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HomeZA BikersBike ReviewsHarley-Davidson Pan America – Going Adventuring with The Motor Company

Harley-Davidson Pan America – Going Adventuring with The Motor Company

Photo credit: Bjorn Moreira / ZA Bikers

The idea of embarking on a motorcycling adventure is not exactly new to Harley riders. Way back in 1928, when motorcycling was still in its infancy, a fellow by the name of Zoltan Zulkowsky talked his buddy, Gyula Bartha, into taking a bit of a ride with him on his new Harley. 170,000 k’s and years later, after cruising the globe, they returned home.

Considering the lack of infrastructure, tar roads and spares outlets and even fuel availability at the time, this was an incredibly brave (or stupid) undertaking. It makes our most hardcore motorcycling adventures fade into total insignificance. In the fullness of time, motorcycle manufacturers started building bespoke motorcycles designed with adventuring in mind, and so it was with Harley-Davidson. 120 years after they built their first bike, enter the Pan America, the first dedicated adventure bike built by The Motor Company.

Photo credit: Bjorn Moreira / ZA Bikers

The Pan that is the subject of this review is the base model, as opposed to the Pan America Special which has enough bells and whistles and unique features to choke a mule. This Pan is the kind of model that floats my boat. Generally speaking, manufacturers want us to just pay for every feature which they build into the bike, whether we actually want it or not.

We even brag about the bike’s features in the pub as if they really matter, as opposed to actually evaluating the pros and cons of each feature. This has filtered down from the car industry. You can even start your new Ford Ranger remotely from your cell phone. This might be the bee’s knees to a millennial, but to me, it is indicative of how uncommon sense has become.

Photo credit: Bjorn Moreira / ZA Bikers

To term, the Pan which I rode as ‘base’ is an injustice as it suggests that the bike is in some way lacking, which is absolutely not so. The heart of the bike is the excellent new 1252 cc 60-degree V-Twin, pumping out 150 hp and 128 Nm of torque, utilised as a stressed member to reduce weight and size. The motor is a gem, feeling KTM responsive but, dare I say it?—more refined. More on that when we chat about how it rides.

Speaking of size, the Pan America is quite compact, yet enjoys spacious and extremely comfortable ergonomics. Comfort which is enhanced by a firm, yet all-day comfortable saddle, for both rider and pillion. It is flat, with a fantastic foam density rivalling the best seats out there. This is a vital feature for any bike on which you are likely to spend extended time. Bars are wide and fall comfortably to hand, giving you a feeling of control.

Photo credit: Bjorn Moreira / ZA Bikers

I have now become accustomed to the looks of the Pan and I dig it. If you are shown a picture of all the Adventure bikes on the market, this is the one that clearly has Harley DNA. It is tall and slim with a functional cockpit housing a 6,8” TFT display and a one-hand adjustable screen. It has a lever and trigger mechanism, which once mastered, allows easy ‘on the move’ adjustment. The screen does a great job of weatherproofing the rider and making high-speed cruising effortless. Both the seated and standing positions are intuitive and spot-on.

Photo credit: Bjorn Moreira / ZA Bikers

The TFT display tells you everything that you need to know. Speed, gear, odometer, trips, temperature (and low-temp warning), side-stand warning, cruise, range, rev counter and phone paring for music and calls. Satnav is available via the Harley app and Bluetooth from your smartphone. Battery voltage is also displayed. The non-reflective screen stops unwanted reflection, but in truth, also makes the screen illegible in direct sunlight. The info is accessed via a touch screen at standstill, or the left-hand switchgear whilst on the move.

The 6-speed gearbox shifts accurately and precisely but does require a firm foot. Similarly, the clutch takes up sweetly but is just a trifle heavy. This is a man’s bike after all. In both cases, these are things I noted when I rode off on the bike and after an hour’s riding was irrelevant. Probably because I was just so enjoying riding what is honestly a very good motorcycle.

Photo credit: Bjorn Moreira / ZA Bikers

This Pan rolls on a 120/70×19 front and a 170/60×17 rear wheel and tyre combo, mounted on alloy mag wheels. I hear all you naysayers chirping but honestly unless you do really dumb stuff or run crazy low tyre pressures, you will never have an issue, given the intended use of the bike. I love the simplicity of plug and bomb to fix a flat over the concern of maybe dinging a rim in the small potential time that these bikes will spend off-road. If you absolutely must, you can pay a hell of a premium for the ‘Special’, which has spoked rims (Also tubeless).

Photo credit: Bjorn Moreira / ZA Bikers

21,2 litres of fuel allows for a decent fuel range given the 5,5 to 6,5 l/100 fuel consumption which you will experience in general riding. At an all-in weight of 242 kg, the Harley is in the ballpark with its competition. Radially mounted 4-pot Brembo callipers and 320 mm front discs, aided by a single pot 280 mm rear disc, give powerful and predictable braking performance with a typical Brembo feel. Good brakes are pretty damn important on the Pan America for the simple reason that this bike really hauls!

Photo credit: Bjorn Moreira / ZA Bikers

The bike is endowed with brilliant dynamic ability. Various engine modes allow for mapping to suit how and where you ride. Road, Sport, Rain and two Offroad modes. (One with Offroad ABS and the other with ABS switched off totally) I rode mainly in Sport mode and loved it. On a couple of occasions, I did feel as if the throttle position was not quite in sync with what the motor was doing. A bit like the fly-by-wire throttle on Yamaha’s Super Ten. It would probably be imperceptible to most riders, however, given the different bikes that I ride and evaluate, I am probably more critical than most.

Photo credit: Bjorn Moreira / ZA Bikers

The Harley Pan America is a revelation to ride. It is fast, agile and utterly stable, even at the ‘inappropriate’ speeds which the bike attains so effortlessly. It has an almost ‘Motard’ like quality. It begs to be ridden briskly and responds brilliantly. The Showa suspension has full manual adjustment. It is firm, well-damped and keeps the bike tracking straight and true, even over the dodgy surfaces that unfortunately are the norm in SA today.

The motor contributes wonderfully to this frivolity. It is smooth and punchy right through the rev range. The power and torque curves allow you to not need to rev the motor mercilessly to get a hurry up. Changing up in the upper mid-range has the bike rocketing forward effortlessly. It is definitely an all-round match for its competition. It revs with the same urgency as your big KTM’s but with a little more refinement. Power delivery is also Katoom-like, with less really low down torque than a 1250 GS, but revving out in a lusty fashion. It actually reminded me a lot of the Indian FTR in terms of proper riding enjoyment, albeit with more power.

Photo credit: Bjorn Moreira / ZA Bikers

This bike is incredibly relevant. It is multi-talented and very capable. It offers a great alternative to what is available in this space, but with a heritage second to none. It gives you a few bikes in one, with no real compromise, a recipe that BMW has used for their GS range to such good effect. I would tour the Tankwa as happily as I would do a track day.

If you dare to be different, go ride the Pan America. Pricing just north of R300K is totally competitive. You owe it to yourself. It is that good. Hats off to The Motor Company! I would love to own a Pan. I’ll have the basic spec in black, please…

Photo credit: Bjorn Moreira / ZA Bikers

Harley-Davidson Pan America

For more information on the bike featured in this article, click on the link below…


Harley-Davidson Pan America 12...

Pricing From R369,500 (RRP)

Brand: Harley-Davidson
Dave Cilliers
Dave Cilliers
My name is Dave Cilliers, from as far back as I can remember I have loved travel. Africa provides salve for the gypsy in my soul. My best trips are done travelling to unlikely places with unlikely vehicles, keeping it as simple and basic as possible.