A First Look at Harley-Davidson’s 2020 Pan America Adventure Bike | Motorcyclist
Harley-Davidson

A First Look at Harley-Davidson’s 2020 Pan America Adventure Bike

Milwaukee’s new motorcycle has knobbies and a fresh engine

Congrats if you saw this coming: Harley-Davidson plans to build an adventure-touring motorcycle, dubbed the Pan America. There’s a lot of ADV to unpack here, even considering we don’t know much about the machine as this story goes live, but first and foremost let’s start a slow clap for The Motor Company. Harley is a wildly successful brand, but it’s also famously conservative, only ever branching out of its chopper/cruiser/bobber kingdom for a few moments in history, then scurrying back to safety. This, along with the other new models H-D has launched is a big deal.

sketches of Harley-Davidson Pan America

Even the sketches of Pan America show the dichotomy that Harley-Davidson is reaching for—clearly rough-and-tumble, but also low-slung and quintessentially Harley. Departing from the dual headlights seen here that look suspiciously like a Buell Ulysses was probably the right call.

Harley-Davidson

A new 60-degree engine, for starters, displacing 1,250cc and evidently using liquid-cooling and dual overhead cams. The Pan America will share the powerplant with the low-slung 1250 Custom, which means we can expect the 1,250 engine to have a familiar feel to Harley’s big twins; heavy flywheel, lots of torque. That said, it would be a wise guess to assume some amount of extra counterbalancing inside the engine, considering these powerplants will likely be mounted more rigidly to the frames of these new bikes. The muffler appears huge, despite a pretty obvious exhaust collector in front of the rear wheel. Knobby tires are likely to be available but, like many ADVs, street tires will probably be stock.

Adventure sportsters

It’s interesting, and astute, for Harley-Davidson to pull from the adventure culture that has grown around its most rudimentary models. You might even say we’re surprised H-D didn’t just use a Sportster engine for its ADV bike, like these people did.

Harley-Davidson

The chassis is a fairly major departure for Harley, too, especially considering the aim of the machine. A teaser image in the promo video proclaims the bike will “hit the dirt” in 2020. Aside from flat-track racing, this is a rare thing for Harley to do. There are some familiar ADV characteristics here—a trellis rear subframe, an aluminum skid plate, Brembo brakes, and chain drive. The frame uses a cast middle section that ties the swingarm and subframe with a large backbone, which in turn connects to the inverted fork. Wrapped around the fork is a wholly unique fairing, creating a blunt nose and a long, horizontal headlight. A three-piece windshield will be adjustable, and knowing Harley, there will be plenty of options.

jumping pan america prototype

Go ahead, make your jokes about “when pigs fly.” Keep in mind that it took a flamboyant Italian company like Ducati many years to admit that it was okay to get its adventure motorcycle dirty. This screen grab from a video of the Pan American jumping in prototype form shows that Harley is starting off on the right foot if it wants to access people who actually want to have adventures.

Harley-Davidson

Aftermarket accessories aside, the Pan America obviously shares some ideals with other Harley models—specifically, the travel aspect. Even the name could be applied pretty readily to other Touring models in the Harley family. But that’s basically where the similarities end. The ergonomics split the difference between what we’re used to seeing on big ADVs and familiar Harley touches. The seat is as wide and flat as seats come, made for logging miles. The footpegs are in a reasonable place, and the reach to the bar is neutral.

Harley-Davidson Pan America Teaser

A slightly different angle on the Harley Pan America. It’s not clear how the chain is routed, or if there are brake lines. But, hey, it’s a prototype! One thing is for sure, it’s unique.

Harley-Davidson

The video also shows the bike being jumped in early prototype form. You might wonder if Harley is capable of making suspension that can be jumped. Keep in mind, Harley-Davidson has an utterly massive R&D operation, and if the resources are pointed in the right direction, anything can be done. The 60-degree vee will allow a little more ground clearance. Hurtful as it might be to bring up, this is the same trick the MoCo used on the Street series, but in order to lower the seat height.

Whether or not the Pan America competes, practically, with bikes like Yamaha’s Super Ténéré or KTM’s 1290 Super Adventure remains to be seen. Most likely, it will hit the customer caught between a BMW R1200GS and an American V-twin touring bike—whether it be a Harley or an Indian. This is something Indian doesn’t offer and, for now, can’t compete with. How much people love it or hate it is up to you, the people. With any luck, this stab at being a cosmopolitan motorcycle company will stick.

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