The term ‘dark horse’ is given to someone who isn’t well known, but ultimately turns out to be the unexpected winner of a competition. Indian took its Chief Classic, and named it the Indian Chief Dark Horse, so the American manufacturer must think of the motorcycle on similar terms. Why else would anyone take a beautiful classic motorcycle and name it so?
Indian has removed almost all of the chrome from the Chief Classic, and has replaced it with an all-black finish. This has given the Chief a mildly understated look. Despite that, it manages to look ever so graceful. In fact, the long, low-slung profile makes the Dark Horse look like motorcycling royalty.
Features which gave the Classic its distinctive look have been retained. The front and rear fenders cover most of the wheels, the front cowl houses the headlamp, front fork top mounts and the handlebar mounts. The large teardrop-shaped tank has the instrument cluster mounted up top, and the seat is well contoured and leather made.
Okay, let’s be fair, all cruisers have to have a little chrome here and there – it’s almost an unsaid rule. Indian Motorcycles seems to agree with it too, and strips of chrome on the front and rear fenders have been nicely placed. Even the long exhaust pipes have a chrome finish.
Turn on the ignition and the ‘war bonnet’ on the front fender lights up. This reminds me of the Spirit of Ecstasy, and I felt like I was riding the Rolls Royce of motorcycles.
The massive Thunder Stroke 111, 1,811cc engine has keyless start. You do have a computer-like ignition button on the tank, but don’t really need to press it. All you need to do is keep the key on your person, and press the starter button on the sublime switchgear. The 49-degree V-Twin, coupled with the proportionally designed exhaust pipes, roars to life. You could forgive a child with an imagination, when they tell you the big Indian’s exhaust note sounds like a galloping horse’s hooves.
The Dark Horse doesn’t disappoint in the performance department either. The engine is fuel-injected, and uses a pushrod system to control its valves – as a result, bucket loads of torque, which goes up all the way to 14.1kgm at a low 2,600rpm, is delivered instantly.
Coupled to the engine of the Indian Chief Dark Horse is a smooth-shifting, six-speed gearbox. Power to the rear wheels is transmitted via a belt drive. As expected, the powerful cruiser pulls strongly in each gear, and can cruise with ease at speeds over 160kph.
Finding a comfortable position is super easy. The low seat lets you easily plant both feet firmly on the ground. The pulled back handlebars let you sit straight and comfortably. Even the footrests are placed close enough to keep slightly smaller riders in comfort.
The Indian Chief Dark Horse weighs 357kg, and has a super-long wheelbase, which make this motorcycle quite a challenge to manoeuvre in our riding conditions. It takes a considerable amount of time and mental resources to dodge potholes and errant traffic on our city roads. Thankfully, the bike gets Dunlop Elite tyres which are grippy, and the safety net of ABS brakes, which work together to slow down this mammoth motorcycle quickly.
Although the Indian Chief Dark Horse is so large, it is not ponderous. The tight chassis, with the wheel covers acting like a part of it, and the well-tuned suspension perfectly balance cornering and pothole absorbing duties really well. The seating position and weight distribution of the motorcycle are both quite neutral, and make it easy to ride.
The Indian Chief Dark Horse is a motorcycle where art, modernity and thoughtful design come together in a sublime way. Indian has managed to make it look and feel like the original cruisers it made in 1901, but has seamlessly managed to add fuel-injection, ABS, cruise control, digital readouts, and even a power button on the tank.
At Rs 21.99 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi), this Indian is quite expensive, yet is still cheaper than the Chief Classic. Personally, if I ever had enough money to spend, and walked into an Indian Motorcycles showroom, I’d end up owning a Chief Dark Horse.
Price Rs 21.99 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi)
On Sale Now
Fuel tank capacity 20.8 litres
Kerb weight 357kg
Engine layout V-twin, fuel-injected, air and oil cooled, four stroke
Power 110bhp (estimated)
Torque 14.1kgm at 9000rpm
Specific output 61bhp per litre (estimated)
Power to weight 308bhp per tonne (estimated)
Gearbox 6-speed, 1-down, 5-up
Front suspension Telescopic forks
Rear suspension Monoshock, cast alloy swingarm
Front brake 300mm discs (ABS)
Rear brake 300mm disc (ABS)
Wheels 10-spoke alloy
Rim size (f-r) 16 inches
Tyre size (f-r) 130/90 x 16- 180/65 x 16 inches