OneShift Rides The Harley-Davidson Pan America 1250 For The First Time at an Adventure Camp

James Wong
5 Aug 2021
 

"For H-D to produce a bike so vastly different to what they usually make, and for it to feel this good, is a remarkable achievement."

Harley-Davidson (H-D) may be most well-known for its heavyweight, air-cooled cruiser motorcycles, but its latest Pan America, the company’s first adventure touring motorcycle, deserves just as much attention. 

Launched as a standard and a Special edition, the latter features an industry-first Adaptive Ride Height suspension which will gracefully lower the bike imperceptibly as it comes to a stop, so that riders of all heights will be able to get onto and handle the 239kg bike with ease. 

Both variants will have a 1,250cc V-Twin producing 150 hp and 127 Nm. It has ample low-end torque to allow low-speed rides across all manner of terrain, yet has a ferocious top-end that is more reminiscent of a sports bike. 

Both models also feature a 6.8-inch TFT touchscreen that displays all instrumentation and infotainment functions. The screen is covered with non-reflective glass to make it easier to view in most lighting conditions, and is in a robust sealed case designed to withstand the off-road environment, and to be weather-resistant and dust-resistant. The touch screen functions when a rider is wearing gloves, but is not affected by rain or other natural inputs.

In line with its enlarged multi-purpose brief, there will be various riding modes on offer, up to seven in the case of the Special. There are five pre-programmed riding modes and Two that can be customised. Pre-programed ride modes for the Pan America 1250 models include Road, Sport, Rain, Off-Road and Off-Road Plus. Each ride mode consists of a specific combination of power delivery, engine braking, Cornering Enhanced Antilock Braking System (C-ABS) and Cornering Enhanced Traction Control System (C-TCS) settings.

As expected with all modern luxury bikes these days, The Pan America also comes with a host of features such as a Semi-Active Suspension front and rear, Cornering Rider Safety Enhancements like Electronically Linked Braking (ELB), Antilock Braking System (ABS), Traction Control System (TCS), Drag-Torque Slip Control System (DSCS), Hill Hold Control (HHC) and Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS).

The Pan America 1250 starts at SGD46,900 (excluding COE).

The first ride 

H-D invited media to the Sarimbun Scout Camp to experience the Pan America both on-road and off-road. It is the first time the motorcycle has been shown in public after its virtual launch on 28th July. It was an unusual location for a Harley, but the Pan America proved to be a natural in the surroundings more familiar with secondary school and co-curricular camps. 

After a product briefing, we were whisked off quickly for our first ride. This was an on-road activity, but it involved some light gravel roads. There was also a U-turn area as well as a short slalom. 

 It was my first time back on a bike in some 5 years, so naturally I was a little nervous. However, the folks at H-D seemed more confident in me than I was in myself, and after being shown how to change between the various riding modes, the group started their bikes and I followed suit. 

Even though I have not ridden in a long time, the Pan America felt instantly familiar. There is nothing wildly different about its buttons, controls and levers. An immense amount of technology is packed into the bike, but it all works seamlessly beneath the surface. 

Getting onto the bike is dead easy, thanks to its adaptive suspension. I have been on a BMW GS before and it took some struggle to get on, and once seated I had to tip-toe a fair bit. Nothing of this sort in the Pan America. This is rather revolutionary for the adventure bike segment, as these off-road machines tend to have high-riding characteristics to allow for larger ground clearance. Upon moving off, the suspension will gradually return to its normal ride height. Ingenious.

When we got to the U-turn area, the bike was surprisingly easy to maneuver. Again, because of its friendly ride height, there is less fear of losing one’s balance should things go pear shaped. We stopped on a hill to test the hill hold function and it worked perfectly. I can see this being a lifesave in steep multi-story parking lots. At the slalom area, memories of my bike training in the SAF came flooding back but again, it was far easier in the Pan America than in any bike I have previously tried. The low speed throttle and speed regulation is terrific, allowing a steady speed despite applying next to no throttle on flat ground. 

After the low speed sections we were off to the open road. At a short gravel interval, the bike felt absolutely confident. It was built just for these type of surfaces, and going at speed isn’t a problem at all. Despite the unevenness, comfort was exemplary and it could go on all day long. 

Once on tarmac, I switched to Sport mode and had the chance to stretch the engine to its redline. The ECU mapping is really aggressive in Sport, dialing up throttle response and I feel it’s a bit too much for the road. There is just so much power everywhere; even at just halfway through the rev range, you would feel like you are going way too fast. However, the suspension settings were just brilliant for fast riding. Thankfully, you can create your own individual preferences in the customisable mode to get the right setup. For Singapore’s streets, I would have the ECU map in ‘Road’ and suspension in ‘Sport’. 

Because it is an adventure bike I initially was a little cautious with my cornering speeds, but I soon realised that the bike is at home dancing along a B-road. It tracks absolutely true and feels like it can devour not just distance but corners just as well, too. To say this of a H-D is quite remarkable - it actually feels sporty. I really had fun with this part of the programme.

Next was the chance to try the Pan America on the off-road section. Because of some rain overnight, some parts of the course were muddy. It proved to be a challenging time for a novice like me, as one has to get used to the bike slipping and sliding beneath in order to get through some of the muddiest sections. Seeing as how the experts finished the course impressively and even attempted jumps with significant airtime, I am pretty sure it is a lack of my skill rather than a lack of the bike’s ability.

For H-D to produce a bike so vastly different to what they usually make, and for it to feel this good - I would say at least matching and even exceeding what the benchmark currently is - is a remarkable achievement. From the short ride of a few hours, I got a promising taste of what the bike can do but do check out our full road-test of the Pan America soon as we spend more time with it in everyday conditions. 

In Summary

We Like

This new type of H-D is approachable, eminently usable and superb for everyday use. It's the brand's first adventure tourer, but it already feels competitive with the best out there. Clever suspension and hill hold feature. 

We Don't

It's rather pricey and you'd have to pay $10k more for the Special which is the one you'd really want. The engine does get hot between the thighs and you'd feel it on a hot day in traffic. 

Verdict

A quick first ride demonstrates H-D has built a excellent adventure tourer in its first iteration. 

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