Harley-Davidson’s Pan America takes things back off-road!

Andy H Harley-Davidson, New Models 3 Comments

We’ve known about the arrival of Harley’s new Pan America for a while now, and throughout that time the world has focused on Harley’s audacity in trying to break into an established and very busy market.


Who do they think they are? How dare they!

Well, to listen to the pitch as the Pan America was launched on Monday, they dare because while it isn’t a market they’ve played in for some time, they can claim some serious off-road heritage from a time when every Harley was an off-road bike, because America had very few roads. And while they made a decision in the brave new world of the American Dream to focus on the new social aspect of an emerging motorcycle lifestyle – redefining what ‘The Great American Freedom Machine’ means – they are kicking themselves for not keeping a foot in that door, and see no reason why they shouldn’t tease it open again.

Actually, they see it as their patriotic duty to kick it off its hinges with a bike that – if it can live up to the hype – might just do that: a brand new motorcycle that will be forced to compete with the world’s best on an international stage.


Well, that’s very simple.

Because there are still massive tracts of unpaved wilderness in America that are within the reach of the adventurous types who seek them out: the same sort of people who bought Harley-Davidsons before the US Government realised that they could move their Army around more easily on a system of paved highways.

Yes, America is perfect Adventure Touring country with an incredibly diverse terrain, much of which is within reach of a customer that prefers to buy American when it is possible to do so.

The only surprise at Harley joining this sector is how long it took for them to do so – BMW effectively created the modern market forty years ago – although, to be fair, better late and with the right motorcycle than fitting long travel suspension to a Sportster, no matter how versatile a motor it is.

The right motorcycle?

A wholly new product line, this breaks from the parts bin model that has served Harley so well, and in the absence of a pre-existing engine or frame to work with, they built the bike that they needed to build. That they wanted to build! And in doing so, they’ve demonstrated that they have engineering skills equal to anyone else in the sector … which just might make some cynics look again at the underpinnings of their anachronistic, low tech bikes in a low-emissions world.

The last Pan was a big twin – did you see what we did then – and was used in off-road enduros, but this wasn’t going to be a classic heavyweight: all preconceptions were going to be left at the door. No more playing hostage to history: it was time for Harley-Davidson was going to show the world what it was capable of.

Hadn’t they tried that with the V-Rod twenty years ago?

Yes, but with the V-Rod they had tried to lead the market in a new direction and one that apparently it didn’t want to take: a Harley custom for the 21st century. They made the same mistake with the the Street: a small Harley-Davidson. This is different. This is an Adventure Sport bike built by Harley-Davidson.

The difference is subtle but critical. Function first, form second.

It needed an engine: a modern engine and a powerful one.

It made objective as well as emotional sense for it to be a v-twin – slim, compact and on-brand – and all they had to do was make sure it wasn’t written off as a big bore Revolution X and had learned the lessons of the original V-Rod.

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Still committed to the Revolution tag, the new motor is the Revolution Max and if a 60° liquid-cooled 1250cc v-twin with a bore and stroke of 105x72mm, 4-valve heads and twin choke EFI sounds familiar, I’ll save you the effort of looking it up: that is the same as the later V-Rod motor, last seen in 2017.

But that is as far as its influence extends. This isn’t just an evolution of the Revolution, it is as close to the VR’s motor as a human is to a chimpanzee: a very strong case for intelligent design.

We’re going to go into much more depth in the magazine – and there is so much more depth to get into – but I’ll give you some teasers to keep you going.

The engine cases have been designed to act as the primary stressed member of the chassis, with everything bolted onto them to save weight without compromising stiffness – Harley-Davidson are pushing the ruggedness of this machine very hard. And despite the motor’s compact size they also serve as the oil tank for the motor’s semi-dry sump and are home to a crank that has a 30° offset – it fires like a 90° v-twin – for its plain bearing journals. This is Harley-Davidson like we’ve never seen before.

Add Variable Valve Timing on both inlet and exhaust cams, automatic hydraulic valve lash adjustment, twin plug heads, forged piston crowns, liquid cooling for the oil supply as well as the combustion chamber, and a 6-speed gearbox on the other side of a slipper clutch and you can see how much work has been done in building on what was already a strong motor.

The result is 150hp and 94ftlb of torque with a broad powerband, which is none too shabby for an upmarket dirt bike, but then the Pan America has been designed to be as capable on paved road as the dirt.

The chassis sub-frames that bolt to the Revolution Max comprise a forged aluminium middle section with low alloy, high strength trellis sections front and rear, which obviously opens the door to new models round this motor – which we already know will include the deferred Bronx streetfighter at some point and the Performance Custom hopefully next year – but the Pan America will have many elements all its own, including a decent sized fuel tank. It will need to because this is the most technically demanding of the three models we know about, and it is packing!

From the striking bodywork and lighting rig up front – a brave visual statement that is the least Harley-like of anything that The Motor Company has ever produced – to a selection of three styles of rugged luggage, everything about this bike is uncharted territory, but it has given the industrial design team a completely clean sheet of paper to work with, albeit within the disciplines forced upon them by the bike’s role.

And on first sight, they have risen to the challenge, from an instrument package that makes the Boom!Box look like it was from a previous century to a market leading, optional Adaptive Ride Height adjustment on the ‘Special’ that drops

the suspension when stopped, giving riders more purchase when stationary, and lifts it again when they pull away.

That is not, by the way, a lead-in to sniping at a second glance , because that’s going to come when we I see one parked up on its side-stand and I’ve got a fob in my pocket … not that I’m ever going to be able to do it justice off road, but then it’s said that its performance on the road is going to be more than enough for those who haven’t got Arizona to play in.


As it currently stands, the competitively priced “explore-it-all” Adventure Detourer comes in one of two models: the base Pan America 1250 from £14k and the Pan America 1250 Special that starts at £15,500, which as well as different finishes offers an improved electronically adjustable semi-active suspension, front and rear, which allows the Adaptive Ride Height, as well as a surprisingly inexpensive tubeless laced wheel option.

 SPECIFICATIONS RA1250 Pan America RA1250S Pan American Special
 Length 2,265 mm
 Overall Width 965 mm
 Overall Height 1,510 mm
 Seat Height, Laden 807 mm 789mm
(772mm with optional ARH)
 Seat Height, Unladen 869 mm 850mm
(830mm with optional ARH)
 Ground Clearance 210 mm
 Rake / Trail 25° / 157mm
 Wheelbase 1,580 mm
 Front Michelin Scorcher “Adventure” Radial 120/70R19 60V
 Rear Michelin Scorcher “Adventure” Radial 170/60R17 72V
 Fuel Capacity 21.2 litres / 4.6 imperial gallons
 Oil Capacity (w/filter) 4.5 litres
 Coolant Capacity 2.2 litres
 Weight, As Shipped 228 kg 239kg
 Weight, In Running Order 242 kg 254kg
 Gross Vehicle Weight Rating 454 kg 455kjg
 Gross Axle Weight Rating, Front 181 kg 181kg
 Gross Axle Weight Rating, Rear 302 kg 302kg
 Type Revolution® Max 1250: 1252cc 60° DOHC liquid-cooled V-Twin with 30° offset crank giving 90° firing intervals, Variable Valve Timing on inlet and exhausts, 4-valve heads and hydraulic self adjusting tappets
 Bore / Stroke 105 x 72mm
 Compression Ratio 13.0:1
 Fuel System Electronic Sequential Port Fuel Injection (ESPFI)
 Air Cleaner Downdraft intake, tuned velocity stacks, washable filter media
 Exhaust 2-into-1-into-1; catalyst in header
 Lubrication System Pressurized Wet Sump
 Primary Drive Gear, 49/89 ratio
 Final Drive Chain, 19/48 ratio
 Clutch Mechanical, 8-plate wet, assist & slip, 1090N
 Transmission 6-Speed
 Gear Ratios (overall) 1st 13.11:1
 2nd 9.687:1
 3rd 7.509:1
 4th 6.057:1
 5th 5.08:1
 6th 4.436:1
 Frame High strength low alloy steel trellis frame using engine as a stressed member and forged aluminium mid-structure; stamped, cast, and forged junctions; MIG welded
 Swingarm One-piece cast aluminium
 Front Fork 47mm fully adjustable inverted fork. 47mm inverted fork with electronically adjustable semi-active damping control and with optional ARH
 Rear Shocks Linkage-mounted, fully adjustable monoshock with remote reservoir Linkage-mounted automatic electronic preload control and semi-active damping with optional ARH
 Wheels, Front 19×3-inch aluminium cast, satin black
 Wheels, Rear 17×4.5-inch aluminium cast, satin black
 Wheels, Optional Style Type N/A Tubeless Laced
 Brakes, Front 2 x 320mm floating rotors with 4-piston radial monoblock caliper and ABS
 Brakes, Rear 280mm solid uniform expansion rotor with single piston floating caliper and ABS
 Suspension Travel, Front 191mm tbc
 Suspension Travel, Rear 191mm tbc
 Engine Torque 94 ft-lb / 127 Nm @ 6,750
 Power (Hp/kW) 150hp / 112 kW @ 9000 rpm
 Lean Angle, L / R 42° / 42°
 Fuel Economy 48 mpg (4.9 l/100 km)
 Lighting Daymaker Signature LED headlamp with signature position lighting, Signature LED tail-light low and high beam , LED indicators
 Gauges 6.8 inch viewable area TFT display with speedometer, gear, odometer, fuel level, clock, trip, low temp alert, side stand down alert, TIP over alert, cruise, range and tachometer indication Bluetooth capable: phone pairing to access phone calls, music, navigation via H-D App
 Electric Power Outlet USB C-Type, Output 5V at 2.4A
 Warranty 24 months (unlimited mileage)
 Service Interval First 1,000 miles (1,600 km), every 5,000 miles (8,000 km) thereafter

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 Pan America 1250  Vivid Black £14,000
 River Rock Grey with Medallion £14,250
 Pan America 1250 Special  Vivid Black £15,500
 Gauntlet Grey Metallic or Deadwood Green £15,750
 2-tone Baja Orange / Stone-Washed White Pearl £15,950
 Tubeless laced wheel upgrade + £400
 Adaptive Ride Height + £600


Comments 3

  1. Great read Andy, this appears to be an impressive bike & looking forward to seeing it “in the flesh”.
    Being a short ass, love the suspension lowering option!
    Sun is shining so a trip to the shops beckons…stay safe.

  2. I was interested in this bike until i read service every 5000 miles that’s no good to anyone i would need at least three a year.

    1. Post

      The term ‘service interval’ is ambiguous, and it might just refer to oil changes, in which case a Harley Big Twin’s is 5,000 miles, as was a Victory Freedom’s and as are both Indian big twins, the PowerPlus and Thunder Stroke. The BMW GS is 6,000 miles.

      Always worth digging deeper: Ducati talk about 15,000 mile service intervals but then mention that the oil service is 7,500 miles, although that is pretty impressive in itself. Triumph talk about 10,000 miles for oil changes … or yearly, whichever comes first.

      It’s not a level playing field, and such figures are sometimes presented by the engineering teams, sometimes by the marketing teams … and in the case of the Americans, I’ll take a wild guess that the legal department might have cast its eyes over it, to make sure they don’t expose the company to possible litigation 🙂

      And then you add the type, source and specification of the oil to the mix …

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