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Harley Davidson Pan America 1250 Special: First Ride Review

02 September 2021, 07:00 AM Anuj Mishra


Right Side View

The Harley Davidson Pan America 1250 is a result of the drastic evolution in the two-wheeler market in recent years. A market that is inclining towards the adventure genre of motorcycling faster than ever. And this genre already has a lot of capable offerings from brands like BMW, Ducati, Triumph, and Honda

While it's a good thing on Harley's front to adapt to the changes in the market, it's also going to be tough for the brand to create a mark in this segment that's already well established.

In that case, does the Pan America 1250 has all that it takes to outperform or at least be at par with its rivals? We try to answer this question by riding the bike on and just a little bit off the road in the brief amount of time we got with it.

The Looks

Left Side View

The Pan America 1250 looks quite polarising. You’ll either hate it or love it. But one thing is undeniable, that it looks unique and distinctive. It attracted a lot of curious glances and questions from onlookers every time I pulled up at a signal. And that’s mainly because of its gigantic size and a front fascia that resembles the snout of a whale. Even this beefy fuel tank makes up for a lot of its visual mass. 

Fuel Tank

The overall fit and finish and quality of materials look like they are built to last. The rear luggage carrier looks rugged while the radiator and headlamp guard too feel solid. Even while riding the bike, there wasn’t a hint of anything coming loose and no thudding or rattling sound whatsoever. 

The Package

Instrument Cluster

The Pan America is as decked up with features as a new-age ADV can be. Especially, the Special variant we had comes with a lot of add-ons like tyre pressure monitoring system, signature adaptive headlamp, heater grips, a steering damper by Ohlins, and factory-installed tubeless laced wheels. 

Electronic aids that are common in all variants include a six-axis inertial measurement unit with lean-sensitive traction control, cornering ABS, electronically linked braking system, hill hold control, cruise control, engine braking control, five pre-programmed riding modes, and three customisable modes. For every riding mode, there’s a different setting for ABS, traction control, throttle response and suspension damping, and these alterations are pretty evident in every riding mode. 

Harley-Davidson PAN America 1250

Harley-Davidson PAN America 1250

  • Displacement1,252 cc
  • Max Power(bhp)150.19 bhp
  • Kerb Weight258 kg
  • ;

Avg. Ex-showroom price

₹ 17,86,695

Harley-Davidson PAN America 1250 TFT / Instrument Cluster

You can monitor and make changes to these features on a 6.8-inch large touchscreen instrument cluster. Now, this is a very advanced display with a host of features shown with good legibility and crispness. However, one issue here is that a lot of info is available in very small font size and reading them requires you to bend down while riding. 

Handle Bar

Moreover, you get a separate button for almost everything – mode, cruise control, heated grips, ignition, and music controls. In the quest of placing these many buttons, the crucial switches of horn and indicators have gone at the bottom which might be difficult to reach initially. This overall setup might take some time to get used to.

One of the main challenges that come with big adventure motorcycles is their tall seat height. But Harley has addressed this issue by developing the Adaptive Ride Height technology. It lowers the bike once the rider comes to halt and moves it back up once the bike gets going. Unfortunately, this feature wasn’t available on our test bike. Although we had the Special variant, the ARH tech comes as an option for Rs 32,000 extra. 

Bike Seat

Even if you don’t choose the top-spec variant that gets the Adaptive Ride Height tech, you still have the option to manually alter the seat height by opening it up with the key. That’s smart and thoughtful.

Engine From Right

Powering the Pan America is a Revolution Max, 1,252cc engine that churns out 150.19bhp of power at 8,750rpm and 128Nm of peak torque at 6,750rpm. It comes mated to a six-speed gearbox. Harley has built this powerplant from scratch and is a modern unit with liquid-cooling, double overhead camshafts, and variable valve timing. The result is a motor that really likes to be revved and performs like a charm for the most part.

Another party-piece of the Pan America is the electronically adjustable semi-active suspension from Showa. This is available only in the Special variant and gives multiple benefits. Firstly, you can adjust the rear preload according to the load y

Front Wheel

our bike is going to carry. It also adjusts the suspension damping according to the selected riding mode for optimum ride and handling. What’s more, even the pre-load is continuously adjusted depending on the riding condition.

The Ride

Harley-Davidson PAN America 1250 action

With the seat height set at its lowest position, getting on board and planting both feet on the ground wasn’t a problem for me. I am 5 feet 11 inches, for your reference. Once onboard, you’ll notice that the riding triangle is neutral and comfortable, which is typical of an adventure tourer. I can assure you it won’t get uncomfortable even after a full day of riding. Even the standing up ergos are spot on. The handlebar is within your reach and the narrow rear end of the tank makes holding on to it very easy. Interestingly, the footpegs can be easily tweaked for on-road and off-road use as the top rubber mount is manually removable.

Harley-Davidson PAN America 1250 action

Cranking up the motor reveals that it doesn’t have the traditional Harley thump but sounds throaty and sporty. The engine starts to build up pace quickly and aggressively from around 3,000rpm. The mid-range torque delivery is prompt and potent but not to the extent of overwhelming the rider. However, the motor turns ferocious post 6,000rpm and the acceleration is ballistic until it reaches its redline. The motorcycle gets past 100kmph in a jiffy and it can cruise at speeds of over 120kmph stress-free all day long. Even at that pace, overtaking requires minimal effort and time. 

Harley-Davidson PAN America 1250 action

While the engine is a treat on the highway, we would have loved more tractability for city riding. Every time you leave it a gear or two higher, it lugs along with a bit of knocking sound. We also felt the gearbox could be smoother as the gears shift with a pronounced clunk. But this might have been an issue with this particular test bike, perhaps due to the kind of abuse media bikes go through. We will come back with more precise feedback on this when we get the bike for a longer duration.

Harley-Davidson PAN America 1250 action

The Pan America also surprises in the handling department. We rode it around some nice mountain twisties and the experience was enjoyable. Yes, it takes a bit of effort to steer the bike but once leaned over, the Pan America holds its line precisely and doesn’t twitch or weave. 

Harley-Davidson PAN America 1250 action

I tried the Sport mode while riding in the mountains and the difference in the way the suspension behaves was evident as compared to road and rain mode. The suspension setup also does a commendable job of soaking up potholes and speed bumps, big or small. It doesn’t seem to lose its composure while there was no hint of bottoming out in normal road riding. 

Harley-Davidson PAN America 1250 action

During the mild off-roading that we did, the Pan America felt apt for the job. I put it in the off-road mode and it delivered just the right amount of traction by allowing me to slide a bit. Even the suspension setup soaked up most of it by bottoming out only on rare occasions.

As for the weight balance, the Pan America requires calculated inputs from you while manoeuvring since its weight is constantly felt. Another grouse was the lack of bottom-end grunt. While the engine is really sweet out on the road, there’s a noticeable lack of low-end torque during slow off-roading. Nevertheless, it shouldn’t be a problem for someone belting it on trails. 

Harley-Davidson PAN America 1250 action

Another major issue I faced was while riding in traffic was that the engine went on heating up to extreme levels and all the heat was directed to my calves and thighs. It was so intense at a point that I had to pull up at the roadside and let it cool down. 

Our Take

Harley-Davidson PAN America 1250 action

The Pan America is truly unlike any other Harley-Davidson offering and that’s a positive point in my opinion. It has a very potent, high-revving engine, it handles nicely, the brakes are bang on, it’s comfortable, and all the electronics and features work just fine. Except for some minor rough edges, the Pan America comes across as a potent touring machine and off-roader. Now, coming to the main point, the Pan America Special edition is priced at around Rs 20 lakh (ex-showroom). With that price tag, is it really worth buying? And more importantly, how is it in comparison to its rivals like the BMW R1250GS? We will bring you these answers soon as we test the Pan America in more detail in the coming weeks. Stay tuned. 

Photography by Kaustubh Gandhi