2017 Indian Chieftain Dark Horse review, test ride
26th Apr 2017 8:00 am
Do you hear the highway calling? Is darkness in the air? Well, then you definitely need to know more about Indian Chieftain Dark Horse.
There’s a certain charm that baggers exude that really tugs at your heartstrings, the same heartstrings that are so readily seduced by the call of the open highway. This is a genre of motorcycle that instantly makes you want to throw on a leather jacket and hit the open road. Wishful daydreams aside, Indian has added yet another model to its bagger series, the Chieftain Dark Horse, which makes wanderlust so real. Having ridden the other Indians before, we can safely say the experience is a rather meditative one, and we expect this one to be no different.
Spotting the Chieftain Dark Horse in the distance may make you question why there’s a land boat approaching you. It sits almost 8.5 feet long and weighs a behemoth 377kg! Starting at the front, you get this sleek, flowing and solid-looking front mudguard with the signature illuminated Native American Indian chief’s head. Atop the front wheel sits a positively bulbous fairing that ensures your upper body is completely free of any stray windblast. To ensure even further wind protection, there is a height-adjustable, electronically controlled windscreen.
The simple, elegant tank gets a central strip that has a large start-stop power button. It gets a supremely comfortable single seat, with the backrest and pillion seat available as add-ons. The solid rear fender is exquisitely chiselled; it flows towards the floor, into a swooping tip that gives the whole motorcycle a sort of regality.
The seating geometry is authoritative and relaxed at the same time. You have what appears to be a dashboard in front of you. Although this Chieftain Dark Horse version misses out on the 7.0-inch TFT screen found on the 2017 Chieftain and Roadmaster, you get a fair amount of goodies to keep you well engaged, such as the two 100W fairing speakers and a Bluetooth and smartphone-compatible music system that also picks up FM/AM radio stations. You also get cruise control for those endless highway runs.
The 1,811cc air-cooled Thunder Stroke 111 V-Twin motor is an absolute gem. Even though this isn’t a new engine by any means, it simply steals the show with its refinement. It makes 138.9Nm of torque that is spread over the rev range like smooth waves breaking on the seashore. It’s nearly vibration-free and there’s ample thrust available in each gear. The bike accelerates smoothly off the line, and with the amount of torque on tap, you can pull away easily from speed bumps in as high as third gear. The engine is relaxed, and ambles about effortlessly with a lovely, muffled rumble from its twin exhausts.
As I mentioned earlier, riding the Chieftain Dark Horse is simply a meditative experience. This stems from a well-balanced chassis, steering geometry and suspension setup. Speaking of steering geometry, the Chieftain Dark Horse (just like the Roadmaster) has its forks raked in further to 25 degrees to allow the front end to feel nimble even when it has all the weight of that massive front fairing over it. The bike turns in very easily, precisely and with a lot of confidence.
Even the ride quality is great. The 46mm front forks and air-adjustable monoshock at the back handle big bumps rather well and the ride is very pliant for the most part. The 142mm ground clearance means you don’t have to worry too much about those long, chromed-out silencer tubes scraping over large speed bumps. And for bringing that 377kg mass to a halt, the ABS-equipped twin 300mm front discs and a single 300mm rear disc provide more than sufficient stopping power.
Although this is a cheap bike by no means, Indian has ensured that its high levels of refinement and riding pleasure shine through on the Chieftain Dark Horse. Moreover, the Thunder Black Smoke paint scheme lends the bike a regal yet mildly sinister character. And there’s a mindboggling amount of customisation options available for it. So, if you’re in the market for a high-end, long-distance cruiser, you should definitely consider this as your next motorcycle.