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Harley-Davidson goes off-road: Pan America detailed

Harley’s first dedicated adventure tourer features watercooled v-twin and plenty of tech. Australian release in Q3, 2021.

After many hints and previews, Harley-Davidson’s ‘Pan America’ adventure tourer was officially unveiled in February and will be rolled out globally this year.

Harley’s launch video for the upcoming model was high on style but light on content. There was also some mixed messaging, like a claim that Harley have always been in the adventure touring space, then adding the freedom of design with the Pan America came from never producing a bike like this before.

The launch video also states that the Pan America is the first adventure tourer designed and built in America, ignoring the Buell XB12x Ulysses from more than 15 years ago, which was also the first bike to put Harley-Davidson in the adventure touring game, albeit indirectly. 

Harley unveils Pan America

Regardless, what is clear is that the Pan America is a genuine and serious attempt to crack what’s been the fastest growing motorcycle market segment in the past decade. And the initial response to the new model, even amongst jaded critics, has been positive.

Perhaps that reaction is due to this being an entirely new model, rather than a modification of an existing Harley-Davidson platform, or a “bought in” machine from another manufacturer; both of which Harley has been guilty of in the past.

Harley unveils Pan America

No, the Pan America is most definitely an all-new machine and will be the trailblazer for an all-new model family, too, powered by variations of the new ‘Revolution Max’ water-cooled v-twin. There’s only one other member of that family confirmed so far – the Custom 1250 – which is a performance roadster in the spirit of the V-Rod. The previously unveiled Bronx streetfighter, using a 975cc version of the same engine, is shelved for now, but if the Pan America and Custom 1250 are a hit, expect the streetfighter-inspired Bronx to be taken out of mothballs.

Harley unveils Pan America

Any success for the Pan America (and it appears it will be a success) will be credited to CEO Jochen Zeitz, even though the adventure tourer was developed under his predecessor, Matt Levatich, and his ‘More Roads to Harley-Davidson’ programme.

Harley unveils Pan America

The Pan America will be released in two iterations, the “standard” Pan America 1250 and the Pan America 1250 Special. Running gear, brakes, suspension and most cycle parts are common to both, with the main difference being that the Special gets semi-active suspension, tyre pressure monitoring and some colour, detail and accessory variations, as well as an industry-first Adaptive Ride Height function as an option.

Explore it All – with New Power

Harley-Davidson describe the Pan America as an “explore-it-all machine for riders who see touring as detouring – on road and off”.

Harley unveils Pan America

Designed from the ground up to be tough, powerful and technologically advanced, the Pan America is also reasonably light for the category, thanks to the engine’s use as a stressed member of the chassis. That engine is the all-new ‘Revolution Max’; a liquid-cooled v-twin of 1250cc displacement. 

Extensive use of aluminium and magnesium keep the engine’s weight down, while “finite element analysis” was utilised to minimise mass in the engine’s cast and moulded components.

Harley unveils Pan America

Developed in part from Harley’s experience in flat track racing, the 60-degree v-twin engine has a 105mm x 72mm bore x stroke and is said to offer a broad powerband, with an emphasis on smooth low-end torque delivery and low-speed throttle control.

Primary and secondary balancers cancel out most vibration, compression ratio is a high (for Harley) 13:1 and the four-valve DOHC design has variable valve timing and hydraulic, self-adjusting valve lifters. There are also two spark plugs per cylinder to improve ignition performance.

Harley unveils Pan America

Dual downdraft throttle bodies nestle in the angle of the vee (fed by an 11-litre airbox) and the cylinders are slightly offset to accommodate the crankshaft design that delivers a 90-degree firing order and produces what Harley calls a “stirring beat” from the lightweight 2-into-1 stainless steel exhaust system.

In what must be a first for Harley-Davidson, a maximum power figure has actually been provided and it’s pretty impressive – 112kW (150hp) at 9000rpm – which is on par with other adventure tourers of similar capacity. Maximum torque is reasonably competitive, too, at 127Nm (94ft/lb) at 6750rpm, with a redline of 9500rpm. Top speed – with cargo – is claimed at 217km/h (135mph) and the entire engine package is Euro 5 emissions compliant.

Harley unveils Pan America

The clutch is a traditional cable-operated unit, with a slip-assist function, operating a six-speed transmission that has been subjected to the same lightweighting mantra as the engine.

Three-piece frame, shocks and stoppers

With the Revolution Max v-twin serving as a stressed member, it’s allowed the Pan America frame to be minimized and broken into three components – front, mid and tail – all of which bolt to the engine.

These trellis-style frame components use a combination of cast and forged alloy construction, while the swingarm is a cast aluminium unit. 

Wheelbase is 1580mm and the wheels are cast alloy 19-inch front and 17-inch rear, shod with Michelin Scorcher Adventure tyres on the standard Pan America. Optional on the Pan America 1250 Special are wire spoke wheels of the same size, with the rubber upgraded to Michelin’s Anakee with its more aggressive tread pattern.

Harley unveils Pan America

Showa suspension components are used at each end, made up of a 47mm USD fork and piggyback reservoir mono shock. There’s 190mm of travel at each end, with full preload, compression and rebound adjustability, too.

On the Pan America 1250 Special, this suspension package is upgraded to a semi-active system which automatically controls damping to suit both the riding conditions and riding activity. This is incorporated with a Vehicle Loading Control system that uses the same electronic sensors to adjust suspension travel based on rider, pillion and luggage weight.

Harley unveils Pan America

Optional on the Pan America 1250 Special is an Adaptive Ride Height (ARH) function that Harley are claiming as an industry first. When the bike is stationary or comes to a halt in traffic, ARH lowers the seat height by up to 50mm (depending on suspension preload), then lifts it when the bike resumes motion. This has no impact on the range of travel from the Pan America 1250 Special’s semi-active suspension and can be adjusted four ways, including short and long delay operation, an auto mode and the ability to lock the ride height at the highest position.

While seat height (for rider only) can be adjusted for both Pan America variants, the standard Pan America’s range of 868mm to 894mm will be too high for some riders, making the ARH option almost mandatory. On the Pan America 1250 Special, seat height can be adjusted from 850mm to 874mm without ARH. With ARH, this drops to 830mm and 856mm.

Harley unveils Pan America

For the Pan America’s brakes, Harley turned to Brembo, with the system described as all-new and made up of dual 320mm discs with four-piston radial monobloc calipers on the front, and a single 280mm disc with a single-piston caliper on the rear. ABS is standard, as is a linked braking system, with both units cornering capable thanks to the ‘Cornering Rider Safety Enhancements’ package.

Harley unveils Pan America

Standard Tech

Offered as standard on both Pan America variants, Cornering Rider Safety Enhancements are a suite of technologies designed to improve riding confidence in rough road and poor riding conditions.

Operating off information from an IMU, this tech is designed to function when cornering and includes Cornering Enhanced Electronically Linked Braking, Cornering Enhanced Antilock Braking System, Cornering Enhanced Traction Control System, Cornering Enhanced Drag-Torque Slip Control System and Hill Hold Control.

Harley unveils Pan America

Cruise control is standard and there’s a range of riding modes, too. The five basic options, common to both Pan America 1250 variants, include Road, Rain, Sport, Off-Road and Off-Road Plus. On the latter, ‘Plus’ deactivates the ABS. There’s also a Custom mode for both that allows the various throttle, traction and braking control interventions to be adjusted individually.

On the Pan America 1250 Special, there are additional Custom Off-Road and Custom Off-Road Plus modes, as well as a second Custom mode to allow even more finite adjustment of the rider assistance settings.

Harley unveils Pan America

Selected via the right-hand switchblock, the ride modes and other bike information are viewable on a 6.8-inch TFT screen that’s tilt adjustable and features a touchscreen that’s disabled when the bike is in motion for rider safety, but can still be operated via the switchblocks. The screen supports Bluetooth, while navigation is possible using a Harley-Davidson app that’s iOS and Android compatible.

Other standard features include a four-position adjustable windscreen, 21-litre fuel tank and full LED lighting package.

Special Features

Over the base Pan America 1250, the Pan America 1250 Special adds more tech, including the aforementioned semi-active suspension with Vehicle Load Control, as well as more off-road friendly features.

Harley unveils Pan America

A Tyre Pressure Monitoring System (with alerts on the TFT screen) is standard, as is a Daymaker Signature headlight that uses the IMU to project additional lighting into the corners when turning.

Also exclusive to the Special is a steering damper, centre stand, engine bash plate, radiator guards (that can also serve as mounts for auxiliary lighting), hand guards and heated grips.

A clever addition is an adjustable brake pedal that allows more comfortable brake operation when standing on the pegs and can be altered without tools.

Harley unveils Pan America

The Advanced Ride Height and spoked wheels are optional on the Special and not available for the standard Pan America.

While increasing capability on- and off-road, the extra kit adds weight, with the Special coming in at 258kg wet, compared to 245kg for the standard Pan America. 

Two. . . and One

While both variants of the Pan America will be released in most markets, Australia and New Zealand are only getting the Special. Ride away pricing will be AU$31,995 for Australia and NZ$33,995 across the Tasman. This is competitive with the main (BMW, KTM) opposition.

Harley unveils Pan America

A choice of three colours includes Vivid Black, Gauntlet Grey metallic and two-tone Baja Orange and Stone Washed White Pearl, all with a bar-and-shield tank graphic.

Spoked rims and the Adaptive Ride Height will be optional, and while no pricing has been listed for these extras, ARH is expected to add around $1,500.

Harley unveils Pan America

A range of model-specific accessories, including hard and soft luggage, exhaust systems and protective parts, will be available from launch, along with riding gear developed in collaboration with Rev’It.

Australian and New Zealand delivery of the Pan America is expected in Q3, 2021


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Mike Ryan

Mike Ryan