Forget the 2021 Harley-Davidson Pan America; This Obscure Harley-Davidson is the Coolest Adventure Bike?

There is hardly an argument to be made that there is anything obscure about Harley-Davidson. The orange and black motorcycle company has been THE cruiser bike forever. But as the market has expanded and things like cafe racers, bobbers, and adventure bikes have grown into very profitable markets, Harley and others have dug into these atypical segments with bikes like the 2021 Harley-Davidson Pan America. However, Harley-Davidson made a more rugged adventure bike years ago, but it’s kind of obscure. Meet the Harley Davidson MT350E.

1997 harley davidson MT350e
1997 harley davidson MT350e | IMA

The Harley-Davidson MT350E is way cooler than the 2021 Harley-Davidson Pan America 

A low-angle view of a gray-and-black 2021 Harley-Davidson Pan America 1250 Special by a forest
2021 Harley-Davidson Pan America 1250 Special low-angle view | Matthew Skwarczek, MotorBiscuit

Sure, the new Pan America is modern, more powerful, has more gadgets, and is probably more comfortable. But that’s not what adventure is all about. 

The Harley-Davidson MT350E was made for the military. Although HD has made bikes for the military and police before – the WLA, for one – the MT350E is much more to point. 

According to RideApart, it all started with a company called Armstrong Motorcycles who in the 80s took over Clews Competition Motorcycles (CCM) facility in Bolton, England. Armstrong-CCM also got the rights to an older defunct model, SWM’s XN Tornado motorcycle, which evolved into the MT500.

Armstrong-CCM took this olive drab MT500 and began selling them to multiple militaries starting in the mid-80s. These bikes went to Canada, Jordan, and most famously, to England. These 500s were built to get whupped, and they had kick starts, so there was one less thing to worry about out in the field.  

How did Harley get the MT500?

By the late 80s, Armstrong-CCM sold the rights to the boys in orange and black, who then produced them in the states. At some point, in a very un-Harley-Davidson move, they decided to make the engines smaller, bringing to life the MT350E. 

The MT350E is powered by the same Rotax four-valve design as the MT500s but just a bit smaller. These little green dirtbikes made an impressive 30 hp and 21 lb-ft of torque. Although the MT350E was less powerful than the previous MT500, it was made with better parts. Harley used noteworthy bits like a Marzocchi front fork, an Ohlins rear shock, Akront wheels, and Grimeca disc brakes all around. 

The Harley-Davidson MT350E is simply badass

Seeing as how this is Harley’s only adventure bike for the military, it is easy to see why someone may more easily rely on the MT350E for their mountain runaround than some of the other more pedestrian models floating around these days. Even the 2021 Harley-Davidson Pan America, which is really cool, can’t hang with the MT350E. It is too different and too civilized. I mean, Hell, what other adventure bike can you think of that comes from the factory with a rifle case and military-grade pannier boxes? 

Not only are these things tough and cool-looking, but they are also pretty cheap. Here is a beautiful example with 14,000 miles currently for sale at Iconic Motorbike auctions, which is sitting at $2,100 as of the time of this writing. While the reserve isn’t met yet, you’d be hard-pressed to find anything this cool in the adventure bike segment for this kind of money.

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