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Author Topic: Test Ride: 2021 Harley Davidson, Pan America 1250 Special  (Read 620 times)

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June 03, 2021, 06:33:48 PM
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FerrousBueller

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  Test Ride: 2021 Pan America 1250 Special / Harley Davidson



  I’ll sum up this review quickly, if you’ll allow me to spool up the Way Back Machine and tell you a little more about myself first.
  I’ve ridden bicycles for years, from Training wheels, scabbed together BMX’s to when Ten Gears was the most gears you could get on a bike.  I rode everywhere!  Up and down the block, around the block, in the fields, out to the lake, even to and from work for a while.  I always enjoyed riding my bicycles and would beg my friends to let me test their bike out just for something different.
  That is until Kenny from up the block offered his new Unicycle.  Sure, I tried it, (without injury), but, I had to learn something different.  I’m sure I could have done it, (If Kenny would have loaned his Unicycle for a weekend), but, I certainly wouldn’t buy one for myself.
  Compared to Bicycles, my Motorcycle experience has been more limited, a couple Sporty, Dyna, and Softail Cruisers, some Sport Bikes, and, even some full on Touring bikes.

  Returning to current times, and, after a couple test laps, the Pan American belongs to a different buyer.  That’s my summation, if you would like a few more details, continue on with my brief review that follows.

  I shot a text to my inside guy, “Rick”, Rocklin Harley-Davidson, Rocklin, CA. asking when he would have a Pan American on the floor for a Demo ride.  He answered, “Just as soon as you get here”!  Arranging to have the Princess go with me was easier than I thought for a demo ride.

  My biggest fear with the Pan American is the seat height.  Some of that fear was eased away, some of it wasn’t.  First, the actual seat can be adjusted by mounting it on the frame in either the High or Low position.  That helped.  The Pan America™ 1250 Special has a lowering feature that I’m not completely sold on.  Harley calls it, “Adaptive Ride Height. … by lowering seat height when stopped, blah, blah, blah”.  This feature brings my butt lower, and in turn, my boots closer to the ground.  I was never “flat footed”, but, close.  The confusing part about this feature is that the ride height is raised back up when the bike is powered down.  It will lower again when the bike is powered up, but does not have to be running, if I understood Rick correctly.  I guess it’s a very small something that would be easy enough to get used to.
  Speaking of my butt, the seat on the “Pan Am” was a good place to put it.  Lots and lots of padding, not the leather covered sheets of plywood offered on other HD models.  The texture of the seat was very grippy.  Kinda like the stickum bits you might put on your shower floor.  I could see where this might be a good idea if you’re off the pavement, but it also prevented subtle seat shifting like you might do on a distance ride.  The Princess and I agree, the seat traction wasn’t something we cared for, however we did like the padding.

  My other major concern was how all of this new-to-me configuration of motorcycle was going to feel on the road.  There are all manner of digital dash dongles to play with.  I’m sure Rick would have been happy to explain it all to me but all I wanted to do was to make it go.  Lighting off the Pan Am complicated matters a bit.  It doesn’t look like a Harley, and, it does not sound remotely like a Harley.  It took another rider to mention, “Valve Train Noise” before I recognized it.  Yup, it was loud, even at idle.  I just chalked it up to a very new, and different bike.  I took a couple slow laps in the parking lot.  No real surprise, it was real easy to point it in any direction including a less than stellar U-Turn.  Standing on the pegs brought me back to being 13 again, although my Huffy was a bit lighter.  Out on the street I did toggle from Road to Sport mode, then back again.  There was an immediate difference in throttle response but, it’s not my bike, so I left it in Road mode for the rest of the ride.  All that clatter from below the tank made the Princess and I think about diesel motors.  Remembering that the Pan Am prefers to spin a little faster it was easy enough to get underway, get on the highway, and navigate easily from a stop.  Stopping was effortless also.
  The thing about piloting this bike that gave me pause, (other than the altitude the seat put me at) came from the front end.  Even at the modest velocity that we were riding, leaning over for a curve would give a mild sensation of Understeer.  Like the front wanted to slide out from underneath.  Going through a mental checklist, 1) Don’t Panic! 2) Far too soon to think about easing into the rear brake. 3) There is no way HD made a brand new bike that’s going to fold under me!  So, I just stuck with it and everything worked out.  I have to emphasize this was a mild sensation, easily explained by different frame geometry and my inexperience with said geometry.

  Other distractions…  It never occurred to me that it would have a final drive chain.  It makes perfect sense, but, recommended cleaning and lube was every 1000miles.  That means more kit that needs to be dug out every 2-3 days of a big ride.  Also because of the some what off-road stance, climbing on, and, dismounting with any amount of grace, would be difficult for the both of us.  Especially after a long day.  All of that would be made worse with the addition of Luggage Cases.  The off road performance that comes with the Pan Am. would go mostly unused also.

  I was able to take two rides on the Pan Am., first without, then, with the Princess.  When I returned from the solo ride the Princess could already tell, this was a “no go” for me.  The tell was simply that I didn’t have a big, dopey grin on my face like I have with other test rides.

  At this point I want to be very clear, this review was not written to be critical.  I’m only pointing out my observations.  However, Rick, if you’re reading this and can arrange a weekend loaner…

  At 22 minutes this is a rather long video.  But, if I were to change my mind, (like I have in the past, ahem, LiveWire, cough) a class like this would be mandatory.



Cheers,
Ferrous

June 03, 2021, 07:36:11 PM
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HDBitchin

Administrator
Nice observations! HDB Rep (Karma) given.

I guess I am late making a new section for the forum for the Pan America.

And here it is…

Adventure Touring
HDBitchin aka Tank

When shopping for anything look for Made in the USA and save American jobs and families

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June 06, 2021, 11:58:50 AM
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FerrousBueller

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  From “Ride Like a Pro, Jerry Palladino”.  You’ll need 17+ Minutes to watch this video as he goes over a bit more detail than I did.  I’m a little disappointed there is no mention of any dislikes.  I’ll chalk that up to, Mr Palladino being a more expert rider than me, and any criticism might not go well with his sponsors.


Cheers,
Ferrous

June 06, 2021, 01:07:41 PM
Reply #3
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HDBitchin

Administrator
Nice ride with Jerry!

If only I was younger and not retired. But some might say why let that stop you. Well, I am satisfied with what I ride now and even though this might be a great bike to own I can always rent one for a week and satisfy the hunger for this Adventure Touring riding.

Thanks for posting this @FerrousBueller
HDBitchin aka Tank

When shopping for anything look for Made in the USA and save American jobs and families

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June 06, 2021, 01:23:21 PM
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FerrousBueller

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Nice ride with Jerry!

If only I was younger and not retired. But some might say why let that stop you. Well, I am satisfied with what I ride now and even though this might be a great bike to own I can always rent one for a week and satisfy the hunger for this Adventure Touring riding.

Thanks for posting this @FerrousBueller

  I've been a fan of Mr. Pallidino for about ten years or so.  I am completely in awe of his skill with a heavy bike.  The Princess and I have talked about renting something different for a brief change.  Overall, I am grateful for the demo ride of the Pan American, even if it didn't thrill me.

Cheers,
Ferrous

June 06, 2021, 01:26:16 PM
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HDBitchin

Administrator
I agree, Jerry is a skilled rider indeed! Love watching him run hard at low speeds with a big Touring HD.
HDBitchin aka Tank

When shopping for anything look for Made in the USA and save American jobs and families

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