2014 Indian Chieftain

 

One of the many riders who tested new 2014 Indian motorcycles

One of the many riders who tested new 2014 Indian motorcycles

On Friday, we had the chance to test ride the new 2014 Indian Chieftain full dress bagger, and we came away mightily impressed.

Three words sum up this iconic American retro cruiser – Style, Style, Style.

The Indian Motorcycle Company started up in 1901, before Harley-Davidson got going in 1903.  Indian can take credit for the gorgeous, valenced front fender and skirted rear fender that harkens from their motorcycles from the 1940s.  Take a look at the cooling fins on the cylinder heads.  They look like they’ve been plucked right from a 1940s Indian.  And like the Indians of yesteryear, there are dual fuel filler caps, although this is just a styling element.  Only the right side filler is functional.  And the new 2014 Chieftain preserves all these beautiful styling cues, and many more.

Chieftain instrument cluster has a full range of modern readouts (temperature, fuel economy etc.).  Twin fuel fillers is a nostalgic styling touch; only the right side is functional

Chieftain instrument cluster has a full range of modern readouts (temperature, fuel economy etc.). Twin fuel fillers is a nostalgic styling touch; only the right side is functional

How’s the Chieftain priced?

Our demo unit was a red Chieftain, Indian’s top-of-the-line ‘flagship’ model.  With a base price of $25,599 Cdn, it’s aggressively priced.  Polaris Industries Inc. (the Minnesota-based makers of Victory motorcycles and Polaris powersports products) should sell a shed load of these beautiful machines.

What standard equipment does the Chieftain have?

The ‘base’ Chieftain comes loaded with features – 111 c.i. V-twin engine, 6-speed transmission, ABS brakes, oil cooler, remote locking/unlocking bags, electric windscreen, 100w audio system, cruise control, driving lights, keyless ignition, leather saddle, tire pressure monitoring system, and Bluetooth connection, to name a few.  As one would expect, an accessories catalogue is available for ‘essential’ customization.

Indian Chief Vintage was also on hand for testing

Indian Chief Vintage was also on hand for testing

Indian Chief instrument pod

Indian Chief instrument pod

 

What’s the Chieftain like to ride?

            Off the line, throttle response is soft and slow.  But the 111 c.i. engine produces prodigious torque, some 119 lb.-ft., says local sales specialist Jay Padilla.  On the road, the Chieftain is just about impossible to stall.  Just release the clutch (which is a tad stiffer than I expected) and go.  The big V-twin engine can pull from 1,000 rpm in sixth gear.  The transmission is agricultural.  First gear engages with a loud, mechanical ‘clunk’ to all within earshot. But this is actually a charming and acceptable part of this nostalgia sled.  Short-shifting the clunky 6-speed transmission is the most pleasant way to ride this cruiser.  Let it rumble up to low-ish 2700 rpm, nudge the toe shifter up a gear, and just let the (848 lb. curb weight, fully fueled) bike get its head of steam like an old locomotive.  (The bike needs a heel shifter.  For us non-cruiser riders, the gearshift is a looooong way up there.)  As befitting a cruiser, the Chieftain has floorboards.

Front brakes are decent for a cruiser, but the rear brake has little feel and on first impression, doesn’t feel like it contributes much to slowing the beast down.

Our short 45-min. test didn’t allow us to get up to fast highway speeds, but on our in-city freeway, the ride is very plush.  It’s suspension is certainly softer and more comfortable than either the Harley-Davidson Ultra-Classic or Honda GL1800 Gold Wing.  And the Chieftain’s stock saddle seems at least the equal to the superb Harley and Gold Wing saddles.

On the road, the windscreen is adjustable on the fly (via a left side thumb switch) and can be positioned low enough for my 5-foot 7-in. frame to see over.

In short, the 2014 Indian Chieftain is a very impressive motorcycle.  It has a very keen price point, oozes with style and comes equipped standard with just about everything a touring rider wants (oddly missing only heated handgrips, which are an available option.)  Expect to see a lot of new Chieftains on the road.  Indian Motorcycle has a winner here.

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