The idea of an adventure Harley first surfaced in 2018, when the Motor Company unveiled its More Roads to Harley strategy. In an attempt to make the brand more appealing to a broader, younger audience, the company announced it would get out of its niche and enter new segments. The plan notably included developing small (250 to 500cc) and mid-size (500 to 1,250cc) new platforms, branching out into new segments, and launching the long-awaited LiveWire.
That's when we first met the Pan America—Harley's upcoming new champion in the adventure bike ring. At the time, the company's goal was to introduce the bike in 2020, however, things didn't exactly go as planned. Former CEO Levatich got sacked in February, 2020, and his ambitious strategy was entirely scrapped by the new management, replaced with the aggressively more conservative Hardwire strategy.
Under new president and CEO Jochen Zeitz's lead, Harley considerably cut back on the number of new models in its pipeline and only two out of the lot made the cut: an unnamed 1250 power cruiser and the Pan America. A little over a year after it was formally introduced at EICMA 2019, the all-new 2021 Harley-Davidson Pan America 1250 is finally here. By the looks of it, Harley did its homework and gives us a bike we can really be excited about.
Harley's shiny new adventurer is offered in two trim levels. The base one starts at $17,139 and is available in your choice of Silver Rock Gray or Vivid Black colorways. The higher trim level, dubbed Pan America 1250 Special, starts at $19,999 and is offered with four livery options: River Rock Dark Gray, Vivid Black, Deadwood Green, and Baja Orange & Stone Washed White Pearl (which is the color scheme we've been seeing for the past year).
The Special trim level adds a few adventure-oriented perks to the menu of features, including a center stand, a multi-position rear brake pedal that can be adjusted to the riding position (standing or seated), a steering damper, a skid plate, a brush guard, heated grips, handguards, an adaptive headlight, a tire pressure monitoring system, and semi-active front and rear suspension with vehicle load control. The suspension at the back is electronically controlled and comes with five settings for added or reduced stiffness.
Like with any other bike in the lineup, Harley offers a vast collection of accessories for the Pan Am including different sets of luggage. The Special can also receive optional features includes wire-spoke wheels with tubeless tires and adaptive ride height.
Pricing looks about right for the segment. Comparatively, the BMW R 1250 GS sets you back $17,995, the Ducati Multistrada V4; $19,995, and the KTM 1290 Super Adventure S; $18,599. The new Harley Pan America 1250 is going to be available in Spring 2021.
When it showed the bike in the metal for the first time in 2019, Harley-Davidson also confirmed the introduction of a new family of engines, dubbed Revolution Max. At the time, the 60-degree, liquid-cooled twin was going to be available in two sizes: 975cc and 1,252cc.
While it's unclear whether we'll get the smaller variant at all as it was meant to launch with the Bronx—a model that seemingly didn't make it into Harley's new corporate strategy—the bigger version is the one we find at the core of the new Pan Am.
The company explains that the cylinders' angle helps keep the block compact while also leaving enough space to fit the block with dual downdraft throttle bodies designed to maximize the air intake which results in improved performance.
The new 1,252cc V-twin has a bore and stroke of 105mm x 72mm and a compression ratio of 13:1. Its output is rated at 150 horsepower at 9,000rpm and 94 lb-ft of torque at 6,750rpm. The use of a dual-overhead-cam (DOHC) allows the engine to rev higher and to receive Variable Valve Timing (VVT) on the intake and exhaust cams which, Harley says, broadens the powerband, improves torque efficiency, and "may" improve fuel efficiency.
The engine is paired with a six-speed transmission with clutch assist and slipper functions to make the pull lighter and keep the engine from over-revving.
If you like all the tech talk that pertains to the new Revolution Max engine, check out Harley's thorough breakdown of all the features.
Chassis and Dimensions
The new Pan Am is built on what Harley calls an optimized chassis that uses the engine as a stressed member and is designed to provide improved stiffness and handling without raking pounds in.
Speaking of weight, we like the numbers we see. We commented before that while weight normally isn't much of a concern for Harley, we were hoping that the new Pan Am was going to tip the scales below the 600-pound mark. Mission accomplished, folks: the base model weighs in at a reasonable 534 pounds wet while the top-of-the-line Special clocks in at 559 pounds. Whew, that's relieving. That's actually lighter than the BMW R 1250 GS that weighs in at 549 pounds wet for the base model, if you can believe it. The Ducati Multistrada V4 and KTM 1290 Super Adventure R are rated at 478 pounds but that's without all the required fluids.
In terms of ergonomics, the Pan Am offers a typical adventure bike setting with an unladen saddle height of 34.2 inches in the low setting and 35.2 inches in the high setting. On the 1250 Special, the unladen seat height is set at 33.4 inches in the low setting and 34.4 inches in the high one. To adapt the wind protection to the type of riding, the windscreen can be adjusted four ways.
It also gets a cavernous 5.6-gallon tank, designed with the filler opening shifted forward so that riders can fill up without having to remove their tank bag.
Brakes and Suspension
The frame is supported by a Showa, 47mm inverted fork with 7.48 inches of travel at the front and a Showa shock with piggyback reservoir with adjustable hydraulic preload and 7.48 inches of travel, paired with an aluminum swingarm.
The bike is fitted with a set of asymmetrical cast aluminum wheels—19 inches at the front and 17 inches at the back. As for the tires, the company reached out to Michelin to develop co-branded tires designed to provide the optimal feel and grip for the bike's adventure purpose. The Pan Am comes with a pair of standard Michelin Scorcher Adventure while the Michelin Anakee Wild knobby tires are available in option.
Harley worked in collaboration with Brembo to design a special set of four-piston calipers that fits the look of the Pan with "sharper edges and softer curves". The front wheel is fitted with a pair of 320mm discs while the rear wheel gets a single 280mm disc.
Behind the windscreen, the Pan America receives a 6.8-inch TFT touchscreen covered in non-reflective glass to make the screen easy to read at all times. The touchscreen function automatically shuts off while the vehicle is in motion, giving the rider the option to navigate through the menu using the handlebar-mounted controls. The system can be paired with the rider's smartphone via Apple CarPlay and Android Auto which enables calls and message management as well as navigation.
The base model also comes with five rider modes (Road, Sport, Rain, Off-Road, and Off-Road Plus) which adapt the bike's power delivery, engine braking, cornering ABS, and cornering traction control to the rider's immediate needs. It also comes with standard cruise control.