by Jason Goodrich
Indian Motorcycles has been a smoke show of a company since their reintroduction at the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in 2013, and the company continues to grow. Indian made their mark in the Touring and Bagger markets with The Chieftain and The Challenger. They’ve become a major force in the world of flat track racing and, most recently, at the 2020 King of the Bagger Races at Laguna Seca, where Indian took first place (rider Tyler O’Hara/S&S team) and third place (rider Frankie Garcia/Roland Sands Team). Both teams rode the Indian Challenger.
Now hitting its 100-year milestone, Indian has fully revamped The Chief. Designed by Ola Stenegard, a prominent figure in the custom motorcycle scene, the new Indian Chief blends the history of a post-war classic with the finesse of a modern ride. Stenegard chose a simple steel tube frame, giving the bike a more open and exposed look. The frame is not only the foundation for this machine but the centerpiece of the Chief’s classic design look. From its profile, Stenegard created a perfect flow from the neck to rear wheel. The inspiration was that of a classic Indian that could be fully dressed for touring or run naked for the city.
Out of the gate, these bikes have huge potential, running the air-cooled, 49-degree Thunder Stroke V-twin, which comes in either 111ci (1,811cc) or 116ci (1,890cc) displacement, with six-speed transmissions. The Chief’s wet weight comes in at a mild 670 lbs., keeping it light so the V-twin can live up to its full power. The lighter weight combined with a 64-inch wheel base also makes this bike remarkably nimble. The bike wields tons of power and performance for aggressive riding and comes in six distinct platforms (including the trim options): the Chief, Chief Dark Horse, Chief Bobber, Chief Bobber Dark Horse, Super Chief and Super Chief Limited. Each model has a keyless ignition, LED headlight, cruise control and different throttle response settings: Sport, Standard or Tour. All have amazing aftermarket and customizing potential.
We took these bikes through the hills of Arizona, the perfect backdrop for a test ride. From Sedona we rode through Jerome and Prescott before ending at Vulture City, a former mining encampment from the 1800s. Our ride took us through varied terrain, from sloping long corners and aggressive grades to wind-filled straightaways. I could not find a situation this bike did not perform well in, including my personal dread—rain. It was a true testament to the stability of this bike holding high speed on steep grades while it was pouring rain. We rode alongside brand ambassador and motocross legend Carey Hart. His custom builds show us where the Chief is heading into the future of customizing. The Harley-Davidson Dynas were heavily popular in the custom and aftermarket world and stunt community. Now Indian has the Chief answering the call to contend with Harley on this platform.
As an owner of a Dyna, this new platform gives me the sense and feeling of a dynamic ride. I’ve ridden all over this country on my bike. Coming out of our year-long societal hibernation, it’s more important than ever to find new ways to get out and experience the world around us. All technical jargon aside, there is nothing compared to the twist of a throttle that sparks a childlike eruption of giddiness in every rider—speeding through the countryside, watching a moving canvas of ourselves melting away from who we once were, only to arrive with a new sense of yearning. My vacations are spent one mile at a time, one moment at a time, losing myself in the deafening cry from the limiter. Get up and get out, try something that will guarantee happiness. If you’re new to riding or have not ridden an Indian, it is engineered to speak to such a desire.