Milwaukee’s Trailblazing
Adventurer Finally Revealed

Words by Kali Kotoski      Photos courtesy of Harley-Davidson

Harley-Davidson has upended its tradition of manufacturing chromed-out, heavyweight touring motorcycles that flex their low-end muscles and rattle windows for a high-revving adventure-touring motorcycle that aims to gain wide appeal in a segment Milwaukee hasn’t dared to touch. 

And Harley-Davidson sure needed something for motorcycle enthusiasts (and investors) to get excited for after dismal earnings in 2020 battered the company while rumors over future models swirled online. 

“We would rather under promise and overdeliver,” CEO Jochen Zeitz said in a recent earning call. 

The cat is finally out of the bag with Harley’s all-new Pan America 1250 and Pan America 1250 Special featuring the Revolution Max engine, a liquid-cooled 60-degree V-Twin that boasts of producing a respectable 150 horsepower at 9,000 rpm and 94-foot pounds of torque. 

Engineers behind the long-awaited project claim that Pan America can reach 135 mph fully dressed and with a passenger. 

While some of the apocalyptic Harley lovers will cringe at the company’s new segment endeavor, with that type of power we can’t help but to feel tingly allover. So, let’s just dive right into this mountain conquering machine. 

The styling is unlike anything we have ever seen from Harley-Davidson, harnessing “the spirit of rugged North American off-road versatility.” With its futuristic, battle-hardened and aggressive looks, it is easily conceivable that the Pan America will be the next American-made motorcycle to earn iconic status. Even for those not tickled by the looks of adventure-touring motorcycles, this is Milwaukee we are talking about here. Sacrificing styling is just something they don’t do. 

But does it also include the latest technology to enhance the riding experience? Yes. The Pan America comes with five electronically controlled ride modes to make the best out of any situation. With Road, Sport, Rain, Off-Road and Off-Road Plus ride modes, the bike’s electronics are tailored to suit the rider and the terrain, providing optimal traction during acceleration, deceleration and braking. 

To free up the engineers to develop the Pan America from scratch, the Revolution Max engine is integrated into the vehicle as a central member of the chassis, which also allows for a lean, lightweight machine capable of crossing some of the roughest terrain with an optimized power-to-weight ratio. The standard Pan America weighs in at 534lbs and the Special at 559lbs. 

With the powertrain eliminating the need for a traditional frame as a stressed member of the chassis, the front frame, mid frame and tail section are bolted straight to the engine. This design results in a stiff chassis that helps to deliver the precise handling needed when zipping through narrow canyons. 

The cast-aluminum swingarm minimizes unsprung weight and the chassis is designed with an ideal 62.2-inch wheelbase and 25-degree rake. The cast-aluminum wheels (19-inch in the front, 17-inch in the rear) are designed to be strong, yet light, and capable for use across all manner of surfaces. 

For tires, Harley-Davidson and Michelin collaboratively designed a special Scorcher Adventure tire of the Pan America, while Michelin’s Anakee Wild tires with their aggressive knobby tread pattern will be offered through dealerships. 

Harley-Davidson and Brembo collaborated to create a new radial monoblock four-piston caliper that increases stiffness while reducing overall weight. A new lightweight front brake master cylinder offers adjustable lever response.

The Pan America 1250 model features premium passive front and rear suspension that has fully adjustable pre-load settings. Front suspension is provided by a Showa inverted cartridge for and rear suspension is a Showa Piggyback reservoir shock. The rear suspension has a linkage system that stays comfortable and compliant for on- and off-road riding. 

Meanwhile, the Pan America 1250 Special has electronically adjustable semi-active front and rear suspension. Utilizing sensor data, this suspension automatically controls damping depending on riding conditions. It also has a Vehicle Loading Control system that senses the weight of the rider, passenger and luggage to select optimal suspension sag by automatically adjusting rear preload. This allows the seat height to go to about 33.5-inches in low position and 34.5-inches in high position. 

Both the Pan America 1250 and the 1250 Special come with a 6.8-inch touchscreen that supports Harley-Davidson’s infotainment system and navigation features. Cornering Rider Safety Enhancements, like traction control, hill hold control and enhanced ABS, come standard in both models. Cruise control is also standard equipment. 

The Special’s additional enhancements include a tire pressure monitoring system, a center stand, multi-position rear brake pedal, brush guard and an aluminum skid plate. It also has a steering damper and heated hand grips and wind deflectors. 

Adaptive Ride Height is a feature on the Special that is a first for the industry. It lowers the seat height when the motorcycle is at rest, and hydraulicly transitions to optimal ride height when in motion. In auto mode, the system calibrates how quickly to lower the suspension based on braking action. In short delay and long delay modes, full ride height is maintained when moving at slow speeds.

“The system allows the rider to mount the Pan America 1250 Special model with ease and facilitates placing feet down to the ground at a stop, by lowering the seat height 1 to 2 inches,” Harley-Davidson said. 

The Special also comes with a factory installed tubeless laced wheel option. 

The all-new Revolution Max 1250 engine delivers flexible, engaging performance with a broad powerband that surges through the redline.

“The Revolution Max 1250 is a clean-sheet, advanced-design effort that will carry Pan America riders over new horizons with reliability, efficiency, and exciting performance,” said Harley-Davidson Chief Engineer Alex Bozmoski. 

A focus on performance and weight reduction drove both vehicle and engine architecture, material choices, and aggressive component design optimization, Harley-Davidson added. 

Harley-Davidson lists fuel economy at 46 mpg. The Revolution Max 1250 platform is surely something we will see underpinning new models that have yet to be released. 

The Pan America 1250 is priced at $17,319, while the Pan America 1250 Special priced at $19,999 and will be delivered to dealers in May. 

Harley-Davidson has finally brought off-road Adventureland back into its lineup. And while some fear change, I think it is fair to say that the technology and engineering that went into the development of the Pan America not only makes it a welcomed change, but an off-road showstopper that could finally be that missing link to attract new riders, on either side of the Atlantic. 


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