2009 Johnny Pag Motorcycles Pro Street Review

A Bargain Cruiser Built for Beginners

Parked motorcycle.
Photo Basem Wasef

There are plenty of motorcycle options for first time, beginner, and advanced beginner riders, but bikes from mainstream manufacturers usually come at a premium.

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.

The Goods: Custom Looks with Tame Mechanicals

The Johnny Pag Motorcycles Pro Street may look like a mean custom cruiser, but it’s actually powered by a mellow 300cc parallel-twin engine that gets an estimated 65 miles per gallon (good for a theoretical range of 227 miles, based on the 3.5 gallon fuel tank.) The liquid-cooled, dual overhead cam powerplant produces only 23.8 horsepower at 6,500 rpm, and the air/fuel mixture is managed by two 26mm Keihin vacuum carburetors. Idle is adjustable via a small black dial next to the carbs, and a five-speed transmission is mated via a multi-plate clutch.

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.

Swing a Leg Over: A Full-Sized Bike that Feels Small

The JPM Pro Street has the dimensions of a regular cruiser, but its low and narrow seat (visible in this shot) makes it feel manageable for beginners. The cockpit offers a view of the speedo with small indicator lights for basic info—neutral, high-beam, etc. Its riding posture requires a somewhat long reach for the handlebar and footpegs, ergonomics that are pretty typical for the custom cruiser genre.

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 appearance that gives it a strong street presence, even if there’s a large-ish gap between the engine and the fuel tank.

On the Road: A Mixed Bag of Sweet and Scary

The Pro Street’s parallel-twin fires up quickly after turning a Harley-style ignition switch and hitting the start button. Despite the carbureted setup, it doesn’t take long to get this 300cc engine warmed up.

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.

While our expert rode the bike 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. Soon the shifter peg assembly also started to loosen. While it seemed like the bike was attempting to disassemble itself on the freeway, our expert 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 the test bike had been hastily prepped for the test drive (it had only 8 miles on the clock). 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 price? That really depends on your propensity for risk-taking. The innocuous Honda Rebel starts at a lower cost 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.