’16 Indian Chieftain
There’s always a first time for everything; this being my first time on an Indian, anxious and the anticipation overwhelming.
I’ve been on many motorcycles, some bringing pride to the term “let’s ride”, and then some that are simply not worth a leg-over; be gone Satan! Maybe one day at my funeral I’ll reveal the ones I hated, or just take the secret to the grave.
I love big bikes and couldn’t wait to swing a leg over this one; so the opportunity arrived for me to get up to Johannesburg and train folks up there for two days. I had to get on an Indian this time, so I popped Bryan Berger of Indian Motorcycle SA an email saying, “Get Hein on an Indian!”; and obliged he did. I ended up spending 4 days in and around Gauteng, riding one amazing machine – here is my 111 Cubic Inches of delight…
My impression was that this is an old brand, very much in touch with its past, but way ahead of its time – a New Look but with an inspiring Heritage.
At first, I thought I’d have to make some adjustments in my riding technique, expect a clunky gearbox, a stiff clutch lever, and a riding position that’s going to hurt my lower back in no time, and maybe regret that I’ll have this bike for 4 days. None of that I tell ya, none! From the moment I walked onto the showroom floor, I felt right at home, and the Chieftain did not disappoint either. FOP in my pocket, pushed the start button and moved off the showroom floor as if I’ve been on this bike for years – comfortable, forgiving, and very predictable. The downside was that I had to deal with this Jo’burg traffic, well it can’t be worse than Cape Town, so the Chief with his big ass and I will be just fine.
The first features I explore on any bike I test, especially the big ones, are the brakes, the cornering, turning, power and manoeuvring abilities. Luxury and fancy gadgets are nice, but won’t save my butt when I need it to. Brakes first, clipping 80km/h then whacked the front and rear brakes properly; this beast stopped without a skid, tip-over or loss of control in a comfortable and anticipated distance. Although this model did not have ABS, it still performed well inside my expectations.
Second on my test list was cornering and turning. Unlike KZN where we are spoiled with twisties, here in Gauteng I had to go look for a few tight bends where I could toss this boy side to side. None of the common beeg baaik wobbles came forward, the Chieftain™ sucked and sat solidly around every bend we hammered. Turning, the tighter the better, until the footboards scraped was right up my alley, and my big ass friend making it too easy for me. He made me smile most of the time!
Power is what you’ll need to get out of a tight situation, and I had a few issues to deal with in this traffic, every cager just taking what he or she believes is rightfully theirs – empty space. Even in 6th gear did I find the Chieftain rolling on out and past without a hint of lag. What else do you expect from an 111Ci powerhouse between your legs?
Powering the new generation of Indian Motorcycles is the Thunder Stroke™ 111. This smooth, powerful and efficient new engine combines both style and power, with engine finning inspired by Chiefs of the 1940s.
“When we acquired Indian Motorcycle, we set out to capture the heart, soul and legendary heritage of this iconic American brand and then infuse it with unparalleled design, engineering, and state-of-the-art technology,” said Scott Wine, CEO of Indian Motorcycle parent company Polaris Industries Inc.
Now allow me to highlight a few luxury features that I enjoyed, and I believe so will you:
Up front is an aerodynamic fork-mounted fairing with integrated driving lights and LED turn signals. The Chieftain™ houses extensive digital instrumentation – including tyre pressure monitoring – and an audio system with high-output speakers. Use the integrated Bluetooth® smartphone connection to tap into your phone’s music playlists.
Raise and lower the power-adjustable windshield with the push of a button to customize airflow and protection – a first for any fork-mounted fairing.
The spacious hard saddlebags are mounted on quick-release anchors and feature remote electric locks you control with a console mounted button – or a convenient key fob.
Of course, the Indian Chieftain™ also features iconic Indian Motorcycle elements such as valanced fenders, a rich genuine leather saddle, and the lit War Bonnet atop the front fender. It also has extensive chrome, keyless ignition, ABS, cruise control, throttle by wire, and an innovative cast aluminium frame with integrated air intake.
The first Indian Motorcycle of its kind, the Indian Chieftain™ maintains the legendary Indian Chief styling, while taking this progressive machine to new heights with advanced features and premium comfort. Unlike any Indian Motorcycle ever made, the Chieftain™ features a fairing with integrated driving lights, and its power windshield is an industry-first for a fork-mounted fairing.
Spacious hard saddlebags are mounted on quick-release anchors and feature remote electronic locks you control with a console mounted button – or the convenient key fob.
The fairing houses an audio system that delivers clean, quality sound from dual high-output speakers. The aerodynamic fairing blocks wind to allow you to enjoy your highway playlist without interference.
The integrated Bluetooth® smart phone connection makes it easy to run music stored in the phone through the Indian® Chieftain™ audio system. Playlist info is displayed on the multi-function display screen, and switches near the handgrip make it easy to control the audio.
One of the classic elements of an Indian Motorcycle® is the vintage badging. Ever since the Indian® script logo was first created in 1910, and Indian Motorcycle® Red became the standard Indian Motorcycle® colour in 1912, these features have made the Indian Motorcycle® badging a hallmark of this historic brand.
Fender lighting the way as it has been done since 1947, is the iconic War Bonnet. Mounted proudly atop the front fender in a chrome frame, making it clear that, “This is a genuine Indian Motorcycle®.”
Are there any improvements Polaris can make? Of course there are, no brand is perfect, and now more than ever with all the ex-Victory resources moved to Indian, I’m confident that the brand will only grow from strength to strength.
My blissful time has come to an end, regrettably, I had to give the Chieftain back and return to Durban where we have very little Indians, no pun intended, and only two Chiefs that I know of. Maybe one day soon, someone in KZN will see the need, the need for Indian seed!