Can the Harley-Davidson Pan America 1250 Roam Like Its Adventure Bike Rivals?

The 2021 Pan America 1250 is a distinct departure for Harley-Davidson. Apart from tweaking Ewan McGregor’s and Charley Boorman’s LiveWires, Harley hasn’t released its own adventure bike. The Buell Ulysses came close, but it didn’t wear a Harley-Davidson badge. So, does the Pan America 1250 have what it takes to compete?

Which adventure bikes is the 2021 Harley-Davidson Pan America 1250 competing with?

A rider on a black 2021 Harley-Davidson Pan America 1250 in front of an orange 1250 Special in the desert
2021 Harley-Davidson Pan America 1250 and 1250 Special | Harley-Davidson

There are arguably more adventure bikes on the market than ever before, all priced for a variety of budgets. Some, like the Royal Enfield Himalayan and Yamaha Ténéré 700 are some of the best inexpensive options.

That being said, while the Himalayan and Yamaha are fine motorcycles, the 2021 Harley-Davidson Pan America 1250 isn’t competing with them. Not with a liquid-cooled 1250cc V-twin rated at 150 hp and 94 lb-ft and a 534-lb curb weight, Cycle World reports. It’s aimed at the larger-capacity adventure bike segment.

A white-blue-and-red 2021 BMW R 1250 GS Adventure in the brush with accessory luggage
2021 BMW R 1250 GS Adventure | BMW

That segment is arguably best-defined by the BMW R 1250 GS Adventure, Roadshow reports. BMW created the first adventure bike, the original 1981 R80 G/S. So, for 2021, there’s a special 40th Anniversary model available, Motorcyclist reports. Mechanically, though, the R 1250 GS Adventure is relatively unchanged since its 2018 update. It still has a 1254cc boxer-twin with 136 hp and 105 lb-ft, Ultimate Motorcycling reports. And at 549 pounds fully-fueled, it’s noticeably heavier than the Harley.

Another major 2021 Pan America 1250 rival is the 2021 Ducati Multistrada V4, Autoblog reports. As the name suggests, it has an 1158cc V4 with 170 hp and 92 lb-ft. In V4 S trim, the Italian adventure bike is only slightly heavier than the Harley-Davidson. And, as we’ll discuss later, it has a few more bells and whistles, too.

Two riders on a red-and-silver and a black-and-silver A red and a black 2021 Ducati Multistrada V4 S in the desert hills
A red and a black 2021 Ducati Multistrada V4 S | Ducati

There is one more adventure bike about to hit the market, the 2021 KTM 1290 Super Adventure R. However, it won’t be available until Q3 2021, RideApart reports, several months after the Pan America 1250 arrives. It’s a similar story with the 2021 Triumph Tiger 1200. It’s been spotted testing, Cycle World reports, but as of this writing, we don’t have many concrete details.

As such, for now, the BMW and the Ducati are the Pan America 1250’s main competitors.

How does the 2021 Harley-Davidson Pan America 1250 compare on cost?

In terms of pricing, the 2021 Harley-Davidson Pan America 1250 stacks up well to the adventure bike competition.

An orange 2021 Harley-Davidson Pan America 1250 Special in the desert equipped with accessory luggage cases
2021 Harley-Davidson Pan America 1250 Special side view with accessories | Harley-Davidson

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The base model starts at $17,319; the Special starts at $19,999. At that price, the Special is only $4 dearer than a base 2021 Ducati Multistrada V4. The Multistrada V4 S starts at $24,095. As for the 2021 BMW R 1250 GS Adventure, if you’re OK without the 40th Anniversary livery, it starts at $20,345. With the livery, the base price increases to $21,895.

What about features?

The front 3/4 view of an orange dusty 2021 Harley-Davidson Pan America 1250 Special in the desert
2021 Harley-Davidson Pan America 1250 Special front 3/4 | Harley-Davidson

In terms of features, the base 2021 Pan America 1250 comes well equipped, RevZilla reports. You get Brembo brakes, ABS, cruise control, traction control, multiple riding modes, engine-braking control, and hill-hold control. Plus, most of the safety features are lean-sensitive, a common aspect on many high-end adventure bikes. LED lighting, an adjustable windscreen, a tilting 6.8” TFT touchscreen, a tool-less adjustable seat, and fully-adjustable Showa suspension complete the base model’s features.

The Pan America 1250 Special replaces the standard Showa suspension with a semi-active version, Cycle World reports. And if you want more adjustability, the $1000 Adaptive Ride Height feature lowers the bike when you come to a stop. As for standard features, the Special model also comes with an aluminum skid plate, adaptive headlight, steering damper, heated grips, center stand, handguards, an adjustable brake pedal, and TPMS. Plus, you can get spoked wheels with tubeless tires.

The BMW R 1250 GS Adventure and Ducati Multistrada V4 offer similar features, including the lean-sensitive electronic aides and multiple riding modes, Cycle World and Motorcyclist reports. However, the Multistrada V4’s ABS can be disabled, and it also comes standard with a quickshifter and wheelie control. But while the Ducati offers semi-active suspension, it’s only standard on the V4 S, Motorcyclist reports. Ditto, its industry-first adaptive cruise control and blind-spot monitoring. And it has less suspension travel than the Pan America 1250, RevZilla reports.

The BMW R1250 GS Adventure has a few more touring oriented-options, such as heated seats and adjustable handlebar risers, ADV Pulse reports. But they, along with the adaptive headlight, TPMS, heated grips, and cruise control, are optional extras. However, BMW’s adventure bike has about 1” more suspension travel than the Pan America 1250. The Harley-Davidson and Ducati bikes, though, have noticeably lower seat heights.

Which adventure bike should you buy?

With how new the 2021 Harley-Davidson Pan America 1250 is, it’s difficult to tell how it will handle paved and unpaved surfaces compared to its rivals.

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It’s worth pointing out that MCN calls the Multistrada V4 S “one of the most fabulously accomplished bikes you can buy.” Indeed, Motorcyclist says it handles almost like the Italian brand’s sportbikes. As for the BMW R 1250 GS Adventure, while it makes for an excellent touring bike, it may be too heavy for some, RideApart reports. But that doesn’t mean it can’t tackle dirt and grass like the rest, Cycle World reports.

There is one area where the Harley-Davidson Pan America 1250 may have a large advantage, though: maintenance. True, the GS Adventure’s shaft-drive doesn’t require much maintenance compared to the Ducati’s and Harley’s chains. But unlike the other two adventure bikes, the Pan America has hydraulic valves: no adjustment needed.

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Ultimately, though, choosing between these bikes is a matter of personal comfort. But at least on the features and pricing aspect, it seems Harley nailed the Pan America’s design.

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