Harley-Davidson Pan America | Adaptive Ride Height explained

The Harley-Davidson optional Adaptive Ride Height system is a big talking point of the new model - here's what it does and how it can be configured


NEW light is being shed on the 2021 Harley-Davidson Pan America today, with the launch of a new online portal giving us the chance to delve a little deeper into the new adventure motorcycle.

And there is plenty of delving to be done, as it’s fair to say the new bike is brimming with tech and features.

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We aren’t going to be going over everything here, to be honest, there is a lot to cover, but we are going to be highlighting the new bike’s Adaptive Ride Height (ARH) system. It’s a £600 option, and only something riders can include if they opt for the Pan America 1250 Special model, which starts at £15,500. The reason is that for the tech to work, it needs the electrically adjustable semi-active suspension found on the Special to do its party piece.

It’s a clever system, and a claimed first on a motorcycle which is cool. The premise is simple, ride along normally and the bike maintains its ride height and an unladen ground clearance of 175mm. The unladen seat height is 890mm, a number on a spec sheet that has a rider of my size mentally looking for a kerb to pull up next to. But on the Pan America Special model that might not be a problem as coming to a stop reduces that to a very accommodating 855mm – and just like that, I’m (nearly) in flat-foot on the floor territory!

But it doesn’t stop there, the system has some settings the rider can also tweak to optimise ARH to their own taste.

Before we go into that though, it’s worth noting that both versions of the Harley-Davidson Pan America have pretty tasty suspension set ups, with 190mm of travel front and rear at both models. The stock bike has compression, rebound and spring preload adjustability. While the Special gains the funky electronically adjustable semi-active damping control units fitted front and rear.

Adaptive Ride Height settings

Auto Mode

This is likely to be the setting that the majority of riders use most of the time – if you’ve got the system fitted it’s probably because you need it, after all.

The Auto Mode determines how quickly the ride height needs to react based upon how aggressive the braking event is. There isn’t much more on the Harley micro-site than that, but we imagine for aggressive braking, when the bike comes to a stop very quickly, the system will want to keep up with that deceleration, and have the suspension fully extended ready for when the machine comes to a stop. Conversely, for more relaxed deceleration, slowing for a red light, for instance, it seems the system will lower the suspension more sedately.

Short Delay and Long Delay

The delay function will mean the lowering function is prevented until the bike has completely come to a stop. The advantage of this could be when riding off-road or on uneven ground - you wouldn’t want to be pootling along a rutted lane at very low speeds and then have the bike bottom out on you, would you?


The ARH also has a locked feature that will maintain the full ride height of the bike regardless of whether it is moving or not. Handy for taller riders, or those capable and confident of wielding a big-bore adventure bike in its natural habitat.

Harley-Davidson Pan America semi-active suspension modes


Maximises ride comfort by providing more compliance and isolating the rider from rough road conditions.


Optimised balance of ride comfort and ride control for all-around riding.


Maximum ride control with higher damping rates calibrated for spirited riding with maximum confidence.

Off-road Soft

Reduced initial damping to increase suspension compliance to better absorb larger obstacles and to reduce kickback – ideal for logging roads, ruts, and rocky terrain.

Off-road Firm

Increased initial damping for aggressive riding or when less body float is desired – ideal for soft/loamy terrain.

If you fancy having a deep dive into the new adventure bike from across the pond, Harley-Davidson has just launched a new micro-site dedicated to the new model. Head over there by clicking here.