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2021 Harley-Davidson Pan America 1250 First Look


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Harley-Davidson’s Pan America 1250 is claimed to have 150 hp.
Harley-Davidson’s Pan America 1250 is claimed to have 150 hp. (Harley-Davidson/)

We’ve eyed the teaser shots of the Pan America 1250, and we’ve speculated as to what it is planned to accomplish. Now the lid is off, the 1250 adventure-tour bike’s specs are published, and the obviously proud and pleased engineers are talking about their work.

The base-model Pan America will have an MSRP of $17,319, and the Pan America 1250 Special (with skidplate, centerstand, brush guards and other additional features) is $19,999. We are focusing on the Special because it is the technical top of the line by being equipped with semi-active suspension, and can be equipped with Adaptive Ride Height control.

The 1250 is a huge leap for Harley-Davidson, setting its engineering department free to do what few engineers have the privilege of doing: designing an all-new bike from the ground up. Harley’s traditional products have made steady advances in sophistication over the years, but that work had to fit within the classic 1936 silhouette.

Now, in a single platform, Harley has produced a liquid-cooled, DOHC, 60-degree V-twin “international” engine with variable valve timing (VVT). Rated at 150 hp at 9,000 rpm, it is carried in a stressed-engine hybrid chassis with a MIG-welded HSLA steel-trellis front frame, forged aluminum mid-frame, and one-piece cast aluminum swingarm. Clutch, alternator, and cam covers are magnesium, only two-thirds the weight of aluminum. The 5.6-gallon fuel tank is aluminum.

Cycle World Editor-in-Chief Mark Hoyer and I were given an hour of video conversation with five of H-D’s engineers and Paul James, senior manager of PR who has also spent years working in product planning.

Chief Engineer Alex “Boz” Bozmoski said, “We looked at adventure-tour as a natural fit for us. What basic characteristics would we need? For off-road, responsive low-end torque for low-speed maneuvering. But for road, it’s high-end performance you need. In making each design choice, we asked ourselves, ‘How do we win?’ The obvious answer here was VVT, and not the simple two-position kind. We needed map-controlled, continuously variable cam timing.”

Driving cars with VVT cam phasers demonstrates the strong torque VVT provides at lower revs, <i>without</i> torque fade farther up the rpm scale. The 1250′s cam phasers are hydraulic and controlled by solenoid plungers. At rest, the intake cams default to full retard while the exhaust cams go to full advance, the positions of minimum valve overlap and strong bottom torque.

Hydraulic cam phasers actuated by solenoid plungers control the Pan America’s VVT cam timing.
Hydraulic cam phasers actuated by solenoid plungers control the Pan America’s VVT cam timing. (Harley-Davidson/)

Boz said, “As a function of VVT, we have a super-broad powerband. People who ride KTM and BMW have said it <i>feels</i> more powerful than the competition.”

One feature best characterizes the liberated thinking behind this bike: its Adaptive Ride Height system (a $1000 option only available on the Special), a first for any production motorcycle. To accommodate the 1250′s longer-travel (7.5 inches, front and rear) suspension without making the bike uncomfortably tall for some riders, an on-board system senses when the bike is being braked to a stop and smoothly reduces ride height by 1 to 2 inches, depending on suspension settings. That height is maintained until the bike is ridden away, when the normal seat height of 31.8 inches is smoothly restored. This system can be locked out by the rider.

The Pan America 1250 is claimed to tip the scales at 503 pounds, as shipped. Seems Executive Editor Justin Dawes might owe the engineering team a pizza party.
The Pan America 1250 is claimed to tip the scales at 503 pounds, as shipped. Seems Executive Editor Justin Dawes might owe the engineering team a pizza party. (Harley-Davidson/)

This motorcycle also brings Harley-Davidson fully up to date in terms of electronic systems. All the electronic conveniences modern motorcyclists expect to find are present; five ride modes, cruise control, phone connectivity, hill hold, ABS, traction control, moving-map nav display, and cornering-enhanced function through the usual IMU.

I asked if we can now regard such systems as generic plug-ins from the usual manufacturers. No, I was told, definitely not. Chassis and Suspension Engineering Systems Manager Bjorn Christensen said suspension-related software was written in-house through testing, discussion, and trial of alternatives. The result, he said with obvious pride, is tailored, seamless operation. Melissa McTavish, manager of engineering systems, infotainment & connectivity, noted that the large configurable touchscreen dash is designed to be operable while wearing gloves.

Bozmoski said, “We got two basic responses from people given long rides on this bike. One, ‘Do I have to give it back?’ and two, that they found themselves riding more confidently.” Others called it the most comfortable bike they’d ridden. Our testers look forward to experience the bike and comparing it with the competition.

The 1250 engine breaks Harley’s long-stroke tradition with its oversquare 1.46 ratio of bore to stroke. The large 105mm bore provides room for four large valves (the exhausts are internally sodium-cooled) that supply the air needed to make power at 9,000 rpm. Peak torque of 94 pound-feet comes at 6,750, but in engines with this kind of wide, flat torque, this is misleading: This peak is not a spike, but merely the highest point on a nearly flat line.

The 1252cc Revolution Max engine produces a claimed 94 pound-feet of peak torque and 150 horsepower.
The 1252cc Revolution Max engine produces a claimed 94 pound-feet of peak torque and 150 horsepower. (Harley-Davidson/)

The 1250′s crankshaft has two crankpins, staggered at 30 degrees to each other. This reduces primary shaking force and spaces top dead center of the two cylinders (the rear is offset to the left) 90 degrees apart. A primary balance shaft deals with both shaking and rocking. A secondary balance shaft is located between the cams of the front cylinder, geared to one of the cam phasers. This shaft therefore gives a different vibration at idle, making the engine feel “alive,” but runs smoother at freeway speeds. Balance shafts save weight, for without them bikes would need heftier structure just to survive their own vibration.

Why not balance everything to zero? Michael Carlin, Chief Engineer Powertrain, said, “In Milwaukee-Eight we intentionally kept some vibration, because otherwise it doesn’t feel right.”

Cylinders are separate, with weight-saving Nikasil hard-plating instead of iron liners. Why not integrate the cylinders into the case, as some other makers do? It wouldn’t be a Harley if there were no way to boost displacement! Each cylinder head has dual ignition. Generally, twin plugs improve idle quality, reduce emissions, and allow higher compression.

The foundation of engine reliability is its oil system. To make centrifugal force boost oil pressure rather than weaken it, they chose the best: Formula 1-style oil feed into the end of the Revolution Max 1250′s crank rather than traditional feed through the main bearings. There are three scavenge pumps: one for the crank chamber; one for the clutch case, where there’s a baffle to keep oil off the spinning clutch; and one for the alternator cavity. Scavenge capacity is enough to pull a significant vacuum on the crankcase, allowing use of friction-reducing low-tension piston rings, a concept from NASCAR. These are examples of the attention given to cutting parasitic losses in this engine. Rotating parts are high above the wet sump oil level, preventing them from creating an oil storm and losing energy that should be going to the rear wheel. A measure of success here is the claimed 48 mpg city/highway fuel mileage.

Weight control is essential to a big-engined bike like this, dictating the magnesium engine covers, aluminum fuel tank, and aluminum swingarm and mid-frame. Shipping weight is claimed to be 503 pounds, running weight 534.

An aluminum tank, swingarm, and frame sections along with magnesium engine covers are among weight saving measures in the Pan America.
An aluminum tank, swingarm, and frame sections along with magnesium engine covers are among weight saving measures in the Pan America. (Harley-Davidson/)

Because this is a Harley-Davidson, it cannot have valve noise or require valve adjustments (service interval is 5,000 miles). Therefore its roller finger cam followers have hydraulic clearance adjusters. Cams are chain-driven.

To accurately set compression ratio at 13.0:1, the crowns of the pistons are fully machined. Compression is the path to high torque! Recommended fuel is 91 (R+M)/2, but thanks to its knock detection/ignition retard system, the engine can run safely on lower octane fuel at some sacrifice of power. There are piston cooling oil jets in the crankcase, aimed up at the undersides of the piston crowns.

Thanks to its vertically stacked gearbox, tucked under the rear cylinder, this engine is extremely short. The high location of the output sprocket testifies to lowest-possible positioning of the engine (“Moving weight south,” Bozmoski calls it) to ease low-speed maneuvering.

H-D’s engineers achieved a short engine front to back by vertically stacking the transmission shafts.
H-D’s engineers achieved a short engine front to back by vertically stacking the transmission shafts. (Harley-Davidson/)

The crankshaft drives the six-speed gearbox through a noise-reducing scissors primary gear. Remember Harley’s 1980s message: “We’re killing the noise so we can keep the music.” A slipper/assist clutch with eight friction discs cuts lever effort while preventing engine-braking from hopping or sliding the rear tire on closed throttle. A spring drive in the clutch outer smooths torque delivery.

Mr. Bozmoski described the work leading to the choice of the 62.2-inch wheelbase. “In our early work we were riding and trying alternatives. A long wheelbase is stable; short is nimble. We think we found the right balance. This is a bike that can go 135 mph with rider and passenger, bags full. Our leading competitors’ bags have a sticker.”

We’ve all seen such stickers, whose wording begins, “Do not exceed…” and goes on to require particular tires, forbid use of certain accessories, or mandate loading conditions.

The Special’s front and rear Showa semi-active suspension offers 7.5 inches of travel. Semi-active defines suspension damping that is continuously ECU-adjusted according to how the bike is being used, via seven monitored variables. The hardware is Showa (for example, the electric rear preload adjuster), but the control software was written by H-D. The 47mm “Balance Free” inverted fork has aluminum crowns and the fork angle and steering head angle are both at 25 degrees of rake, working with 6.2 inches of trail. The piggyback BFRC rear unit controls the swingarm through progressive linkage. Right and left maximum lean angles (by SAE J1168 method) are 42 degrees. Brakes are radial Brembo with dual 320mm front discs and radial Monoblock calipers.

The Pan America 1250 is a huge leap for Harley-Davidson: A clean-sheet adventure-touring motorcycle that is aimed at tackling terrain never before seen by a production model from The Motor Company.
The Pan America 1250 is a huge leap for Harley-Davidson: A clean-sheet adventure-touring motorcycle that is aimed at tackling terrain never before seen by a production model from The Motor Company. (Harley-Davidson/)

Think about the riders this bike can attract. Its 7.5 inches of suspension travel in “comfort” mode makes it plusher than the short-travel heavyweights, but its no-fade horsepower wafts it up on-ramps and past grumbling tractor-trailer trains with greater ease than any 120-incher. Adaptive Ride Height delivers confident starting and stopping. And Pan America opens up the backcountry—thousands of miles of the road less traveled to touring riders who thought they’d seen it all. Could it be, as others have proposed before, that adventure-tour is the new standard?

Specifications

2021 Harley-Davidson Pan America 1250 2021 Harley-Davidson Pan America 1250 Special
MSRP: $17,319 $19,999
Engine: 1,252 DOHC V-Twin; four valves per cylinder 1,252 DOHC V-Twin; four valves per cylinder
Bore x Stroke: 105 X 72mm 105 X 72mm
Transmission/Final Drive: 6-Speed / Chain 6-Speed / Chain
Claimed Horsepower: 150 hp @ 9,000 rpm 150 hp @ 9,000 rpm
Claimed Torque: 94 lb.-ft. @ 6,750 rpm 94 lb.-ft. @ 6,750 rpm
Fuel System: Electronic Sequential Port Fuel Injection Electronic Sequential Port Fuel Injection
Clutch: Mechanical; 8-plate wet; assist & slip Mechanical; 8-plate wet; assist & slip
Frame: Stressed-member alloy steel trellis; forged aluminum mid-structure Stressed-member alloy steel trellis; forged aluminum mid-structure
Front Suspension: 47mm Inverted fork; compression, rebound, and preload adjustable, 7.5 in. travel 47mm Inverted fork; electronically adjustable semi-active damping control; optional Adjustable Ride Height; 7.5 in. travel
Rear Suspension: Piggyback monshock; compression, rebound, an hydraulic preload adjustable; 7.5 in. travel Piggyback monshock; electronically adjustable semi-active compression and rebound damping control; automatic electronic preload control; optional Adjustable Ride Height; 7.5 in. travel
Front Brake: 320mm Dual rotors; 4-piston monoblock calipers; ABS 320mm Dual rotors; 4-piston monoblock calipers; ABS
Rear Brake: 280mm Single rotor; single piston caliper; ABS 280mm Single rotor; single piston caliper; ABS
Wheels, Front/Rear: 19x3 in. / 17x4.5 in. Cast Aluminum 19x3 in. / 17x4.5 in. cast aluminum standard; anodized aluminum laced tubeless optional
Tires, Front/Rear: 120/70R19 / 170/60R17 ; Michelin Scorcher Adventure Radial 120/70R19 / 170/60R17 ; Michelin Scorcher
Rake/Trail: 25 Degrees / 6.2 in. 25 Degrees / 6.2 in.
Wheelbase: 62.2 in. 62.2 in.
Ground Clearance: 8.3 in. 8.3 in.
Seat Height: 34.2 in. 34.2 in.
Fuel Capacity: 5.6 gal. 5.6 gal.
Claimed Wet Weight: 534 lbs. 559 lbs.
Availability: May, 2021 May, 2021
Contact: Harley-Davidson Harley-Davidson

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1 hour ago, Buckster said:

Looks excellent, I will be test riding one when the dealer has one, price looks sensible as well.

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