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Tuesday 9 March 2021

Pan America Adventure Tourer

Pan America RA1250S ADV

Although the bikes themselves (the standard and the 'Special') still won't be in dealerships until May (apparently), Harley has finally and formally unveiled the MY2021 debut of the long awaited, much anticipated Pan America Adventure Tourer.

Jochen Zeitz looking 'rugged' in Kenya: "From the Arctic Circle to the base of Mount Kilimanjaro, the Pan America is designed to explore, built to endure and engineered for endless adventure."

The primary takeaways from the information published by Harley are that it is a capable platform loaded with consumer-friendly cockpit, handling and performance tech and that the new engine is by far the most sophisticated and contemporary Harley's engineers have been allowed to come up with since the Japanese Superbike market take-over of the 1970s.
Equally important is the fact that the two Pan America models are globally compliant (again, no small thing) and that the company is being competitive with its pricing.
The standard version is expected to have an MRSP of around $17,300.00, with the 'S' (Special) variant on showroom floors in the United States for $19,999.00 mark - a price differential widely being touted as reasonable for the extras involved.
By Harley's standards, that is restrained and clearly indicates a lesson learned. These first two Pan America models are starting out as being broadly competitive. The RA1250 is a new platform that is going up against mid-range, if not premium, BMW, Honda, Triumph, KTM, Yamaha and even Ducati alternates.


The RA1250 Pan America S (Special) features Harley's innovative Adaptive Ride Height (ARH) system available as an option and is expected to sell at around the $19,995.00 mark.

The segment benchmark is the BMW R 1250 GS with an MRSP of $17,895 for the base model and $20,195 for the R 1250 GS/Adventure - the range median is around the $19,450 mark. The 2021 Honda Africa Twin range has a base price of just $14,999, but the median is the Adventure Special ES at $17,199.
The new and very well received 2021 KTM 1290 Super Adventure R is listed around the $18,500.00 mark, and while the new Triumph Tiger 850 Sport enters the fray at around $11,995.00, it is manufactured in Thailand, so its base cost can be kept low, and as you move up the Tiger range, the pricing gets into broadly the same bracket.
Described as an "Explore-It-All Machine," the Pan America gives Harley a genuinely Dual Purpose ADV start-point that recognizes, in the continental American context, that the 'Getting There' is as much part of the equation as the 'Being There'.
It also recognizes that a very high percentage of the miles ridden on ADV models worldwide are actually ridden in downtown, urban, suburban and peri-urban conditions - according to some estimates up to 80% of the miles done on ADV models in some markets.
While the Pan America is no BAJAJ or DAKAR winner in the making, it isn't designed to be and doesn't need to be. It is powerful at 150 hp at 9,000 rpm (likely 130/135 at the tire) and 94 ft lb torque (127 Nm) from the new 1,250 cc/76.3 ci liquid-cooled Revolution Max engine. Plus, it is light by Harley standards, and strong.

The RA1250 Pan America (standard) weighs in at 534 lb wet without load, has a 62.2" (1,580 mm) wheelbase, 8.3" (210 mm) static ground clearance, 25 degrees of steering head rake, an unladen seat height of 31.8" (807 mm) and is expected to retail for a little over $17,000,00.

At 534 lb wet for the base model (without luggage) and without the driving modes and other electronic handling aids, it isn't exactly going to be as nimble as some of the emerging new generation of Dual Sport options that are becoming available in increasing numbers - especially those engineered in China.
However, the judgement shouldn't be about its start-point specs, the judgment should be about what it means for the brand and where it could be in competitive terms in, say, a decade from now. In both respects it looks like Harley certainly hasn't disgraced itself. Its engineers have done well, and seeing footage of it 'at play', the styling doesn't look as gauche as might have been first thought.
It looks rugged and it will clearly be strong enough for the conditions it will be exposed to. The use of the engine as a stressed member with the front frame, a mid-frame and a tail section bolted to the powertrain reduces overall weight while making for the kind of satisfyingly stiff riding solution that Adventure Tourers enjoy. A one-piece cast aluminum swingarm also contributes to minimizing the unsprung weight.
The precision of the handling is augmented by a slew of electronic cornering rider safety enhancements and a positively un-Harley like approach to the front and rear suspension - its adjustable, reliable, durable and, urm, good. Harley appears to have shopped rather further up Showa's art-of-the-possible price list than usual.
It is in the electronics that Harley has joined the top table of OEM creature comforts. To be fair, it has improved and embraced the opportunities to enrich the riding experience on its Big Twins quite dramatically in recent years, but there has always been a haunting sense of foreboding that should Harley ever need to mix it with the likes of BMW, Honda et al, the company would come up short.
Not so. From the riding modes to the cornering safety enhancements, through to the semi-active suspension and the functionality, usability and quality of the information-rich 6.8" viewable area TFT display, Harley has met the bar expected by riders in the ADV market.
Among the plethora of electronic riding aids, it is a genuine motorcycle industry first. Though initially only available as an option on the 'S', expect to see the Adaptive Ride Height (ARH) concept spread throughout the Dual Sport market in the years to come. It squares one of the circles in ADV design and is a solution for the competing requirements of a manageable seat height with adequate ground clearance.
There hasn't been any scuttlebutt about likely production numbers, except that they will likely be low and slow to start with, but with dealers desperate to sell everything and anything they can get their hands on, it is likely that Harley will be able to sell its MY2021 production allocation quickly and that dealers should, initially, be able to hold close to or even exceed the MRSP.


The February 22nd online launch video was considerably better than the January effort that introduced the MY2021 Big Twins. This was more of a late 1980s, polished MTV treatment compared to the early days of stilted corporate videos that we saw in January. It was simultaneously slicker, more instructive and more economical in terms of the balance between optics, hyperbole and actual information. It benefitted from being much shorter and, having only one product to pimp and one customer group to seduce, it had the opportunity to be better.
We'd all better get used to CEO Jochen Zeitz being up front and center as the voice and face of the Bar 'n Shield from here on though - he bookended the product presentation, wanting to make sure that we understood him to be a person with the credentials to speak lovingly about the new look company he is leading and its new look products.
"I've put in many miles aboard Pan America in beautiful and remote parts of the world and have experienced the innovations and capabilities that will unlock our brand's passion for adventure for more people around the world," said Zeitz. "I am truly excited about Pan America. Adventure touring is a natural fit for Harley-Davidson."
The presentation finally confessed the truth of Harley's roots, from the age when its primary competitor was the horse - an era in which the pavements and cruise control-friendly long straights of the Interstate Highway network were the stuff of fantasy.
Harley worked hard to earn its right to make a play for the ADV market, and by and large succeeded in doing so. It still sounded 'innocent' at times - "The spirt of Adventure Touring on a Pan America 1250 is one of endless possibilities and unrestrained freedom for the soul. From highways to dirt paths, from mountain tops to river valleys, the thirst for adventure spurs riders forward to discover what lays beyond the next bend in the trail."
Harley needs to come to terms with the fact that while the ADV sector may be an all-new bright and shiny thing to them, it is a mature sector with more than 20 years of progress underpinning its main combatant's' positioning. Pointing to the "tenacious spirit that has driven Harley-Davidson to develop a motorcycle that will win the hearts of bold, adventurous individuals who seek out the wild spaces" etc., will not be convincing to those who already 'get it' where Dual Sport/ADV riding is concerned.

Eventually Harley will realize that it is now entering territory where it doesn't need to sell the lifestyle, just sell its ability to outperform and innovate its competitors into submission - fortunately its start-point gives it an excellent platform on which to build forward.
In entering these shark infested waters, the 'Bar 'n Shield' has the potential to be a headwind as much as a credential. Buyers of ADV motorcycles are a technologically advanced and ride quality savvy community who aren't fooled easily. You only need to break down irretrievably once while 20 miles or more from the nearest paved road in order to be carrying a grudge into the next buying cycle.
Harley must continue to back its engineers to understand the market it is entering and let them do their thing.


One final bit of news that came out of the Pan America launch presentation and video. Harley has now confirmed, confessed and conceded that the equally much awaited second iteration of the 1250 cc Revolution Max, the 1250 cc Custom Cruiser that has, effectively, replaced the stillborn streetfighter concept, is indeed going to see a launch at some stage this year.