Harley-Davidson steps forward with Pan America 1250, Pan America 1250 Special

Pricing is more-or-less in line with the competition; some other flagship adventure bikes are a bit more, while you can buy other competing machines for a bit less. Photo: Harley-Davidson

If you went a decade back in time, and told people “Harley-Davidson is going to build an adventure bike with semi-active electronic suspension, leaning-sensitive ABS and traction control, ride modes and variable valve timing,” you would have been mocked soundly (or maybe somebody would have asked for your drug dealer’s phone number).

But that’s what Harley-Davidson just did. The MoCo finally took the wraps off its much-teased Pan America 1250 and Pan America 1250 Special adventure bikes in a video featuring company insiders and Jason Momoa wearing cringy Beetlejuice pants. Here are the basic details on the new bike.

Hard parts

Both the standard Pan America and the Special are built around the DOHC liquid-cooled Revolution Max 1250 engine. This ain’t your grandpa’s Big Twin. Harley-Davidson says the 60-degree V-twin makes 150 horsepower, which would make it the MoCo’s most powerful engine ever. Peak torque is 94 pound-feet; the Revolution Max redlines at 9,500 rpm, and has a 13:1 compression ratio.

For further proof that this is a modern engine, get this: Harley-Davidson actually went with computer-controlled variable valve timing on the Revolution Max, on intake and exhaust cams. This is supposed to broaden the powerband, giving the engine lots of low-end grunt but preserving high-revving horsepower as well. Harley-Davidson also says the VVT system can improve fuel efficiency.

The engine is a stressed member of the frame, and comes with six-speed gearbox and slipper clutch.

There are three sets of official Harley-Davidson panniers available. There’s a plastic set for roadgoing riders, an aluminum set that’s supposed to take more of a beating, and then a set of soft bags intended for riders pushing further into the woods. Photo: Harley-Davidson

The suspension is also very modern. The Pan America Special model comes with semi-active Showa suspension front and rear. It’s electronically-adjustable, and the bike’s electro-brain also controls suspension damping to match road conditions and riding behaviour. Harley-Davidson built this control software itself.

Up front, Harley-Davidson used 47mm Showa BFF forks; in back, there’s a Showa BFRC shock, with electronic preload control (!). The semi-auto suspension “reacts to suspension position, vehicle speed, vertical acceleration of the motorcycle, roll angle, roll rate, rider applied throttle, and applied brake torque alongside the selected Ride Mode.” There’s a lot going on here, for sure. Harley-Davidson actually included five separate suspension profiles, optimized for various street or dirt riding conditions: Comfort, Balanced, Sport, Off-Road Soft, Off-Road Firm.

Harley-Davidson also incorporated a Vehicle Loading Control system that “senses the weight of the rider, a passenger and luggage to select optimal suspension sag by automatically adjusting rear preload.”

Along with the extensive line of add-on accessories, Harley-Davidson also released a line of textile riding gear for men and women. The MoCo partnered with REV’IT! on this, a wise choice given the Dutch company’s experience in adventure riding gear. Photo: Harley-Davidson

The Special model also gets an optional Adaptive Ride Height system, that automatically lowers seat height at stops and raises it as you take away. From the marketeering video, it also seems Harley-Davidson intends to use this as a way to transform the bike’s feeling from relaxed cruiser to high-intensity corner carver. Given the average non-ADVer’s hesitation to throw a leg over a sky-high adventure bike seat, this could turn out to be a game-changer for Harley-Davidson.

There’s a steering damper fitted to the Special as standard equipment, and skid plate, brush guards, and hand guards.

The standard Pan America 1250 doesn’t have such luxury, but it does have a Showa inverted cartridge fork. Showa also built the piggyback shock, with hydraulic preload adjustability. Front and rear suspenders are fully adjustable for preload and compression/rebound damping.

Suspension travel is 190 mm front and rear. That’s basically the same as a modern-day BMW R1250 GS.

The Harley-Davidson Pan America makes a claimed 150 horsepower, a significant bump from even the old V-Rod engine. Photo: Harley-Davidson

Harley-Davidson doesn’t share too many details about the frame in its press release, but does say “Three distinct elements – the front frame, the mid frame and the tail section – bolt directly to the powertrain.” The engine basically serves as the hub of the chassis, then, just like on a modern superbike. The frame is probably steel, since Harley-Davidson doesn’t bother to tell us it isn’t, but the swingarm is made of cast aluminum. The wheelbase is 1580 mm.

Both versions of the Pan America appear to use the same Brembo brakes, with radial monobloc four-piston caliper, and dual 320-mm front brake discs.

Somewhat surprisingly, Harley-Davidson uses cast aluminum rims, a 19-inch hoop in front and a 17-inch in rear, on the standard Pan America. That’s a compromise for better street handling, but certainly not great for spirited offroad riding. The Special model has an option for proper spoked wheels, with tubeless rims, but H-D’s press release does not say what size they are.

Pricing is more-or-less in line with the competition; some other flagship adventure bikes are a bit more, while you can buy other competing machines for a bit less. Basically, you’re paying $21,000 for the standard Pan America, and $24,000 for the Special version, before adding on taxes, fees and accessories. Photo: Harley-Davidson

Other details: A four-way adjustable windshield comes standard. Unladen seat height is 34.2 inches in the low position and 35.2 inches in the high position. Michelin Scorcher Adventure tires are standard, Michelin Anakee Wild knobbies are a factory-approved option. The dual exhaust setup is stainless steel. Fuel capacity is 21.2 litres, and weight “in running order” is 254 kg for the Special, 242 kg for the standard Pan America.

Zappy parts

Electronics are just as important as the hard parts, these days, and H-D’s adventure bike has most of what you’d expect.

Both versions of the Pan America have an 8-inch touchscreen dash, like every modern ADV flagship, and a six-axis inertial measurement unit (IMU). The IMU powers “cornering enhanced technology” like “Cornering Enhanced Electronically Linked Braking, Cornering Enhanced Antilock Braking System, Cornering Enhanced Traction Control System, Cornering Enhanced Drag-Torque Slip Control System, and Hill Hold Control.” Every manufacturer uses a different name, but basically, this is H-D saying you’ve got modern leaning ABS and traction control, an engine braking control system, hill start assist, and so on. All the modern safety features in a made-in-Milwaukee package. What the press release doesn’t tell us is whether this is Harley-Davidson-built tech, or technology licenced from Bosch, which is what pretty much everyone else is doing these days. Most likely, it’s built by H-D.

Both versions of the bike come with Road, Sport Rain, Off-Road and Off-Road Plus riding modes. The base model has one rider-customizable riding mode; the Special has capacity for two extra rider-customizable modes.

Harley CEO Jochen Zeitz featured prominently in the launch. While he inherited the Pan America project from his predecessor, he’s followed through, against expectation. Photo: Daniel N. Johnson

To change the modes, the rider has a button on the right handlebar, instead of using the TFT screen. As you’d expect, each riding mode has a combination of ABS, traction control, engine braking and power delivery .

Cruise control comes standard on both versions of the bike; the Special gets a tire pressure monitoring system. The Special also gets Harley-Davidson’s proprietary Daymaker cornering-sensitive LED headlight, which “shines into” turns.

Canadian pricing

The new Pan America comes in Vivid Black, Gauntlet Gray Metallic, two-tone Baja Orange and Stone Washed White Pearl. Some markets also come in Deadwood Green. Pricing starts at $20,999 for the standard Pan America, and rises to $24,199 for the Pan America Special. For more deets, hit up Harley-Davidson’s website.


Join the conversation!