October 7, 2021

2021 Harley-Davidson Pan America – Not your Grandfather’s Harley

2021 Harley-Davidson Pan America – Not your Grandfather’s Harley

Hello, this is the 2021 Harley-Davidson Pan America.
And I’m going to show you why this is not your grandfather’s Harley.
Let’s start with the stats. Retiling in NZ for a fraction under $35,000 plus ORC, This is the Pan
America Special, it comes with all the fruit. Including adaptive ride height. This is a cool feature and the only bike on the market at the time of writing this, that actually squats at a stop, so people with shorter legs can touch the ground easier. If you're taller than 6 foot, it’s not going to be a thing for you, but if you’re any shorter than 6 foot, it will be a game-changer. This Adaptive ride height will cost you an extra $1500 though.
The bike has a set of electronically controlled Showa shocks with 190mm travel front and rear. The standard seat has 2 height settings with a 25mm difference, then there is also a higher and lower seat, both plus and minus an additional 25mm. to that’s 75mm of difference from the highest seat height to the lowest. Ergonomics are pretty good once you find your favorite seat height. The bars are where why would expect them to be, and a good reach for me. Though if I were to stand up for any length of time, I would need to roll them forward a little. The rear brake lever is adjustable, I found it perfect in the high position. The Screen upfront is also adjustable, and even better, can be adjusted while riding. In the low setting, I got a bit of wind buffeting, but in the high position, I could almost ride without a visor.
The engine is Harley-Davidson’s new Revolution Max engine, which packs 1250cc, 150hp, and peak torque at 6700rpm.
Some other buzz words include:
90 degree Firing order
dual overhead cams
4 valves per head.
And it is equipped with variable valve timing which instead of a hydraulic system found on other bikes, has Solenoids on both intake and exhaust cams, and when you wail on the throttle, kicks in a fraction before 4000 rpm and is quite noticeable.
This rev max 1250 engine is outstanding, It’s not a high rever, redlining around 8500rpm,
but in sport mode has an amazing amount of power from right down low. Wind the throttle open from around 3000rpm and there is a noticeable kick at around 4000rpm and a solid pull right up to redline.

The bike is high-tech, with 6 rider modes, Sport, Street, Rain, Off-Road, and 2 customizable modes.
Sport is just plain fun on the open road twistys, though it is a little twitchy for around town or motorway commuting.
I kept it in road mode for the dry days, which wound back the twitchiness, but kept more than enough power on hand for passing.
Rain mode noticeably winds back any savageness in the throttle and maxes out the ABS and TC. The power was taken away from the throttle to the point that I was wondering if something was wrong with the bike. I think it would be really hard to get into trouble in rain mode.
The off-road mode will allow you to remove rear abs and TC, but keep little front abs. testing this out on some gravel, I found it actually did a very good job of assisting a stop on a loose surface.
The Brakes are by Brembo, and personally, I thought they were absolutely outstanding, able to really haul up the bike and on one occasion even put the bike on its nose.

Let’s talk about lighting.
It’s LEDs all around baby. H-D calls the LED headlight the Day maker, and it does a great job of lighting up the road. My test bike was also equipped with an adaptive headlamp setup, which lights up depending on how much the bike leaned over. Very interesting to play with on the motorway.
Further to the electronics is a 6.8" TFT screen, which has auto and manual brightness adjustment. The screen shows all the normal stuff and can be customized to show more or less info. If you like a clean speedo cluster, that’s perfectly fine, or you can really jazz it up with tire pressures, trip meter, range, etc the list goes on.
Link your phone via Bluetooth and download the H-D app, you’ll get navigation and the ability to control music if you have a headset in your helmet.
The test bike I had was equipped with heated grips, which was a nice touch, and had integrated controls on the left-hand switchgear.
Speaking of switchgear, there are a LOT of buttons. But you do get your head around what they do pretty quickly. If you’re a technophobe then just ignore half of them and ride the bike. One set of buttons I will find it hard to live without now I have given the bike back, is the cruise control. Wow, this makes life so much easier, I was able to really eat up the motorway miles with the cruise control set to 101kph. And reducing the risk of getting a speeding fine due to inattention.
Interestingly for an American-built bike, all the nuts n bolts are in metric.

So let’s break this down to the Good, Bad and Ugly.

The Good,
That 1250cc Rev Mag engine is savage, yet has good road manners.
The bike comes with a center stand which was super handy
The bike comes equipped with beautiful spoked rims and tubeless tyres.

The Bad
After a week of riding, I still struggled to find the kickstand. Where most bikes have the kickstand mounted just below the left-hand footpeg, the Pan America has it mounted further forward, below the engine with a little tab poking out for you to flick with your heel.
The indicator switch is weird. It has a 2-way switch for the indicators which if you have ridden a Harley before you’ll know is a bit different from standard H-D equipment. Other bikes I have ridden have a switch where left is left, right is right and to cancel, you push straight in the center. But the H-D Pan America is equipped with self-canceling indicators, meaning if you're turning right at an intersection, for example, you flick the switch right, and go around the corner it will self-cancel. Changing lanes doesn’t cancel the indicator because you're not going around a corner. Then coming up to a roundabout where you need to indicate right then left quickly, it's just a mess.

The Ugly
No adventure motorcycle is a looker in my books, and the Pan America, although unique, is no exception. The big square nose is not as big a deal as it first looked in the press photos all those months ago, but it’s still a face only a mother could love.
And I just think there are too many buttons on the switchgear. I’m a Chile of the PlayStation generation, but even I struggled to find the button I wanted while riding and wearing gloves.
It may be something you would get used to overtime... I don’t know.

This bike is high-tech and has the power to spare. It's so far removed from the classic image of what most people believe a Harley to be. And for this reason, it's not your grandfather's Harley. It’s a serious contender in the world of adventure touring, so much so that I have booked another press bike to take to the south island and tackle the Molesworth Station road on opening weekend (labor weekend), I’ll be sure to let you know how it goes.
Till then though, if you get the chance to ride the Harley-Davidson Pan America, I say take it for a spin. You might be pleasantly surprised.