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2021 Harley-Davidson Pan America Special First Ride Review

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Harley-Davidson Pan America 1250 Special Review

You could feel the anticipation in the air rolling up to the Harley-Davidson Pan America Press Launch. Not only were the journalists eager to throw a leg over the all-new ‘American’ Adventure Bike, but the Harley executives were now finally getting a chance to share with the world what they’ve been putting their heart and soul into for several years now.

There’s a lot on the line with this introduction for the Motor Company, who has struggled with sinking sales and an aging customer base in recent years. With its back against the wall it was time for a bold move, striking out from the brand’s traditional cruiser roots. Harley wouldn’t be starting from scratch though, having built Baja-winning dirt bikes in the 1970s, along with its significant dirt track racing experience and they even owned Buell for a time, who made Harley-powered Adventure Touring bikes in the early 2000s. But taking on the tech-laden Europeans brands, in your first foray into the ultra-competitive Premium ADV class, is a giant leap of faith.

Harley-Davidson Pan America 1250 SpecialIt’s been three years since Harley-Davidson first announced they would be throwing their hat into the ADV ring.

The Milwaukee manufacturer has been ‘all in’ with this moon-shot effort though, leveraging every bit of its engineering and design talents, along with making significant financial investments. And they wouldn’t be content with just building a copycat either. They aimed to take a fresh approach and challenge the way it’s been done, to create something truly unique and authentically Harley-Davidson.


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We all love an underdog story, but there are a few hurdles to clear for this bike: getting ADV Riders to consider a brand so closely associated with cruisers; delivering competitive performance; and gaining acceptance for the bike’s bold styling… To say the Pan America’s looks have been controversial would be an understatement. Yet that seems to be exactly what Harley designers were going for. “Iconic, innovative designs tend to scare the hell out of people at first. And if you don’t have that, you haven’t pushed it far enough,” says Brad Richards – Harley’s VP of Styling and Design.

Harley-Davidson Pan America 1250 Special TestH-D incorporated design elements from their cruiser and touring models into the tank, fairing and headlight to pay tribute to the brand’s heritage.

With rows of Pan Americas lined up against a backdrop of shipping containers painted desert storm tan and a frenzy of activity, the scene at basecamp Zakar in the Mojave Desert looked like a staging ground for some type of attack. We’d have two full days and nearly 400 miles of testing ahead of us both on and off-road. The first day would be primarily a street test on road-biased Michelin Scorcher Adventure tires. The second day would be primarily off-road with Michelin Anakee Wild 50/50 dual sport knobbies. But before we jump into the ride, let’s take a close-up look at what you get with the Pan America.

First Look

The Pan America 1250 comes in two different flavors, the standard model and the Special. Included equipment on both models are cruise control, electronic ride modes (including one custom mode), linked brakes, cornering ABS, lean-angle aware traction control, Hill Hold Control, Drag-Torque Slip Control, LED lighting, a 4-way hand-adjustable windscreen, a 6.8” color TFT display that includes Bluetooth integration for calls and music, plus turn-by-turn map navigation on the dash.

WATCH: Walkaround and sound sample of the all-new Revolution Max 1250 engine.

The Special model is loaded with additional premium equipment like an electronically-adjustable semi-active suspension, aluminum skid plate, engine guards, hand guards, heated grips, center stand, steering damper, multi-position rear brake pedal, tire pressure monitoring, ambient air temp, two additional customizable ride modes, and a Daymaker adaptive cornering headlight.

Our test bikes were also equipped with tubeless spoke wheels – a $500 optional add on – and the industry-first ‘Adaptive Ride Height’ (ARH) system that lowers the bike 1 to 2 inches upon stopping – a $1,000 add on.

The Engine

At the heart of the Pan America is the liquid-cooled, 4-valve, DOHC Revolution Max 1252cc V-twin engine. The all-new powerplant was specifically designed for smooth low-end torque and low-speed throttle response. It utilizes a 90-degree firing order that gives it an ear-pleasing exhaust note and smooth power delivery, and Harley says they engineered it with just enough vibration to give it some character.

The engine has been optimized to reduce weight and has a narrow profile, while at the same time, VVT (Variable Valve Timing) helps broaden the powerband and improve efficiency. It’s designed to run on premium-grade fuel (91 octane) for maximum power but the Revolution Max will automatically retard the ignition timing if it senses a lower-grade fuel.

Harley-Davidson Pan America 1250 Revolution Max EngineThe new Revolution Max 1250 pumps out 150 hp and 94 ft-lbs of torque. Harley made sure the big cylinders were unobscured by the tank or any wiring to ensure the engine is the visual centerpiece of the bike.

A robust oiling system has also been applied to ensure a constant flow of oil to the main bearings and other components. It also utilizes Hydraulic Lifters, which means the Pan America never needs its valves adjusted. The powerplant puts out 150 horsepower and 94 ft.-lbs. of torque with an EPA estimated 46 mpg fuel efficiency. Harley-Davidson also offers ‘Screaming Eagle’ performance upgrades that can boost power even more with high-performance cams, muffler and air cleaners.

The Revolution Max 1250 engine gets mated to a 6-speed gear box. Power is sent to the rear wheel through a chain, while a ‘clutch assist’ system offers a lighter pull and a ‘slipper clutch’ helps smooth out aggressive downshifts.

The Chassis

Weight reduction was a major consideration for the engineering team and the engine is used as a central member of the chassis to trim some pounds. As much weight as possible was placed down by the skid plate to lower the center of gravity as well. The Pan America 1250 weighs in at 534 pounds, while the Pan America Special is 559 pounds wet.

Harley-Davidson Pan America 1250 chain drive and swing armThe Pan America features 7.5 inches of suspension travel and 8.3 inches of ground clearance.
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Harley-Davidson Pan America 1250 Optional Spoke WheelsMichelin Scorcher tires are standard on the Pan America or the more-aggressive Anakee Wild knobbies can be installed as an option for maximum off-road traction.

The standard Pan America comes with a fully-adjustable suspension, while the Pan America Special features semi-active, electronically-adjustable suspension front and rear (both made by Showa). The fork is a 47mm upside down unit with a single rear shock that incorporates a linkage system for a progressive feel through the stroke. Suspension travel front and rear is 7.5 inches (190mm) and ground clearance is 8.3 inches (210mm). The Pan America 1250 Special’s seat is adjustable with an unladen 33.4-inch seat h in the low position and 34.4-inches in the high position. With the ARH option, the unladen seat h drops to 32.7 inches in the low position and 33.7 inches in the high position.

Harley-Davidson Pan America 1250 Seat HeightThe standard saddle in the low position with the Adaptive Ride Height option gets the unladen seat h down to 32.7 inches.

The innovative Adaptive Ride Height feature still retains the full travel of the suspension, only lowering the bike when you come to a stop — a feature shorter riders are sure to appreciate. It can also be configured with different settings to change the speed at which it lowers the bike and it may also be disabled during off-road riding when more ground clearance may be needed in rocky terrain.

First Impressions

Thumbing the starter button for the first time (it uses a key fob), it was a little surreal looking at the Harley-Davidson badge load up on the dash of an Adventure Bike. As I let it idle, a throaty exhaust note and smooth lope made clear this is not your father’s Harley. Yet as I revved the big 1250 Revolution Max engine up, it began to stumble. “Problems already?” I thought. But a Harley tech assured me this was just a safety mechanism that keeps the engine below a certain rpm while idling, to protect against an inadvertent shift into gear. Once you pull in the clutch, the engine is allowed to rev freely.

Harley-Davidson Pan America 1250 Screaming Eagle Exhaust
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Harley-Davidson Pan America 1250 6.8-inch TFT displayThe 6.8” color TFT display supports infotainment generated by the rider’s Bluetooth-equipped mobile device, including music and calls. Navigation is supplied by the free Harley-Davidson App for iOS or Android.

At start up, it definitely has the sound of a smooth-running, modern performance V-twin but there was some extra valve train ticking that I wasn’t used to hearing. After speaking with the engineering lead on the project about it, he mentioned that it can take a little while for the hydraulic lifters to pump up with oil and during this time they can be noisy.

I found the TFT display to be easy to read, without any noticeable glare in direct sunlight. I also liked that you can adjust the angle of the screen position. Thumbing through the menus, it has a lot of options but seemed fairly intuitive compared to many of the systems out there. There’s a big button to turn off traction control and another one to change ride modes, so you don’t have to dig through menus on the TFT to get to these important features.

Harley-Davidson Pan America 1250 Ride ModesThe Pan America 1250 Special gets 5 standard (Rain, Road, Sport, Off-Road, Off-Road Plus) and 3 customizable ride modes. Harley-Davidson Pan America 1250 LED LightingThe front turn signals, positioned down low, are protected behind the crash bars. The Pan America features LED lighting throughout.

A new take on things are the front turn signals that could easily be mistaken for auxiliary lights. They are positioned down low where they are protected by the crash bars. Harley offers a set of optional auxiliary lights that can be mounted underneath. Something else that caught my eye were a set of black metal cooling fins sticking out of the skid plate. I was told this is the voltage regulator and Harley reps assured me it’s been hardened to take trail abuse. There is also an optional skid plate that provides complete coverage of the regulator.

Harley-Davidson Pan America 1250 Center Stand Harley-Davidson Pan America skid plateH-D reps assured us the voltage regulator sticking out of the skid plate has been hardened to take trail abuse.

Putting down the kickstand was also a little strange. It’s positioned about six inches in front of your leg rather than behind it but it seemed to work fine. However, I was a little concerned that the ARH system might cause problems with a ‘fixed-length’ kickstand if it decides to auto-adjust the ride h while the bike is leaning on it, but I had no issues with it. I had no problems with the center stand either and it was actually well designed — I was able to get the 550+ pound machine up on its stand from the seated position.

The handguards are fairly soft plastic like many stock units, and they have a pop-on design on the bar ends that looks like it will come-off easily if you drop the bike. And while I appreciated the adjustable windscreen that can be set with one hand, I noticed it didn’t look like a very robust mechanism and might not fair too well in a fall.

Harley-Davidson Pan America Hand Guards 2021 Harley-Davidson Pan America handle bar switches

A few features for touring that are standard equipment are a USB power port on the side of the dash, two under-seat power ports for heated gear, and an SAE connector for a battery trickle charger. There’s also a nice storage box under the seat where you could put a tow strap, bolt bag, spare gloves, or other small items.

On The Road

Heading out on a broken paved road for our first early-morning ride, I accelerated through the first couple of gears and the first thing that came out of my mouth was, “Wow, that’s a lot of torque!”. It feels great right off idle and once I opened it up on the highway, the acceleration was hard hitting like you’d expect from a 1200cc brute. Hyperdrive kicks in right about 6,000 RPMs and it keeps pulling hard until you hit the 9,000 rpm redline. There’s no quickshifter though, even as a factory option, which is something we’ve come to expect on bikes in the premium ADV category.

2021 Harley-Davidson Pan America handle bar street test

It took me some time to get used to the ergos, which felt a little unorthodox. A tapered 1-1/8” bar sits high in relation to the seat, and the seat felt low even in its high position. The bars also have a straighter sweep than most touring-oriented bikes and my legs felt slightly cramped at 6’2” tall. By mid-day I switched over to the aftermarket tall seat that raises the seat h about one inch. This seemed to put the reach to the bars in a more-natural position and gave me a more comfortable bend in the knees. However, its taller design crowns at the top, which means it has less surface area to support you. After giving both a good test, I felt like the standard saddle was the more comfortable of the two.

2021 Harley-Davidson Pan America offroad

The Automatic Ride Height system works much more seamlessly than I expected. I tried several times to feel the ARH feature working at a stop but had a hard time noticing it. The system calculates the rider’s weight and adjusts your preload while you ride, then just as you come to a stop it lowers the bike to reduce the seat h. After playing with some of the settings, I set ARH to perform its adjustment on the fast setting, and finally I could feel it working. If the bike sits at a stop turned off for a while, sometimes it will pump back up again. When you turn the ignition on, the ride h will immediately drop back down to its lowest available setting.

2021 Harley-Davidson Pan America

And while we are talking about sitting at a stop, I did notice some engine heat on my legs during photo stops with the engine running. It wasn’t clear how bad it might get on a hot day though. We’ll need more testing to know for sure.

Highway

We had a good thirty-minute ride on the highway before getting on a twisty road that led us up into the Piute Mountains. I adjusted the windscreen to the top position, which puts it in a swept-back position that might work for shorter riders, but it seemed too low for me. The second-to-last windscreen position is actually higher, so I preferred that for maximum wind blockage. Wind protection was decent, but it felt like it could use some more time in the wind tunnel and I could see it vibrating in the wind.

2021 Harley-Davidson Pan America highway

Cruising at 75mph, vibration was almost non-existent. It’s a very smooth engine on the highway with only faint vibes coming through the bars and pegs. Nothing that would be considered uncomfortable though. Sixth gear feels a bit high which definitely helps with the vibrations although, despite the massive torque, it still requires a downshift if you want to pass at 65 mph. With its tall gearing and great stability, it feels like it would be ideal for cruising to Vegas going 95 mph the whole way. Although, the tall bars and long reach might be a bit tiring after a few hours. The standard seat however, is firm but supportive and should be comfortable for longer stints.

I tried out the heated grips and cranked them up to the highest setting. They seemed to get warm but not really hot, which might be a concern if you ride in colder climates. Also, heated seats are not available on the Pan America. 

2021 Harley-Davidson Pan AmericaTall gearing and a smooth motor make the Pan America an ideal mount for long-range cruising on the interstate.

The Cruise Control was simple to operate and if you need to accelerate to pass a car, it resumes your set speed afterward. However, there is no speed setting indicator on the dash. If you hit the increase speed button too many times, it may start accelerating up to a speed that is higher than you intended, causing you to adjust the up/down buttons blindly until you get it right.

As far as mileage, it doesn’t have a fuel efficiency indicator anywhere on the dash. Claimed average EPA mileage is 46 mpg but I’d estimate we were getting mid-30’s during our two days of testing. Considering all the full-throttle photo passes we did with the tach bouncing off the rev limiter, it’s not surprising though. You should expect better mileage under normal driving conditions.

In The Twisties

A simple push of the ‘Mode’ button allows you to toggle through “Rain”, “Road”, “Sport”, “Off-road”, and “Off-road plus” ride modes. Switch it to “Sport” and hold the TC button for a few seconds to turn Traction Control off and unleash the full power of the Pan America, allowing you to do wheelies in first through third gear or smoky burnouts that leave block-long blackmarks on the asphalt. There is no separate wheelie control though.

2021 Harley-Davidson Pan America wheelieMo Powa! The Pan America is a Wheelie Machine in Sport Mode with Traction Control turned off.

Throttle sensitivity in ‘Sport’ mode is very aggressive. In fact, I’d say it’s the most aggressive throttle I’ve experienced on any adventure bike. In tighter turns, I had a hard time rolling on the power smoothly. It jerks if you breathe on it.  So I preferred riding in ‘Road’ mode for tighter turns. Although, you can customize the settings in the custom modes to dial down the throttle response a bit so that it’s easier to manage.

2021 Harley-Davidson Pan America performance

In ‘Sport’ mode the suspension feels firm, without any excessive dive or squat. The Dual 320mm front brake rotors with radially-mounted, monoblock, 4-piston calipers; get the bike stopped in a hurry and the Drag-Torque Slip Control, along with the slipper clutch, help you apply maximum braking force without any chirping or skidding. I also preferred riding with the engine braking maximized in the custom settings, to improve my stopping distance.

2021 Harley-Davidson Pan America in the turns 2021 Harley-Davidson Pan America in the twisties

Riding around bends is something you wouldn’t expect a Harley to be good at, but the Pan America actually feels pretty sporty and nimble for a big ADV Bike. While I wouldn’t go out and try to chase down sport bikes on it, the Pan America feels at home in the turns.

In the Dirt

Our first foray into the dirt actually came at the end of our street test day. I was surprised Harley-Davidson allowed us to touch dirt with these high-powered, 560-pound machines on smooth tires. It was an easy road, but we were riding on a layer of sand that could get deep in spots, and riding in each other’s dust made it more challenging. I later found out that the road had been hard packed a few days earlier when they originally scouted the route, but grading machines had just come through leaving a soft layer of sand on top of the road.

2021 Harley-Davidson Pan America in the dirt 2021 Harley-Davidson Pan America steering stabilizerMaking the Pan America’s steering stabilizer adjustable would be a nice feature to have.

At one point the rider in front of me went over a rise and hit a deeper patch of sand, the front end lightened up and he got some pretty serious head shake. I didn’t think much of it, until a few miles later the same thing happened to me. The bike comes with a steering stabilizer, but it’s not adjustable. Being able to crank it up on soft roads like these would be a nice feature to have, especially considering the sporty 25-degree steering head angle of this bike.

After about 25 miles of riding on dirt, the stand-up ergos continued to feel very comfortable. The pegs are wide for stock, so it wasn’t a problem standing up with the rubber covers installed. With the tall bars and a straighter bar sweep than normal, riding in the ‘Meerkat’ position all day felt natural. Taller risers are available as an option, but you probably wouldn’t need them unless you are extremely tall.

2021 Harley-Davidson Pan America off-road

Getting the big girl turned around on a tight trail wasn’t a problem, thanks to a low center of gravity that helps hide the Pan America’s weight. Harley-Davidson achieved this by placing the battery and other major electrical components down by the skid plate. Reps also say they saved about 7-8 pounds up top by forming the fuel tank with aluminum rather than steel.

Day Two was primarily a dirt route with the bikes running on Michelin Anakee Wild knobby tires. Standing up on the pegs felt even better without the rubber footpeg covers. Removing the covers also gives you about an inch of extra leg room in the seated position. The tank is fairly slim when seated, so there’s no excessive splaying of the legs and you can grip it with your knees.

2021 Harley-Davidson Pan America jumpShe flies pretty good for a big girl!

We headed down a rocky and occasionally sandy jeep trail with a number of twists and turns on our way to the Burro Schmitt tunnel. I was looking down at my TPMS gauge and it read 40 psi in front and 46 psi in the rear. This was a much rougher, bumpier road than the day before, so I asked the Harley execs if we were planning on airing down. They felt it wasn’t necessary though so we continued on.

The Michelin knobbies gripped a whole lot better in the dirt than the Scorchers, but I did feel we were running too much air pressure. This made the ride less compliant in the rocks and it felt a bit skittish at times on bumpy terrain. Not to mention the firm rear tire had a harder time hooking up traction when getting on the gas. The overall feel of the bike off-road was still good but it might have been significantly improved by dropping the air pressure down a bit.

Electronic Rider Aids Off-Road

I started out the day riding in the standard ‘Off-Road’ mode, which reduces peak power in the upper RPMs, limits intervention by the Traction Control system, and increases the initial damping for more control on uneven surfaces. The power felt smooth and controllable but I felt that the traction control was too restrictive. This is really more of a safety mode for someone who doesn’t have much off-road experience and just wants to get down the trail at a casual pace. If you are an experienced off-road rider, you’ll notice the traction control constantly kicking in and the ABS setting can get scary if you run into a soft patch. The big dual discs have plenty of stopping power and good feel in the dirt, but the ABS system seems to be more street-oriented in sensitivity.

2021 Harley-Davidson Pan America suspension

Hold the ‘Mode’ button down for a few seconds though while in the ‘Off-Road’ setting and it shifts into ‘Off-Road Plus.’ This makes everything work much better. Traction control goes down to its least intrusive level and the linked brakes switch to front ABS only without any cornering sensitivity. Now you can get full lock up on the rear tire and Traction Control allows more tire spin and wheel lift for aggressive riding. The initial damping on the suspension is also reduced to improve compliance over bigger hits.

The ‘Off-Road Plus’ mode worked well for more aggressive riding, and it seemed to fix the overly sensitive ABS issues. In fact, I performed a braking test comparing ‘Off-Road’ and ‘Off-Road Plus’ modes on the same terrain and it took significantly longer to stop in the standard ‘Off-Road’ setting. There is no way to turn front ABS off completely but you can turn Traction Control off by holding down the ‘TC’ button. This gives the rider full control over wheel spin and wheelies. It takes more attention to avoid wheel spin with TC Off, but the power in ‘Off-Road’ mode is fairly manageable compared to ‘Sport’ mode. I preferred riding with TC Off for more control, but the Traction Control setting in ‘Off-Road Plus’ is actually pretty good most of the time.

2021 Harley-Davidson Pan America power slide

In the custom suspension options, you can set the suspension to ‘Soft’ or ‘Firm’ damping settings. I also turned the Automatic Ride Height system off to avoid any unexpected behavior in the rocks. With the soft settings, the suspension feels good for slow to mid-paced riding, offering nice compliance over smaller rocks and rough spots. Once I started hitting bigger bumps and obstacles in the trail though, the fork would clunk and the skid plate touched down on several occasions. In ‘Soft’ mode, the ride is plush, but it runs out of suspension quickly when pushing the pace.

Riding with the ‘Firm’ setting improved the suspension significantly for more aggressive riding. Now I could push the pace and the bike really seemed to come alive at higher speeds. The motor feels great ripping around on the trail with its menacing snarl and there’s plenty of power on tap to handle anything in your path. Honestly, I wasn’t expecting to have this much fun on the Pan America.

2021 Harley-Davidson Pan America wheelie

After pushing the pace for some time I had a few instances where the fork clunked and I bottomed out the skid plate several times with 8.3 inches of available ground clearance. Every once in a while, the bike would get off line or do something strange that made me consider reeling it in a bit. I found I wasn’t always getting good input from the bike, which left my confidence waning. I think part of that could be attributed to the street tire pressure. I also feel it’s a bike you need to spend some time on to really know what it will do in different situations before you can ride it to its full potential. 

Thankfully, custom ride mode settings are saved when you switch off the ignition, except the Traction Control ‘Off’ setting. But there is a trick to kill the engine without losing the TC Off setting. When coming to a stop, you can turn the kill switch off and on quickly, which stops the motor but the TFT screen remains powered on. Just thumb the starter button when you are ready to ride, and it retains the TC Off setting.

2021 Harley-Davidson Pan America dirt performance

Just for curiosity, I tried Sport mode with TC Off and high throttle response, which was predictably scary. You’d have to have a death wish to ride off-road in that mode for any significant length of time. The tire kicks out sideways with the slightest throttle input. It’s quite a handful.

The Bottom Line

After countless wheelies, jumps, high-speed drifts, and tire-shredding burnouts, we put the Pan America through the gauntlet over two days of testing. In the dirt, it proved to be a capable performing big bike over a range of terrain, with a slim profile, approachable seat h and not so top heavy feel. On the twisty backroads, it felt right at home with an agile chassis, plenty of available lean angle, and mind-bending acceleration. Out on the open highway, it offers a comfortable perch with all the accoutrements and long legs for high-speed, long-range cruising.

2021 Harley-Davidson Pan America ergos

Overall, it’s a well-rounded machine that hits its marks on the spec sheet and in the real world, to match up well with strong competition in the Premium ADV Segment. The Motor Company also managed to push the envelope in certain areas with innovations like its Automatic Ride Height system that lowers the seat h at a stop, without reducing suspension travel while you ride. And they also introduced hydraulic lifters into their Revolution Max powerplant that make expensive valve adjustments a thing of the past.

The Pan America is not without a few foibles though. After hours of riding in the dust, some journalists, including myself, had problems with the windscreen adjustment mechanism and turn signal switches getting gummed up. The hand guards had a tendency to pop off the end of the handlebars and would need to be reset as well. I was also left wondering about the crash durability of the Harley after a couple of riders had falls on the trail. I wasn’t a witness to these incidents, so I can’t speak to the severity of the impact, but both resulted in significant damage to the windscreen and dash area.

Despite some misses on its first try, Harley-Davidson did get the big things right. They now have a strong foundation to work from and these other issues can be more easily addressed over time. They may not have hit a home run out of the park but they did hit a triple, and it’s only the first inning.

2021 Harley-Davidson Pan America front fork

I think fans of the Harley brand, who are curious about the world of adventure riding, will find this an attractive option to open up new opportunities off the beaten path. The array of advanced electronics, a relatively low CG and reasonable seat h will make it manageable during those first excursions off-road. And while the Pan America isn’t a bike designed for gnarly off-road terrain, it does have enough performance in reserve to keep more experienced off-road riders entertained.

Clearly, Harley-Davidson was gunning for the BMW R1250GS with the release of the Pan America. They might not have achieved the same level of refinement or the off-road prowess, but many riders will appreciate its slimmer profile, powerful Revolution Max 1250 engine, and the previously mentioned innovations like ARH and hydraulic lifters. It’s an exciting machine to ride both on and off-road, with character in spades, that is truly a fresh take on the ADV Segment, and the price comes in at a few thousand dollars cheaper than the Beemer too.

2021 Harley-Davidson Pan America adventure bikeThe Motor Company pushes the envelope with innovations like ARH that lowers the seat h at a stop and hydraulic lifter that make expensive valve adjustments a thing of the past.

Is it enough to grab market share from the category leader? It’s definitely a viable option for anyone in the market for a liter-plus Adventure Touring Bike with all the bells and whistles — especially those who value that ‘Made in America’ badge on their products. All Harley-Davidson Pan Americas will be built in York, Pennsylvania, and engines are manufactured in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Only time will tell if this Pan America ‘Moon Shot’ pays off, but so far the future looks bright with Harley-Davison reporting strong pre-sale numbers to date. For now, we are looking forward to getting more seat time on this truly unique motorcycle, getting it out on longer rides, and exploring its full range of capabilities. 

Gear We Used

Harley-Davidson Pan America 1250 Specs

ENGINE: Liquid-cooled, DOHC, 60-Degree V-Twin
DISPLACEMENT: 1,252cc (76.3 cu in)
BORE X STROKE: 4.13 in. (105 mm) x 2.83 in (72 mm)
HORSEPOWER: 150 @ 9,000 RPM
COMPRESSION RATIO: 13:01
FUEL SYSTEM: Electronic Sequential Port Fuel Injection (ESPFI)
EXHAUST: 2-into-1-into-1; catalyst in header
TORQUE: 94 ft-lbs @ 6,750 RPM
CHARGING: Three-phase, 45 Amp system (300 Watts @13 Volts, 1200 rpm, 585 Watts max power @ 13 Volts, 2250 rpm)
ELECTRIC POWER OUTLET USB C-Type , Output 5V at 2.4 Amp
DRIVETRAIN: Chain Driven
FRONT FORK: 47mm USD Fork with compression, rebound and preload adjustability. Special model only: Electronically adjustable semi-active damping control.
REAR SHOCK: Linkage-mounted piggyback monoshock with compression, rebound and preload adjustability. Special model only: Automatic electronic preload control and semi-active compression & rebound damping on Special model.
SUSPENSION TRAVEL: 7.5″ (190mm) front and rear
RAKE: 25 degrees
TRAIL: 4.3″
WHEELBASE: 62.2″
GROUND CLEARANCE: 8.3″
LENGTH: 89.2″
UNLADEN SEAT HEIGHT (HIGH/LOW SEAT): 34.2″/35.2″ (Standard); 33.4”/34.4” (Special); 32.7″/33.7″ (Special With ARH)
FRONT TIRE: 120/70R19 60V
REAR TIRE: 170/60R17 72V
TIRE TYPE: Michelin Scorcher Adventure, Radial
FRONT WHEEL: 19″ x 3″ Cast Aluminum, satin black (Anodized aluminum tubeless spoke wheels optional)
REAR WHEEL: 17″ x 4.5″ Cast Aluminum, satin black (Anodized aluminum tubeless spoke wheels optional)
FRONT BRAKE: 320mm twin discs. Radially mounted, monoblock, 4-piston caliper, with cornering ABS
REAR BRAKE: 280mm disc. Floating single piston caliper, with cornering ABS
DISPLAY: 6.8″ touchscreen color TFT with Bluetooth phone connectivity
OIL CAPACITY: 4.75 qt. (4.5 l)
COOLANT CAPACITY: 2.32 qt. (2.2 l)
SERVICE INTERVAL: First 1,000 miles (1,600 km), every 5,000 miles (8,000 km) thereafter
FUEL CAPACITY: 5.6 gal.
FUEL ECONOMY: 46 mpg (5.1 l/100 km)
WEIGHT (FULLY FUELED): 534 lb. (Standard); 559 lb. (Special)
GROSS VEHICLE WEIGHT RATING: 1,003 lb. (455 kg)
WARRANTY: 24 months (unlimited mileage)
MSRP: $17,319 (Standard); $19,999 (Special)
AVAILABLE COLORS: Standard: River Rock Gray & Vivid Black. Special: River Rock Dark Gray, Vivid Black, Deadwood Green, Baja Orange & Stone washed White Pearl.

Look for it at your local dealer starting this May with an MSRP of $17,319 for the standard Pan America 1250 and $19,999 for the Pan America 1250 Special. A strong demo program is already in the works, so you are likely to find a test ride at your local ADV Rally. For more details, check out the Harley-Davidson website.

Photos by Kevin Wing

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Author: Rob Dabney

Rob Dabney started a lifelong obsession with motorcycles at the age of 15 when he purchased his first bike – a 1982 Honda MB5. Through his 20’s and 30’s he competed in off-road desert races, including the Baja 250, 500 and 1000. Eventually, his proclivity for exploration led him to dual sport and adventure riding. Rob’s never-ending quest to discover what’s around the next bend has taken him on Adventures in Mexico, North Africa, Europe, and throughout the American West. As a moto journalist, he enjoys inspiring others to seek adventure across horizons both near and far.

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