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Review: Harley’s Pan America a sleeker, more powerful ride than its predecessors

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Overview: Harley’s Pan America a sleeker, extra highly effective experience than its predecessors

The 2021 Harley-Davidson Pan America.

Mark Richardson/The Globe and Mail

I spent a whole lot of kilometres attempting to select fault with the brand new Harley-Davidson Pan America. Huge stuff, little stuff – however the bike appeared to have a solution for all of it. I suppose it has to. This bike is actually the longer term for Harley.

We thought the longer term was the all-electric Livewire bike, however Harley-Davidson simply introduced that Livewire will likely be its personal model, not only a mannequin. That is sensible, on condition that conventional Hog riders wouldn’t be seen lifeless on one. It’s a very good, very expensive electric motorcycle that now not must be in comparison with the corporate’s cruisers.

These heavy cruisers are the worthwhile mainstay for Harley-Davidson, however finally, they’re a advertising and marketing lifeless finish. They’re the bike equal of sedans and coupes and lately, riders need two-wheeled SUVs. They need bikes which can be extra succesful and never locked into a picture of beards and tattoos.

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Nearly each bike firm now makes an adventure-touring bike, they usually’re huge sellers: the BMW GS is the German maker’s hottest machine, helped by the adventurous TV picture of actors Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman driving them world wide. Harley says the time is true for its Pan America, however in fact, it’s at the least 10 years late to the celebration.

That decade wasn’t totally wasted, nevertheless, as a result of it gave Harley the time to see what works and what doesn’t work with all its competitors. What works is a macho picture and many cutting-edge know-how that soaks up uneven city asphalt and rural gravel; what doesn’t work is that these bikes should be fairly tall to accommodate their lengthy suspensions and excessive floor clearance, in order that they’re a problem for shorter riders.

So the Pan America solves this by providing “adaptive experience peak,” which routinely lowers the bike by as much as 5 centimetres when it’s stationary. Trip as much as a site visitors gentle and the bike sinks gently on its digital suspension. It’s not speedy, so that you’ll nonetheless want to the touch the bottom together with your toes firstly earlier than feeling your heels sag right down to the asphalt. It’s not obtrusive, both – you’ll neglect it’s there. It’s an possibility that prices an additional $1,300 on prime of getting to purchase the dearer Particular version, however when you don’t need it, you don’t should get it. In case your legs are brief, as for a lot of ladies, you’ll find it irresistible.

When this bike was first revealed, commenters dismissed it as too costly and too heavy. Nonetheless, it’s more cost effective than the BMW competitors that guidelines the market and, at 254 kg (559 lbs) soaking moist, lighter too. The non-Particular Pan America is one other $3,200 cheaper and 12 kg lighter, however it doesn’t include the Particular’s semi-active Showa suspension, crash bars, centre stand, cornering lights, or handlebar heaters.

From the beginning, the Pan America feels smaller than different adventure-tourers and positively appears slimmer, although it’s extra highly effective in nearly each regard. I slipped via gaps on-road and -off that may have given me pause with the BMW’s huge cylinders or the Ducati’s huge tank. I dabbed my ft towards rocks on the path that may have been unreachable with the lofty Honda. And after I slung my leg over the saddle to mount the bike, I by no means felt I used to be about to separate my driving pants.

Most vital, the Pan America does away with half a century of qualifying each remark with “for a Harley.” It has cutting-edge know-how that improves the experience; it’s quick, with a number of digital drive modes to set every little thing simply correctly for asphalt or dust; and its engine is so superior that it’ll by no means want valve changes. It’s even comfy, with an efficient windshield that’s simply adjustable to a few settings on the transfer.

After all, Harley cruiser riders couldn’t give a rattling about this new bike, and that’s simply high quality. Harley-Davidson will proceed to make the massive air-cooled 45-degree twins and the traditionalists will keep joyful. It’ll take longer for the youthful, brand-loyal adventure-touring riders to come back over to the Pan America, however they may. This new bike is simply too good to disregard.

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2021 Harley-Davidson Pan America has a 1252 cc liquid-cooled 60-degree V-twin engine.

Mark Richardson/The Globe and Mail

Tech specs

Base value/As examined: $20,999 / $26,934, plus tax

Engine: 1252 cc liquid-cooled 60-degree V-twin, 150 hp, 92 lbs.-ft.

Transmission/Drive: Six-speed, chain drive

Alternate options: BMW R1250 GS, Ducati Multistrada, KTM 1290 Tremendous Journey, Honda Africa Twin, Triumph Tiger


Perhaps you prefer it, however I believe the Pan America seems like a Playmobil bike, perhaps even a Lego machine. My tester got here with the orange-and-grey two-tone paint that’s an $850 possibility, however I believe it seems higher within the primary black, and even the one gray or inexperienced choices which can be an additional $450. Most individuals appeared to find it irresistible or hate it, however it’s as much as you.

Sitting on the bike, the color contact display is straightforward to learn for the vital stuff however there’s numerous secondary data that most individuals will squint to learn. The controls are easy and intuitive to function – I had most of them discovered earlier than I reached house, however there have been some particulars for which I wanted the proprietor’s guide.

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Ultimately – a Harley-Davidson that’s smaller than a truck however doesn’t thrust your legs ahead and stays comfy for hours at a time. The seat is accommodating for driving on the street, and the ergonomics are designed to allow you to stand if you’re within the dust. It is a true off-roader – in automobile phrases, it’s the distinction between a Jeep Wrangler and a Nissan Rogue. Risers can be found to get the handlebars just-so, and the Particular even supplies an easily-adjustable foot pedal for a greater attain to the rear brake whereas standing.


Harley considered every little thing. The all-new Revolution engine is phenomenal, pulling with sturdy torque all the way in which from beneath 2,000 rpm to its redline of 9,000. It must be as dependable and bullet-proof as the rest available on the market, although I believed my tester sounded clattery at idle, at the least till it warmed up. Overlook the trademark potato-potato – this V-twin simply rumbles.

The whole lot is adjustable. There are three driving modes for the street (Regular, Sport, and Rain), two extra for driving off-road, and one other 4 customized settings for no matter you want. They regulate the sensitivity of the linked brakes and the throttle, in addition to traction management, engine braking, and wheelie management. For bikes with semi-active suspension, they’ll regulate the damping.


The bike could be linked to your telephone for music and communication, all labored with handlebar buttons, however I may by no means get the Navigation to work correctly. It makes use of the GPS in your telephone, not its personal program, and whereas it might direct me to a set location, it wouldn’t simply show a shifting map. I assume this was a one-off technical glitch, or my very own fault, however I by no means may repair it. Apple CarPlay, as provided by the Honda Africa Twin, would cinch the deal.


2021 Harley-Davidson Pan America

Mark Richardson/The Globe and Mail

It was essential for Harley-Davidson to get the Pan America proper, with value, dimension, and talent. It’s succeeded admirably with all three. This exceptional bike is precisely what the corporate must show itself within the extremely aggressive and profitable adventure-touring market, and to maneuver away from its area of interest of heavy steel and gray beards. It might not promote many tattoos, however it can please numerous riders who would have in any other case by no means thought of shopping for American.

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