The Motor Company Returns To The Dirt With An All-Purpose Adventure Bike
Harley-Davidson pulled the shroud off the much-anticipated Pan America, via a virtual launch across the web. As with their 2021 model reveal in January, the video production was outstanding, evoking emotion, calling upon history, and pointing to the future the brand will pursue.
From their press release: The Pan America™ motorcycle is Harley-Davidson’s explore-it-all machine for riders who see touring as detouring – on road and off. This rugged, powerful, technologically advanced multi-purpose vehicle is designed from the ground up to inspire rider confidence and fuel the spirit of adventure, wherever the road may take you.
Following a stirring video invocation by actor and Harley fan boy Jason Momoa, the reveal video switches over to a short film hosted by Brad Richards, VP of Styling & Design, and Jochen Zeitz, company president and CEO, riding and talking about the road to developing the Pan America. Their sweeping ride footage across the American Southwest, as well as clips from Zeitz’s tour of Kenya on a Pan Am, provided an ideal transition into discussing how the Motor Company arrived at building the first American bike in the adventure-touring category.
Being a history buff, I particularly enjoyed the extensive history portion Harley segued into, featuring Bill Rodencal and Bill Jackson of the H-D Museum. Rodencal stated up front, “With the introduction of the Pan Am, there are people out there who are going to say, ‘Harley-Davidson is maybe a little late to this game.’ My answer to that is, this is our game, this is the game we’ve always played.” They then share the story of Harley’s foundational years, before paved roads, through two World Wars, and into the early years of off-road racing. Their photos and footage show a motor company grounded in the dirt. Good reminders that Harleys have traveled the globe, traversed every form of terrain, and have proven their mettle for generations, on-road and certainly off.
So in the Pan America, Harley-Davidson asserts they are returning to their roots, returning to their origins of bikes that will play in the dirt, that will tour any and everywhere. “From its inception more than a century ago, when many roads were little more than dirt trails, Harley-Davidson has stood for adventure. So, I’m very proud to present Pan America as the first adventure touring bike designed and built in America,” declared Zeitz. “The Pan America models exude that go-anywhere spirit, shared today by riders in the US and around the globe who want to experience the world on a motorcycle.”
The Pan America 1250 and Pan America 1250 Special models are powered by the new 150hp Revolution® Max 1250 engine, a liquid-cooled 1,250cc-displacement V-Twin designed to offer a broad powerband that builds to a rush of high-RPM power. To minimize overall motorcycle weight (Pan America 1250 534lb. wet, Pan America 1250 Special 559lb. wet), the Revolution Max engine is integrated into the bike as the central member of the chassis. Both bikes include a plethora of tech, including multiple ride modes and “Cornering Rider Safety Enhancements” designed to match motorcycle performance to available traction during acceleration, deceleration and braking. What particularly caught my interest (being a bit vertically challenged at 5’8”) was the optional “Adaptive Ride Height” or ARH, an industry-first suspension system that automatically transitions between a lower ride height at stops, and optimal ride height while at speed. It apparently can be manually adjusted as well.
The 1250 Revolution V-Twin was also teased as the power plant for several future Harleys, including a low Sportster-looking cruiser, which we hope to see more on soon. As far as kitting out the Pan Am for real off-roading, the Motor Company showcased a complete line of hard case, sport tour, and soft bags that will be available for the bikes, as well as added lighting options and accessories. They’ve also partnered with Rev’It, a respected European motorcycle apparel company, to develop a line of durable riding gear of various textiles. TFT touch-screen tech upon the dash, which is disabled while in motion, will feature the full array of options riders have come to expect on virtually all motorcycles these days, including a free H-D app to synch bike with phone.
Seat height can be adjusted from 34.2 to 35.2 inches (33.4-34.4 on the Special), the windscreen can be manually adjusted 4-ways, and the fuel capacity is 5.6 gallons, giving the Pan Am pretty long legs. Both bikes pinch on Brembo brakes fore and aft, and have a fully adjustable SHOWA suspension system for preload and damping. Utilizing data provided by sensors on the motorcycle, the suspension system on the Special edition goes a step further, automatically controlling damping to suit the prevailing conditions and riding activity. The Special also employs a “Vehicle Loading Control” system, sensing the weight of the rider, passenger and luggage to select optimal suspension sag by automatically adjusting rear preload. Heated grips, steering damper, a TPMS system, et al, are among the many options available for the 1250 Special.
The Harley-Davidson Pan America appears to be quite the capable ADV bike, from what we’ve seen and read so far. It looks to nestle right in among the large displacement/weight adventure bikes, such as the BMW R 1200 and 1250 GS, Honda’s Africa Twin, Yamaha’s XT 1200 Super Tenere’, the Triumph Explorer and Tiger models, to name just a few of the many great bikes in the segment. I was skeptical when I first read of Harley’s venture into the space, but now I’m intrigued and curious. I think they’ve done their homework and due diligence. Now we’ll see if the Pan Am performs as well as it appears to, and if the ADV world will give her a welcome. We certainly hope to get our hands on one soon, so we can share with you our thoughts and impressions. Honestly, I’m glad to see H-D move in this direction.
So, what do you think? Share your comments below!
*Info, photos and video provided by Harley-Davidson
Click here for more on the Pan America.