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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Howdy Folks,

This is an up-dated version of an evaluation I submitted to Indian at 5,000 miles; they published an abbreviated version (it is pretty long) on the Indian Motorcycle web-site a few months ago. Well here it is in its entirety and up-dated to the current odometer reading of 14,000 miles for those of you interested enough to read through it,

At last, a bike worthy of the name!
Thoughts on the new Indian Chieftain
By Randall Cater

I have been riding since 1971 when I gave a buddy $300 for a ’46 Knucklehead chopper with a locked-up engine. I owned that bike in one form or another for 25 years and it eventually led to me owning and operating an independent motorcycle shop for 15 years. For the past 20 years I’ve taught industrial technology in a border high school in Texas’ Big Bend country. My students and I often build custom motorcycle projects and I frequently ride the Knucklehead bobber my students built for the SkillsUSA Texas State vocational competition several years ago. I also ride a customized 2000 Moto Guzzi Jackal/Ural sidecar outfit that we built at school. My main ride since 2009 has been a ’09 Street-Glide.

My bikes are my principal transportation; the southwestern desert climate of the Big Bend makes motorcycling a year-round proposition. I ride 40 miles round-trip to town for work 5 days a week and often spend at least one day of the weekend riding the roads winding through the spectacular Chihuahuan Desert. My work as a school teacher makes it possible for me to spend a month every summer touring the US by motorcycle. I think it’s safe to say I spend more time on a bike than most people.

As owner of a bike shop buying, selling, and repairing motorcycles I’ve had the opportunity to ride a wide variety of machines; my personal rides have mostly been Harleys and air-head BMW Boxers, the principle exceptions being a 1999 V92C Victory followed by a 2002 V92C.

I was very interested when I heard that Polaris, whose ATVs I was familiar with, intended to enter the street-bike market with a new American cruiser, the first major new American motorcycle in 60 years. I was interested enough that I bought one of the earliest V92Cs, getting it at a discounted price as it had been one of the fleet of demonstrators sent around the country. I was very happy with the Victory right up to when the transmission blew at 28,000 miles, a problem that a number of the first-year bikes experienced.

Despite the fact that the bike was out of warranty Victory/Polaris offered to replace the transmission. I opted instead to trade in the ’99 on the new and improved 2002 V92C. I rode this bike for 58,000 miles, about half of that pulling a Ural sidecar rig, and found it to be fast, powerful, reliable as a hammer, low maintenance, and absolutely oil-tight.

I had fitted my ’02 V92C with aftermarket bags and a fly-screen but had developed a hankering for something with more weather protection and lockable hard bags. Victory was coming out with a couple of new Baggers but their styling, from the Vegas on, had gotten a little weird for my taste so I found myself trading the V92C on a new 2009 H-D Street-Glide. This was a beautiful, well-balanced machine with adequate performance if not quite the set-you-back-in-your-seat snap of the Victory. I soon grew to appreciate the Harley’s electronic cruise control and anti-lock brakes. I visited 5 states on that bike last summer. I had to replace a cruise-control switch (under warranty), the anti-lock brake module (at 49,000 miles), and the bike always leaked just a little oil from somewhere on the front of the crankcase that I could never pin down. For all of that it was a great bike and a joy to ride.

I was born in 1952 and by 1960, when I was old enough to start noticing, the last Springfield Indians built were only 7 years old. Indians weren’t as common as Harleys but they were around and instantly recognizable with their skirted fenders and heavily-finned flathead engines. As the years passed you saw them less and less but I thought the full-fendered Indian Chiefs were right up there with H-D’s Knucklehead as exemplars of classic American motorcycle design. The low-slung stance, teardrop tanks, the sweeping lines of deeply valanced fenders, the massive v-twin engine trailing gleaming chrome pipes, it’s rumbling beat something you feel in your bones, these things say “motorcycle” to me.

I kept up with the various attempts to revive Indian through the years through Cycle and Cycle World magazines. They were all pretty lame. A low point was when I discovered that the Gilroy Indian Bottle-Cap Evo-style clone-motor required that the exhaust system be removed to access the oil filter; if you’re going to copy something don’t make it worse. You can put a Hog in skirted fenders and war bonnet but that doesn’t make it an Indian.
When I heard that Polaris had purchased the Indian brand I was pretty excited. I knew that Polaris would bring their 16 years of experience with Victory, very good motorcycles, to bear on Indian. My experience with Polaris ATVs and Victory motorcycles gave me confidence that, finally, Indian was in the hands of a company that could do justice to the name!

I kept up with the development of the new Indian through news releases and the motorcycle press, primarily Cycle World Magazine. Kevin Cameron’s rhapsodsical article on the Thunder Stroke 111 engine in the May 2013 issue of CW deeply impressed me; I’ve been reading Cameron’s articles and column since he was at Cycle. For Kevin Cameron to be this enthusiastic about a new engine design is significant.

The “First Ride” article in CW of October 2013 by Mark Hoyer only fed the flames of moto desire. The test riders were unanimous in their praise of all three of the new Chiefs, but the model that really caught my attention was the red Chieftain. I was pretty sure that Polaris was on the right track; it was a beautiful motorcycle.

The thing that really clinched it for me was Peter Egan’s head-to-head test of the Chieftain vs. the Rushmore Street-Glide Special in CW’s January 2014 issue. Egan, one of my favorite authors on things mechanical, wrote, “… I had one of the best days of my life, riding the Indian 150 miles south over rural roads…” If the Chieftain can provide motor-guru Peter Egan, who has had the opportunity to ride and write about some of the most awesome planes, cars, and motorcycles on the planet, one of the best days of his life, well, it must be a pretty good ride.

By the time I had returned to school from our Christmas break I had decided that I would buy a new Chieftain if I could get enough trade-in on the ’09 Street-Glide to pay it off, get a down-payment on the Indian, and keep the payments close to what I was making on the Harley. I emailed Indian requesting a dealer quote and soon got an email from Ed Lind at Barnett Indian in El Paso.

Ed and I conducted negotiations via email over a period of a couple of weeks. He was unfailingly helpful and patient. We established that Barnett’s had a red Chieftain, #873, in-stock. I emailed photos of the Street-Glide and we settled on an acceptable trade-in value. We tried several sources for financing (it may surprise you to learn that shop teachers in small West Texas towns have to worry about such things), and Ed was able to connect me with Evolve FCU in El Paso who gave me an excellent rate of interest and kept my payments where I needed them. So, sight unseen, I purchased Chieftain #873 and made arrangements to ride the 5 hours to El Paso to drop off the H-D and pick the Indian up the next Saturday.

The Indian in the flesh is a truly impressive motorcycle; photographs don’t do it justice. The fit and finish are as good as I’ve seen, anywhere. The machine has presence. It is an art deco hymn to the open road. It is also gaudy, chrome-drenched to near excess, and the swooping lines of the bodywork are the deep, rich, red of 1950’s nail polish. The Indian is steampunk on two wheels. It is the kind of motorcycle Captain Nemo might pull up on at the dock alongside the Nautilus. It is a clearly American motorcycle from the fringed leather seat to the graceful Indian script; even the name is politically incorrect. And as for the front fender’s shining Chief War Bonnet, why, what can you say? Glory!

A friend of mine, who is into vintage bikes and owns several 1940’s Chiefs, said, upon seeing my Chieftain for the first time, “Looks like an Indian… how’s it ride, like a Victory?”

I replied, “Something like, but I don’t see that as a bad thing, based on my experience with Victory.”

Certainly, the new Chiefs are most like current Victory models in their suspension components. But that means that there is 4” of rear suspension travel from the air-adjustable Fox mono-shock vs. 2” on the Street-Glide. My girlfriend, who is no heavy-weight, commented after her first ride on the Chieftain that it was “bouncier” than the Harley.

I asked, “Does that mean it doesn’t smash your spine into the base of your skull when we hit a bump like the Harley?”

She said, “Yes, that’s just what I mean!”

She pronounced herself content with the passenger accommodations and when asked if she wanted a backrest said that she’d rather hang on to me, which suits just fine.

The leather seat is beautifully made and is the most comfortable stock motorcycle saddle I’ve experienced since the old H-D police-solo saddles. I expect it will gain in character and comfort as it breaks in.

The fairing is probably the feature of the bike I feel most ambivalent about. It was the same with the Street-Glide’s batwing. I value the utility and protection given by a fairing but don’t really like the way they look on a bike all that much. That said, the Chieftain’s fairing compliments the flowing lines of the rest of the bike and does a fine job of providing protection from the elements. I was prepared to dismiss the motorized windshield as a marketing gimmick but, after riding with it awhile, find the thing very useful. It can be raised and lowered about 4” so that at the lowest setting, I, at 6’, can easily look over it, and the highest provides full coverage and a pocket of air calm enough to allow an open-face helmet. It does rattle some, especially on a rough road and I’ve found it’s a good idea to tighten the windshield mounting screws and T-nuts periodically as they tend to vibrate loose.

The dash is handsome, complimenting the vintage look of the bike. The analog tach and speedo are easy to read and the large multi-function display screen allows the rider to easily display all sorts of useful information quickly with a little practice.

I had a problem with the tire pressure monitoring system not displaying the tire pressures and then the tire pressure warning light would spring to life after about 5 minutes running down the road. The tire pressures, when checked, were fine. I stopped by the new Indian dealer in Odessa, Family Power Sports, and they re-flashed the computer which cured the problem, all covered under warranty.

The Chieftain’s brakes are very good, a trait shared with Victory, and the ABS is less obtrusive than that on the Street-Glide. The master cylinders, and indeed all of the controls and levers, are beautifully cast and slathered with gleaming chrome. The key and switch pads on the handlebar controls are pretty big and clunky, no chopper minimalism here, but they’re easy enough to operate and produce useful results.

The commodious hard bags, sleekly curved to match the skirted rear fender, are cleverly designed to be easily detachable by lifting two levers inside each bag. They can then be readily tilted outward and lifted away from slots in the muffler shroud. The only hitch is that the wiring leads for the electric bag locks (oh wretched excess!) must be un-plugged which entails removing both plastic side cover with the attendant risks of breaking off the plastic mounting posts as the plastic becomes brittle with age (and it will). I’m going to look into relocating the plug-ins where they can be tucked up under the ample fringed saddle skirts. The bag lids open easily and swing out on seemingly sturdy hinges and snap shut with a clearly audible “click”. The latch mechanisms, including the electrical lock feature, look very like an automobile trunk latch and seem plenty sturdy. The bags may be locked/un-locked with the bike’s keys manually, electrically with buttons on the gas tank console, or with the key fob.

Polaris has given the Chiefs a great engine/transmission unit. By coating the block flat black its chunky industrial mass is effectively disguised; the beautifully cast and chromed covers direct the eye to their gleaming forms and effectively evoke the shapes and geometries that say Indian Motorcycle to so many people, maybe especially those of my generation. The shining polished edges of the densely-finned cylinders and heads project a muscular mechanical presence. The chrome rocker box covers I’m not so sure about. I realize casting deeply finned rocker boxes in the traditional Indian shape would have presented technical complexities, though surely none insurmountable. Maybe they’d cause ringing? Anyway, it strikes me a little like those faux Pan and Knuckle valve covers that can be fitted to Evos. Of course, if you’re going to do fringed saddles and skirted fenders why stick at vanity covers for the rocker boxes to mimic (‘evoke’ is a nicer word) the classic shape of flat-head Indians of yore?

In any event, the call to classic shapes and folk memory works. People immediately recognize the bike as an Indian and I get “thumbs up” and “cool bike” everywhere I go. The reaction from the Harley faithful is interesting; they almost always react approvingly to the Indian, give it respect. My two Victorys, both beautiful bikes, might as well have been invisible to the H-D brotherhood. I didn’t understand it, not that I cared much, but why weren’t supposed American motorcycle enthusiasts more interested in the first new American motorcycle in 60 years? Weird… anyway, they’re fine bikes and steadily growing their customer base. In examining the new Victorys side-by-side with the Indians at the dealership in Odessa I thought that Indian had a higher level of finish than Victory. Where the Victory rear brake master cylinder has a large plastic reservoir with a plastic screw-on cap, Indian uses a small sculpted chrome unit with the Indian script engraved in the cover.

Polaris obviously took great care to minimize weight in what is admittedly a very large and heavy motorcycle. The polymer fairing, bags, and side covers all contribute to that end. I’m not real crazy about the plastic side covers and the fact that the large “chrome” headlight bezel on the fairing is plastic rather than metal; in my experience plastic doesn’t age well. I wonder why the skirted steel fenders and plastic parts couldn’t be made from aluminum like the frame. As built, the center of gravity is very low, the machine is easy to hoist off the side-stand and balances very well. The weight disappears as soon as the wheels are rolling.

I’ve had the Chieftain seven months now and have just over 14,000 miles on it. It rides, handles, and stops great. The Chieftain is taunt, balanced, and not easily discombobulated by roadway imperfections. The engine is smooth, has torque out the wazoo, has gained noticeably in power as the miles have accumulated and accelerates with authority. The Thunder Stroke 111 sounds wonderful even with the fairly quiet stock mufflers, and even better with the “For completion use only” performance mufflers I installed at 6,000 miles. I’d have liked to take a hole-saw to the baffles at the header end of the original equipment mufflers but freer breathing exhaust requires a fuel injection re-map which Indian is currently not selling unless you buy their pricy mufflers. I’d like to add the new round Indian-script performance air cleaner but I’m still choking a little over the $500 price tag.

I think that Polaris has done an outstanding job with the new Chiefs. At last, a new Indian worthy of the name! And now a new Scout to go head-to-head with the Sportster! What’s next? A light-weight Warrior to go up against the new H-D 500 and 750? Maybe an in-line four luxo-tourer? It’s a great time for American motorcycles!
--- Randall
 

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Great write up Randal. Now lets see 100,000. And yes, it will do it with no issues... Life is a journey, so enjoy the ride!
 

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Randal, that was a really great write-up. Being a teacher really shows up in your writing and I believe that a person who had never seen or ridden an Indian would feel like they just did.
 

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Very well written and I could not have said it any better myself. Two thumbs up.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Yeah, if Eagan liked it, its got to be pretty good. And my own experience, at 14,000 miles... well, I've been riding for a long time, on some pretty decent bikes. The Chieftain, while not perfect, is the best bike I've ever owned. And I paid $4,000 less for the Chieftain in 2014 than I did for the 2009 Street Glide in the midst of the financial melt-down in '09, and, as good as the Street Glide was, and it was very good, the Chieftain is a better bike. I shit you not.

It remains to be seen if Polaris provides better support and service to their customers than H-D. Hope springs eternal...
--- Randall
 

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Randall, great story telling and an honest review of the machine! I enjoyed the read and fell good about the purchase of the Roadmaster for my touring machine as I am giving up my 2010 CVO ultra.
 

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Can't thank you enough for the wonderful write up. I too have waited a long time for Indian to return to its former glory. Even though Indian went out of business a decade before my birth, I soon became an Indian fan as my interest in bikes grew. To stand next to and 33' Indian4 while it's running at bike shows and see that it doesn't shake or shimmy, no annoying vibration, how stable it was... WOW, 1933 and it was smoother than most modern Harley's (you can seen an example of this online with Jay Leno's 33' Indian4 on YouTube). I own a new Chief Vintage and can attest to everything you say. The bike is smooth, remarkably smooth and the power is beyond your expectations. It's such a pleasure to ride these bikes, they are such a major leap over the Gilroy era Indians I used to have in the garage. It's a great time to be an Indian fan, and it's a wonderful experience to ride these bikes. Thanks again and ride safe!
 

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Thanks Randall, very interesting and informative read.
best regards from a very cold Scotland where the ride season is typically May til September.....unless you have heated seats and grips on a Chieftain!
 

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Randall i realize your initial post was in August, however it is a very good read!
As noted before we are fortunate to have a well versed and experienced fellow like yourself light up the path Indian has given us. Keep up the great efforts.
Ride safe
 

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Howdy Folks,

This is an up-dated version of an evaluation I submitted to Indian at 5,000 miles; they published an abbreviated version (it is pretty long) on the Indian Motorcycle web-site a few months ago. Well here it is in its entirety and up-dated to the current odometer reading of 14,000 miles for those of you interested enough to read through it,

At last, a bike worthy of the name!
Thoughts on the new Indian Chieftain
By Randall Cater

I have been riding since 1971 when I gave a buddy $300 for a ’46 Knucklehead chopper with a locked-up engine. I owned that bike in one form or another for 25 years and it eventually led to me owning and operating an independent motorcycle shop for 15 years. For the past 20 years I’ve taught industrial technology in a border high school in Texas’ Big Bend country. My students and I often build custom motorcycle projects and I frequently ride the Knucklehead bobber my students built for the SkillsUSA Texas State vocational competition several years ago. I also ride a customized 2000 Moto Guzzi Jackal/Ural sidecar outfit that we built at school. My main ride since 2009 has been a ’09 Street-Glide.

My bikes are my principal transportation; the southwestern desert climate of the Big Bend makes motorcycling a year-round proposition. I ride 40 miles round-trip to town for work 5 days a week and often spend at least one day of the weekend riding the roads winding through the spectacular Chihuahuan Desert. My work as a school teacher makes it possible for me to spend a month every summer touring the US by motorcycle. I think it’s safe to say I spend more time on a bike than most people.

As owner of a bike shop buying, selling, and repairing motorcycles I’ve had the opportunity to ride a wide variety of machines; my personal rides have mostly been Harleys and air-head BMW Boxers, the principle exceptions being a 1999 V92C Victory followed by a 2002 V92C.

I was very interested when I heard that Polaris, whose ATVs I was familiar with, intended to enter the street-bike market with a new American cruiser, the first major new American motorcycle in 60 years. I was interested enough that I bought one of the earliest V92Cs, getting it at a discounted price as it had been one of the fleet of demonstrators sent around the country. I was very happy with the Victory right up to when the transmission blew at 28,000 miles, a problem that a number of the first-year bikes experienced.

Despite the fact that the bike was out of warranty Victory/Polaris offered to replace the transmission. I opted instead to trade in the ’99 on the new and improved 2002 V92C. I rode this bike for 58,000 miles, about half of that pulling a Ural sidecar rig, and found it to be fast, powerful, reliable as a hammer, low maintenance, and absolutely oil-tight.

I had fitted my ’02 V92C with aftermarket bags and a fly-screen but had developed a hankering for something with more weather protection and lockable hard bags. Victory was coming out with a couple of new Baggers but their styling, from the Vegas on, had gotten a little weird for my taste so I found myself trading the V92C on a new 2009 H-D Street-Glide. This was a beautiful, well-balanced machine with adequate performance if not quite the set-you-back-in-your-seat snap of the Victory. I soon grew to appreciate the Harley’s electronic cruise control and anti-lock brakes. I visited 5 states on that bike last summer. I had to replace a cruise-control switch (under warranty), the anti-lock brake module (at 49,000 miles), and the bike always leaked just a little oil from somewhere on the front of the crankcase that I could never pin down. For all of that it was a great bike and a joy to ride.

I was born in 1952 and by 1960, when I was old enough to start noticing, the last Springfield Indians built were only 7 years old. Indians weren’t as common as Harleys but they were around and instantly recognizable with their skirted fenders and heavily-finned flathead engines. As the years passed you saw them less and less but I thought the full-fendered Indian Chiefs were right up there with H-D’s Knucklehead as exemplars of classic American motorcycle design. The low-slung stance, teardrop tanks, the sweeping lines of deeply valanced fenders, the massive v-twin engine trailing gleaming chrome pipes, it’s rumbling beat something you feel in your bones, these things say “motorcycle” to me.

I kept up with the various attempts to revive Indian through the years through Cycle and Cycle World magazines. They were all pretty lame. A low point was when I discovered that the Gilroy Indian Bottle-Cap Evo-style clone-motor required that the exhaust system be removed to access the oil filter; if you’re going to copy something don’t make it worse. You can put a Hog in skirted fenders and war bonnet but that doesn’t make it an Indian.
When I heard that Polaris had purchased the Indian brand I was pretty excited. I knew that Polaris would bring their 16 years of experience with Victory, very good motorcycles, to bear on Indian. My experience with Polaris ATVs and Victory motorcycles gave me confidence that, finally, Indian was in the hands of a company that could do justice to the name!

I kept up with the development of the new Indian through news releases and the motorcycle press, primarily Cycle World Magazine. Kevin Cameron’s rhapsodsical article on the Thunder Stroke 111 engine in the May 2013 issue of CW deeply impressed me; I’ve been reading Cameron’s articles and column since he was at Cycle. For Kevin Cameron to be this enthusiastic about a new engine design is significant.

The “First Ride” article in CW of October 2013 by Mark Hoyer only fed the flames of moto desire. The test riders were unanimous in their praise of all three the new Chiefs, but the model that really caught my attention was the red Chieftain. I was pretty sure that Polaris was on the right track; it was a beautiful motorcycle.

The thing that really clinched it for me was Peter Egan’s head-to-head test of the Chieftain vs. the Rushmore Street-Glide Special in CW’s January 2014 issue. Egan, one of my favorite authors on things mechanical, wrote, “… I had one of the best days of my life, riding the Indian 150 miles south over rural roads…” If the Chieftain can provide motor-guru Peter Eagan, who has had the opportunity to ride and write about some of the most awesome planes, cars, and motorcycles on the planet, one of the best days of his life, well, it must be a pretty good ride.

By the time I had returned to school from our Christmas break I had decided that I would buy a new Chieftain if I could get enough trade-in on the ’09 Street-Glide to pay it off, get a down-payment on the Indian, and keep the payments close to what I was making on the Harley. I emailed Indian requesting a dealer quote and soon got an email from Ed Lind at Barnett Indian in El Paso.

Ed and I conducted negotiations via email over a period of a couple of weeks. He was unfailingly helpful and patient. We established that Barnett’s had a red Chieftain, #873, in-stock. I emailed photos of the Street-Glide and we settled on an acceptable trade-in value. We tried several sources for financing (it may surprise you to learn that shop teachers in small West Texas towns have to worry about such things), and Ed was able to connect me with Evolve FCU in El Paso who gave me an excellent rate of interest and kept my payments where I needed them. So, sight unseen, I purchased Chieftain #873 and made arrangements to ride the 5 hours to El Paso to drop off the H-D and pick the Indian up the next Saturday.

The Indian in the flesh is a truly impressive motorcycle; photographs don’t do it justice. The fit and finish are as good as I’ve seen, anywhere. The machine has presence. It is an art deco hymn to the open road. It is also gaudy, chrome-drenched to near excess, and the swooping lines of the bodywork are the deep, rich, red of 1950’s nail polish. The Indian is steampunk on two wheels. It is the kind of motorcycle Captain Nemo might pull up on at the dock alongside the Nautilus. It is a clearly American motorcycle from the fringed leather seat to the graceful Indian script; even the name is politically incorrect. And as for the front fender’s shining Chief War Bonnet, why, what can you say? Glory!

A friend of mine, who is into vintage bikes and owns several 1940’s Chiefs, said, upon seeing my Chieftain for the first time, “Looks like an Indian… how’s it ride, like a Victory?”

I replied, “Something like, but I don’t see that as a bad thing, based on my experience with Victory.”

Certainly, the new Chiefs are most like current Victory models in their suspension components. But that means that there is 4” of rear suspension travel from the air-adjustable Fox mono-shock vs. 2” on the Street-Glide. My girlfriend, who is no heavy-weight, commented after her first ride on the Chieftain that it was “bouncier” than the Harley.

I asked, “Does that mean it doesn’t smash your spine into the base of your skull when we hit a bump like the Harley?”

She said, “Yes, that’s just what I mean!”

She pronounced herself content with the passenger accommodations and when asked if she wanted a backrest said that she’d rather hang on to me, which suits just fine.

The leather seat is beautifully made and is the most comfortable stock motorcycle saddle I’ve experienced since the old H-D police-solo saddles. I expect it will gain in character and comfort as it breaks in.

The fairing is probably the feature of the bike I feel most ambivalent about. It was the same with the Street-Glide’s batwing. I value the utility and protection given by a fairing but don’t really like the way they look on a bike all that much. That said, the Chieftain’s fairing compliments the flowing lines of the rest of the bike and does a fine job of providing protection from the elements. I was prepared to dismiss the motorized windshield as a marketing gimmick but, after riding with it awhile, find the thing very useful. It can be raised and lowered about 4” so that at the lowest setting, I, at 6’, can easily look over it, and the highest provides full coverage and a pocket of air calm enough to allow an open-face helmet. It does rattle some, especially on a rough road and I’ve found it’s a good idea to tighten the windshield mounting screws and T-nuts periodically as they tend to vibrate loose.

The dash is handsome, complimenting the vintage look of the bike. The analog tach and speedo are easy to read and the large multi-function display screen allows the rider to easily display all sorts of useful information quickly with a little practice.

I had a problem with the tire pressure monitoring system not displaying the tire pressures and then the tire pressure warning light would spring to life after about 5 minutes running down the road. The tire pressures, when checked, were fine. I stopped by the new Indian dealer in Odessa, Family Power Sports, and they re-flashed the computer which cured the problem, all covered under warranty.

The Chieftain’s brakes are very good, a trait shared with Victory, and the ABS is less obtrusive than that on the Street-Glide. The master cylinders, and indeed all of the controls and levers, are beautifully cast and slathered with gleaming chrome. The key and switch pads on the handlebar controls are pretty big and clunky, no chopper minimalism here, but they’re easy enough to operate and produce useful results.

The commodious hard bags, sleekly curved to match the skirted rear fender, are cleverly designed to be easily detachable by lifting two levers inside each bag. They can then be readily tilted outward and lifted away from slots in the muffler shroud. The only hitch is that the wiring leads for the electric bag locks (oh wretched excess!) must be un-plugged which entails removing both plastic side cover with the attendant risks of breaking off the plastic mounting posts as the plastic becomes brittle with age (and it will). I’m going to look into relocating the plug-ins where they can be tucked up under the ample fringed saddle skirts. The bag lids open easily and swing out on seemingly sturdy hinges and snap shut with a clearly audible “click”. The latch mechanisms, including the electrical lock feature, look very like an automobile trunk latch and seem plenty sturdy. The bags may be locked/un-locked with the bike’s keys manually, electrically with buttons on the gas tank console, or with the key fob.

Polaris has given the Chiefs a great engine/transmission unit. By coating the block flat black its chunky industrial mass is effectively disguised; the beautifully cast and chromed covers direct the eye to their gleaming forms and effectively evoke the shapes and geometries that say Indian Motorcycle to so many people, maybe especially those of my generation. The shining polished edges of the densely-finned cylinders and heads project a muscular mechanical presence. The chrome rocker box covers I’m not so sure about. I realize casting deeply finned rocker boxes in the traditional Indian shape would have presented technical complexities, though surely none insurmountable. Maybe they’d cause ringing? Anyway, it strikes me a little like those faux Pan and Knuckle valve covers that can be fitted to Evos. Of course, if you’re going to do fringed saddles and skirted fenders why stick at vanity covers for the rocker boxes to mimic (‘evoke’ is a nicer word) the classic shape of flat-head Indians of yore?

In any event, the call to classic shapes and folk memory works. People immediately recognize the bike as an Indian and I get “thumbs up” and “cool bike” everywhere I go. The reaction from the Harley faithful is interesting; they almost always react approvingly to the Indian, give it respect. My two Victorys, both beautiful bikes, might as well have been invisible to the H-D brotherhood. I didn’t understand it, not that I cared much, but why weren’t supposed American motorcycle enthusiasts more interested in the first new American motorcycle in 60 years? Weird… anyway, they’re fine bikes and steadily growing their customer base. In examining the new Victorys side-by-side with the Indians at the dealership in Odessa I thought that Indian had a higher level of finish than Victory. Where the Victory rear brake master cylinder has a large plastic reservoir with a plastic screw-on cap, Indian uses a small sculpted chrome unit with the Indian script engraved in the cover.

Polaris obviously took great care to minimize weight in what is admittedly a very large and heavy motorcycle. The polymer fairing, bags, and side covers all contribute to that end. I’m not real crazy about the plastic side covers and the fact that the large “chrome” headlight bezel on the fairing is plastic rather than metal; in my experience plastic doesn’t age well. I wonder why the skirted steel fenders and plastic parts couldn’t be made from aluminum like the frame. As built, the center of gravity is very low, the machine is easy to hoist off the side-stand and balances very well. The weight disappears as soon as the wheels are rolling.

I’ve had the Chieftain seven months now and have just over 14,000 miles on it. It rides, handles, and stops great. The Chieftain is taunt, balanced, and not easily discombobulated by roadway imperfections. The engine is smooth, has torque out the wazoo, has gained noticeably in power as the miles have accumulated and accelerates with authority. The Thunder Stroke 111 sounds wonderful even with the fairly quiet stock mufflers, and even better with the “For completion use only” performance mufflers I installed at 6,000 miles. I’d have liked to take a hole-saw to the baffles at the header end of the original equipment mufflers but freer breathing exhaust requires a fuel injection re-map which Indian is currently not selling unless you buy their pricy mufflers. I’d like to add the new round Indian-script performance air cleaner but I’m still choking a little over the $500 price tag.

I think that Polaris has done an outstanding job with the new Chiefs. At last, a new Indian worthy of the name! And now a new Scout to go head-to-head with the Sportster! What’s next? A light-weight Warrior to go up against the new H-D 500 and 750? Maybe an in-line four luxo-tourer? It’s a great time for American motorcycles!
--- Randall
Well written. Worthy of your years of experience.
 

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Enjoyed reading your write up Randall. However you just made my winter that much longer. I bought a Chieftan in December and it's sitting at the dealer until the weather warms. I can't wait to get in the saddle. Any further thoughts or updates to your original post would be great.
 

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I enjoyed your well written report and the fact that we source the same people (Kevin Cameron) for true and valid opinions. I look at the current Indian motorcycle as a lot of things, heavyweight cruiser, touring rig, American icon, and a time machine. I have ridden many motorcycles beyond my ownership and miles to match, but the long stroke air cooled V-twin locomotive style power band "the big friendly" that seems to enhance the open road is required to complete the story.

Did the fuel mileage improve over this period of time?

Thanks for the info.
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
Did the fuel mileage improve over this period of time?
Howdy circ,
Thanks for the kind words. As to the fuel economy, actually, no. According to the dash readout I'm averaging around 36 miles to the gallon. When I was taking it easy during the first 1,500 miles I was getting 40 mpg. The majority of my riding is highway and I run 72 to 85 mph average in 6th gear. Running the canyons I drop down into 5th and keep it on the boil at around 3,200 rpm. Probably if I'd slow down some and refrain from whacking the throttle quite so much I could do better. I plan to put some of my tax refund towards Indian's "competition" air cleaner and a reflash, so we'll see what that does. Its just such a blast to open up that TS 111 and let 'er rip!
--- Randall
 

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Thank you Sir, I found your write up to be very informative. I am still getting my bearings on this 111 monster... and your comment "it's just a blast to open up that TS111 and let 'er rip"... is spot on.
 

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Randall, you only gave me more confidence in my decision to buy my Chieftain. That was a great write-up and update.

Hope to look you up when I point my Chieftain towards Big Bend Country later this year.


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Texas Hill Country - Wimberley
Ahote - my 2015 Blue and Ivory Chieftain
 
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