The Pan America surprised us when we tested it for a day at the Aussie launch, but we needed a real test to fully explore the latest addition to the big-bore adventure class... Photos: HMC Photography
In winter we were fortunate enough to spend a day sampling the Pan America Special on a range of roads, tracks and even a dedicated grass track circuit. We published our launch report here. Since then, we got hold of a fully kitted Pan Am Special. Here’s what we learnt.
I was blown away by the Pan America Special at the Aussie launch last year. I spent a day on the road, forests and even on grass track doing laps (check out the shots). I rode on stock tyres, 50/50s and full knobbies. It was a great way to sample the bike over a range of conditions but not enough for a full review. I needed to spend more time off-road to compare it to the competition in the Adventure segment. I asked Harley for a Pan America with all the off-road extras and full off-road rubber. They delivered, and I went bush!
Of my 1000km test, 600km was dirty. Sand, mud, hard pack, loose rock, grass, fire trails and smooth dirt roads. It had everything thrown at it. Nothing could stop the Pan America. My test bike was fitted with Michelin Anakee Wild tyres, hard luggage, a bash plate, crash bars and spotlights. The hard luggage proved handy; however the key is thin and bends easily. Hard luggage is not allowed at a lot of events here, as it can cause injures. I prefer soft luggage for off-road riding.
I ran the seat on the tallest setting. It moves side-to-side, which I found annoying, however I spent half of my test standing. At 187cm, I would fit ‘bar risers if it was my bike. I had the standard ‘bars adjusted as steep as possible, with levers tilted down for stand-up use. I found the bike extremely comfy and easy to control off-road at high and low speed. By the way, the pipes get very hot. When standing for long periods, my right leg cooked. My adventure pants melted! Be careful. A heat guard is needed. Or asbestos pants. You choose!
The screen, always on the tallest setting, gave good protection, but another 50mm would be nice to stop wind buffeting at highway speeds. The hand guards are a weak point. They come off the bar-ends all the time, every big jump or bump. Throw them out and fit better ones or secure the ends somehow.
I pushed the Pan America very, very hard, past its design limits. I wanted to compare it to the KTM, BMW and V-Strom XT. I tried to break it, but it survived…
The off-road tyres limit on road performance by about 70 per cent compared to the stock tyres. They slide, spin and drift everywhere, with poor wet weather traction. I was hanging the back out on the tarmac, leaving huge black lines for my mates to laugh at. However, off-road, they improve the Pan America by 90 per cent over the stock tyres. The difference is immense on all surfaces other than hard smooth dirt. Worth using, only if you mainly ride off-road.
I pushed the Pan America very, very hard, past its design limits. I wanted to compare it to the KTM, BMW and V-Strom XT. I tried to break it, but it survived. It sits between the BMW and the Suzuki in my opinion. Not hard-edged like the KTM, easier to ride and good for the average to fast adventure rider.
The Pan Am has less ground clearance than the GSA but narrower and nimbler thanks to the engine configuration. I prefer it to the other adventure bikes. I felt more confident on it in most situations aside from very high speed, where the bottom of the bash plate would hit the ground over washouts and erosion banks.
All modes are fantastic in the factory pre-sets. The electronic suspension is the best I have sampled on a road going bike in my 20-years testing. Only when I really got going hard off-road, I created a custom off-road map with the firmest suspension setting and TC off. Other than that, Off-Road Firm was perfect for fast, flowing dirt roads with some erosion banks and whoops.
Off-Road standard was better in most situations, despite more bottoming out, as the softer damping rates meant the Pan America simply floats over even the harshest terrain. The Pan America is highly capable off road. It can go anywhere the other adventure bikes go.
The engine is tractable and powerful, despite lacking in bottom-end compared to other adventure bikes, it is easy to ride around that and less tiring in power delivery as a result. Range is 350km-plus off-road and I found comfort great. I did the 600km dirt ride in two rides, 300km each, one day mostly high speed (70km – 170km/h) and one day tighter, more technical riding.
I wear knee braces when dirt riding, so the Adaptive Ride Height made hopping on and off easy. I still had issues with the side-stand, which is forward and awkward. I dropped the bike at a petrol station and injured my back (rupltured a disc) picking it up. It rolled forward off the stand, which I thought had engaged and locked…
“The electronic suspension is the best I have sampled on a road going bike in my 20-years testing”…
The Pan America desperately needs a quickshifter. It feels very antiquated without one and when riding gets fast and busy, a quickshfter really helps. I had to over-use the clutch as a result, so after the test the clutch was feeling grabby and worn already, particularly when the engine was cooler…
The front tyre buried itself, found grip and thanks to the electronics package, the bike and I got through the turn. I might have crashed without that aid…
Braking is great without being sensational and pulling up the Pan America on road can be challenging from high speeds, however, off road the brakes and electronics combine to give a fabulous package. I put this to the test when I was caught out by a tightening radius dirt road corner.
I approached the corner at approximately 100km/h, but quickly realised it was a first gear hairpin. I braked very hard and basically threw the bike at the turn. The front tyre buried itself, found grip and thanks to the electronics package, the bike and I got through the turn. I might have crashed without that aid… Food for thought.
The Harley App is good for navigation, until signal runs out (common here in Oz), so not much use out in the Aussie bush but great everywhere else… I found the dash easy to navigate, I like the switchgear (not as complex as it looks), but the digits are tiny on the TFT…
All up, the Pan America Special easily passed my hardcore off-road test. It’s now my favourite adventure machine, but time will tell how strong it really is as owners clock up the kilometres in the years to come, and more people do long trips on them. Riders in general seemed to be impressed by the bike here. I spoke to a lot of adventure riders while out in the popular adventure riding areas and most of them took the Pan America seriously and not just as a token Harley.
All up, the Pan America Special easily passed my hardcore off-road test…
Stay tuned for my full video review of my experience testing the Pan America Special out in the real world over a few fun weeks…
Pan America Special
– Semi Active front and rear SHOWA suspension
– Tyre Pressure Monitoring System
– Multi-Position Rear Brake Pedal
– Brush Guards
– Alloy Skid Plate/Bash Plate
– Adaptive Headlights
– Heated Grips
– Steering Damper
– Adaptive Ride Height
– Spoked Tubeless Wheels
Extras On Test
– Michelin Anakee Wild Tyres
– Hard Luggage Option
– Crash Bars
Check Out Our Pan America Special Launch Video
2022 Harley-Davidson Pan America Special 1250 Tech Talk
The Pan America 1250 and Pan America 1250 Special models are powered by the new 150hp Revolution Max 1250 engine, a liquid-cooled 1250cc 60º V-Twin designed to offer a broad powerband. To minimise overall motorcycle weight, the Revolution Max engine is integrated into the bike as the central member of the chassis. The bike is also packed with technology…
REVOLUTION MAX ENGINE
The amazing V-twin engine that powers the Pan America is completely new from the ground up, designed and built entirely by Harley-Davidson in the USA. It is a 60º Vee angle externally, to keep the engine short and thus assist in optimum chassis geometry and weight balance. Internally a 30º crank pin offset of the main journals create a 90º firing order. The two cylinders are offset slightly to accomodate the crank offset, and the result is a firing order that has flat tractable pulses, experienced gained by H-D in many decades of flat track racing.
The engine is lightweight thanks to the use of high end light materials and the use of FEA design optimisation in creating castings, minimising mass. The camshafts and gearbox shafts are hollow, while the single-piece aluminium cylinders are Nickel silicon carbide-surface galvanic coated. Rocker covers, camshaft covers and primary cover material is magnesium. Liquid-cooling is employed while a liquid-cooled oil cooler keeps oil temperature stable. The complex and effective cooling system meant that Harley were able to build the engine to tight tolerances, for better efficiency and performance, due to having great control of material expansion and contraction.
The pistons are 105mm forged alloy items with machined crowns and chamfered skirts for ring fitment ease. Compression ratio is a whopping 13.1:1 but the engine can tolerate 91 octane pump fuel due to the advanced electronics and knock sensor technology. The pistons have a low friction coating and low tension rings, reducing friction, while the top ring groove is anodised. Oil jets are aimed at the bottom for the pistons to aid cooling.
Above the pistons are the advanced cylinder-heads. The EX valves are sodium filled for heat dissipation, while the heads are cast from 354 aluminium and are super strong, as they form part of the chassis mounting point. The DOHC are chain driven and feature variable timing and can rotate independently advancing or retarding cam timing through a potential range of 40º.
This is achieved via computer controlled solenoid plungers that controls ported hydraulics within the cam sprockets. It is a seamless system and broadens the powerband offering low-end grunt while allowing top-end hit and improves fuel efficiency. Valves are operated by hydraulic lifters and small rocker arms, making the top-end maintenance free in terms of valve clearance adjustment. Dual spark plugs per cylinder are fitted for emissions reasons more than anything, while the dual down-draft throttle-bodies are positioned between the cylinders under an 11L airbox with internal velocity stacks. The airfilter is a washable conical item.
The engine is a dry sump unit but the oil tank is integrated internally in the sump area. This system minimises fluid friction losses and there is a triple oil-scavenge system that evacuates oil from the crankcase, stator cavity and clutch cavity. The oil feed pump is fitted with a large debris screen and the system creates crankcase negative pressure for increased power and minimal blow-by.
Oil is delivered to the main bearings and conrods via the centre of the crankshaft with a low delivery pressure of 60-70psi. There is a primary and a secondary balancer fitted, the primary balancer is a spiral shaped, chain-driven item in the crankcases and manages vibration from the crank pins, pistons, conrods and the offset imbalance. The secondary balancer is in the front head between the camshafts and complements the primary balancer.
The cable-actuated wet multiplate slipper clutch features eight friction plates and is driven by a noise vibration harshness reducing scissor primary drive gear. The six-speed gearbox cluster shift system rides in roller bearings while the selector shaft bushes are teflon coated. The gearbox is a compact semi-dry cluster built to be as durable and light as possible. The engine produces 150hp and 94ft-lbs and revs to 9500rpm. Final drive is my O-ring chain. The exhaust system is 304-series stainless-steel and the two-into-one system is designed for optimum performance and ground clearance.
The Pan America models are equipped with technology designed to enhance the riding experience, including multiple electronically controlled ride modes plus Cornering Rider Safety Enhancements. This broad collection of technologies is designed to match motorcycle performance to available traction during acceleration, deceleration and braking.
Pre-programmed ride modes for the Pan America 1250 models include Road, Sport, Rain, Off-Road and Off-Road Plus. Each Ride Mode consists of a specific combination of power delivery, engine braking, Cornering Enhanced Antilock Braking System (C-ABS) and Cornering Enhanced Traction Control System (C-TCS) settings. The rider may use the MODE button on the right-hand controller to change the active ride mode while riding the motorcycle or when stopped, with some exceptions. There are also two Custom Modes one for road and one for off road.
All instrumentation and infotainment functions are displayed on a tilting 6.8-inch TFT touchscreen. The non-reflective glass cover makes it easier to view in most lighting conditions. The touchscreen function is disabled when the motorcycle is in motion, but the rider can use hand controls to manage many functions of the screen display when the motorcycle is moving.
The display supports infotainment generated by the rider’s Bluetooth-equipped mobile device, including music and calls. Navigation is supplied by the free Harley-Davidson App for iOS or Android.
SHOWA SEMI ACTIVE SUSPENSION
The Pan America 1250 model features premium passive front and rear suspension that is fully adjustable for pre-load and compression/rebound damping. The front suspension is provided by a SHOWA 47mm inverted cartridge fork. Rear suspension is a SHOWA Piggyback reservoir shock with adjustable hydraulic preload. The rear suspension incorporates a linkage system which provides a progressive feel through the stroke and maintains a comfortable, compliant ride on-road, while providing superior support for off-road conditions.
The Pan America 1250 Special model available here is equipped with the upgraded electronically adjustable semi-active front and rear suspension. Utilising data provided by sensors on the motorcycle, this suspension system automatically controls damping to suit the prevailing conditions and riding activity. These suspension components are provided by SHOWA, while the control software was developed by Harley-Davidson.
The Vehicle Loading Control system senses the weight of the rider, a passenger and luggage to select optimal suspension sag by automatically adjusting rear preload. Unladen seat height is 850mm in the low position and 875mm in the high position.
Harley-Davidson and Brembo also collaborated on an all-new braking system for the Pan America models that is designed to provide the rider with great braking feel and performance. A new radial monoblock four-piston (30mm) caliper takes full advantage of the material characteristics to increase stiffness while reducing overall weight. Dual front brake rotors are 320mm in diameter; single rear-brake rotor is 280mm diameter. A new front brake master-cylinder offers adjustable lever response.
ADAPTIVE RIDE HEIGHT
The final factory installed option is the Adaptive Ride Height. Harley-Davidson is the first to offer this technology in the motorcycle industry, and Adaptive Ride Height (ARH) is an option for the Pan America 1250 Special model only. Adaptive Ride Height unlocks confidence you can feel in different scenarios by enabling a lower seat when the bike is at rest, without compromising ground clearance.
2021 Harley-Davidson Pan American 1250 Special Specifications
Price: From $33,495 R/A
Colours: Vivid Black; Gauntlet Gray Metallic; Deadwood Green; two-tone Baja Orange & Stone Washed White Pearl.
Warranty: Two-years unlimited km
Claimed Fuel Consumption: 5.5L/100km
Claimed Power: 112kW@8750rpm
Claimed Torque: 127Nm@6750rpm
Wet Weight: 253kg
Fuel capacity: 21.1L
Maintenance: 1600km, then every 8000km
Engine: Revolution Max 1252cc, Electronic Sequential Port Fuel Injection (ESPFI), 105 x 72mm bore x stroke, 13.0:1 compression ratio, two-into-one exhaust, offset crank with 90º firing order, 60º V angle, variable cam timing, chain drive camshafts, liquid-cooling, dual plug heads.
Gearbox: Six-speed Clutch: Wet multi-plate slipper type, cable actuation.
Chassis: Alloy and steel trellis with engine as stressed member, forged alloy main section.
Rake: 25° Trail: 108mm
Suspension: Semi-Active front and rear suspension with Adaptive Ride Height as an optional extra, 47mm SHOWA front, SHOWA Piggyback reservoir shock with adjustable hydraulic preload rear. 191mm travel both ends.
Brakes: Front: Radially mounted four-piston Brembo calipers, 320mm rotors; Rear: floating, single piston Brembo caliper, 280mm rotor. Cornering ABS with linked brakes.
Wheels & Tyres: Cast Alloy or Tubeless laced wheels, 19 x 3.0in with 120/70 – 19 (f), 17 x 4.5in with 170/60 – 17 (r) Michelin Scorcher Adventure 50/50 tyres.
Seat Height: 830mm – 875mm
Overall Length: 2265mm
Overall Width: 965mm
Overall Height: 1510mm
Lean Angle: Over 42º
Ground Clearance: 210mm
Instruments & Electronics: All instrumentation and infotainment functions are displayed on a tilting 6.8-inch TFT touchscreen dash. Rider aids include linked cornering ABS, traction control, hill hold, rear lift mitigation/engine braking, rider modes.
The Verdict | Review: Harley-Davidson Pan America, Off The Road, On The Limit