A "two-wheeled Jeep" from Harley-Davidson! MCN talks Pan America 1250 with design chief

This is the Harley-Davidson Pan America jumping. We can imagine it made a bit of a bump when it came down again
This is the Harley-Davidson Pan America jumping. We can imagine it made a bit of a bump when it came down again

The Harley-Davidson Pan America 1250 is on the way and if what you guys are saying goes, it’s one of the most controversial machines we can expect next year. Harley have made some big promises about what it can deliver, so we spoke to the designer about the most talked-about thing of all: its looks.

"We took a very in-depth look at the competition," Brad Richards, Vice President of Styling and Design, told MCN.

"One thing we noticed was that almost every competitor outside of KTM emulates BMW and their almost insectoid form factor. We realised no-one had used the North American design DNA to make an adventure touring bike. No-one has designed a two-wheeled Jeep. That was our ethos: let’s make a two-wheeled Jeep."

One of the key things was that even though this was an adventure bike that steps outside of their core market, people had to know at first sight that it was a Harley-Davidson.
"We did research early on and showed some sketches, and what we found was that with the exposed powertrain people saw it as a primary part of the bike, compared to some of our competitors where it’s secondary," Richards added.

"Our ethos at H-D is that the v-twin engine is the crowning jewel and we wanted to make sure that was the first thing you noticed, so we created this line through the centre of the bike. Everything above that would be classic Harley-Davidson: beautiful paint and finish, great surface etc. while everything below that line is all business."

Even so, Richards admits the bike didn’t have the easiest birth. "With every bike that we design, we go through a very well thought out design exploration. We call it a sketch blitz, where there’s a few months of sketching on a weekly basis. There’s some very frank and tough reviews.

"But once we had this idea you see now, we knew straight away we had something unique. We knew it would be polarizing and there were some people in the company who wanted us to lean into the BMW aesthetic a little more, to be honest, and we knew it would be a tough sell for some folks but we had to stick with it."

Harley are planning to launch the Pan Am by the middle of next year and you can be sure we’ll be at the front of the queue to ride it. Keep an eye out for the 2020 Harley-Davidson Pan America review coming soon.

Fancy an American adventure? Then take a look at Harley's new Pan America 1250

First published 05 November 2019 by Jordan Gibbons

The Pan America 1250 is Harley-Davidson's first leap into the adventure bike sector, and a bravely individual one it is. Given the ubiquity of BMW's GS bikes, the outlandish styling is probably a brave move...

Revealed as a concept in the middle of last year, it goes on sale towards the end of 2020. It'll feature the new liquid-cooled Revolution Max engine, designed to be used in various capacities as the company gears up for its Euro5-compliant future. 

HD's new 1250cc V-twin

The DOHC V-twin has a 60˚ V-angle, with a balance shaft to quash unwanted vibrations. It’s 1250cc in this application, with what Harley claim is more than 145bhp and over 90lbft of twist. For reference, BMW claim 134 horses and 105 torques for the R1250GS

Other than noting the fitment of bespoke Brembo radial calipers, Harley aren’t saying much more. In the image we've spotted wires, presumably to the semi-active suspension, plus a TFT dash and multi-button switchgear, a height-adjustable screen and cruise control.

Harley-Davidson Pan America TFT screen

MCN will be among the first to test this new model, so keep an eye out for the full Harley-Davidson Pan America review coming soon.

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This is the Harley-Davidson Pan America jumping. We can imagine it made a bit of a bump when it came down again

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Jordan Gibbons

By Jordan Gibbons

News Editor, owns some old bikes. Should know better.