. Let me know if I’m wrong. Most do the Moto Guzzi V85TT thing of requiring you to get an app on your phone that then works off Google maps and connects to the bike via Bluetooth to place directional arrows on the display. Even if the Pan-America does have built-in satellite navigation, though, I have no doubt it will also offer connectivity. Because reasons.
Also looking at the picture of the dash, am I correct that the wire running into the left fork suggests electronic suspension?
Other things we can glean from the photos are the fact that both levers are adjustable and the screen is adjustable by hand. Somebody somewhere will probably complain that the screen is not electric but I prefer this. What I don’t see on the dash, however, is a USB port. That may be further down the head stock, though, where Harley places the USB ports on its Softail models. The real cause for celebration, of course, is that the Pan America uses a normal indicator switch – ie, a single switch on the left grip to operate both indicators – rather than the annoying two-button system found on Harley’s cruiser line-up.
It appears the bike has all LED lighting and although the swingarm is a bit basic-bitch ugly it looks as if chain maintenance will be straightforward. I can’t quite tell but the bike may have, or will hopefully at least accept, a center stand – making roadside maintenance easier. I personally like the enormous radiator (probably there to help meet emission standards; note that other bikes’ radiators are getting quite large, eg, the new Suzuki V-Strom 1050’s radiator is now 15 percent larger than on the previous generation). The radiator’s size creates a de facto lower fairing, something that I would love to have. I suspect that riders in hot climates will be less enthusiastic.
KEEP READING: 2019 Moto Guzzi V85TT – First Ride
Looking closely, it appears there are strap points under the passenger seat that are similar to the ones I was such a fan of on my Triumph Tiger Explorer XRX, which make a perfect place to secure Kriega bags. Initially I had thought they were attachment points for integrated luggage but if you look at the images in which the Pan America is wearing the obligatory aluminum box luggage it seems they are mounted via an accessory rack. If this is correct, I am already advising future owners to save their money and just use Kriega bags.
Overall I’m pretty damned excited about this bike. Its somewhat clunky looks have grown on me over the months and I am really eager to find out how it rides and performs. For me, however, cost will be the biggest factor in how I ultimately feel about the Pan America. I understand that Harley-Davidson has a reputation to uphold but I’d really like to see a base price that sits toward the bottom of the upper echelon of ADV bikes – the aforementioned R 1250 GS and Tiger 1200, as well as the Ducati Multistrada 1260 and KTM 1290 Super Adventure S. Meanwhile, there are rumors abound that Indian is working on an adventure bike of its own, built around the FTR 1200 platform and set to arrive in 2021.
HARLEY-DAVIDSON BRONX 975
I’ll admit I am less enthusiastic about Harley’s forthcoming Bronx 975 roadster. Built around the Revolution Max engine in 975cc guise, the bike’s name implies there may be variations on the theme further down the line. A Bronx 750, perhaps? The Street Rod is nice but it leaves a certain amount to be desired; dropping it in favor of a Bronx 750 would be a smart move.
One of my biggest complaints about the Street Rod, in fact my primary complaint, and one so annoying that I couldn’t force myself to even consider the model when I was looking to buy a new bike earlier this year, is the fact the bike’s exhaust is in such a damned inconvenient place. Your right foot juts out and the exhaust gets in the way to such an extent that operating the rear brake is actually a little difficult.
Looking at the rider’s stance in the pictures of the Bronx 975 has me concerned that this issue has carried over to the Street Rod’s cousin, even though the Bronx 975’s exhaust pipes clearly run beneath the bike (into the catalytic) before swooping back out behind the rider. I’m hopeful that the stance is just a feature of this particular rider’s style.
By and large, I’m unimpressed with the bike’s look. The oversized exhaust and colossal radiator have a certain charm in the ugly-is-cool aesthetic of adventure bikes but here it’s just… bad. And those mirrors; ugh. Odds are high that the Bronx 975 will find itself being compared to the Triumph Street Triple RS and Ducati Monster 821 – bikes of nominally similar horsepower, torque and spirit. Harley-Davidson claims 115 hp and 70 lb-ft of torque; compare that against 120 hp and 58 lb-ft for the Triumph, and 109 hp and 65 lb-ft for the Ducati. The Harley looks woefully unpolished when placed next to the other two, but I suppose it’s worth pointing out that this is not the fully finished product.
HARLEY DOES HAVE THE ABILITY TO BUILD A GOOD ROAD BIKE: 2019 Harley-Davidson LiveWire – First Ride
Harley has offered no suggestion as to when the Bronx 975 will be on sale beyond the promise of a 2020 arrival, so there is time to make some visual tweaks. With that enormous radiator I’d say the Bronx 975 would be better off with fairing. Which may, in fact, be an option. Not too long ago, Cycle World uncovered some patent drawings showing a fairing reminiscent of the Harley-Davidson VR1000 superbike that no one remembers**. I assume the fairing would be offered as an accessory for the Bronx 975, similar to the fairing that’s offered for Triumph’s Thruxton.
Bells and whistles appear to be similar to those offered on the Pan America. I’m not entirely sure but in looking at some photos it appears that the multi-arrow button square found on the left switchgear can also be found on the right. I cannot imagine why you would want the right hand dealing with so many buttons nor what their purpose might be. I am so confused by this that I’m inclined to believe it’s just over-enthusiastic Photoshop.
Once again, I think price is going to be a major factor in determining how we feel about the Bronx 975. And, to some extent, I think Harley faces a much steeper uphill climb with road riders than it does with the adventure set. There are a lot of bikes to consider in this field and all of them are good.
I mean, from a power and performance perspective even Suzuki presents a serious challenge in the form of its GSX-S750. No, not as much tech or style (if we assume Harley sorts out aesthetics between now and launch) but probably half the cost of a Bronx 975. Bump up closer to the Harley’s displacement with the GSX-S1000 and you get a 150hp naked bike that will absolutely smoke the Bronx. Consider as well the Honda CB1000R, Kawasaki Z900, Yamaha MT-09/XSR 900, BMW F 900 R, KTM 890 Duke R, MV Agusta Brutale Rosso 800, and the aforementioned Street Triple RS and Monster 821. I’m a fan of Harley-Davidson but I do not honestly believe the Bronx 975 will perform better than any of those. As good as some, maybe, but not better.
WILL THE BRONX BE AS GOOD: 2019 Triumph Speed Twin – First Ride
Almost all the other bikes – especially the Street Triple and Monster – have had years to ingratiate themselves into the hearts and minds of road riders, so Harley has to not only deliver a great bike, it has to deliver it at a price that will encourage people to look away from the machines they know and love. And here again I question the anemic exhaust that can be heard in the promotional video for the Bronx 975. This definitely needs to be fixed. I mean, there’s no way in hell the Bronx 975 will outgun the Street Triple RS when it comes to handling, but as a consumer I’d be willing to overlook that if the former sounded batshit crazy. I want a bike that will cause onlookers to stare at me and think: “Sweet Baby Jesus, what the hell is that man riding?!”
Lastly, I’m calling it right now: when this bike is ultimately ridden and reviewed next year there will be at least one publication that thinks it’s clever by suggesting the Bronx 975 is what Buell would now be producing if Harley-Davidson hadn’t chosen to jettison Buell from its portfolio in the wake of the Great Recession. I’m not sure. Buell’s bikes were always ugly and too often suffering from target fixation in trying to create unique solutions for problems that didn’t exist. The brake set-ups, for example – unnecessary. The Brembos worn by the Bronx 975 may be conventional but they also make sense.
What also makes sense is assessing the Bronx 975 for what it is, rather than ruminating on the would’ve/should’ve/could’ve of Harley-Davidson’s past. I’m really looking forward to getting the chance to do that. These are exciting times for Harley-Davidson and probably one of the most interesting periods in American motorcycling history since the 1930s.
MORE IMAGES OF THE PAN AMERICA
MORE IMAGES OF THE BRONX 975
* Some people have predicted the demise of the Sportster line. I think this is unlikely. The Sportster is an iconic part of the Harley-Davidson spirit, as essential as the Bonneville is to Triumph in terms of embedding a sense of who and what the brand is. The engine will change but the Sportster will live on.
** Harley-Davidson raced the VR1000 in the AMA Superbike series from 1994 to 2001. Troubled by mechanical gremlins and a corporate structure that wasn’t all that interested in racing the bike never really made much of an impact, but is remembered fondly by the six or seven people who pay attention to AMA racing.