Pan America after Iron Butt Rally report (how it did)

Discussion in 'Moto Bellissima: All Other Dualsports' started by GS Jim, Jul 10, 2021.

  1. GS Jim

    GS Jim Adventurer

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    During & after the 2021 I was asked by over half a dozen riders to post something about my Pan Am after running it in the rally (just FYI: completed Rally, DNF on points), so here it is.

    IBR track.jpg

    My bike is a 2021 Pan America Special with both the Semi-active suspension and Adaptive ride height. The only two factory parts added were the HD tank bag and pannier rack mounts. I added Great loop bags to the sides, a Garmin 595 GPS, a Ram mount phone charger (that immediately died), and ratchet strapped a harbor freight hard cast to the pillion for the laptop. That was all the prep I had time for (I had 6 weeks & worked full time every day).

    To put it bluntly, this bike performed absolutely flawlessly (to the point that I was becoming obsessed with the idea I was missing something – this is the only bike I’ve owned in my life that didn’t have a major issue in the first 10,000 miles). No warning lights, no hard starts, no issues skipping the mid-rally oil change, nothing. Oil level stayed good & surprisingly clean. Water level went down after getting stuck in 4 traffic jams in NY, and went down again after that 45 min long one in AL, but never overheated. No issues firing back up after running out of gas in NY either. It ran fine on regular in NM when Premium wasn’t available. More power than I ever needed and sport bike handling. I was getting 230-250 miles per 5.6 gal tank, it really needs an aux fuel tank.

    There are a few quirks I found irritating.

    The front axle assembly has quite a few parts, and can be put back together wrong. There are no instructions available. There is an assembly tool listed to help, and it comes with instructions. Both the tool and instructions are also unavailable. The owner's manual does give instructions on measuring chain slack, but absolutely no instructions on how to adjust it (fortunately it is pretty straightforward). This lack of information is a recurring theme with this bike.

    Riding position seemed good, but after 11 days I’d say the bars are too far forward & pegs are too cramped. The bar riser (still on backorder) + highway pegs ought to fix it. Seat also seemed pretty good at first, but after 11 days I think it needs a trip to Russell.

    Hi beam/low beam lighting is awful, but the turning lights are actually useful. Aux lights + wiring from HD available sometime next month - maybe. 45W alt, unique CANBUS electric system, and wiring diagrams are not available/complete, so putting Clearwaters on it could be sketchy.

    Chain: this bike runs a 530x128 chain. The highest quality 530 chain is only available 530x120, not long enough. I started the IBR with 2,500 miles on it and chain stretch was still an issue through the whole first leg (you actually need to check & adjust it every 600 miles) before it settled in. I remember 3 times up on the center stand on leg 1 adjusting it, and it was dangerously loose when I swapped tires at checkpoint 1. (I want to plug Tom Woods Motorsports in Indianapolis here - they agreed to stay late to do a mid-rally tire swap for me when I desperately needed it. The BMW/Honda dealer came through when the factory dealer refused).

    Tank bag: the HD one was the only one available that fit at the time. I had to unclip to fill gas, & too small to hold the rally book (the rally book had to go in the hard case, huge waste of time ratcheting every bonus). Hard panniers and/or Wolfman tank bag ought to fix that.

    Side stand w/adaptive ride height. When you turn on power the suspension lowers 1-2”. When you do that with the side stand down all that weight goes straight on to the side stand, and you wind up leaning way past center to flip it up – and if your right foot is not on solid footing you run the risk of dropping it to the right. And you really don’t want to drop this bike.

    You’d never know it from the handling, but this bike is incredibly top heavy. When I went down on the Jeep trail to Adams it went down so fast & hard it pinned me and dented my motojug – in the sand. I couldn’t budge it, and it took me + CHP two tries to stand it up. Just for a frame of reference I have no problem picking up sportsters, lowriders or FXRTs, and picking up my old F800GS four times during the polar bear rally in Ocala was comparatively easy. Either hard cases to keep it from going over so far or some kind of jack, I have to figure this out.

    Is it a great bike? Absolutely, “for a Harley” not needed. Will it be the bike I list when I put in my unfinished business application for the 2023 IBR? Maybe. If the hard panniers position it high enough to lift it up without assistance there’s a good chance of it. If not, I may just put a fairing on my Crossbones, or buy a Road Glide, and keep the Pan Am for ADV stuff (like the Trans-FL) .

    Any questions, feel free to ask.

    Jim in FL
    #1
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  2. MCGMB

    MCGMB Been here awhile

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    Outstanding!

    I was waiting for exactly this.
    #2
  3. Xclimation

    Xclimation Adventurer

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    Thank You for your report and review! I test rode one yesterday. I agree on the pegs feeling cramped. Question I have: Did you ride through and water crossings and/or ride in the rain? The big concern I have is the battery and rectifier location. I worry about battery shorting out when being submerged. Worry too about mud/dirt and water from front tire spray. Also, the lifespan of the battery in relation to heat coming off the rectifier. A couple of possible solutions I came up with are some kind of heat shield between rectifier and battery? I like Li-ion batteries and would switch to one. Another solution is the proximity of the radiator hose to the exhaust headers. Yes, I know about the shortening of the hose...but there is still heat reducing cooling efficiency...so the solution I came up with is to wrap the headers heat wrap (Might look cool too!)
    Again, I really appreciate your review! I was following your progress. In my opinion, Harley owes you a debt of gratitude! I know I'm not the only one with an eye on this bike...going to try and ride it again at Adv fest in Sturgis and Hopefully talk with Harley people about my battery concerns...
    #3
  4. GS Jim

    GS Jim Adventurer

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    No to water crossings, but yes to riding in the rain (in the middle of a record south western heat wave I get caught in a sudden 58'f rain in New Mexico of all places!) Pleanty of dirt, grime and fresh asphalt oil. No issues, but I am worried about those terminals down there, might put a layer of RTV over them before heading off road. And I really don't like the position of the rectifier, I want to put some sort of guard over it before I start serious off-highway work.
    #4
  5. BarKnee

    BarKnee Been here awhile

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    Thanks for taking the time to report your observations, excellent information. Agree that lack of maintenance info is frustrating, but my Factory Service manual is supposed to arrive July 19:clap
    #5
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  6. okiegtrider

    okiegtrider Long timer

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    Thanks for sharing that experience. I think a lot of us have been interested in knowing a little more about the PA and rider that competed this year.
    #6
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  7. MCGMB

    MCGMB Been here awhile

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    Surprised you can't find a premium 530 chain with 130 links. Last I looked, Amazon had all kinds of chains of varying lengths and brands DID, RK, EK, etc.
    #7
  8. Carlos Thomas

    Carlos Thomas Fast not Furious

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    What tires did you run? You mentioned a tire change…how did the tires wear?
    #8
  9. hdxbones

    hdxbones Been here awhile

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    Do you have a part number for the manual? I had ordered one, but HD contacted my dealer and told them it wasn't available at this time. Online access only...
    #9
  10. BarKnee

    BarKnee Been here awhile

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    The service guy said he spoke with the vendor and they gave him the July 19 date.
    #10
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  11. hdxbones

    hdxbones Been here awhile

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    Thanks, I'll try it again!
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  12. GS Jim

    GS Jim Adventurer

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    The tire situation was an absolute mess. Some might call it a comedy of errors, but I didn't find it funny at all.

    Normally in the IBR you start with new tires, and send a second rear wheel with a new tire to Checkpoint #2, then do a quick wheel swap in the parking lot after scoring then go to bed. But since rear wheels (like just about everything else I needed) are not available that was not an option.

    First thing that went wrong.
    When I was having an early 5k service done (since there wouldn't be time for an oil change during the Rally) I had them order a set of Michelin Anakee lll tires. Evidently they didn't know the difference and just ordered Anakees, and wound up with a lll for the front, & an Adventure for the rear. They couldn't get a hold of me at work, so just mounted the Adventure on the rear to match the front. I found this out the day before I was loading up to head out to Utah, with no time to fix it. So I started out with the original half worn Scortcher on the front, and a dual sport tire on the rear, and knew they wouldn't last. After all day running from Salt Lake City to Elko, NV & back in a heat wave, followed by a trip across the Rockies they were shot & getting rough by the time I made it to Indy.

    Second thing that went wrong.
    I called the closest dealer to Checkpoint #1 and spoke to a service writer (who had done an IBA cert ride) and found out I'd be able to make it over after scoring after service was normally closed, but before the dealership was closed and he thought it wouldn't be an issue getting a tech to stay late for a tire change, verified he could easily order the tires I wanted and have them in time, and just needed to clear it with the service manager when he came in Tuesday (the Rally started that Friday - that's how close I was cutting this). Called Tuesday from the road and the service manager flat out said absolutely not - they were special order tires, they were out of stock, and all the techs were going home on time no matter what. He started some snide remark about "you Iron Butt guys..." and I told him never mind, I'll call Honda and hung up on him.
    So there I was, driving across Wyoming, wondering what to do, & searched Indianapolis BMW (since the 1250GS is the same weight, about the same power, and not only uses the exact same size tires but even the exact same type of rims) and came up with Tom Wood Powersports. Even though they had zero experience working on Pan Ams (they're a BMW/Honda dealer) and are slammed with work, they stayed open 3 hours late, knocked out a quality job, and charged the normal price when they knew they could have jacked it up and I was in a tight enough spot to pay it. They saved my ass.

    So, when I finally got on the tires I wanted, the Michelin Anakee lll, they did the job. They lasted the last 2 legs (a 3-day & 4-day) of the Rally, and had fairly good grip rain or shine. The rear is pretty badly squared off, but the front is less than half way worn. One bad thing was that once they started to square off they started to generate a howl at certain speeds when cornering. But for what I was doing, that was an acceptable trade off for tires that would finish the Rally. Another bad thing is that they have zero traction in the sand (I knew but still went down a Jeep trail on worn tires. Then just plain went down fast & hard).

    What's next for tires? After all of the above I'm buying a tire changer to do it myself. Then I'll decide what I'm doing next and buy tires to match.
    #12
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  13. GS Jim

    GS Jim Adventurer

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    I was unpleasantly surprised as well - I went up & down I-4 from Daytona to Orlando stopping in shops, and only found one place that had a bargain brand 530x150 that I cut down and carried as a spare. Everything else was 530x120, and everything their local distributors had in stock was also 530x120 (or the budget 530x150 they had on the shelf). Now if I'd had a few months to prepare it would be different, but this could be a real issue if you didn't have a spare and lost your chain out on the road.
    #13
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  14. Carlos Thomas

    Carlos Thomas Fast not Furious

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    Wow. So the tires you wanted where the new Michelin Scorcher Adventure (80/20) tires but you could not get them?
    #14
  15. pjensen641

    pjensen641 Long timer Supporter

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    Thankfly modern chains never really fail unless neglected. If I rode IBA rides I'd install an oiler and change the chain every 25k and never worry about it.
    #15
  16. GS Jim

    GS Jim Adventurer

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    No, I wanted to run Anakee lll front & rear, as this was an almost all pavement rally and they are the longest lasting tires in my bike's size. The Scorchers are what came with the bike & what I was trying to get rid of.
    #16
  17. GS Jim

    GS Jim Adventurer

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    Yep - I added a manual oiler, and am glad I did.
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  18. Carlos Thomas

    Carlos Thomas Fast not Furious

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    I have read many good reviews of the Michelin Scorcher Adventure collaboration with Harley. I am surprised you did not use those tires for the entire trip.
    #18
  19. GS Jim

    GS Jim Adventurer

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    They are great tires for what they were designed for - showing off the near-sportbike handling of the Pan Am with some off-pavement capability thrown in. But they were never meant for the hard non-stop pavement miles I was putting on the bike before and during the Rally. The rear was severly worn at 2,500 when I replaced it, and the front Scorcher was shot after 5,000 miles (bear in mind this was sun up to sun down riding in the desert at temps of 100+ stopping only for gas, followed by a non-stop run across the Rockies, then across WY & Neb non-stop at 80+, all on a heavily loaded bike). I planned another 7,000+ ahead of me, and needed the hardest, longest lasting tires I could find. If they made the old rock-hard compound Mitas E-07 (not the softer E-07+) in my size I would have ran those.
    #19
  20. Carlos Thomas

    Carlos Thomas Fast not Furious

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    Thank you for your insight. You must have been hammering those tires to burn them at 2,500 miles. Seems like an amazing trip.
    #20