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Adventure Touring on the Harley-Davidson Pan America

Adventure Touring on the Harley-Davidson Pan America

Recommended accessories, cool places to visit, and off-road riding tips

Harley-Davidson’s Pan America, introduced in 2020, brought a whole new set of riders to the rapidly growing Adventure Touring world. Ready to get in on the off-road action? Read on for tips, tricks, and recommended accessories for the Harley-Davidson Pan America.

Off road riding has grown in popularity in the past decade for a multitude of reasons; among them, less traffic! Off road riders enjoy fewer oncoming vehicles on trails, see beautiful scenery far from well traveled roads, and truly get away from it all while tackling the unique challenges adventure touring can offer. Trails abound in rural and forested areas, and many public lands throughout the United States have routes laid out by local and national organizations; a well known example being the BDR, or Backcountry Discovery Route non-profit. 

With higher ground clearance, more suspension travel, and five pre-programmed Ride Modes, the Pan America is uniquely suited to off-road riding. This motorcycle is purpose built with a 19-inch front and 17-inch rear wheels, a wet weight of 540 lbs, and a chain final drive. Even with these awesome features, the rider makes the bike, and riding off road is a little different from freeway touring. No need to be a speed demon here; off road riding’s challenge is in technique, not speed.

Standing on the bike’s pegs may seem intimidating at first, but it’s an important skill to have for off-road riding. Standing allows for the rider’s legs to act as additional shock absorption, and for the bike to move under the rider and tackle tough terrain. It provides a better view of any upcoming obstacles too! An important piece of the puzzle here: Keep it loose! A death grip on the handlebars is almost never helpful, especially not for riding off-road. Off-road riding is all about the journey, so it’s ok (and encouraged) to stop, take a breath, and shake it out at regular intervals if needed.

Another important thing to keep in mind when riding off-road is that riders are almost certain to have a tip over. That’s normal, and expected, and for most off-road rides at low speed on soft terrain, doesn’t present a problem. Be sure to feel comfortable picking up the bike from a tip over before heading out, and it’s even recommended to practice in a safe environment before it happens for real. An extra bit of advice is to never ride alone, off-road riding is more fun with friends and your buddies can help if things get a little too sideways out on the trail. 

Our top tip: Keep those eyes up! Target fixation is real, and an adventure riding adage is “eyes down, bike down” for good reason. 

Tip overs are common and expected, and there are a few accessories that can protect the motorcycle from damage, both from trail and road debris and from a tip over. 

The headlight on any bike is important for both seeing at night and being seen by other riders and drivers, and can be expensive to replace if damaged by rocks, branches, or road and trail debris. The easiest solution to protect this important part of the motorcycle is the Harley-Davidson Headlight Guard. Mounting over the headlight, this metal grille covers the headlight while still allowing light to shine through. 

The Harley-Davidson Radiator Guard is another accessory to protect an expensive part on the Pan America: A metal grille that mounts in front of the radiator, this accessory protects from road and trail debris that can damage the bike. Overheating is no fun, and especially not out on the trail.

The Harley-Davidson Brush Guard mounts to the cowling on either side of the bike’s radiator, and protects from trail side hazards and in tip overs. Rugged tubular steel construction is sturdy enough to hold up to the roughest riding, and the bars are color matched to the frame. Unobtrusive, but still styled to give the bike a rugged look, these are one of the top recommendations for ADV upgrades. 

Another top recommendation: The Harley-Davidson Muffler Guard. More protection is always a plus, and protecting the bike’s exhaust is a good call for many riders. Easy to install and color matched, like the brush guard this accessory protects the bike in a tip over and from trailside hazards. The muffler guard is an inexpensive way to protect the exhaust on the Pan America, and adds some peace of mind for riders. 

Adventure riding can be challenging, but there are additional accessories riders can add to make off road touring more accessible. Adjusting the ergonomics of the motorcycle, adding protection, and having a way to bring snacks (Super important!) can make the ride more fun and pleasant for riders. While most ergonomic modifications for the Pan America come down to personal preference, a few popular add-ons can be a great place to start. 

Handlebar risers raise the handlebars, and can move them toward the rider. For riders with shorter stature, or who prefer higher bars, they can be a great addition. Harley-Davidson’s tall handlebar risers for the Pan America move the handlebars about two inches up and back toward the rider, making the motorcycle more comfortable for shorter riders, and allowing for more maneuverability while standing on the pegs. A great plus for this popular accessory: It fits the stock cables, so no need to replace them for installing the risers!

For those serious off road riders, foot controls are another important upgrade. The Harley-Davidson Offroad Folding and Adjustable Shift Lever kit allows for both adjustment to rider preference– make sure those boots can fit under the shifter– and folds away in low speed tip overs to prevent damage. The adjustable rear brake lever can adjust higher from the OE brake position for stand up riding, and both levers do not require tools to adjust, making them highly adaptable to all conditions. 

While cabins, hotels, and other places to stay abound, for many ADV riders camping is part of the adventure. Whether boondocking, or tent camping at a campground, riders who are camping need to bring a little more in the way of supplies than the average weekend warrior. The top pick in the ADV world are aluminum cases, and with their large storage capacity and light weight, it’s easy to see why. The Harley-Davidson aluminum side cases were created in collaboration with SW-Motech, and with welded seams, removable gasketed lids, the cases are fully waterproof– watch out, water crossings! 

Aluminum side cases are an ADV favorite for good reason, but for newer riders, or those on a tighter budget, soft bags can be the way to go. Some hardcore off-roaders even prefer them! With similar capacity to aluminum cases, soft bags offer a little more peace of mind for riders. Unlikely to be damaged in a tip over, soft cases are great for rocky terrain or for riding through thick forests. Whichever cases riders pick, be sure to grab the correct rack; most are sold separately.

The best accessory though, is one money can’t buy: A good attitude. Off road riding is challenging, and presents lots of opportunities to problem solve on the go. From getting lost to hopping a log, a good attitude will get riders back to the trailhead every time.

The bike is dialed in. The cases– hard or soft– are loaded, and it’s time to go for an off road ride. BDRs, or Backcountry Discovery Routes, while geared toward intermediate to advanced riders, are great rides to aspire to or to tackle. With multiple rides throughout the Continental United States in beautiful regions like the Northeast, Wyoming, New York, and more, the BDR organization offers rides for just about every ADV rider. BDR is a non-profit advocacy organization that creates off-highway routes for dual-sport and adventure travel. Routes are created using forest service roads, fire roads, two tracks, and other backcountry trails on public lands, with each being about 700-1400 miles long. Some riders choose a section to tackle in a weekend, while others go for the whole thing. Find more information, videos, maps and more at

Ready to try a new style of riding?  Contact us to book a no obligation, free VIP appointment to check out the Pan America and explore accessories and upgrades.