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Harley-Davidson Pan America 1250 Special: MD First Ride

Free from the moderate pace of our group ride, we tried (without success) to drag some hard parts in the corners. Good ground clearance.

For reasons I won’t get into, some of which involve speculation, the last time MD was involved in a Harley-Davidson press launch was nearly 12 years ago. After the announcement that Harley-Davidson would produce an adventure motorcycle, the Pan America 1250, MD contacted Harley’s press office about getting a test bike. Somewhat to our surprise, we were invited to attend a press launch here in Southern California (in the Mojave Desert). This is our report, with our first riding impression.

On paper the Pan America 1250 and Pan America 1250 Special models are impressive. With the exception of adaptive cruise-control and a quick shifter, which are found on some competitive models, the Pan America 1250 is state-of-the-art for the adventure category. In some respects, it pushes the state-of-the-art to a new level.

The standard Pan America 1250 is competitively light at a claimed 534 pounds wet. We tested the Pan America 1250 Special which weighs 559 pounds stock, although our test bikes had added accessories that pushed the weight into the 585 pound range. 14 pounds of that additional weight came from the more dirt worthy cross-spoked wheels (a $500 option) that replaced the cast aluminum wheels found stock on both models.

The features common to both Pan America 1250 models include, of course, the new Revolution Max 1250cc liquid-cooled v-twin engine making a claimed 150 crank horsepower. This engine is a stressed member of the chassis and was designed as a compact unit with the cylinders offset by a narrow 60˚. It is a thoroughly modern DOHC design with four-valve heads and variable valve timing.

The engine is impressively compact and short from front-to-rear, which is a big advantage when it comes to weight distribution and centralization of mass. That same narrow angle, however, creates some challenges, including the need for a more complicated balancing system to achieve smoothness, and relatively little room between the cylinders for the intake system. We don’t have much to say about how Harley tackled the second issue, other than they managed to make the intake system fit in the narrow valley, but I did discuss with one of the Harley engineers the system utilized by the Revolution Max to smooth-out the engine pulses.

That system includes both a primary balancer located in the crank case and a secondary balancer located in the front cylinder head between the cam shafts. Additionally, Harley achieved a smoother 90˚ firing order by offsetting the two crank shaft connecting-rod journals by 30˚. As we discovered on our test ride, the engine is, in fact, quite smooth, while retaining some of the character of a big twin.

The stock wheels are cast aluminum, including a 19″ front and 17″ rear. Harley worked with Michelin to design the OEM Scorcher Adventure tires, which have a street bias, with optional Michelin Anakee Wild tires, which are more dirt focused. Brembo brakes are featured with dual 320 mm front discs squeezed by radial-mount four-piston calipers, and a single 280 mm rear disc.

The standard Pan America 1250 has fully-adjustable front and rear Showa suspension with 7.5″ of travel. The 1250 Special, on the other hand, comes stock with semi-active front and rear suspension, which is also provided by Showa. The software controlling this suspension was developed in-house by Harley-Davidson. The system automatically adjusts rear sag to 30 mm based on the weight of the rider, passenger and luggage.

Both models feature several electronic rider aides assisted by a Bosch IMU. Linked braking, ABS, traction control, “drag/torque slip control” and a hill-holding function are all part of this system. Five selectable ride modes are available on the base model (Road, Sport, Rain, Off-Road and Off-Road Plus), while the 1250 Special has two additional modes that can be customized. Each mode combines specific power delivery, engine braking, cornering ABS and cornering traction control settings. Cruise control is standard on both models.

A modern 6.8″ TFT touch screen provides the rider with a customizable view of the status of the ride, including all the details related to the rider’s settings. This display will connect via Bluetooth with your phone, allowing music selection, calls and navigation fed through an Harley-Davidson app available for both iOS and Android.

Fuel capacity is 5.6 gallons. Harley has three seats available, including the standard, high and low. Each of these seats can be slotted into a high or low position on the chassis. With my 31″ inseam, it was suggested I use the low seat in the higher of its two positions. Both bikes have full LED lighting. The 1250 Special also includes a “Daymaker Adaptive Headlamp” which progressively lights through a corner dependent on the lean angle of the motorcycle.

Features found exclusively on the Pan America 1250 Special, in addition to the semi-active suspension, and the Daymaker headlight, include tire pressure monitoring, center stand, height adjustable rear brake pedal, brush guard, aluminum skid plate, heated grips and a steering damper. Our test bike also had a factory option called “Adaptive Ride Height”. This feature lowers the seat height of the bike (1-2″ depending on the current preload of the rear shock) when it stops moving – allowing shorter riders to easily get their feet planted. Once you are moving, the normal suspension sag resumes. There are options to delay the height drop, or to lock it out altogether if the rider wants the bike to remain at full height while at a stop. Our bike had this option in addition to the tubeless laced wheels mentioned earlier.

To give our readers the context relevant to our evaluation of the bike, I need to point out that this press launch was unusual for MD in a few ways. It was a two-day affair, and Day 1 was spent primarily in first gear learning how to ride the nearly 600 pound motorcycle in the desert (including a brief stint in deep sand). The bikes were stripped of their mirrors and windscreen (see photo) in recognition of the fact, apparently, that several of the bikes had been tipped over/crashed in earlier waves of the press launch. Before swinging a leg over the bikes, the journalists were shown how to pick up a downed Pan America through coordinated two-person effort. The rest of the day was spent, variously, learning how to operate the clutch at slow speeds and even ride the big machine through a “trials course”. For these reasons, in addition to some dehydration and back spasming experienced by your faithful editor, we don’t have a whole lot to report from FGF (First Gear Friday).

Sneaking into 2nd gear on FGF in front of photographer Brian Nelson (nice speed blur!).

Day 2 was indeed better than FGF, but was muted, somewhat, by the fact that the leader of our street ride was on knobby tires (Michelin Anakee Wilds), rather than the more street-oriented stock tires on the journalists’ bikes. The street pace was decent (particularly for knobby tires), but didn’t allow MD to push the bike as hard as we would have liked. A 10 mile off-road excursion on Day 2 was limited to a moderate pace in recognition that less experience riders would have to regroup with the leaders every couple of miles. No photographer was provided by Harley during the off-road segment.

During the street ride, we were immediately impressed by the seat comfort (which remained comfortable throughout the day), but bothered, somewhat, by the high placement of the handlebar. The handlebar placement felt good while standing on the pegs off-road, but it put the grips in an uncomfortably high position on the street. We understand that Harley offers different bar riser options, so this should be adjustable to the rider’s preference.

Putting FGF behind us, we were able to stretch the engine, and it is impressive. Although some vibration is felt through both the pegs and the grips, this did not prove bothersome after several hours in the saddle. The engine pulls well from low rpms (thanks, in part, to the variable valve timing) and builds power in a relatively linear manner to a strong top end. The power didn’t feel class-leading (KTM and Ducati will likely fight over that), but this is a fast motorcycle with plenty of thrust to satisfy just about any rider shopping for an adventure machine of this displacement.

The Pan America 1250 Special handles extremely well on the street. It feels very balanced, and combines excellent straight-line stability at highway speeds with a nimble (even playful) feeling through the twisties. Credit must go to good mass centralization, smart geometry and the performance of the semi-active suspension and its automatic rear sag (30 mm).

Selecting “Road” as the ride mode for the street portion of our test, we were impressed with the damping characteristics of both the fork and the shock. The bike seemed to absorb sharp edged, chatter bumps well, while still being firm enough for performance riding on twisty roads. The fork resisted excessive dive when braking for corners, and corner exits were finished without any evidence of understeer. Speaking of braking, the Brembos offered plenty of power and good feel.

The six-speed transmission offers a good spread of ratios, particularly given the broad powerband. Clutch action and shifting were seemless.

Harley-Davidson offers plenty of accessories for the Pan America models, including the luggage seen here.

During the 10 miles on the dirt during Day 2, the big bike was able to track well through conditions that varied from hard-pack to semi-deep sand. For this section, we had selected the Off-Road setting, and suspension compliance was good. Once again, the pace of our group leader was not particularly quick (limited to 40 mph) on some fairly fast fire roads, but the suspension felt firm enough to keep the bike under control (we understand that some of the journalists who were allowed to go faster earlier in the week preferred the Off-Road Plus setting).

Once again on the road heading back to our compound at the end of the day, the capability of the Pan America 1250 Special as a street tourer was driven home. I was comfortable and relaxed purring along at highway speeds. Wind protection is pretty good. I placed the four-position height adjustable windscreen in the next-to-highest setting and enjoyed protection all the way up to the helmet level that was relatively free of buffeting.

The bike is not without its quirks, certainly. At a stop when the rear end would squat, courtesy of the Adaptive Ride Height, it was difficult to get the kickstand down. At one of the photo stops, I pulled up with five other journalists and each of us took several minutes to get the kickstand to “work”. It was both funny and frustrating at the same time. Of course, turning Adaptive Ride Height off would leave the bike at full height so that the kickstand could be more easily extended. We have already mentioned the ergonomic issue we had with the height of the hand grips.

So what’s the bottom line? This is not just a good “first effort” by Harley-Davidson. This is an excellent motorcycle. It exists in a tough category where the big KTM has just been redesigned, Ducati has entered with an all-new model, and BMW is the perennial champ among many buyers looking for a “premium” ride. Nevertheless, combining Harley’s brand loyalty with the quality of this effort almost certainly means good sales for both the standard model (MSRP of $17,300) and the Pan America 1250 Special (starting at around $20,000, our test unit was roughly $21,500 with options and accessories).

141 Comments

  1. isn’t it ironic that the bike so many MD readers think is ugly is, as far as I can tell, one of the best-selling bikes on the planet right now. Who wants to bet that a bunch of people who said it was ugly will buy one in a year?

  2. Jim says:

    Proportions all wrong. Would not hit.

  3. Dirty Bob says:

    PA! Does anyone know where the Pan American trail goes? What terrain does it cover? Has anyone tried to ride the path? Answer these questions then tell me what bike is best.

  4. Steve M says:

    So KLIM now has to make GoreTex assless chaps and carbon brain buckets?

  5. ABQ says:

    Takes two people to pick it up, and there may be a method involved.
    Maybe there will be engine guards and other grab bars available.

    As for the engine, will this be the one that finally kills the FL series? I hope so.
    It would be nice for the old knuckledragger greaseball image to finally die.
    Put this engine, or a version of it, in the cruisers, please.

    • Dave says:

      “Put this engine, or a version of it, in the cruisers, please.”

      I like some others wish they would revive the Bronx project. I could also see a flavor of that bike that goes toe to toe with the Indian FTR and who knows, maybe after a couple of years of “new Harley”, something akin to a V-Rod could re-emerge.

      • ABQ says:

        YES, bring out the V-ROD and put the engine in that for now.
        That engine could go into a lot of things. Like an ATV dune buggy. Even cars. Harley could make more money selling that engine for multiple uses than they ever did from making bikes.

  6. Fred N says:

    HD should firstly ask themselves would a Japanese Factory put such a confronting headlight nose job on any bike that was so very important to their virtual survival ?????
    There’s a huge difference between daring & innovative and plain fugly.

    • Dave says:

      It looks better to me than any other big adventure bike’s front end (I have never seen a bike in this category that was aesthetically pleasing to me) and it houses a unique technology. Form follows function, or something..

    • TBone34 says:

      1. I like the front end!
      2. Harley should never ask how Yamaha or Kawasaki would design a front end.
      3. Great effort from HD!
      4. The term “adventure tourer” usually gets used because “non-sporty, long distance couch” sounds insulting.
      5. I’m curious to hear if these engines have problems. I know the Milwaukee 8 has had issues.

      • Gary says:

        “Harley should never ask how Yamaha or Kawasaki would design a front end.” Zing! Excellent point.

    • Stinkywheels says:

      I’m not jazzed with the looks. At least it’s uglier than my Ulysses, just slightly. I’m still loving my 09 UlyssesXT. If I could only have one bike, It’d have to be it.

  7. George Krpan says:

    LOL, Harley couldn’t resist putting ape hangers on it.

  8. mickey says:

    Just read today that Harley is spinning off the Livewire to it’s own brand. Kind of like Polaris did with Victory and Indian I suppose. They will no longer say Harley Davidson on the gas tank, instead they will say Livewire and may set up sales by portal or something with recommendation to dealers that are willing to work on them. They are even having a new introduction for them.

    Might be something they will do with this too, if sales don’t go as planned or dealers don’t want to mess with them.

    • redbirds says:

      I don’t see this happening with the PA. The Livewire is overpriced and a hard sell. I think HD believes this motor (PA) must be successful if the company is to survive. Dealers will only be as enthusiastic as customer interest is; most sales people will be enthusiastic about a product when demand is high. If this bike and later models using this motor don’t sell then HD is truly finished.

      As for looks, the PA is ugly but show me an ADV bike that isn’t, KTM’s are butt-ugly but their performance sells.

    • fred says:

      Livewire’s have gas tanks? Whooda thunkit?

  9. Uffe says:

    No it won’t be a sales success. Why? Because the typical HD buyer buys an image, and the typical adventure sports buyer probably detests the image HD has been cultivating for generations. The looks don’t help either.

    • DeltaZulu says:

      Agree 100%. Biggest reason I would NEVER own a hardly ableson is their image. And, the funny thing is they try to be “individuals” who all look and act the same. I am just a guy who rides motorcycles and will never be a bad-ass “biker”. HD Poseurs, LOL….

      • Jeremy says:

        High-end sport bikes and adventure bikes… Two things that have been statistically found sharing garage space with Harley Davidson motorcycles for the past two decades.

        Sure, you have the stereotypical HD kool-aid drinker that will never identify with such a bike, but apparently a large chunk of Harley buyers don’t fit that mold. Considering how many Harleys are sold each year, that chunk represents a lot of potential Pan America sales.

        • Mick says:

          For a lot of guys there are only two options, sport bike or Harley. Nothing else seems to exist for these people. They seem to switch from one to the other on or about their thirtieth birthday when they become “too old to…” (anything requiring a pulse).

          I will never understand those people, except to think of them as car people going from a sports car to a classic. One image to the next.

          I don’t know if it’s a blessing or a curse. But motorcycles for me are just pieces of equipment used for engaging in an activity that I enjoy. Sort of like my golf clubs or my water ski. The blessing is that I don’t have to keep up with fashion trends. The curse it that, in my option, the street bike industry sells images and not equipment.

          Behold Harley’s new image. A dirt bike looking thing that weighs twice as much as a piece of equipment should.

  10. GP says:

    “Adaptive Ride Height” is incomplete and of minimal value unless the bike can lean on its kickstand in “Low” mode. One of the biggest issues with these new adventure bikes is that the rider has to stand on the foot peg to mount one. This can be really sketchy – particularly if you are riding with a passenger. If the bike had a “Park Mode” that shortened the seat height significantly, and allowed the bike to lean properly on the kickstand, the whole idea may be of some value.

    • Tom R says:

      “It’s a feature, not a bug.”

      Maybe the H-D accessories catalogue will soon have a Shortened Default Side Stand available for about $299.

    • Bob says:

      I suggest you go check one out. What you are describing doesn’t happen in reality. There is still enough lean to the bike. Also, people don’t HAVE to mount ADV bikes as you are describing. I’m 5’8″ and don’t do it that way.

      • joe b says:

        whats the trick to mounting then? Either its pull your leg up to your chin up over the seat where you would sit, or stand on the peg to swing it back around and over the top box?

  11. SausageCreature says:

    I’d put ape-hangers and dual fish tail exhausts on it. Just because.

  12. todd says:

    I can’t imagine buying a bike that is around 250 pounds heavier than my existing bike!

    • tbone34 says:

      Those complaining about the weight should keep in mind this is lighter than a new VFR1200, and about the same as a Bandit 1250, Versys 1000, or Africa Twin. Some heft is actually nice on long freeway rides.

      • todd says:

        Sounds like I don’t want any of those heavy bikes either. I avoid long freeway rides, preferring to stick to the twisty mountain or country roads instead. It may take 10 more minutes but it’s much more enjoyable ride and scenery!

        • huls says:

          Which has exactly nothing to do with weight of the motorcycle. You are confusing your obvious lack of skills with motorcycle mass.
          Watch and learn:
          https://youtu.be/WWPo4QSFREA

          • Jeremy says:

            You intend to educate a powertrain and rocket propulsion engineer on motorcycle mass? And you infer his lack of riding skill from what exactly? Let me get my popcorn.

          • huls says:

            Reply to Jeremy:
            Why do you feel the need to protect Todd? Are you him? Are you two a couple?
            Very strange indeed.
            What do rockets have to do with motorcycles? Let me get that XXL bag of popcorn while you struggle to produce a coherent argument.
            How about reading comprehension? Todd claims heavy bikes cannot do twisties and cannot be an enjoyable ride. Todd is wrong, he obviously lacks the skills to ride that type of motorcycle, deduced from his own words. Todd should be grateful to people like me who offer up free education, especially education he needs the most.

  13. bmbktmracer says:

    This is the Pontiac Aztec of motorcycles. Fine machine, but how do you get past the looks?

  14. Buzz W says:

    An ADV bike with no beak. Whoulda thunk it?

    The looks are growing on me, especially in profile.

    A quick check of the accessories shows the rough and tumble metal panniers and also more aero style panniers. I think that’s a good move as I’m not one who is likely to take an almost 600 lb motorcycle off road.

    These are the new sport tourers says a former Ducati ST4 owner.

  15. Goose Lavel says:

    How does the headlight work at night? Those who ride after dusk wanna know.

    • Dirck Edge says:

      Didn’t get a chance to ride at night. I’d be surprised if it wasn’t excellent. It is a modern LED design that Harley spent some time boasting about at the launch.

  16. Reginald Van Blunt says:

    Ya know – – been thinking about this, and the PA should make a good street bike, with street tires, if one wants displacement, power, and the FIRST sensible HD. That is to say, normal ergos, pegs where they belong, very adjustable seat, no rear cylinder heat issues, 6 speed trans, functional wind screen, chain drive, good tankage, not really too heavy for pavement, modern engine, cast wheels, and Made in America. Been waiting a VERY long time.

    • redbirds says:

      My thought also. ADV bikes have generous leg room with the only rub being seat height for short guys like me. The seat options and lowering at stop will fix that.

  17. Dirty Bob says:

    Had a call from HD dealer this week. For some reason they believe I will be demo(ing) and buying. 3% of my riding is off road. This isn’t enough to buy simi off road tires. Who says a 650lb 103 cui bike can’t go on dirt, gravel and sand. I’ve been doing it all for 53 years. PS try to get parts for any of those other bikes. Harley and custom parts are every where you ride.

    • Jeremy says:

      You say that as if you can’t get parts for any of those “other bikes.”

    • mickey says:

      No one knows at this point exactly what level of support these are going to get from Harley dealers. Are they going to stock parts? Welcome service? Push sales? carry accessories and riding gear?

      it might be easier to get parts, service and accessories for a Ducati, BMW or KTM. We just don’t know yet.

  18. Noel says:

    Yes I have looked at U Tube and read plenty on this new motorcycle.
    I have cancelled an order for the top of range Multistrada and ordered a Pan.
    Why….Ducati, are these guys doing their R&D on customers??

  19. VLJ says:

    The obvious questions here…

    Besides the dyed-in-the-wool Harley types, who are the buyers that will actually lay their money down on this thing instead of taking their chances on one of the tried-and-true class leaders from BMW, KTM, Ducati, Triumph, Yamaha, Suzuki, and Honda?

    What would be the reasoning?

    It won’t be cheaper. It doesn’t look any better. It has no track record. It doesn’t offer class-leading engine performance, light weight, tech, tank size/fuel range, luggage capacity, proven reliability, or anything else.

    At best, it’s decidedly mid-pack in nearly all respects, so why spend upper-echelon money for one of these Pans over a shaft-driven BMW, a better-in-nearly objective measure KTM, a much lighter and cheaper Africa Twin, etc.?

    When it’s time to pull the trigger and part ways with more than twenty grand, I just can’t see why anyone except the most loyal Harley Faithful would roll the dice on this thing, not when there are so many other functionally superior, time-tested options.

    • fred says:

      Not just obvious questions, but good ones. The same ones almost every rider asks before buying any bike. There is some question as to the bikes you include in the “class”. The real close comparisons come from BMW, KTM, Ducati, and Triumph. The Japanese products are all at least a notch “down” from the others. As to BKDT – each of those models have their fans and detractors. Every one has good reasons to keep looking elsewhere.

      What you call mid-pack really just means competitive. Looks are subjective. IMHO, Triumphs adv’s are good-looking, BMW’s fair, and KTM’s & Ducati’s models are ugly. The H-D looks better than the K & D, at least as good as the B.

      H-D is not expensive in the class. It’s expensive if you are cross-shopping a KLR 650 or Tenere 700, but that really isn’t Harley’s worry.

      For Harley owners, the bike is mid-to-low in the pricing range. Power, range, and (probably) comfort exceed their current bikes. They have brand loyalty, and the only real question is whether they are interested in adv bikes.

      For Adv riders, other than those brand loyalists or haters, it’s a competitive option.

      For Americans, most of us would like to ride a bike made in the U.S.A., if it fit our needs and wants. We want to see Indian and Harley sell bikes, and we want them to build bikes to our tastes. This is a good start.

      As to track record, H-D has a long track record. Even though this bike is a bit out of their traditional wheelhouse, it’s from a major manufacturer with a known reputation. Some of that reputation will help sell the PA, and some will hurt. Within 6-12 months, we should have a pretty good idea as to whether H-D is going welcome, and be accepted by, the non-pirate crowd.

      • Ron says:

        Harley’s huge dealer network is a big plus for this bike. Trying getting a new tire mounted at 10:00 AM on a Sunday morning at a KTM dealer.

    • Neal says:

      Hydraulic valves and the ride height auto-adjusting feature are completely unique in the segment.

      • Jeremy says:

        I’d agree that the ride height adjustment might be a game changer if it works as advertised. I know a lot of people that want an adventure bike but decide not to do it due to seat height. The hydraulic valve lash adjustment is also a nice feature, but I don’t really know many people that care much about that.

        • Grover says:

          As one that does all my own maintenance, hydraulic lifters matter a lot to me! Setting valve lash can be a major PITA for many bikes and it’s a task I’d rather not have to do on a regular basis. Every other maintenance task is easy and requires no disassembly, but no so with adjusting valves. Good move for Harley.

          • Jeremy says:

            Oh, I like the hydraulic lifters too, I think everyone does. I just don’t know anyone that said, “I’m not buying this bike because it doesn’t have hydraulic lifters.” Of course, that could very well be because there were no options offering hydraulic lifters before!

            For me personally, I’d buy the best tool for the job regardless of the valvetrain. But if those tools were very comparable, hydraulic lifters could definitely win the decision.

    • Stinkywheels says:

      The main reason for buying a HD ADV bike over the others, dealership network. If it’s even close to the others the dealer in every medium sized town might win. If I was in the market for an almost 600 lb ADV, I’d probably go there. I still have a Ulysses that I love that they don’t support. Most old riders are fixated on features and farkles. I’m not there yet.

    • paquo says:

      There are a metric s ton of harley faithful, if only a small percentage go for a PA they will sell out

      • George Krpan says:

        These days at the Rock Store, Harley is still the most numerous bike you’ll see.

        • Grover says:

          Used to hang out at the Rock Store years ago. Everyone got along regardless of what bike you rode in on. Miss the RS since I moved away to a different state. Harleys seem to be the dominant mark no matter where bikes gather these days.

    • Dave says:

      I think lot of people will buy this bike. There are many features it has that other bikes of the type don’t (hydraulic valve train, variable valve timing, ride height adjustment, trick headlights, etc.) and much of the subjective stuff like looks, comfort, handling, even performance. Being the “fastest” bike in his class really doesn’t mean much and I don’t think we’ll ever look at 150hp on a motorcycle as underpowered. A lot of this could fall in its favor in the eyes of someone shopping this category.

      I think what really deserves celebration here is that this bike could’ve been released by any brand and it would be exciting on its own merits. The fact that Harley Davidson did this is very encouraging for the motor company. Looking forward to what’s next.

    • SausageCreature says:

      I’d be willing to take a chance on it. Mostly due to performance and reliability concerns. Follow me for a moment here…

      Africa Twin – Likely very reliable, but seems a bit overpriced for the relatively mild performance.
      Ducati/BMW/KTM – Reliability concerns and very limited dealer network where I live.
      Suzuki VStrom or Kawi Versys – I’m considering these as they offer superior value for the money compared to many others.
      (and Finally) HD – Performance and features are in the right neighborhood, I don’t mind the styling at all (at least compared to many of the others), and any reliability issues or teething problems are offset by the fact that I literally can’t spit without hitting a Harley dealership. There’s one just a couple miles from my house, and if they disappoint me, there are three more within 20 minutes.

      In the end, I’ll probably end up with a VStrom or Versys, but the HD is seriously tempting

  20. redbirds says:

    If I were in the market for a very competent sport-touring bike this Harley would be a serious contender. Most people who buy the PA might take the occasional improved graded road but most times it will be pavement only just like the other bikes it competes with. For those who do serious off road riding the KTM is the standout and has little competition. The PA is a winner for Harley and I hope they sell many of them.

  21. Ric says:

    I like the looks. Reminds me of Klatu, the robot from the original version of movie “The Day the Earth Stood Still.”

    • Jim H. says:

      Ole Klatu! I saw that, but just couldn’t place what it resembled. Looks as good as its competitors to me. Hope they sell a bunch.

  22. VLJ says:

    Needs a larger exhaust canister. The one that’s on there doesn’t quite blot out the sun.

  23. TF says:

    The biggest plus I see is that no matter where you ride in North America there will be a dealer close by. It will be interesting to see how well this bike is embraced by the average HD dealer. Will they stock parts? Will they have trained technicians?

    • Fivespeed302 says:

      I was at Black Widow Harley in Port Charlotte yesterday and spoke with the sales manager about the Pan America. He was really cool and gave me and my friends a full tour of the building including the dyno room. They are very excited to get the Pan America. He said that they were only able to order one and it’s already sold (at a premium). He said the employees weren’t happy about that because they all wanted to test ride it. It’s not even supposed to arrive for another month. He said they already have a trained technician who had to attend classes on the PA and now he’s training the other technicians.

      • todd says:

        Yesterday I went to the Aprilia dealer over at Arlen Ness’s shop. They had one RS660 but it was sold to a customer a couple states over. He said he got twelve of those and sold them all right away. He figured he could easily sell a few dozen more. I think there might be a local H-D dealer with a few PAs but the last time I was in one if those was to look at tube-framed Buells.

  24. My2cents says:

    I own a “adventure bike” that I’ve had since 07, it works fantastic over a wide range of surfaces. For me venturing beyond decent gravel roads is extremely rare but has been done. I have yet to see a adv motorcycle that is attractive, they are utilitarian and supposedly purpose built. I think the Pan is going to be a great ride for those who purchase one. The cross spoke rims look awesome.

    • Mick says:

      I think the whole thing is kind of funny. Some time around 2001 I rode a little deep sand track back to back with a KLR 650 that I had and a supermoto that I had built. Even with the 17 inch wheels the supermoto worked better in the sand because it was over 100 pounds lighter and had better suspension.

      Now ask yourself. Is there an open class ADV bike that you think would work better off road than a KLR 650? Good luck.

      Why I make my own street bikes from dirt bikes reason number 4000. The street bike industry has no clue about how to make a motorcycle work off road. They leave it up to the styling department. The sort of people who find spoked wheels that add 14 pounds of unsprung weight to a motorcycle. Nice work guys! You’re really fogging the mirror on that one.

  25. todd says:

    I find it hard to believe the spoked wheels are 14 pounds heavier than the cast wheels. Maybe that’s all in the off road tires? Years ago, I compared the weight of my cast Ducati wheels to the spoked wheels on my XR650. I don’t remember the totals but the Honda spoked wheels were lighter by a decent margin. Cast aluminum, and lots of it, is much thicker for strength reasons than forged tubular aluminum rims and a handful of wire spokes. Maybe these cross-spoked rims are also cast?

    • TF says:

      I have both spoked and cast wheel sets for my 1090R. The spoked wheels are MUCH heavier.

      • Stuki Moi says:

        Are you switching back and forth between streety and offroady tires? If so, how’s that working out in practice?

        • TF says:

          Yes, and the ability to switch back and forth makes the bike much more versatile. If my wife and I want to do a road trip, the cast wheels and street tires roll very nicely and it saves the off-road capable tires for their intended usage. The cast wheels were surprisingly inexpensive. The only other cost was a set of custom made ABS rings to keep the speedo/odo accurate. It’s about a one beer job to make the switch.

    • Jeremy says:

      I don’t know, man… I’ve dealt with a lot of spoke and cast wheels over the years. I don’t remember a single instance where a spoke wheel wasn’t significantly heavier than a cast wheel when intended for the same or a similar bike.

      • todd says:

        I guess it’s because I was looking at cast wheels from the ‘80s and ‘90s. I should weigh the wheels on my Duke vs the ones on my enduro to get more up to date numbers. The challenge is the tires on the Enduro last forever whereas I’m changing rear tires on the Duke every few months.

  26. Goose Lavel says:

    Looks to be a great bike for a weekend getaway. Unfortunately, not this weekend as you gotta watch out for falling Chinese space junk.

  27. Patrick says:

    My first bike was a well used 1951 HD 125 two stroke. I haven’t had an interest in Harleys since. Don’t care for the lifestyle thing. I rode my old VStrom down to a demo ride in my local area in Texas. I am impressed. As smooth as my BMW. Good power, mirrors that work, neat and simple seat adjustment self cancelling turn signals etc. But mostly it was just a good bike. We were only allowed to ride on road, but were set free to ride alone, so you could open it up a bit. I haven’t been off road on it, but it should be aa capable as some other ADVO bikes, Its no KTM, but I can reach the ground on it unlike my 06 640 Adventure. Much heavier than the 640 but lighter than the VStrom. How many ADVO bikes really get into real off roading beyond fire trails anyway.

  28. Grover says:

    Just think of it as an FJR equipped with knobby tires that is 50 pounds lighter. If you’re in the market for that kind of bike you’ll be happy with this new Harley.

  29. Luiz Laba says:

    I am in the market RIGHT NOW for a ADV again, had several, best I had was a GS1250A, what an amazing bike, but problem was TOO TALL and HEAVY.

    The PA seems very complete, with the exception of quickshift (which I do not care for) and the lack of GOOD PROTECTION to that electronic component very low in the radiator (more and more money for MODS – typical Harley market).

    I am scheduled for a PA test ride on Wednesday next week, I am not very excited as I have a NEW TRIUMPH in mind and been waiting for that for a while, thus I will try it out and maybe if the PA is that impressive, I will get the new PA soon, or just wait a few more months on a NEW TIGER 1200.

    Hoping that Harley did this right and at the first TIME…
    Cheers
    LCL

    • Jim Wilson says:

      Pa vs tiger 1200: 150 vs 141 hp, 94 vs 90 ft lb, identical weight, harley #5 most reliable, triumph #9, bmw #8. $1000 more expensive. Ride them both and decide.

    • Bob says:

      Be prepared to be pleasantly surprised with how light the PA feels. I was amazed. Far FAR lighter feeling than a GSA…lighter feeling than a standard GS.

  30. Brinskee says:

    But it’s just so terribly ugly.

    • SVGeezer says:

      In this market is that a Bug or a Feature?

      Don’t seem to be to many Pretty adventure bikes.

      • Stuki Moi says:

        The new VStrom 1050 looks good.

        I suppose some would say that says all there is to say about adventure bike aesthetics…..

  31. mickey says:

    Heck of a first effort for Harley considering. They will probably sell quite a few I’m guessing. Certainly is good on specs.

    Wow 585 pounds for your demo model is only 45 pounds less than my FJR. Wouldn’t want to ride that beast off road. If I am off road on it, someone call an ambulance because I just missed a turn. lol

    In your ‘sneaking up on 2nd gear photo on FGF” are you sure you are not braking hard? The front looks collapsed and the nose of the fairing seems to be pointing down

    • Dirck Edge says:

      This was taken while the group was practicing panic stops, so you are probably right.

  32. Bob says:

    So basically, its competitive with the Triumph Tiger 1200.

  33. Tom R says:

    I think it is time to quit equating the “Buell issue” from two decades ago to this new model. Back then Buell was a hopeful dalliance that Harley took a chance on, but in 20-20 hindsight we can pretty much all see why it didn’t work. Timing is (almost) everything.

    I think the PA is the right move, and a lot of credit should go to Matt Levatich for green-lighting it when he was still in charge of H-D.

    • Dave says:

      Timing is important but I think Buell’s timing was ok. Place is what was a bigger challenge for the brand. These were sport bikes sold in HD dealerships that wanted nothing to do with the bikes or the riders who they were meant to attract, who were equally uninterested in buying bikes from cruiser-folk.

      • Jeremy says:

        Harley corporate and Harley dealers both played a roll in the lack of success. But so did Buell. There were many variables that affected success of that brand.

        I agree with Tom R. The Buell analog isn’t very relevant here. This is a kind of bike that many HD cruiser owners already have in the garage, and this bike carries their badge.

    • Sleeping Dog says:

      When HD dealers and sales folks were ignoring Buell, they were selling every bike HD could send them for list plus a couple of grand worth of dealer installed options. That’s not the case anymore, the HD dealer needs the traffic that an exciting new model attract and the sales guy wants something that will sell at list for the commission check.

  34. Rapier says:

    Several years ago I said to myself “Self, you need a car that’s like a Harley Davidson” So I packed up the kids and the little lady and headed out to the local motor mile to find the Packard dealer.

    • Goose Lavel says:

      I found your comment mildly amusing for some reason…

      • SVGeezer says:

        Strange enough, I was speculating if H-D buying the rights and producing a pre-war Packard would be a good investment when H-D was floating/rolling in cash.

        A Packard with modern brakes and air?? It might have worked.

        • mickey says:

          My mom and dad both drove Packards. The last ones I rememeber were 1953’s I think. kinda of a baby diaper poo green. They were certainly solid cars..I take that back..they were tanks lol

  35. Andrew Tuttle says:

    This is Harley country up here in Ukiah Cal. My local HD dealer has not seen the level of excitement for this model in many, many years. They have 8 of them presold already including one to the sales guy.

  36. Spoone says:

    It might be of better quality than H-D’s of old, and it’s certainly a good step in a better direction than years past…but it’s still too heavy, and it’s still too expensive.

    Fix that.
    Otherwise?
    No thanks.

    • Dave says:

      This is a comment that almost universally appears whenever a bike of nearly any kind (cruisers notwithstanding..) that weighs over 550lb is released.

      What is the bike you think this should be? Weight, power, features, and price.

    • Jeremy says:

      It’s no heavier or more expensive than the bikes it competes with.

    • Fivespeed302 says:

      Ridiculous comment. People complained about the price of the Livewire, yet there’s a guy in my town that bought 2, one for him and one for his wife. Yeah nice things are expensive, that’s what makes them nice & expensive.

    • Bob says:

      It is the lightest feeling 1200 class machine of the current competition. It feels just as light as my Tiger 800 roadie…

  37. TimC says:

    “combining Harley’s brand loyalty with the quality of this effort almost certainly means good sales for both”

    As good as the bike sounds to be objectively, I seriously doubt “brand” loyalty includes something this far outside what the brand normally is. I don’t wish them for this to not do well (despite not being a fan of the company personally) as bike sales/people riding are just that, I just don’t see it really taking off.

    • Dirck Edge says:

      Harley says that a surprisingly large number of their customers also have an adventure bike in their garage. They say presales are strong. See Andrew Tuttle’s comment above.

  38. Schmoe90 says:

    Harley’s biggest problem is its dealers. I’m sure they’ll stock these, but they won’t be interested in selling them, just like they weren’t with the Buells, and aren’t with the Livewire.

    KTM and BMW dealers are far more welcoming of people who don’t want to look like a Village People reject.

    • Eric says:

      From what I’ve read elsewhere there’s a major reeducation program to get dealers up to speed on the whole ADV scene in addition to the bike. Seems like HD is taking this very seriously.

    • Lawrence says:

      Friend worked the counter at HD shop but was a vintage BMW guy at heart. Got his dream gig at old-line BMW shop. Asked how it was going, he said “I’m so glad I don’t have to call everyone “Bro” anymore!”

      • mickey says:

        And now his customers bring him Starbucks in the morning, Instead of Bud Lites

    • Jim Wilson says:

      I don’t know the last time you were in a harley dealer but the staff pretty much wear preppy looking harley button down shirts and when i asked about the pan am last month they put me on the demo waitlist and said when the bikes arrive they will have a fitment station so you can order the bike with the seat and risers that work best for you. And the dealers are not the problem with the livewire, the 29k is. Every time i look at one in the dealer they ask if i want a ride. The zero is also too expensive for a low range bike with limited versatility. Btw i wanted to ride the new bmw 1800 cruiser at daytona last month and where you sign up they told me an hour wait because i missed the safety brief. I said screw that, walked over to kawasaki and they took temp, gave me a breathalizer, gave me a brief and had me on a z1000 in about 15 minutes. Imo the beemer people were snobs who did not gaf.

      • Schmoe90 says:

        I was in the Rocklin, CA Harley Dealer last year. I went to look at the Livewire, and there was a car deliberately parked blocking the two electric charging points outside. I thought that was a bad sign. I went and looked all over the two (I think) that they had tucked against displays, and the staff didn’t acknowledge my presence or come to see if I was interested in them. A few years before, I was with my girlfriend in a different Harley dealer, and watched them condescend to her because she was only interested in the 883 Sportster Iron. She ended up with a Star Bolt because of that visit.

  39. Doug says:

    Had a Can-Am 250 TNT, thought that muffler was huge. Man, the muffler on this thing makes that Can-Am look like nothing. Wonder what the weight of the muffler is bouncing around back there. The whole thing screams tonnage.

    • Tom R says:

      Mufflers currently seem way too big on almost all street bikes these days. Europe-5 and California noise and emission requirements are mostly responsible for this.

      A couple of generations ago we griped about being forced to switch to unleaded fuel. We got over that, and some day people might make light of the “tiny” exhaust cans on bikes of the past.

  40. Jeremy says:

    “For reasons I won’t get into, some of which involve speculation…”

    You can’t lead with that and just leave it hanging there! 😀

    • Kent says:

      I will speculate on the “speculation.” Twelve years ago, the print mag industry was still King. They put pressure on the OEM’s to not provide content, interviews, etc. to on-line mc sites. I am guessing MC Daily was left out for that reason.

  41. Tim says:

    I’m due for a new adventure bike next year and I’ll have to give this a test ride. I’m not crazy about the look, or the chain, but the adaptive ride height intrigues me given that I’m only 5’8″. This is the first bike Harley has produced that I’m interested to see in the flesh. I have a feeling once it has all the bells and whistles, it will end up priced closer to a 1250 GS than to a KTM or Triumph.

    • Stuki Moi says:

      Adaptive ride height does sound like a genuinely useful feature in a class of bikes which are often awkwardly tall. Certainly more sueful than another 99 levels of “slide control” and a “high resolution TFT” Facebook login screen in place of a key…..

      At a bit over 6ft, I’m tall enough for most advs (only barely the GSA and the tallest KTM), but find that I have very little leverage to push bikes backwards into parking lots etc., if the seats are 34+ inches high. The HD should solve that. Of course, I have very little interest in 1250cc adv bikes, but it seems lots of people do.

  42. Marcus says:

    Not a Harley fan (or of ADV bikes) but I hope they are successful with this bike as it appears they have entered the 21st Century. 🍻
    Put that 1250 engine in a naked bike and I’d look at it. If the price and reliability are there.. who knows?
    I ride Japanese nakeds. I saw the Bronx at the NY Bike show.. it was a nice bike without a stitch of chrome on it.

  43. Gary in NJ says:

    Good on Harley for producing a motorcycle that occupies a completely new market segment. I’m glad to hear from you (and others) that this is a solid machine and a solid value. Adventure bikes aren’t my thing, but if Harley gets a successful launch from the PA1250, there is hope that bikes like the Bronx will make it to the market.

  44. Mick says:

    This in an interesting article to sort of read between the lines. Harley must have been running low on spares due to a number of crashes. They must have either set up a course that caused a lot of journalists to crash or the bike is a little tricky to ride. The article mentions a first day skills training and limited speeds throughout. I wonder if some earlier journalists got hurt.

    For my part, I question this market segment. These are sport touring bikes in Jeep drag. Can they be taken off road? Technically yes. Did Harley find that experienced journalists needed skills training and limited speeds while doin so? It seems so.

    They should have focused more on the bike’s on road use and less off road. They’re kidding themselves if they think the people who actually buy these bikes are going to be spending much time off road on them. The people who go off road a lot will opt for smaller versions of these bikes. Bikes that Harley doesn’t, and probably won’t, make.

    • Dave says:

      The article does state that the bike is excellent on the road. They could’ve made a conventional street styled sport tourer but this style/category is the battleground where customers are paying $20k for bikes. For better or worse, I think this was the right product for HD to bring to market to change their brand image.

      It also sounds like it’s just as off road capable as any other 550+lb. bike (I agree with you about 500lb. off-road bikes). I’m betting that because this is an HD product, the guys who tipped them over were from media outlets that don’t normally do off-road.

      Reading about how well sorted this bike seems to be, I’m a little more sad that the Bronx model has been shelved. That’s the bike I would’ve bought from HD.

      • Mick says:

        I think the Bronx would help sell the Pan. Unless that baby looks one heck of a lot better in the flesh, people are only going to put up with so much ugly. The Bronx would help sell the platform and help people overcome the ugly on the Pan.

        I still haven’t gotten any word on who actually makes the engine and/or who developed it. Having seen Buel and V-Rod. I look in askance at this bike. Since when did Harley start turning out this much new refinement all at once? The electric hit the ground pretty well refined also. Yet I haven’t heard of any big shakeup at Harley that would point to a refreshed engineering department that can suddenly make moves no body would ever have guessed ten short years ago. Either something was put in the water or someone ran off with the beer cooler.

        • Dave says:

          Ugly to whom? Modern bike styling is constantly criticized in these comments sections but the makers are deliberately styling them this way. They *know* these styles sell to someone. Maybe not you and me, but the looks aren’t handicapping them on the sales floor, otherwise they’d have to change.

          As for all of the innovation, it doesn’t seem impossible to me. HD has a large engineering team. Set loose with a bunch of design parameters can result in lots of advancement. This was probably worked on for a really long time, too. Look at BMW’s S1000rr. Extremely different from anything they’d done before and successful from the first release. It’s possible, I think.

      • Stuki Moi says:

        BMW, Honda, KTM and Kawasaki, and perhaps others, use their big adv engine across many other bikes as well. Unless this one flops, which it doesn’t sound like it will, it would be very surprising to learn Harley didn’t stuff the engine into other classes of bike as well. Including a “Bronx.”

    • Lynchenstein says:

      This is just the press launch. In a month or two we’ll get some real reviews in the mud, the bush, the sand, and long distance slab. For now, I think it’s good, and I’m cautiously optimistic that HD has finally come around and are embracing riders that don’t want chrome.

    • NorCalADV says:

      In Baldy’s ADVRider writeup (early press ride), he mentioned another journo was significantly injured during his ride. After something like that, I can see HD’s (or RawHyde’s) lawyers mandating a training day and limiting speeds on the group rides.

  45. John Friedrichs says:

    Looks like a winner, the hydraulic valves were not mentioned, but is a big plus that I hope other manufactures will consider. My local H-D dealership recently changed hands, I’ve not visited, but it will be interesting to see if the dealerships embrace this bike, or treat it like they did the Buell models.

  46. fred says:

    Interesting review. Several things mentioned here that were not in the others I’ve read / watched. I gather that you rode pre-production bikes, and that the standard model was not available. This is a very interesting bike to me, and I hope it turns out to be all that it seems at first glance, and that it sells well. Seeing road tests of production standard models would be even more interesting to me, as my interest is more sport-touring, with only limited, occasional off-pavement riding.

  47. Gotta believe this bike is more sports tourer than a true adventure motorcycle. I own a 2017 Triumph 1200 explorer. It can get by on dirt roads (I did Titus Canyon on it), but is much happier on the tarmac.

    Larry

  48. Reginald Van Blunt says:

    Nifty new gadgets with a chubby V-Rod type power plant that fits the giant adv touring class rather well. I suspect that the weight will be a factor for comparison with the other advts, perhaps not bad. I just would never truddle off road by myself with anything so heavy. Sounds well detailed in design.

  49. ken says:

    No comment