“I thought you’d gone to pick up a Harley to review?” quipped my wife, eyeing the new Harley-Davidson Pan America 1250 quizzically. She’s got a point. The Harley-Davidson name almost always evokes images of big, burly, cruiser motorcycles with gleaming chrome, and that typical v-twin big bore engine. And that’s exactly the image almost everyone has, of a Harley, whether he or she’s into motorcycles or not. The Pan America 1250 is the newest adventure touring motorcycle in the market, and it’s a Harley-Davidson! There’s no gleaming chrome, nor is it a cruiser, so, in a way, it’s far from what a quintessential Harley is.
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The adventure touring (or ADV) motorcycle segment has become immensely popular around the world over the past couple of decades or so. And it’s a good strategy by Harley-Davidson to introduce a full-size ADV to get not just existing Harley owners into the ADV world, but also lure in new customers. And it’s all part of a well thought-out plan, called The Hardwire. The idea is to get into new segments, operate in new geographies, as well as include new customers and new riders into the Harley-Davidson brand. It all sounds good on paper. But is the latest Harley-Davidson ADV good enough to take the fight to established rivals like the BMW R 1250 GS and Triumph Tiger 1200? We spent a couple of days with it, and have to say, it’s a revelation, no pun intended!
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Engine & Performance
The Revolution Max 1250 engine of the Pan America 1250 offers a completely different experience from any Harley-Davidson motorcycle that I have swung a leg over in all these years. The 1,252 cc v-twin gets liquid-cooling, with dual overhead camshaft, variable valve timing, and makes 150 bhp at 8,750 rpm and 128 Nm of peak torque, kicking in at 6,750 rpm. Forget the numbers; in a word, that engine is just raring to go! Get on the gas, and a hundred kilometres per hour will come without you even realising you’re going at those speeds, and it will keep egging you to keep opening the throttle!
The motor is almost docile at low revs and will comfortably rub shoulders with the commuting crowd, if that’s your kind of scene. There will be some glances, quite a few of them, but you can leave the rest of the crowd far behind with a twist of the right hand. Acceleration is strong, and as the revs climb, you will begin to wonder how fast it can go. At just over 6,000 rpm in sixth gear, you will be nudging over 150 kmph, and there’s still almost 3,000 revs to get to the redline! Yes, the big v-twin still runs expectedly hot in bumper-to-bumper traffic, but even on one of the muggiest days of the season, the engine wasn’t unbearably hot, and once the traffic opens up, it’s just fine. Make no mistake though; it’s a properly quick machine, this new Harley!
Ride & Handling
On the highway, the Pan America 1250 is stable, and disguises high speeds pretty well. The adjustable windscreen offers good protection, and it will be up to the task to cover a lot of distance over a day’s ride! My kind of riding is suitable for engines with a strong mid-range, and to that end, the Revolution Max 1250 absolutely nails it for me! There’s ample punch everywhere at highway speeds, and the rumble from the v-twin tempts you to just slow down a tad bit, downshift and open the gas, just for that feel! Oh yeah, this baby is a true mile-muncher, and an entertaining one at that!
Show it a couple of corners, and it’s eager to lean, despite its near 250 kg weight. And where the road ends, the Pan America 1250 is up to the task to gobble up rough terrain. The Michelin Scorcher Adventure tyres are 80-20 tyres (80 per cent tarmac, 20 per cent dirt), and for most mild off-road trails, they offer the best of both worlds. On the black top, the Scorchers offers confident grip, and complements that agile chassis, despite the bike’s size and weight. Despite the grooves, there’s no road noise whatsoever, and on the loose stuff, they offer impressive performance. Mostly, the Pan America 1250 doesn’t feel as top heavy as some other ADVs in its segment, and it’s up to the task, to tackle all kinds of terrain.
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In Off-Road Plus mode, the traction control is dialled down low, and I fiddled with the menu settings but just couldn’t figure out how to switch the TC off. So, it’s still there, and will rein in the rear, even with some aggressive throttle inputs. So, that’s a good thing for riders with less experience, or don’t want to try any shenanigans like making the rear step out.
For those who wish to do so, there’s a manual TC switch where you can switch it off, if required, on the right handlebar controls, just under the throttle. But yeah, I missed it, so had to make do with the electronic nannies having my back, which is just fine with me. There’s a nifty Mode button next to the engine start-stop switch which allows easy access to change the riding modes.
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Design & Features
To me, the Pan America 1250 isn’t exactly a good looking motorcycle at first glance, if you’re the kind who follows conventional aesthetic appeal. (Yes, some folks consider even that typical ADV beak a travesty of aesthetic sense). But then, looks are subjective; you may like something, and others may not. So is the case with the Pan America 1250; opinions on its design are sharply divided. And I have to admit, I fell into that category which didn’t find it very appealing when I saw the first pictures. In a way, the design is a departure from the sea of ADV machines, and it’s a good thing to have something, which looks different. But it has presence all right, with that tall stance, dual-sport tyres and high ground clearance.
So, no typical ADV beak, but the half-fairing does give a hint of the Road Glide Special I had ridden from Delhi to Jaisalmer many summers ago. And frankly, I began warming up to the Pan America’s looks with every passing hour I spent with it. Our test bike is the base H-D Pan America 1250, so it has some minor cosmetic differences from the Pan America 1250 Special. The standard bike gets less colour options, and there are other changes.
The logos on the 21-litre fuel tank are different; the Special gets standard knuckle guards, a brushed aluminium bash plate, a standard centre stand, and adaptive cornering lights, positioned just above the main Daymaker LED headlight. There’s quite a bit of plastic bodywork, and for an adventure bike, which may take a few falls if used for its purpose, the rather large-ish bodywork, including the half-fairing, may be a bit of a bother, if damaged.
Tech & Ergonomics
The 6.8-inch, full-colour TFT screen remains the same on both variants, and offers five pre-programmed riding modes on the base model. There’s also a custom mode, where the rider gets the freedom to tune the bike with preferred power delivery, engine braking, cornering anti-lock braking system, and the lean-sensitive traction control system. In my opinion, just one Custom mode is more than enough, but the Special gets even more custom modes, and of course more gizmos, in the form of semi-active electronic suspension.
For the price, the base variant ( ₹ 16.90 lakh) offers superb value, and comes with manually adjustable suspension. The 47 mm upside down fork, gets full adjustability on compression, rebound and preload, and even the rear monoshock gets full manual adjustability, for riders who want to explore the Pan America’s dynamics according to the type of use and load. But the engine, hardware and electronics on both variants are more or less the same. There’s the standard six-axis inertial measurement unit (IMU), which powers both the cornering ABS and traction control, both very useful features around a twisty road, especially when the surface is loose, or wet.
For my height (just short of 5’10”), the Pan America 1250 offers decent reach, with both toes reaching terra firma, if not completely flat-footed on both sides. On the Special, you can also opt for the factory-fitted Adaptive Ride Height for ₹ 1.2 lakh, where the electronic suspension lowers the suspension when you come to a standstill. And there are optional laced wire-spoke wheels for ₹ 80,000 which you can fit on both the standard and Special variants, for those who will be looking for some more adventurous riding. In fact, the standard variant offers more ground clearance (210 mm) compared to the Special (170 mm). And with the added engine and body protection, the Special weighs 258 kg, while the standard Pan America 1250 weighs 245 kg.
Prices & Variants
Our test bike is the standard variant priced at ₹ 16.90 (Ex-showroom). And even the base variant has got it all, when it comes to electronics and kit. It gets fully adjustable suspension, several riding modes, cruise control, and the same Michelin Scorcher Adventure dual-sport tyres, which offer superb performance, both on tarmac and on the rough stuff. Our test route involved some loose packed sandy surfaces, and not once did we encounter any alarming loss of traction. It’s still a heavy and bulky bike, not quite the lean, enduro-type ADV, but it hides its weight well, and offers a well-balanced ride.
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For ₹ 19.99 lakh (Ex-showroom), what you get over the base variant, is semi-active suspension, Ohlins steering damper, two additional custom riding modes, standard engine and body protectors, brushed aluminium sump guard, heated grips, tyre pressure monitoring system and the adaptive cornering lights. The six-axis inertial measurement unit remains on both the base Pan America 1250 and the Pan America 1250 Special, which powers the cornering ABS, and lean-sensitive traction control system.
Now, I’ve ridden all kinds of Harleys before, and to me, the Pan America 1250 is one of the sportiest motorcycles ever made by the American brand. It’s quick, and handles, beautifully! The Revolution Max 1250 engine is a powerhouse of performance, more than any average rider will need, for any two-wheeled adventure that he or she may think of. To sum up, the Harley-Davidson Pan America 1250 has great on-road and off-road manners, and is loaded with all the electronics that any modern-day two-wheeled adventurer will need at that price point and segment.
At ₹ 16.90 lakh (Ex-showroom), the base H-D Pan America 1250 offers superb value, and comes with all the kit and equipment expected from a full-sized adventure touring bike. And in fact, the Pan America 1250 base model isn’t a lot more expensive than, say a top-spec Triumph Tiger 900 Rally Pro, and that actually sits a segment below in the mid-size ADV segment.
Mostly, the Pan America 1250 may be Harley’s first foray into the world of full-size ADVs, but clearly, the Bar & Shield brand has gone the whole nine yards in developing a truly capable, and entertaining adventure bike. At the least, it deserves a test ride from anyone looking for a new adventure bike in that segment, and certainly is as modern, capable or feature-packed as any other full-sized adventure bike out there. In a word, the Harley-Davidson Pan America 1250 is unexpectedly, and surprisingly good!
(Photography: Prashant Chaudhary)