Harley shows us a proper off-road-capable adventure tourer

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The Harley-Davidson Motor Company has been making progress on its “100 new bikes” initiative, and while some of them have been variations on existing platforms, the new-for-next-year Pan America represents a net-new direction for Milwaukee. This marks a radical departure from the norm for The MoCo as it’s what you might call an actual proper adventure bike. It’s built with an off-road bias to a degree far beyond the flat-track bike or any Sportster-with-knobbies homemade scrambler, and it sports plenty of that rally-type style with a brand-new V-Twin powerplant as the icing on the cake.

2021 Harley-Davidson Pan America Design

  • Bold new look for H-D
  • TFT display
  • Blackout styling
2021 Harley-Davidson Pan America
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2021 Harley-Davidson Pan America
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The Pan America is a bold move for the factory. Not only is it new territory for both their designers and dealers, but it’s a move onto contested turf with no shortage of established marques with which to butt heads.

The focus on rough-terrain riding is apparent right out of the gate. A sculpted front fender and beefy uprights lead the way under a blunt front fairing, complete with a brush-guard under the wide, recessed headlight. Up top, a vented, clear, rally-style screen extends the rider’s protection upwards to complete the pocket. Stock handguards protect your hamburger shovels from biting temperatures and brush strikes, plus I expect they’ll protect your clutch and brake levers when, not if, you drop it.

Behind the glass and accompanying wind deflectors, a TFT screen bundles all of the pertinent metrics into a single location, and this is the entirety of the instrumentation. Blackout treatment is rife, and it displaces any kind of chrome bling. I don’t know about you but I’m glad to see that at the tank console and aircraft-style fuel door, ’cause it bothers me something fierce when light gets reflected up under my shades.

Duplex seating accommodates pilot and passenger, and the set of flip-out footpegs and large J.C. handles help keep your friend aboard though I doubt I’d want to go off-road with someone on the back, myself. The long-stroke rear suspension leaves an aching void between the upswept subframe and rear wheel, and a short, high-mount mudguard completes the gear in the rear. While the stock bike comes bare, the accessory catalog offers a set of hard-side bags and a top-case for some serious dry-storage capacity.

2021 Harley-Davidson Pan America Chassis

  • Tubular steel frame
  • Engine guards and bash plate
  • Laced wheels
  • Brembo brakes
2021 Harley-Davidson Pan America
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2021 Harley-Davidson Pan America
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2021 Harley-Davidson Pan America
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Details on the Pan America are still scarce, but it looks like the frame is to have a tubular-steel construction with a Trellis-style subframe and yoke-style swingarm. To limit weight, the factory opted for the stressed-engine approach that uses the mill to displace the downtube/cradle sections of the frame. Many manufacturers just let the lump hang out of the front of the engine area, but H-D adds a set of engine guards that double as protection for the radiator. A bash plate completes the engine protection down low to prevent terrain strikes from damaging the plant.

Brembo supplies the anchors, and since there are dual front brakes you have plenty of brakeage with which to work. Laced wheels round out the rolling chassis and mount a set of gnarly-looking Michelin stealth-knobbies that bring a dual-surface capacity to the table. The inverted front forks look like they may be adjustable, but the factory is keeping such details close to the vest thus far.

2021 Harley-Davidson Pan America Drivetrain

  • 1,250 cc liquid-cooled Revolution Max engine
  • 145+ horsepower
  • 90+ pound-feet of torque
2021 Harley-Davidson Pan America
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2021 Harley-Davidson Pan America
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2021 Harley-Davidson Pan America
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Power for the Pan America comes from a 1,250 cc Revolution Max plant to the tune of 145-plus horsepower and 90-plus pound-feet of torque. Why the “plus?” Well, it’s ’cause H-D is still being coy at this point, and I haven’t exactly had the opportunity to throw one on a dynamometer yet. We know it’s a 60-degree V-Twin and that it’s liquid-cooled, but it’s unclear how much, if any, of Harley’s new RDRS safety electronics will make the jump into this family tree.

At a glance, the jugs seem to be offset which suggests a side-by-side arrangement for the connecting rod big ends and probably a common crankpin in the bottom end rather than the old two-into-one conrods. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say it’s going to sport chain-driven, over-head cams rather than pushrods for the valvetrain timing, and I think that’s pretty safe money. I also expect this engine to have a higher-revving nature than the equal-displacement Sportster engine because of all of the above.

2021 Harley-Davidson Pan America Price

2021 Harley-Davidson Pan America
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2021 Harley-Davidson Pan America
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2021 Harley-Davidson Pan America
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Word on the street is that H-D will be looking to get around $19,000 for its 2021 Pan America. As far as color packages, it looks like basic black and a mish-mash of black orange and white are the only choices, at least at first.

2021 Harley-Davidson Pan America Competitors

2020 Honda Africa Twin Adventure Sports ES
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2019 Kawasaki Versys 1000 SE LT+
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2021 Yamaha Ténéré 700 High Resolution Exterior
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2020 Suzuki V-Strom 1050
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The liter-size and near-liter adventure-bike sector the Pan America is entering is jam packed with competition. All of the Big Four have entries in the field; Honda’s Africa Twin, Yamaha’s Ténéré line, Kawasaki’s Versys, and Suzuki’s V-Strom are all well established as apex predators in this little food chain. Ducati, BMW, KTM, and Triumph all have entries in the field as well. All told, this gives Harley a rather steep metaphorical hill to climb, especially since this genre is so far outside the MoCo’s comfort zone. Brand recognition is important, and the H-D bar and shield is definitely not going to be the first thing to pop into a prospective buyer’s mind when they consider an off-road adventure bike. Will this bike be the one to change that? We’ll see.

Read our full review of the Honda Africa Twin.
Read our full review of the Yamaha Ténéré 700.
Read our full review of the Kawasaki Versys 1000 SE LT+.
Read our full review of the Suzuki V-Strom 1050.

He Said

“Sure, it’s an exciting new direction for H-D, but I’m not convinced it’s a good move. Stiff competitive headwinds from brands known for off-road machines abound, and as usual, Harley’s prices are relatively high compared to the other major brands; none of which makes for a very auspicious start.”

She Said

My wife and fellow motorcycle writer, Allyn Hinton, says, “I am pleased to see this is presented as a truly off-road-oriented adventure bike. There are already too many on-road bikes that you have to spend a small fortune in the accessory catalog before you can even think about taking it off the pavement. The Pan America looks promising, and if the electronics package is half-way decent, the projected price isn’t all that bad when compared to the competition. That would be a welcome change from H-D’s usual M.O. of putting out a nice bike and then tacking on an ’Are you kidding me?’ price tag.”

2021 Harley-Davidson Pan America Specifications


Further Reading


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TJ Hinton
TJ Hinton
T.J got an early start from his father and other family members who owned and rode motorcycles, and by helping with various mechanical repairs throughout childhood. That planted a seed that grew into a well-rounded appreciation of all things mechanical, and eventually, into a formal education of same. Though primarily a Harley rider, he has an appreciation for all sorts of bikes and doesn't discriminate against any particular brand or region of origin. He currently holds an Associate's degree in applied mechanical science from his time at the M.M.I.  Read full bio
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All images featured on this website are copyrighted to their respective rightful owners. No infringement is intended. Image Source: harley-davidson.com, honda.com, yamaha-motor.com, kawasaki.com, suzukicycles.com

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