2021 Harley-Davidson Pan America 1250 | First Look Review

The 2021 Harley-Davidson Pan American 1250 Special shown in Baja Orange and Stone Washed White Pearl.

It’s official: Harley-Davidson has entered the adventure touring segment with the all-new 2021 Harley-Davidson Pan America 1250. The ADV class has become one of the most hotly contested categories in motorcycling, and H-D is joining the fray with two models — a base model Pan America 1250, priced at $17,319 and the up-spec Pan America 1250 Special priced at $19,999. Loaded with technology, an all-new 1250cc V-twin engine and much more, these American-made ADV look ready for action.


The Pan America features an all-new Revolution Max engine, a 1,250cc DOHC liquid-cooled 60-degree V-twin that pumps out a claimed 150 horsepower at 9,000 rpm and 94 lb-ft of torque at 6,750 rpm. Harley says these healthy performance figures include a broad powerband but doesn’t forgo a nice top-end surge that extends to the 9,500 rpm redline.

The 2021 Harley-Davidson Pan America 1250 standard model, shown in River Rock Gray with Medallion.

H-D has pulled out all the stops with the Revolution Max engine when it comes to engine tech, and we see things like Variable Valve Timing (VVT) and a finger-follower valvetrain employed. The brand has also adopted a radically oversquare 105mm bore and 72mm stroke, which is a huge departure for H-D engines. High-mileage riders will also enjoy hearing about the maintenance-free valves, thanks to hydraulic adjusters, saving owners time and money at the dealer.

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The Revolution Max engine uses an interesting exhaust solution with two mufflers — although based on photos, you might miss that detail. The most prominent side-mounted muffler is accompanied by another muffler located under the engine that H-D says won’t impede off-road excursions or compromise lean angles. Speaking of emissions, the new powerplant is Euro 5 compliant.

Lastly, a 6-speed gearbox equipped with a slipper clutch is part of the package.

The 2021 Harley-Davidson Pan America 1250 Special (shown) features a tire pressure monitoring system, centerstand, multi-position brake pedal, radiator brush guard, aluminum skid plate, heated grips, hand guards and a steering damper.

On the electronics front, both Pan Am machines are equipped with a full suite of IMU-supported rider aids that we’ve come to expect on flagship models. To that end, five preset riding modes (Road, Sport, Rain, Off-Road and Off-Road Plus) adjust the intervention levels of linked cornering ABS, lean-angle-detecting traction control and drag-torque slip-control. Hill-hold assist and cruise control are standard. The 1250 Special gets a few more electronic gizmos in the form of a tire-pressure monitoring system and the Daymaker adaptive headlight system that illuminates more of the road when cornering at night.

A massive 6.8-inch full-color touchscreen TFT display is standard and can be paired with your Bluetooth-equipped mobile device to use navigation and more. The display features an anti-reflective coating, making it easy to read in direct sunlight.

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2021 Harley-Davidson Pan America 1250 Special.

To save chassis weight, H-D engineers opted to make the 1250cc powerplant a stressed member, and the Pan America is said to have a wet weight of 534 pounds while the Pan America 1250 Special tips the scales at 559 pounds. According to The Motor Company, the frame is broken down into three distinct sections — a front, mid and tail section — all bolted directly to the engine to create a rigid and sporty chassis. On that note, we see ADV geometry like a long 62.2-inch wheelbase and 25-degree rake in play, which will hopefully translate to a handy yet sure-footed motorcycle on- or off-road.

Suspension hardware is an area where the two Pan America bikes diverge. The base model 1250 features fully adjustable Showa suspension with a linkage-type shock and an ample 7.48 inches of travel at both ends. However, the 1250 Special kicks it up a notch with semi-active Showa suspension that automatically adjusts damping settings based on your riding and environment. Meanwhile, preload is adjusted based on the rider’s weight, passenger, or luggage at any given time.

2021 Harley-Davidson Pan America 1250 Special.

Special owners will also have the option to add Adaptive Ride Height (ARH) that automatically lowers the motorcycle 1 to 2 inches when coming to a stop or parked, allowing riders with shorter inseam-length to plant their boots on the ground confidently. Once the motorcycle starts out, the suspension returns to normal, maintaining full suspension travel, maximum ground clearance, and the laden 31.1-inch seat height.

In standard trim, both Pan America models feature 19- and 17-inch cast-aluminum wheels, shod with Michelin Scorcher Adventure rubber. Those that want to hit the dusty trail will want to get the optional tubeless wire-spoke wheels, as well as the optional Michelin Anakee Wild knobby tires. The 19-inch front wheel size is a wise one, as it often results in a wide tire choice plus good balance between on-road agility and off-road capability.

As these motorcycles are open-class ADV bikes, the seating accommodations look remarkably roomy around the sizable 5.6-gallon fuel tank. Each bike uses an adjustable windscreen with a 1.8-inch range of adjustment. Seat heights vary between models and remember, the Special’s electronic suspension raises and lowers the bike depending on the amount of laden weight. The standard 1250 has a lofty seat height of 34.2 inches (35.2 inches in the high position).

2021 Harley-Davidson Pan America 1250 in Vivid Black.

The Special’s seat height is more variable because of the semi-active suspension adjusting height, but it is listed at a more accommodating 33.4 inches. Also, the Special receives heated grips and hand guards.

Radially mounted 4-piston monoblock Brembo calipers and 320mm rotors in the front handle braking, accompanied by a single-piston Brembo caliper and a 280mm rotor in the rear. Additionally, the 1250 Special features a height-adjustable rear brake pedal.

Pricing for the standard Harley-Davidson Pan America 1250 begins at $17,319 and is offered in two color options; Vivid Black, River Rock Gray with Medallion ($250). Meanwhile, the full-regalia Pan America 1250 has a starting price of $19,999 and is available in three solid color options; Vivid Black, Gauntlet Gray Metallic ($250), and Deadwood Green. A two-tone Baja Orange and Stone Washed White Pearl ($350) option is available. All Special models feature a split graphic.

We’re excited about this new frontier for Harley-Davidson and we can’t wait to get some seat time aboard these machines that are expected to hit dealers this spring. Until then, feast your eyes on The Motor Company’s all-new 2021 Harley-Davidson Pan America 1250 and 1250 Special.

2021 Harley-Davidson Pan America 1250 Specs:

Base Price: $17,319; $19,999 (Special)
Website: Harley-Davidson
Engine Type: Liquid-cooled, transverse 60-degree V-twin, OHV, 4 valves per cyl.
Displacement: 1252cc (76.3ci)
Bore x Stroke: 105 x 72mm
Transmission: 6-speed, cable-actuated wet slipper clutch
Final Drive: O-ring chain
Wheelbase: 62.2.0 in.
Rake/Trail: 25 degrees/6.2 in.
Seat Height: 34.2-35.2 in.; 33.4-34.4 (Special)
Claimed Wet Weight: 534 lbs.; 559 lbs. (Special)
Fuel Capacity: 5.6 gals.

2021 Harley-Davidson Pan America 1250 and 1250 Special Photo Gallery:

25 COMMENTS

  1. Not something I’m likely to buy. Just getting tired of spending so much on motorcycles. Still, looks interesting. Curious what that finned object is sticking out of the front of the bash plate.

  2. Harley Davidson. – now just as rediculously technologically advanced as everyone else.

    Like modern cars these are no longer long-term keepers.

    When things start to wear out or get glitchy (with how many bazzillion lines of code controlling everything?) they will lose value quickly as repair of components will be impossible and the required replacement of modules will cost more than the bike will be worth.

    Remember when Mercedes Benz’ and Harley’s could be driven forever? No longer. For what? If all that complexity is what’s required to pull gullible customers into the showroom to want to ride a bike, then motorcycling is already dead.

    RIP the good car and the good motorcycle.

    • Fully disagree!! I have been riding now 30 plus years.. In my stable at this time, a 2017 Kawaski 1000 Versys with 102, 000 miles on her… My 2016 HD Soft Tail 90,000 miles…. I had many Liter class bikes ALL requiring VALVE adjustments (big bucks)… I’m differently excited about the Pan America WITH “NO VALVE” adjustments!!! As far as the technology no worries thats why they have warranties…. BMW/Japanese/English bike makers beware… Pan America NO VALVE adjustments… when this bike hits our Southern California dealers I’ll be the first in line to buy ONE and RIDE the HELL out of it!!!

    • I do hope it is not glitchy!! HD has done well on the big tourer, I do hope that things work! Oh my, you are right on point with we can no longer work on our own or park then uncover after a while without problems! They are made to run often, and hopefully not need constant tinkering! I hope this engineering from these experts will last like the V Stroms and Africa Twins! For an entry model, Benelli is interesting, not sure then the road maintained, interested to see the HD engineering team at their hand in these! I do like to ride a little rougher than a smooth show mc!

  3. It is very good to see that H-D is embracing the technology that has been proven by other manufacturers and the racing circuits. I’m old enough to remember when people ridiculed ABS and airbags as marketing ploys for the gullible. Both have saved countless lives. The technology laden bikes I’ve owned failed mechanically, not electronically. Final drives, fuel delivery systems, and frame cracks are some of the problems I’ve encountered over 20 years of riding Adventure bikes. But the ABS and adaptive suspension components kept on ticking.

    • It sure would be interesting to see it do well! Let’s hope the build is as well thought out as the reveal! It appears to have the wanted options of what works! Wow! Even for what is not so maintainable, all that engineering history, and redesign of a safer iron horse, I hope, and pray, that when we start seeing them in May, they work well! Let’s write a review in 10 years! Thank you so much for your input!

  4. It’s certainly an adventurous departure from their iconic iron horse, but really, how available is it? Our local HD dealership has shuttered; it was a very decent place to purchase and service. In fact, every major manufacturer is still present within a two hour ride . . . but not Harley-Davidson. My understanding is that in Europe and Canada more than a few dealerships have been shuttered, and not because the local owners wanted it.

  5. The sad comment on this from a historical perspective is this: Think what Harley could have achieved had they given Buell the engine development for the Ulysses model, as in a liquid cooled modern design , instead of having to be laden with the Sportster engine/drivetrain. Buell would not have had to outsource an engine from Rotax. I worked in final assembly at York from 2004-2009. I was privileged to work the Buell Demo at Elkhart Lake in 2008. It was a shame the way they were shut down with no forewarning.

  6. A little on the heavy side but doable, way more spec power than needed and all the electronic gizmos, whatever… I was expecting wire wheels not to be an option but it appears they are serious. Kudos for HD to jump in. Just have to live with the orange I guess. I’m not a buyer but being a fresh machine i’d wait a year as the price is not easy to bite for an untested model. Funny curious what the rag crowd thinks.

  7. It seems to have the goods to compete in the open ADV class as a viable option. Still need to see how it actually works in a comparo though as there are some very good bikes to go against. Drawing away brand loyal owners is another hurdle. Intrigued by the engine and hope it finds it’s way into several applications, don’t like the looks but you know what they say about beauty…We’ll see if it sells well enough over the next few years for it to stick around.

  8. I wanted to like this, But for an adventure bike it is a no go because of all the tech / electronics, which will fail. How many Harley techs have been trained in fixing the electronic gremlins? None. I have had three harleys, key word is HAD!. All maintenance hogs, Currently have eight bikes, none a Harley and none with the problems. Honda, Suzuki, Kawasaki and Yamaha. Just ride them, not work on them constantly. My old KLR will still be going down the road, when this new harley is in the shop. Plus, Harley has priced themselves out of the market. $18.000 to $20.000 for an unproven bike. Why not build something we want, Like a 1200 Sportster engine in a Dyna chassis. Great handling with Harley’s most reliable engine. I might consider buying that.

  9. I have been riding motorcycles for over 50 years and it is encouraging to see Harley start to adapt with newer technology.
    Rode Jap bikes up until 7 years ago and have been pleased with Harley’s since and this just adds another possibility to my riding stable.

    • Agree Terry.Been racing MX and riding motorcycles for right at 50 yrs.Also great to see Harley step up they’re game on the tech side and waking up on the design side.For me nothing in the industry would be better than seeing Harley competing with all the other brands .

  10. I was skeptical at first before seeing this review but now I’m very interested in this bike. I’ve owned several BMWs and now own a Yamaha Super Ten because of its reliability. It appears this bike might have fewer servicing intervals than a big GS and it will attract many GS owners.

  11. Have six bikes in stable… going to sell a few to make room for the HD I have always wanted them to produce… I will have to move the Ultra over to make room!

  12. Was excitably waiting for this. I’ve had adventure bikes for 18 years, and used them.
    Biggest advances have been tech. and price in huge leaps.
    Now they are too big in weight, price, power and tech. for me.
    Good idea the reg/rec looks easily accessible.
    HD are wonderfull at bringing out radical models every few years, or buying up from somebody else. Then dropping them.
    Shame.
    Looks a good tourer though, with 100BHP, 400 Lbs, 10:1 Comp and the rugged look of a WLC45.

  13. I rode one today ,and I am impressed to say the least, my complaint seeing pictures of it, was that it looked really long. The first thing I did was take it out on the Riding Academy range, and do some U-Turns ,and serpentine , and it was very nimble to say the least. The bike has PLENTY of power in sport mode though I am sure after time I would want more as we always do. there is a rain mode which makes the bike lazy, a highway mode, sport mode, dirt mode, and a sport dirt mode. $20k is on the high side. I will wait a while before I own one, because you can’t buy one on the showroom floor, and it’s limited production. To get one you have to order it. Not to mention I am a bit skittish of Harley doing something new, and they don’t have a great track record doing so.

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