Harley-Davidson Pan America 1250: First ride review
Harley-Davidson has been making bikes for over a century now, but the Pan America 1250 is its first-ever ADV! It’s powered by a 1252cc v-twin, gets bold styling and lots of equipment to take the fight to the yet-to-arrive Triumph Tiger 1200 and the BMW R 1250 GS. We rode the Pan America 1250 Special, which gets semi-active suspension, a tyre pressure monitor, a multi-position rear brake lever and a steering damper, among other goodies. Prices for the Pan America 1250 range start at Rs 16.99 lakh while this Special model starts from Rs 19.99 lakh. Now that you know a little bit about the Pan America, let’s talk styling.
Sure, it’s taken Harley a while to arrive to the ADV party, but it has certainly dressed the Pan America 1250 for the occasion. It looks incredible. The horizontal LED headlight up front, beefy suspension, trail-ready (and bespoke) Michelin Scorcher tyres mounted on (optional) tubeless laced rims and that 1252cc, liquid-cooled Revolution Max V-twin. It may not look anything like the Harley-Davidson’s of ’yore and the lack of any in-your-face Harley branding further disconnects it from the rest of the lineup, but it is properly cool.
And it isn’t all show and no go either. The (all-new) Revolution Max engine is another big departure from Harley tradition. There are no potatoes to be mashed here, the Pan America sounds angry. It almost growls as you open the throttle. It makes 150bhp and 127Nm, which might not sound earth shattering for a bike that weighs 254kg kerbside, (the standard is lighter at 242kg kerb). But with a 0-100kmph time under four seconds, the Pan-Am can get a move on. That said, it isn’t an engine that eggs you to rev it out. There’s a lot of low-end grunt, so in the city you can be below the 5000rpm mark most of the time. But when you do take it beyond, the Pan America is transformed. Thumb the ‘Mode’ button on the right, cycle past the Wet and Road modes to find yourself in Sport and crack the throttle open. Things start to get really blurry, really fast. And at the same time it is refined, there are very few vibrations filtering through to your limbs. The Pan America is actually great for touring. You sit tall, without too much of a bend in the knee, so long hours in the saddle shouldn’t be a problem. Plus the tall windscreen, comfy seat as well as the heated grips and hand wind deflectors all add up to this adventure tourer’s touring ability. But what about that first bit?
Well, to find out you first need to click the mode button once more to get into Off-Road mode — this puts the engine in a sort of mid-level setting with an optimised torque curve for the rough stuff. It also tells the IMU-based cornering ABS system to be a little more polite while the cornering traction control is also slackened in the Sport setting. Oh I almost forgot! This being the 1250 Special, it also gets semi-active suspension — 47mm Showa Balance Free Forks up front with semi-active damping control and a Showa Balance Free Rear Cushion-lite coil over shock at the back with electronic preload control and semi-active damping control. In Off-Road mode, the suspension is optimised for loose surfaces and within the customisable mode, you can choose from an Off-Road Soft or Off-Road Firm setting, with the latter better suited to handle the jumps and wheelies I’ve been popping. There’s also an Off-Road Plus mode which switches off ABS for the rear wheel completely, Drag Torque Slip Control (which helps put the power down more effectively in a straight line) is disabled, the TCS is in its least intrusive setting and both front and rear wheel lift mitigation are completely turned off to give you full control of the Pan-Am.
The 1250 Special also has an optional Adaptive Ride Height which lowers the bike at slow speeds to allow shorter riders to put their feet down more securely. This could be a dealmaker for a lot of people since the Pan-Am is the only bike to offer such functionality, but this will only be available on the second lot of bikes that come to India post October.
There are still a lot of other electronics to play with here. I haven’t even spoken about the 6.8-inch TFT touchscreen that doubles up as the instrument cluster. It is bright, packed with information and yes, when the Pan-Am is not in motion, it can be used as a touchscreen. When on the move though, there’s a myriad of buttons to control it. And when I say myriad, I mean it. There really are way too many buttons here and this means that it all takes some time to get used to. For example, the button for the horn is tucked away and is out of sight when you’re in the saddle. I only found it when I bent down to pick something up! The Pan America actually has a few more issues. Firstly, the build quality of a lot of what you touch isn’t great. There’s a plastic panel on the tank which has a cool ‘Pan America 1250’ badge, but that entire panel flexes and moves with the lightest of touches. The switchgear isn’t particularly high quality either and the biggest chink in its touring armour is how hot the engine gets. It’ll keep your legs from frostbite in Antarctica, but here in India you might be taking one too many chai breaks.
That aside, the Pan America 1250 is a very well-rounded motorcycle. In its maiden attempt at an ADV, Harley has delivered a bike that can hold its own against veterans like the Triumph Tiger and the BMW R 1250 GS. Granted, the Tiger is more agile and feels more capable on a trail while the GS has more instant power and is arguably easier to recover when you drop, thanks to its protruding boxer engine preventing it from laying fully flat on the ground. But the Harley can go nearly as far into the wild as the Tiger and the GS, while also being just as comfortable as the other two for long-distance touring, if not more comfortable. The slip and assist clutch is nice and light, the gearbox is smooth, there’s vast reserves of power and an extensive suite of electronics. At Rs 19.99 lakh, the Pan America 1250 Special is an expensive machine but it has a lot going for it, not the least being the passport it gives you to the massive H.O.G community with their (pre-Covid) rides, meets and badges of honour. And on the annual Goa sojourn one thing’s for sure — among the sea of blinding chrome you will stand out with some bad-ass mud caked on your Pan Am.