MCN Fleet: Forget everything you know about a Harley

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Speaking very personally, the Harley-Davidson Pan America is one of the most exciting bikes I’ve been able to test in my entire time at MCN. Why? Because I genuinely didn’t have a clue what it would be like.

Most new bikes these days come from a manufacturer with form in that genre. For the most part you know what you’re getting from a new KTM adventure bike or a new Yamaha naked but when it comes to the Pan, I genuinely didn’t have a clue.

It’s even more exciting for me because, and I don’t mind admitting this either, I quite like a Harley. I’ve had a few in the past and still own a 2011 883R now, so I like to think I know what H-D are good at and what they’re less good at (noise, looks, handling, power in that order).

More long-term tests

But with just a few hundred miles under my belt on the Pan A, it’s clear to me that we all need to forget everything we know about Harleys.

For a start the engine is a real peach. Thanks to its nifty VVT system it feels as happy bumbling along at 3000rpm as it is revving it all the way to its 9000rpm redline. You can’t feel any flatspots on the road and a good twist of the throttle is all it needs to catapult it, you, your luggage, your passenger and anything else in the local vicinity forward at a rate of knots. It’s helped by a delightful throttle connection that’s precise when you want it while also being forgiving when you need it too.

The semi-active suspension is a stroke of genius. I’m about 5’7” if I’ve had a particularly large breakfast, with a 32” or so inside leg, which can make some taller adventure bikes a bit of a handful around town.

I’ve got used to it, so it doesn’t cause me much concern, but certain situations (off camber gravel car parks…) bring that fear rushing straight back. That was until I tried out the adaptive ride height and any worries just melted away.

Slow right down and the bike lowers itself by about an inch – just enough to get both feet comfortably grounded. I’m not usually one for heaping praise but for fellow shorter rides, it’s a genuine gamechanger.

Harley-Davidson Pan America dash

Early praise also needs to be given to the dash and associated H-D app. Connection is simple and stable, which often isn’t the case. Then using the app you plan a route just like you would with Google Maps and it sends it to the dash.

If you’ve got something bigger planned, you can even create routes on a computer and via the magic of the internet, it links to the app and then the bike. Of all of the smart things like this I’ve tried from various manufacturers, this the simplest and most reliable.

So what’s next for the Pan America? The big test for me will be if it can live up to its off-road billings. Harley could have easily just phoned it in with the off-road elements but they promise it more than just looks, so I’m keen to find out.

Harley-Davidson Pan America optional extras

The Pan America Special starts at £15,500 for a plain black model with cast wheels, which is very competitively priced. It’s an extra £450 for the two-tone orange and white paint you see here, an extra £400 for the spoked wheels and a further £600 for the adaptive ride height.

The fun doesn’t stop their though as this model here has a radiator guard (£180), off-road skid plate (£419), headlight guard (£108), exhaust guard (£192), a top box (£547), panniers (£981), luggage mounting kits (£299 & £180), top box backrest (£98), tank kneepads (£60) and heated grips (£204).

That little lot adds up to a whopping £3268, not including fitting, which would add an extra £90 a month to the PCP cost, so it’s definitely something to be aware of.

Update one: Introducing the Harley-Davidson Pan America

Published: 28.04.21

A side view of the Harley-Davidson Pan America

The Harley-Davidson Pan America is the most interesting bike to come from the American firm in decades and I have no idea if I will love it or hate it. I’m secretly hoping it’s the perfect combination of the two bikes I own: a KTM 690 rally bike and Harley 883R Sportster.

The rider Jordan Gibbons, News Editor, 31, 5ft 7in. Riding for 14 years, both on-and-off-road.

Bike specs 1252cc | 150bhp | 258kg | 895mm seat height