The best part of finishing a long-term motorcycle review is that there is always another motorcycle coming. In this case we went a completely different direction than our recently departed Yamaha Super Ténéré.
With that in mind meet our 2016 Indian Chieftain Dark Horse. It's modern technology wrapped in old-school nostalgia with top level fit and finish.
Although Indian has had its fair share of struggles over its existence the fact remains it is America's oldest brand of motorcycle. Indian is as American as apple pie, baseball, and the 4th of July. The brand also now has the financial backing to make a serious run at staying in business for a long time and competing with every other brand that makes a cruiser. The amount of money Polaris has dwarfs most manufacturers and Polaris' experience in engineering and profit making make it a formidable sales force.
The Chieftain Dark Horse cuts an imposing figure when the bike is parked and sitting on the side stand. Once you throw a leg over it, however, that size melts away. The weight is extremely low in the chassis meaning once you lever the bike off the sidestand it rolls easily, and the maneuverability at slow speeds is impressive. There is a ton of lock-to-lock steering movement and the wide bars give excellent leverage.
The riding position is upright with your feet underneath you and a short reach to the bars. Despite my 6-foot-1 frame the position is not cramped; the floor boards offer plenty of room to move your feet around and reposition your body whenever you need to.
The motor is stout with tons of low-end power. The one interesting characteristic is that peak torque is made at 3000 rpm. That's low compared to an inline-four but higher in the rev range than most big-bore twins. The bike really is a tale of two halves of the rev range. Docile and tractable below 2500, it really opens up and hauls the mail above three grand. It's never what I would call quick, but it pulls like a proverbial freight train when you twist the grip.
The biggest surprise with the entire motorcycle has to be the brakes. When you are stopping 855 lbs. of steel you don't expect it to be quick and easy. With dual 300mm discs and four-piston calipers up front, and a 300mm two-piston caliper in the rear, there is plenty of power to get the job done. It's not a two-finger operation but you stop quickly and under control. Combined with ABS you can stop in less than ideal conditions with the same control.
Well, we have already passed the initial break-in period and completed the first service. The stock seat needs some help, there are some great performance parts available, and my adventure-touring gear doesn't quite match the new bike (Venting on that clothing is also in the wrong spots, not to mention there is a ton of technical cruiser gear on the market).
*Thanks to Chesapeake Cycles in Annapolis, Maryland, for making a killer deal that allowed us to get the new long-term ride.