Johnny Pag is a Southern California-based bike customizer who went from building high dollar, one-off choppers to affordable two-wheeled transportation for the masses. How does he manage to keep costs so low, and is his Pro Street model worth your hard earned cash? Read on to find out.
The Goods: Custom Looks with Tame Mechanicals
Inverted forks meet the 21-inch alloy front wheel with a 38 degree rake, and dual adjustable hydraulic shocks are found at the rear—though they’re hidden beneath the frame. The rear has a hardtail look which comes across as fairly beefy thanks to 16-inch, 160mm rubber. Stopping power comes from a single-disc rear brake setup and a dual-disc front arrangement. The cupped saddle sits between 20 and 23 inches off the ground, and the bike has a curb weight of 360 pounds.
You’re probably wondering how this bike manages to hit its price point with this equipment list, and the answer is a somewhat controversial one: Johnny Pag designs his bikes entirely here in the U.S., but they’re assembled in China and shipped back to America for distribution among 120 dealerships, which can be viewed at www.johnnypag.com. Though the bikes are not yet certified for California emissions, CA-legal versions are expected soon.
Swing a Leg Over: A Full-Sized Bike that Feels Small
The curb weight of 360 pounds isn’t quite class beating, but the low center of gravity makes the Pro Street feel rather light on its feet. And when it comes to build materials, the bike looks great from afar, though a closer look reveals a few flaws in the paint and some rough finishes.
But thanks to minimal branding (which consists primarily of the words ‘Johnny Pag’ etched on the engine case), the Pro Street has a slick, poised appearace that gives it a strong street presence, even if there’s a large-ish gap between the engine and the fuel tank, as seen in this profile shot.
On the Road: A Mixed Bag of Sweet and Scary
Once moving, the engine responds to input predictably with a reasonably deep exhaust note, considering its relatively small size. Also helpful for beginners is a light clutch and an easy-to-find neutral. Lever action is vague and there’s little feedback to let you know when the clutch disengages, but ease of operation makes the powerplant/gearbox setup approachable, as do the high effort but effective brakes.
Ride quality is firm and handling fairly nimble, but the engine’s vibrations start to wreak havoc at higher rpms; not only are the vibes especially annoying at the grip and pegs, they also had an ill effect on several parts of the bike during 130 miles of riding. On the freeway, the left mirror loosened and eventually flopped like a broken weathervane. The right footpeg also lost a screw due to the engine shaking, and a roadside hand tightening kept the assembly in place. I soon thought, ‘et tu Brute?’ as the shifter peg assembly also started to loosen; this bike was attempting to disassemble itself on the freeway, and I didn’t even have a toolkit aboard to put Humpty back together.
The Pro Street rode competently enough around town. But as it approached its top speed of about 80 mph on the freeway, the riding experience got more uncomfortable than exhilarating due to the extreme levels of vibration and the bike’s disconcerting self-disassembly process.
The Bottom Line: Great, Cheap Fun—With Caveats
The Pro Street was fun to ride across Los Angeles surface streets, and it garnered all sorts of attention from enthusiasts and casual passersby alike (who gawked even more when they discovered its low price.) Its involving posture made it look pleasingly aggressive in urban settings, but the riding experience changed dramatically on the freeway, primarily due to the vibration levels that set in above around 65 mph.
Not only were the saddle and peg vibes numbing, they also did a number on several of the bike’s components, loosening them enough to warrant pulling over twice to manually re-tightening them. When told about the loose parts, Mr. Pag indicated that my test bike had been hastily prepped for my loan (and it did have only 8 miles on the clock when I left JPM headquarters.) Nonetheless, it’s difficult to discount the phenomenon, as the vibration issue could affect the bike’s long term roadworthiness. An available sprocket set is available from JPM to help maintain lower rpms at highway speeds, though the kit will also adversely affect acceleration—and it still might not cure the engine’s disconcerting vibrational effects.
So, is the Johnny Pag Motorcycles Pro Street worth the $4,699 price tag? That really depends on your propensity for risk-taking. The innocuous Honda Rebel starts at $3,999 and will likely offer years of bulletproof service, but it’s not nearly as cool looking as the Pro Street. The choice is yours—just be sure you bring tools if you venture off the beaten path.