Test-rode an Indian Chief Classic yesterday and I’ll try to describe my impressions and contrast it with my Harley Davidson Fat Bob. Let’s start with a historical perspective. Indian and Harley Davidson vied for market leadership as soon as the motorcycle emerged from the bicycle racing scene. Indian is ten years senior to Harley Davidson, but in the fifties folded. Several unsuccessful resuscitation attempts were made until Polaris (a snowmobile and ATV company that already had the Victory line of cruisers in it’s fold) tried it again in recent years. They went about it systematically and first created a new V2 motor, 111 cubic inches, outwardly traditional, though a lot bigger than any historic Indian bike ever sported. Finally, last year, they introduced three models at Sturgis:
Here in Germany, Indians are rarer than hen’s teeth. Even actors playing a Native American in a theater or on TV mostly come from France or former Yugoslavia. But that is another matter. I’m fortunate that one of the few Indian dealers is within striking distance in Fulda. So I went there to have a look at the Indians. Surprisingly, they had a lot of different models in stock: the Indian Chief Classic in the lead photo was built up with a windscreen and bags, there were two Chief Vintages that sported tassels in addition to that (I’m not so much into that) and then there was a Chieftain, their big bagger:
The salesman was very forthcoming and right away offered a test ride. Of course, I used that opportunity! Their tester was their only used Indian, a Chief Classic that had a stage 1, the pillion seat removed and very loud aftermarket pipes. Here it is:
So this is what I rode for half an hour on little back roads. And what did I find, how does it compare to my 2013 Harley Davidson FXDF? The position on the Indian is more laid back, it has these swept back bars and a very neat lumbar support that puts you at ease in a cruising position. But don’t let that fool you, it is no slouch! Roll the throttle and it accelerates with lots of torque. More than the FXDF? Hard to say. First gear on the Indian has a higher transmission than on the Harley, so the latter would win a traffic light drag race, but the Indian would putter around town mostly in first. In both bikes torque maximum seems to be at 3500 rpm. Transmission in gears 2 to 6 is very similar and there I have to admit the Indian accelerates more violently. You really appreciate the lumbar support there! It is a totally different feel than on the FXDF, though, because of the cruising position and the floorboards that the Indian provides. You don’t lean into the wind at all. Oh, the wind: Though the Indian had no screen, there was noticeably less wind pressure and turbulence than on my bike. It must be this big, deeply chromed lamp housing that guards the rider like a mall screen on another machine would. I would go so far to say that it had less wind pressure than the Street Glide I test rode last year. Mind you, it is their base model, and it already is more of a bagger that HD’s standard bagger!
When we got into the twisties, the Chief Classic still leaned into the curves fluidly, it is not a straight line tool, only.
So all this reads like I was totally enthused and would ditch Elke for an Indian, but no, I didn’t. My FXDF actually proved itself fairly well against the Indian Chief Classic. I prefer the direct connection to the road and the wind the Harley provides. It is more of a goer and puts me in a position to tear up the road. So, maybe an Indian motorcycle is in my future when I get older and want something more laid back that still goes like you wouldn’t know. Plus, there’s the old adage: “Never buy version 1.0 of anything!”