Harley wants to show off new bikes and keep people away from them at the same time.
As an aspiring dual-sport rider, one bike I've been genuinely excited to see is the Harley-Davidson Pan America. I became even more excited when Harley invited me to come and check out the Pan America for myself at New York IMS. The motorcycle press has had little to go on for this bike, as well as the Bronx, except for a few manufacturer pictures and limited specifications, so I wanted to crawl all over it and see what it's all about. Imagine my surprise when I found both bikes covered by clear enclosures, preventing us from sitting or putting our hands on the bikes.
I wasn't entirely surprised. I remember seeing a YouTube video out of EICMA showing the Pan America in the same type of display along with disgruntled commentary. I hoped that Harley's invitation would allow me greater access to their bold new models as a member of the press on behalf of our readers. Unfortunately, that was not to be.
According to Harley-Davidson, the bikes on display at IMS are pre-production prototypes. While they want to show them off, they don't want to allow people to get any closer to them because the build quality, fit and finish, and so on are not up to production specifications. Harley doesn't want people to be disappointed in these new models because of perceived poor build quality. Perhaps they are trying to avoid the backlash Tesla has gotten over Model 3 body panels not matching up as well as they should.
I appreciate what Harley is trying to do. It may not be hyperbole to say that the long-term survival of the company could depend on the success of these bikes, which are radical departures from the traditional Harley-Davidson models. They want to put their best foot forward, present these bikes in the best possible light, and not allow super close inspection until they are ready. Besides, as prototypes, the designs may change before they go into actual production. I pointed out that the Pan America's muffler was somewhat exposed and had no impact protection, leaving it vulnerable to damage if the bike gets dropped on its right side. It's entirely possible that such protection may be added to the exhaust before the bike goes on sale.
Yet I have never seen any vehicle at any show frozen in carbonite put in a clear box like this. There are bikes all over the show with "please do not sit on or touch" on them, and people do as they say. Why does Harley feel the need to take extra steps to keep people away?
It's not like you can't still see the details. While Harley would not directly answer Kate's question about whether the Pan America would have tubed or tubeless tires, a close look at the rims through the case revealed that the spokes were attached to the edges of the rims, not the center, indicating tubeless tires. Speaking of secrecy, Harley is playing their hand quite close to the chest, not revealing such fundamental specifications as weight or price. The bikes aren't due to be released for another year, so a great deal of these specs may change between now and then.
The other issue is that it was impossible to get decent pictures of the bikes, as they stood, with all the glare reflecting off the case. Yes, Harley has official photos on their website, but it's not the same as zooming in for yourself on specific details. Perhaps this is part of their plan.
I fully expect Harley to tease these details out over the next year until the Bronx and Pan America are released late in 2020. If there is one thing Harley is good at, it's marketing. I still sincerely hope that both of these bikes are successful, and look forward to trying them out once they are available. Unfortunately, we're going to have to wait just a bit longer to get a clear, unobstructed view of the final products.