THE highly anticipated and slightly controversial Harley-Davidson Pan America 1250 Special has arrived on Australian soil, and we were lucky enough to be one of the first to test out the new beast, on the road and the dirt.
At first news of Harley-Davidson’s foray into the highly competitive adventure market that’s dominated by European and Japanese brands, we, like a lot of punters were left scratching our heads and quiet frankly wondering why.
To say we weren’t overly enthusiastic at that point, was a bit of an understatement. But after a sneak peek during a visit to Harley-Davidson’s local HQ, we realised the American bike maker might just have something here.
The Pan America wasn’t as big and heavy as it looked in the leaked photos we’d seen (for the record it’s 4kg lighter that BMW’s all-conquering GS offering). It had a sexy looking TFT dash. What we saw was enough to properly pique our curiosity.
Fast forward to this week, and we found ourselves in Kiama on the NSW south coast for the Australian launch of the 2021 Harley-Davidson Pan America 1250 Special. Banter between various media outlets was focused on the new Revolution Max motor.
A technology walk through kicked off proceedings, following by presentations from the design team in the United States. It’s a paradigm shift for Harley-Davidson that began with the electric LiveWire (now a standalone brand) and continues with the Pan America.
This bike genuinely pushes the boundaries of technology and the sheer amount of it in this bike should silence some of the knockers who point the finger at Harley-Davidson’s cruiser range for lacking in anything new.
It’s in our first interaction with the bike that we get to see the first piece of functionality that Harley-Davidson has implemented with the Pan America. Everything is adjustable. Seat height, the foot brake lever, and suspension can all be tailored to suit the rider.
There’s more to the suspension system though, and we’ll tell you about that shortly. First, we were off to the popular Robertson Pie Shop via Jamberoo, Albion Park and that great bit of road known as Macquarie Pass.
It’s a well balanced bike, and after the first few corners we’d found our groove, with the bike tipping into corners very nicely. It has a good centre of gravity that’s genuinely confidence inspiring.
A first for the market and Harley-Davidson is the automatic height adjustable suspension which lowers when coming to a stop to enables the rider to more easily be flat footed. The suspension then lifts as you rides away, returning to the standard ride height.
The best part about this system is you don’t notice it while riding. This is going to give shorter riders who swayed away from this market segment a real opportunity to see what adventure bike riding is all about.
The 1250 Revolution Max engine is smooth and crisp and boasts a tantalising 112kW of power, and delivery is almost, dare we say it, un-Harley like. The drivetrain and gearbox package seems quite impressive.
Having downed a pie, and completed a quick photo shoot, it was time to head to Kangaroo Valley, this time in Sport mode. It was an opportunity to test the Pan America with its stiffer suspension setup and all its glorious horsepower unleashed.
It was starting to feel like every time we unlocked another part of the Pan America puzzle the bike taunted us. At this point our mind was made up, we needed more time with this bike, and not just a media launch.
Next stop, lunch. It was all a bit fancy but was definitely a nice way to unwind from the morning’s activities and prepare for the next stage – dirt roads and river crossings. We engaged off road mode via the push button on the handlebars, and away we went.
The Pan America seemed to eat up the bumps and ruts with ease. The bike felt sure footed on a mix of terrains. Last stop was a grass track with inclines, ruts, embankments and all that other fun adventure bike stuff.
A quick lap around there let us see further what this bike was truly capable of, and bought Harley-Davidson’s 2021 Pan America 1250 Special launch event to a close. We came away very impressed with what they’ve created, and its potential to shake up the market.
Harley-Davidson will launch the new model with a huge range of parts and accessories that will be available when the bike hits showrooms. This includes adventure wear like jackets, pants, gloves and boots, designed in partnership with REV’ÍT.
We look forward to spending an extended period of time with Harley-Davidson’s Pan America shortly so we can bring you a full review. We can’t wait to get back on board this adventure beast. In the meantime, you can watch our quick intro video below.