The popularity of adventure-touring motorcycles surged in the 2000s as more riders discovered their inherent versatility. So-called ADV bikes can not only eat up hundreds of miles each day but can also explore areas not frequented by most streetbikes. After a while, what many buyers of ADVs found was that there is potential danger to bouncing around the wilderness over rocks and logs, fording streams, and plowing through sand. One of those dangers is a punctured engine case many miles from help.
The Harley-Davidson Pan America 1250, a fully featured and capable ADV powered by a 150-hp V-Twin, was launched in 2021. It was an immediate success, and soon Pan Americas were finding their way into some very challenging terrain in deserts, mountains, and canyons, including single-track trails more suitable for smaller displacement dual-sport motorcycles.
The stock Harley Pan Am is a very capable motorcycle. However, from the factory, the undercarriage is woefully exposed to damage from rocks, logs, and other hard objects that can be kicked up when riding off-road. Harley-Davidson offers a robust accessory skid plate to replace the thin aluminum protector in front of the battery.
The upgraded Harley skid plate is handsome, made from heavy duty aluminum and painted black. Using six bolts, it seemed to provide the level of underside armor needed for trails like Moab’s White Rim Trail and some of the Sierra Nevada trails that have sharp-edged rocks just waiting to end a ride should they puncture the nether regions of the engine.
While the Harley skid plate provides protection – and the weight of it is held down low – it bolts right to the bottom of the engine rather than providing some sort of suspension to distribute the energy from a boulder or log hit.
Enter the Pan America Engine Guard from SW-Motech, which offers two key benefits over Harley-Davidson’s accessory skid plate. One is you can get it in either silver or black. Two, more functional and psychological support comes from the mounting system, which holds the engine guard off the bottom of the Pan Am’s 1250cc engine by about 0.5 inch with brackets that match up with the Pan Am’s original skid plate mounting holes. These mounts are able to provide a little more “give” should the engine guard be subjected to a heavy blow.
The bottom of the SW-Motech engine guard is smooth and will help slide over logs and boulders. There are ample cooling holes to help with airflow around the bottom of the engine while also providing an escape path for mud and water that might collect during a water crossing.
Installation took about 30 minutes. One mixed benefit to the SW-Motech engine guard is that it weighs less than the Harley skid plate. The SW-Motech engine guard weighs in at 7.4 lb, while the Harley skid plate weighs in at 10.7 lb. Although the overall weight reduction is good news, the Harley skid plate’s weight was at the very bottom of the engine and helped keep the center of gravity low. A few pounds doesn’t seem like much, but the change in weight distribution with the SW-Motech engine guard does shift the center of gravity up a little bit.
The Pan America Engine Guard from SW-Motech retails for $446.95.