Before we delve into the finer details of the Indian Chief, here’s a short brief on its maker, Indian Motorcycle. The name may mislead a few unfamiliar with the brand but Indian is an all-American bike maker that has been around since 1901. It’s had it fair share of ups and downs and ownership changes over the course of its history. However, since 2011, Indian Motorcycles is part of Polaris Industries, best known in India for its range of specialist off-road vehicles. Polaris, and the corresponding money it pumped into the company, allowed Indian to develop a new range of bikes that were launched at the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in USA in 2013.
The ‘base’ model in the Indian line-up, if you can call a bike that costs Rs 26.5 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi) that, is the Chief Classic. However, the name is not the only element this bike shares with the Indian Chief of the 1940s; the new bike looks like the original too. Sure, it’s been given a computer-like ‘power’ button here and an LED tail-light there, but the whole look is still very, very retro. Some traditional Indian touches carried over from the old bikes include the motif that sits on the front fender (it lights up too), those lovely white-wall tyres and, of course, the trademark swoopy rear fender. Detailing is superb too - studded seats, an embossed Indian logo on the frame and handlebar ends, are just some of the finer examples. And clichéd as it may sound, there’s genuinely enough chrome on the bike to light up a moonless night. Continued..
At 2.5-metres long, the Chief is a really long bike. Quite surprisingly, it doesn’t feel as large from the saddle, the riding posture is just so well judged. You sit low, the pulled-back handlebar falls easy to hand and even the footrests seem closer than they initially appear. As a result, it’s easy to get comfy on the Chief, so long as you can work around its massive 368kg kerb weight (worst experienced at traffic lights) and humongous turning circle (worst experienced at U-turns).
But the real surprise of the package is the engine, namely Indian’s new Thunder Stroke 111 motor. The ‘111’ here refers to the engine capacity in cubic inches, which equates to a mid-size-saloon-rivaling 1811cc. Beautifully crafted, this air-cooled and fuel-injected, V-twin engine produces a mighty 14.1kgm at a very low 2600rpm. As the numbers suggest, this is a very powerful bike. There’s incredible pulling power in all gears and performance is very impressive for something so heavy. The soundtrack from the twin exhausts is very nice too – deep and full of bass. Do note, the Chief is not free from vibrations, but these feel very intrinsic to the whole cruiser riding experience. A very linear build of power and well-weighted clutch also make the Chief relatively easy to ride through slow moving traffic.
Manageable as it may be in the city, the Chief is at home on the highway. Stable on the straights and game for long sweepers, the Chief also absorbs bumps quite well, with its high profile Dunlop Elite tyres providing a lot of the cushioning. Braking is via ABS-equipped dual front discs and a single rear disc that admirably reign in the momentum under fast stops.
Clearly, the Indian Chief has a lot else to offer apart from being big, loud and flashy. It’s got more than adequate power and, as big cruisers go, it’s relatively easy to ride too. As far as first impressions are concerned, the Indian Chief has made a mark on us. Pity then that it will only find place in the garages of very few (read financially well endowed) buyers.