First Look: 2021 Harley-Davidson Pan America

Published: February 23, 2021

Milwaukee firm fully unveils wackily-styled adventure machine

Some 2021 machinery has been a total surprise when released – but not this one. Harley-Davidson has been trailing the Pan America adventure behemoth since 2018 – but now we’re finally getting all the details.

The holdups are perhaps understandable of course: COVID-19 has thrown most things off-schedule, and Harley has had a few financial woes of its own even prior to the pandemic, cancelling the Bronx roadster which was set to use the same new engine as the Pan America.

Harley-Davidson Pan America
Harley-Davidson Pan America

But now, the firm has released all the details on its new adventure machine – and it looks really good. There are two versions, the Pan America 1250 and the Pan America 1250 Special (or S). The S version gets more electronics, including the best trick we’ve seen so far – an automatic levelling suspension setup dubbed Automatic Ride Height (ARH) that drops the bike down when you come to a halt. So, if you’re a little on the shorter side, you can still ride this tall bike, since it lowers down at red lights, Smart.

The fundamentals look impressive too. The new Revolution Max 1250 60° V-twin engine makes a smart 150bhp@9,000rpm, with peak torque at 94 ft lb. Those are strong numbers – a little down on the mental Ducati 1260 Multistrada V-twin’s 156bhp, but ten per cent more than BMW’s 135bhp R1250 GS – a clear target here.

The motor also features variable valve timing, maintenance-free hydraulic tappets, DOHC, and the crank also has 30° split crankpins, meaning a 90° firing order that improves balance. The motor also has twin balancer shafts, one in the bottom end and one in the front cylinder head. The heads have twin spark plugs, the bore and stroke is 105mmx72mm, compression ratio is 13:1 and it’s both water-cooled and fuel injected of course. Finally, the Pan America uses chain final drive, which is an interesting choice in this sector, and more performance biased than the shaft option favoured by BMW.

Harley-Davidson Pan America engine
Harley are competing with the likes of BMW and Ducati

A really sorted high-performance layout, then – and it’s in a solid-looking chassis too. The motor is used as a stressed frame member, and the front, rear and mid-frame sections all bolting onto the engine. There’s a mix of steel tube trellis and aluminium frame sections for stiffness and strength – and the weight figures are good too. The base bike is just 242kg wet, while the electronic-suspension-equipped Special is a bit chunkier at 254kg.

Running gear looks good: Brembo brake calipers up front, and beefy Showa BFF 47mm front USD forks, plus a rear Showa BFRC piggyback monoshock operated by a dual-sided aluminium swingarm. The suspension is fully adjustable both ends, and the Special edition Pan America comes with electronic semi-active suspension, together with that ARH automatic ride-levelling/ride height function.

Harley-Davidson Pan America
Harley-Davidson Pan America in action

Standard wheels are cast aluminium, with a wire-spoked tubeless option (£400), and the Pan comes with Michelin Scorcher tyres, in 120/70 19 front and 170/60 17 rear sizes. Fuel capacity is an impressive 21.2 litres, and Harley has specced an aluminium fuel tank to save weight.

On the electronics front, Harley hasn’t missed much out either. There’s a massive 6.8 inch TFT LCD touch-screen dashboard, with full Bluetooth connection, music and navigation functions, as well as a heap of rider aids. There’s full IMU-assisted cornering ABS and traction control, as well as hill-hold, linked braking, wheelie control and anti-rear-lift functions – impressive stuff. It can all be turned off for hardcore off-road riding, and is fully customisable from the dash as well. There are five pre-set riding modes – Sport, Road, Rain, Offroad and Offroad Plus, as well as two fully customisable rider modes, one off-road and one on-road.

You get full LED lighting, including the massive wide letterbox cornering headlight that gives the Pan America its hugely distinctive styling from the front, and lights the way all through a bend. It looks deeply unconventional of course – but as the BMW GS family has showed down the years, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. If you get it right, quirky styling can define a bike, making it really stand out and build cult appeal.

So – Harley’s clearly very serious about this bike and sector. And on paper, it’s done an incredible job in terms of power, torque, mass, chassis kit and electronics. The styling is a bit Marmite, but we can see it growing on us, especially if the bike is as good to ride as it looks to be.

Harley-Davidson Pan America
Styling options for the Pan America

Now, at this stage of a new Harley-Davidson bike launch report, we usually take a deep breath when we mention the price. But not this time. Amazingly, the Milwaukee firm hasn’t slapped on the premium £25k price tag many expected. Instead, the base bike starts at just £14,000 in black – a very impressive price point for a new Harley with this performance level. The fancy Special edition is pricier, but not by a lot, starting at £15,500 in black. Tubeless wheels are an extra-cost option (£400), as is the sweet orange/white paint scheme (£450) – other paint options (green or grey) have a £250 premium.

Being a Harley, there’s a massive parts and accessories range, and we’re not talking tassled saddlebags and skull headlights either. The Pan America gets a proper range of useful accessories, including hard and soft luggage, crash protection, heated grips, lower and taller seats, bar risers, taller windscreens, the lot. They seem well priced too – impressive.

Harley-Davidson Pan America
Full kit on the Pan America

So – the new Pan America looks like a corker: when can we buy one? Well it’s hitting the UK in June this year – just in time for the final lifting of lockdown restrictions (fingers crossed…)

Harley-Davidson Pan America Spec

Price: from £14,000 (June 2021), Special from £15,500

Engine: DOHC 8v, 60° V-twin, l/c, 1250cc

Bore x stroke: 105x72mm

Compression ratio: 13:1

Carburation: EFI, downdraft throttle bodies

Max power (claimed) 150hp@9,000rpm

Max torque (claimed) 94ft lb@6,750rpm

Transmission: six speed gearbox, wet slipper clutch, chain drive

Frame: steel trellis/aluminium subframes, engine as stressed member

Front suspension: 47mm USD fork, fully adjustable, optional semi-active electronic suspension with auto ride height

Rear suspension: aluminium braced swingarm, piggyback monoshock with full adjustability, optional semi-active electronic suspension with auto ride height

Brakes: twin 320mm discs, four-piston Brembo monobloc radial calipers (front), 280mm disc, single-piston caliper (rear), cornering ABS.

Wheels/tyres: cast aluminium (optional wire spoked tubeless)/Michelin Scorcher, 120/70 19 front, 170/60 17 rear

Rake/trail: 25°/157mm

Wheelbase: 1,580mm

Kerb weight : 242kg (Special: 254kg)

Fuel capacity: 21.2 litres

Colours: black, grey, green, white/orange

Equipment: IMU based cornering traction control and ABS, TFT LCD touchscreen dash, LED cornering lighting, rider modes, offroad modes, wheelie control, anti-rear-lift control, hill-hold function, Bluetooth integration, tyre pressure monitoring system, cruise control

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