2021 Harley-Davidson Pan America 1250 Special

Rubber-Side Down #1

Riding a motorcycle is one of the coolest things a human can experience. It’s two-dimensional flying, providing sensations that simply can’t be felt while sitting in a car. You’re not traveling through nature; you are in nature. Your mood lifts, your heart literally beats faster as you anticipate what might be next. You’re tuned in to the road in ways non-motorcyclists will never feel.  

If you’re reading this, you share my love of motorcycling. And, if you’re like me, you’ve been enjoying life on two wheels for a bunch of years. There’ve been times when we’ve all been tempted or encouraged to give it up, but the pull of riding is too strong, too deep, to turn away from something as magical as motorcycling. 

I’ve had more than a couple of hospital visits preceded by rides on motorcycles. Clavicles, ribs, tibs, etc. A foot amputation was once a suggested option, and half of my left index finger became medical waste a couple of decades ago. 

But still I ride. Piloting a motorcycle is a surreal experience where, like a powerful drug, your participation isn’t entirely voluntary.  

My name is Kevin Duke and I’m a motorcycle addict. You could also call me a motorcycle slut. There’ve been more than 950 different motorcycles between my legs since a Z50 all those years ago. 

The most recent one was Harley-Davidson’s intriguing new Pan America, which proved to be excellent right out of the box. It’s so satisfying to watch an American company take on a highly competitive market like the adventure-touring segment and swing for the fences. The MoCo has often been painted with the stodgy brush, but the haters are going to have to chow down on their disparaging words once they hear the Pan America is truly a world-class adventure motorcycle. 

Now, let’s be clear here. The PanAm isn’t going to outsell Street Glides anytime soon. If ever. But its Revolution Max 1250 motor, which is farking amazing, is sure to be adapted to other less adventure-y models. Harley has shown the tough-looking “Custom 1250” concept for nearly two years with a version of the RevoMax, and it has also teased flat-track and cafe racer variants. The Revo motor will likely turn out to be the basis of a new Sportster platform. (See page 9 for more.)

Anyway, it’s like Dylan sang: “The times they are a-changin’.” And that applies to Thunder Press, too. That’s why it’s me writing this column and not Boehm, Kotoski, Roorda or even Kittrelle. I’ve spoken to each of those gentlemen, and I was proud to get their endorsement to be the new Editor-in-Chief of Thunder Press

I’m fortunate to stand on the shoulders of editors past, those founders and caretakers of this beloved magazine that have brought us where we are today. It’s my intention to rope them in to writing columns for us in the future, as they each bring a unique perspective on the American V-Twin market and culture that deserves to be shared. 

Any transition will have detractors, but there actually won’t be much change from the current format. Boehm did an excellent job elevating the journalistic standards here during a transitional period, and I’m grateful for the path he trod for me to follow. 

Telling stories about cool motorcycles and the people who build and ride them and gather at events around the country will continue to be our priority. 

The global pandemic is waning, Harley is making adventure bikes, and Thunder Press has a new editor. 

Now let’s go find another bike to ride!

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