Something new has arrived in the heavyweight-ADV segment – something that refers to the glorious tradition of explorers of the West. Here’s the Pan America – a Harley that’s wild and quite surprisingly so.
When the ‘More Roads to Harley-Davidson’ plan was announced in mid-2018, it was hard not to be baffled. After a century of solid steel-made custom bikes – which evolved relentlessly but not without great attention and care – in one fell swoop, three electric motorcycles appeared: a pair of European-style power cruisers powered by a 150hp liquid-cooled twin and a massive ADV that seemed to have come out of a Lego box.
Not surprisingly, Harley’s change of strategy has been a topic of hot discussions since, both inside and outside the company. And while Harley’s CEO, who laid the original plan, has since been replaced and the program thoroughly reconsidered, one thing endured all this upheaval and persisted – the Pan America 1250.
- Harley-Davidson Pan America 1250
Price: ₹16.90 – ₹19.99 Lakh (Ex-showroom)
• Quick-shifter missing
So, why has the Pan America remained? Well, because while Harley can do without another cruiser or a second electric model, it absolutely cannot give up on an ADV – If it wants to survive in the medium term. Its customer base, very loyal but by now aged, is increasingly reluctant to accept certain Harley characteristics, such as weight, low-speed handling, and limited versatility.
Now, Harley did respond to this demand by unifying the Dyna and Softail ranges, which have become much more modern and comfortable. But it’s the Pan America that marks a tectonic shift at Harley. After a century of proud independence, even the most conservative manufacturer in the world had to bow to the customer – give people what they want. And people today want bikes that are comfortable, versatile, good to ride, and full of digital technology. If you look at market trends across the globe, it’s the ADV segment that’s booming everywhere; and the Pan America is precisely that – a brand-new Adventure machine ‘born in the USA’ but designed for the global market. What we have here is a motorcycle that’s built like a European or a Japanese motorcycle, as you’ll read on, it behaves like one, too!
Now, it may sound blasphemous to H-D purists, but it nevertheless attests to the crude truth that the most Harley thing about the Pan America is its look, while everything else about it is more or less similar to that of its competitors. And it isn’t difficult to understand this by looking at the design of the bike, which is based on a liquid-cooled multi-valve twin-cylinder engine, with integrated gearbox, a narrow V of 60° (but with crankpins offset by 30° to make it run like a 90° V) and, above all, a full ride-by-wire management system and double overhead camshaft distribution, assisted by variable intake and exhaust timing. It’s an engine designed to be light and rev freely, as evidenced by the over-square, short-stroke measures (105 x 72 mm), forged aluminium pistons, extensive anti-friction treatments, finger-follower valve actuation, fuel supply with two vertical throttle bodies, crankcase sump reminiscent of the KTM LC8, A354 aluminium casts and magnesium covers. It has just about everything you’d expect from a modern engine – dual ignition, assisted slipper clutch, sodium valves, two countershafts (one in the crankcase and one in the front head), hydraulic play compensation, and so on.
Named 'Revolution Max' (and it’s not hard to see why), this twin has a displacement of 1,252cc – not just by chance, but meant to allow Pan America to compete on equal terms with BMW, Ducati, and KTM. With around 150 horses at disposal, it is the most powerful H-D engine in history, and it was born to be used as a stressed member of the frame.
Like the latest BMW GS or the Ducati Multistrada V4, the Pan America, too, doesn’t have a real frame but three subsections that support the fork, tank, and subframe. The suspension is made by Showa – 47 mm upside-down fork and rear monoshock, both with 190mm of wheel travel, assisted by the sophisticated semi-active EERA system (on the Special version). The wheels are 19” front and 17” rear, with Brembo brakes – 320mm discs and radial mono-block callipers at the front and a single 280mm disc at the rear.
Coming to the dimensions, the Pan America has a wheelbase of 1,580mm – for context, 1,504mm for the GS Adventure, 1,525mm for the base GS, and 1,567mm for the Multistrada V4 – and a seat height of 868/894mm. The steering head angle is 25°, and the tank has a capacity of 21 litres.
The electronic features are managed by a beautifully crafted 6.8-inch TFT touch display. There are 5 riding modes, along with a customizable one (three on the Special), traction control and ABS with cornering function thanks to the presence of a 6-axis IMU, and an adjustable engine brake. The headlights are full-LED (with cornering function on the Special). In addition to the semi-active suspension, the Special version offers TPMS tyre monitoring, a centre stand, an adjustable rear brake pedal, skid plate and frame protectors, heated grips, and a steering damper. The Pan America Special will also mark the world debut of the Showa ARH system, which combined with the EERA allows you to lower the seat height by up to 5 cm, allowing you to confidently put your feet down on the ground at a stop.
Oh, and before we forget, the quickshifter is conspicuously missing.
Born to be wild
By now, if you’ve happened to forget that we’re talking about a Harley, let us just say that riding it will certainly not remind you that it’s a Harley. True, on the handlebars there are those black buttons, and the paintwork and overall finish are typically Harley; but, once the engine starts, it hurls you into a whole new world – a world of zero vibrations and a markedly pronounced exhaust note. But to tell the truth, the note is not particularly unique. The Revolution Max engine has no obvious peculiarities in terms of the way it behaves – in Sport mode, it pushes hard and takes you to 200km/h in a flash, with almost no vibrations but in a way that almost seems too abrupt. And, perhaps, in order to mitigate this aspect, Harley opted for a very long throttle excursion.
The saddle is more GS-like than Multistrada-like – you sit on 'top' of the bike rather than ‘in’ it. In its highest position, the saddle is almost flush with the tank and rear fender and raises to almost 900mm – an enduro racing height. One reason for this may be the large vertical size of the engine. Nevertheless, this arrangement makes for a quite effective off-road riding experience – although it also inevitably reduces the aerodynamic protection despite the small and height-adjustable windshield.
We only rode the Special version of the bike, and let’s just say that the Showa electronic suspension is insane. Its adjustability has a very wide range – from very stiff in the Sport mode to very soft in Off-road mode. This, combined with an equally wide band of power delivery and engine brake, makes the Pan America a bike that changes the most in its different riding modes amongst the bikes that we have tested.
Now, you do feel that it’s a little different from its competitors but only in the first few corners, especially if you go slow. It’s not especially heavy at 242kgs (253kgs for the Special version); at slow speed, the Pan America does seem a bit heavy in the steering feel, perhaps because of the generous trail value of 108mm. While attacking narrow corners, it may feel a bit long, but never really heavy. And as soon as the road opens up, it turns into a really delightful bike – the combination of the engine’s brilliance and the suspension’s excellence makes the Pan America a real pleasure to ride. In Touring mode, which softens the aggressive nature of the Pan America 1250 while retaining the ability to limit the load transfers of the EERA system, it almost behaves like BMW’s Telelever system.
Even off-road, the Pan America is not bad. It’s a shame that the handlebars levers are this large and make it difficult to operate them with a finger or two, as you usually do. Conversely, the footrests are a bit too small when riding in boots. In general, however, the combination of the frame, electronic suspension, engine, and transmission works pretty well here. During our test ride, we did not find it to be limited in any sense, except, perhaps, in terms of centre of gravity, which is a bit high, especially with a full tank.
Like other big ADVs, with almost 250kgs of weight between your legs, you have to be careful not to shift your weight too much, otherwise, you might struggle to get back into balance. But, if we talk about off-roading, then the new H-D is already not far from the best in the segment.
Versatile at heart
Overall, the Pan America is a versatile machine – a top priority for Harley. It knows how to be comfortable and peaceful for passers-by, fierce for those who want it to be, and at ease even while off-roading. It’s everything you do not expect from a Harley, but it’s still unmistakably a Harley. Is it beautiful? Is it ugly? The aesthetic judgment will take some time, as is always the case with game-changers as, for instance, the Ducati Monster or BMW GS.
However, what we can say for sure is that it’s different, original, very well made, and nice to ride. In terms of price, it demands more or less the same as that of its rivals. It’s now available in India, too. There are two variants – Standard and Special, and they’re priced at Rs. 16.90 lakh and Rs. 19.99 lakh, respectively. Given the features and performance, it’s priced really well. No doubt that it might look a bit strange at first, but once you look past that strangeness, the Pan America turns out to be a decidedly interesting proposal. It’s a bike that really opens up new roads not only for Milwaukee enthusiasts but also for new potential customers.
- Technical Specifications
Twin-cylinders V 60°, 1,252cc
Bore x stroke 105 x 72mm
Compression ratio 13.0:1
Chain drive, variable timing
4 valves per cylinder
Electronic fuel injection
Ride-by-wire throttle bodies
Chain final drive (n.d.)
Wet multi-disc clutch
Hydraulic assisted control
Electronic Controls manageable by the rider
5 riding modes + 3 custom
Traction control 3 modes + off
Wheelie control 3 modes + off
Engine braking 3 modes; Hill start control
Cruise control; Suspension adjustment 5 modes
Adaptive Ride Height (optional) 4 positions
ABS 3 modes + rear off
Steel trellis frame with three sections
Steering head angle 25°
Trail 108mm; Showa BFF 47mm upside-down fork
Preload, compression and return adjustment
Aluminium swingarm; Showa BFRC mono-shock
Preload, compression and return adjustment
Ground clearance – 190mm
EERA semi-active electronic suspension
Front 2 x 320mm discs
Brembo radial 4-piston callipers
Rear 280mm disc; 2-piston calliper; ABS with cornering function
Front – 120 / 70-R19; Rear – 170 / 60-R17
Length – 2,265mm; Width – n.a.
Wheelbase – 1,580mm
Seat height – 868 / 894mm
Weight in running order – 258kgs
Fuel tank – 21.2 litres
150bhp at 8,750rpm
128Nm at 6,750rpm
So, for those who were wondering what the hundreds of engineers at H-D were up to, here’s the answer – in the last two years, they’ve come up with two completely new models: the LiveWire and now the Pan America, which have been placed right at the top of their respective segments. In fact, the Pan America Special also has a seat reserved at the top-end adventure table, with excellent credentials, as shown in the above graph. It excels not only in quality and optional extras but also in terms of suspension, ergonomics, versatility, and even price. Of course, it takes some time to get used to its unconventional look, and there are more rewarding bikes on the road (Ducati) and off-road (BMW, Honda), but the package put together by Harley really makes it a fearsome competitor. It only has a few flaws – for instance, the gearbox is a bit hard and the wind protection at high speeds could have been better. However, given its aggressive pricing and endless accessories catalogue, it more than makes up for whatever it lacks.
Above: The Pan America 1250 Special with optional exhaust, spoked wheels, and knobby tires. Below: Top-notch components.
Obviously, the H-D accessories catalogue is endless! Here are the rigid aluminium panniers, the headlight protection grille, the centre stand, and a nice Screamin’ Eagle muffler.
Below are the two colours of the Pan America Standard without semi-active suspension, tubular protections, TPMS, and other equipment.
Below are the four colours of the Special variant, which is also distinguished from the Standard Pan America by the stylised ‘Bar and Shield’ logo instead of the letters ‘H-D’.