There’s no doubt about it, Harley-Davidson has the market cornered when it comes to American Cruisers that bite and bark with attitude and style.
In 2020, the most iconic American motorcycle manufacturer pulled a style switch with the release of the 2021 Pan America, Harley’s first proper, Cross-country adventure bike.
The Pan Am was engineered to be a rugged dual-sport for the adventurous rider, but are they reliable?
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The Pan America has only been around for a short time although early reports suggest below-average reliability; the 2021 model was recalled for issues with its seat and there have been multiple reports of radiator hose leakage due to improper factory installation. Some owners have reported electronic issues.
While the first year 2021 Harley-Davidson Pan America had some teething issues, the latest model seems more reliable based on owner feedback.
It’s not uncommon for first-year moto models to waver in dependability. Still, there are a few consumer reports online that suggest Harley rushed the Pan Am to market.
The negative reports are from owners frustrated by trivial failures that Quality Assurance should have caught before the bike hit the showroom.
One of the reliability issues we’ve heard reported online was starting problems shortly after, or in some cases, even before the Pan Am left the dealership.
In one situation, the owner claimed the dealerships told him it was a bad battery and swapped it out for him on the spot. In a matter of time, the new battery was just as dead as the one they’d replaced.
Eventually, the dealership figured out the issue was with a flawed software update that subsequentially killed the bike’s battery.
Flashing the ECU fixes the problem, but make sure the dealership clears your codes; this frustrated rider reported his technician didn’t remove the codes, and he had to bring his brand new Pan Am back to the dealership a third time.
In addition to the starting problem, this same rider complained that the bike goes into limp mode anytime the tires spin, which often happens in off-road riding.
Multiple Pan America riders also reported dead fuel pumps.
One owner says it was such a common occurrence that their replacement pumps were on backorder.
In addition to the common complaints, there was at least one official recall.
2,689 Pan America units were recalled because the seat wasn’t properly fastened, causing fractures to the seat’s base.
We’re not picking on the Pan America here; in fact, there are plenty of riders who so far have had next to no problems, we’re just highlighting it hasn’t been smooth sailing for everyone.
Let’s take a look at a few real-life comments from owners of the Harley Pan America:
“I have had no problems other than small fault lights, but it never affected the rideability. It’s been updated at all service intervals. It seems to me that the techs are not really familiar with motorcycles. Finding a good dealer is the secret. I’ve been across the country, and every dealer I noticed had different skill levels.”
“So today, at 830 miles, my bike went into limp mode. Check engine light came on in the middle of the desert. Absolutely no coolant on the dipstick. I called my dealership service tech and said they just received a bulletin that they are having problems with the coolant system. Luckily I deal with Quaid Harley-Davidson Loma Linda, California. They sent their tow truck out.”
After 15,000 miles – “I’ve had 3 incidents where it has failed to start, actually failed to even try to start (all three were right after a short trip followed by starting just a few minutes later.) I’ve also had a bunch of codes set and went into limp mode once (at least the bike said it was limp mode – seemed to be running good to me).”
“Several people that own this bike have radiator hose problems because it’s too close to the pipe due to being incorrectly routed at the factory. Mine burned a hole in the hose… I don’t know how QA missed this.”
“My Pan America has been perfect. I have not had any of the issues [other owners] described. I have noticed that the dealerships are having growing pains with this bike. It will take a while for the technicians to get around the learning.”
At the time of writing this, the Harley-Davidson Pan America is too new of a model to know just how many miles it can last. Since its engine is somewhat derived from the 1250 Sportster engine, we can assume it will last just as long, over 75,000 miles.
The Pan America’s motor is liquid-cooled, rare for a Harley, though liquid-cooling is finally becoming more common on bikes in the states in general.
While we weren’t shy about highlighting some of the Pan Ams shortcomings, they were all small and easily fixed occurrences that won’t shave much life off the bike in the long run.
That said, owner maintenance, storage, and riding habits are the key to a long life.
If you’re a good rider, who knows how many miles you can clock on your Pan America.
Owner habits like post-off-road-riding maintenance, routine maintenance at the Harley-Davidson-spec intervals, responsible riding and proper storage go a long way on any Harley.
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What is Considered High Mileage for a Harley-Davidson Pan America?
On the used market any dual-sport adventure moto like the Pan America is considered “high-mileage” around 35,000 miles. This label is unfair, though, as it’s derived from a bias that off-road motorcycles are ridden hard like stunt bikes and exposed to harsh riding conditions.
The honest truth is that the lifespan of a Pan America has more to do with the owner’s maintenance and riding habits.
We’re not saying that you shouldn’t at least consider the mileage of a used Pan America before dishing out your cash.
But reading the mileage is more of a pricing tool than a method of figuring out how much life is left.
The Pan America is still new, but plenty of used models are available with various odometer readings.
Consider the following if your looking at buying a used model:
- Make a checklist ahead of time: First and foremost, bring a checklist that summarizes the most common issues with the Pan America. That way, you won’t forget your questions under pressure.
- Request Service Records: Ask for receipts and documents for everything from general maintenance to aftermarket upgrades. A record is not just practical information for you to be aware of; it’s a sign the seller valued and took care of their Harley.
- Run the VIN: Running your future Pan America’s VIN will pull up any crash reports and police reports indicating it’s stolen.
- Test ride while it’s still cold: You’ll likely have to give the seller some collateral, but a test ride lets you experience Pan America’s condition firsthand based on how easily it starts up from cold. Call ahead of time and request that the seller leaves the bike cold before your arrival.
Harley learned from its mistakes from year one, not only tightening the screws on the 2022 model but adding to its list of premium features with an upgraded Semi-Active front and rear suspension, adaptive ride height, and Daymaker lighting.
With field adjustable brake pedals and programmed Off-Road and Street riding modes, the 2022 model aims to keep all the promises the first-year model fell short on.
At the time of writing, there are only two-year models to choose from, and, as we covered extensively in the first section, the 2021 model was the worst.
While plenty of 2021 Pan America owners are raving about their specific models, too many cases of broken seats, dead batteries, and faulty fuel pumps are on record to classify them any other way.
The first thing to break on a Harley Davidson Pan America is the seat base, particularly on the 2021 models, of which almost 27,000 were recalled due to the problem.
While Harley’s statement indicated that the problem surfaced as a result of riders grabbing the seat’s grab rail while putting the bike on its stand, if the seat were to break while riding, there’d be a severe risk of damage to both the rider and bike.
To be clear, the number of bikes affected is barely one percent of the 2021 models produced – the other 99% were unaffected.
If you’re unsure if you’ve been affected, you should contact your local authorized Harley dealer.
Related: Are Honda Africa Twins Reliable?
The maintenance cost of a Harley-Davidson Pan America is standard for an adventure bike; Harley-Davidson service costs are relatively more expensive than other motorcycle brands’ dealership service prices.
Here are a few examples of Pan America maintenance prices:
- $350 a set for tires
- $208 for stator replacement
- $70 for a new battery
- $175 for chain and sprockets
- $150 for fork seals, bushings, snap rings, washers, dust seals, and fluid
- $100 for the wheel bearings front and rear
- $54 an oil change
There are other ownership costs to factor in, such as:
- Jacket = $200
- Gloves = $100
- Winter riding gear = $200-$500
- Rain gear = $75-$300
- Helmets = $100-$500
- Fuel = $15 a tank
- Storage =$?
- Insurance =average cost of Adventure Bike motorcycle insurance is $721 a year.
- If buying new, follow your Pan America’s break-in period per Harley-Davidson’s spec.
- Change your Pan America’s oil every 5,000 miles. Change it more often when riding off-road or in harsh or dusty weather.
- Clean or replace your Pan America’s air filter according to the service schedule in your year model’s owner’s manual.
- Maintain your Pan America’s tire pressure; replace your tires immediately once your tread is worn.
- Keep up with your Pan America’s liquid coolant per Harley-Davidson’s suggestions in the owner’s manual.
- Keep your Pan America’s chain-drive clean, lubed, and tightened according to Harley-Davidson’s owner manual recommendations.
- Keep your Pan America away from harsh weather and store it indoors or under a protective tarp.
- Ride your Pan America regularly, prepping it for storage before long periods without use.
|Make & Model||Base MSRP|
|Honda Africa Twin||$14,399|
|KTM Super Adventure||$19,499|
|Harley Pan America||$17,319|
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