We test the Pan America in Singapore – Harley’s first adventure bike is impressive, tech-packed and nails that do-anything feel
Photos by Derryn Wong
The Pan America is Harley-Davidson’s first ever adventure motorcycle, but if you rode it badge-unseen, you probably wouldn’t be able to tell. When James Brown sings about the ‘no destination too far’ feel in his hit, the Pan Am sums up that feeling perfectly.
For a full background and info on the bike’s launch in Singapore in August 2021, read our report that also covers a brief off-road jaunt with the bike.
A few weeks on, we finally got our hands on the Harley-Davidson Pan America 1250 Special for a few days to experience living with it, and more importantly, to have a sense of how it compares with the competition, in particular the clear segment leader/progenitor, the BMW R 1250 GS.
Predictably, the Pan America 1250 Special comes feature packed with everything the competition has to offer, including:
We’ll address the most conspicuous issue first: The styling. We applaud Harley for going its own route in the adventure class (ha) since the Pan Am doesn’t look like any other adventure bike around. On one hand you can call it unique, chunky, tough-looking, and presence-full in the same way a Jeep is, but on the other you’d also never call it lithe or sporty. It’s very American, for better or worse.
An American positive is that the Pan Am gives you every doodad you can think of. As explained in our news launch story, there’s the regular S$46,900 Pan America 1250, and the S$56,900 Pan American 1250 Special, which is tested here.
Harley has also made a noticeable step up in quality, with the Pan Am on par with most adventure bikes, and a clear departure from the chrome-fests of yore with crude, burly unadjustable controls of old.
But to match that big image and feature list, the Pan Am definitely not a small machine. At 250kg it has the potential to make you end up living with a hernia, but any buyer looking at a litre-plus adventure bike will face ‘massive’ problems anyway. The R 1250 GS is a similar weight, but its ‘magic trick’ of a low centre of gravity is what makes it easy to deal with.
The Harley has a trick or two of its own here. The V-twin engine is taller and the bike feels top heavy, but this is made up by its narrower girth. Another plus is the industry-first Adaptive Ride Height that lowers the bike when stationary (with engine running) to aid those with a shorter inseam – it goes from the standard seat height of 890mm to a manageable 855mm.
Ergonomics were good, with no major misgivings in our experience. Like a proper adv-tourer, the 1250 Special offers a commanding riding position. The windscreen – adjustable with one hand – is effective too.
The big, burly America makes a decent commuter too, with just a bit of heat on the right ankle in stationary traffic. Pushing and parking requires lots of muscle, typical of a big adv bike, but deploying the main-stand was challenging, as the bike lacked a handle or grip point. Fortunately the “self locking” side stand was reassuringly secure. Waiting at the traffic lights, I could put both feet firmly on the ground, the self lowering electronic suspension doing its thing and reducing seat height by 40mm.
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