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2014 Heritage Softail vs Indian Chief Vintage

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

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2014 Indian Chief Vintage Comparison Video
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Climb on and take a spin on the 2014 Chief Vintage as we pit it against its rival from Harley-Davidson, the 2014 Heritage Softail Classic.

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2014 Harley Heritage Softail Classic Comparison Video
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The 2014 Harley Heritage Softail Classic is one classy ride. Here how it fared against its competitor from the Indian Motorcycle Co. in our 2014 Harley Heritage Softail Classic Comparison video.
They’re the most storied motorcycle manufacturers in American biker lore. Both scratched to life in the early 1900s, developed motorcycles that quickly earned reputations and fostered brand allegiances that ran deep. The companies grew by carving their names into motorcycle racing history books, from the Salt Flats in Utah to as far away as the Isle of Man. They bred Wrecking Crews and spawned Jackpine Gypsies, waged battles on board tracks, hill climbs, and the beaches of Daytona. They’ve championed Emde’s and Munro’s, Petrali’s and Parker’s while instigating countless rivalries. Harley-Davidson and Indian Motorcycle Company have been nemesis for a long time.

But disparate fortunes caused the rivalry to wane. Indian Motorcycles has risen and fallen with the tide as its golden years passed and production ceased in 1953. Several attempts to resurrect the brand failed as it toiled through the Gilroy era before a British private equity firm did its best to again relaunch the company with high dollar motorcycles built in Kings Mountain. Now it has landed in the hands of a very able partner for the first time in many years, parent company Polaris with a multi-billion dollar portfolio. That portfolio includes Victory Motorcycles, which helped Polaris trim Harley’s sales, but admittedly it lacked a company with an iconic American image and long-standing heritage. And so it bought Indian, and finally the company that has seen its share of turbulent times is in the possession of an entity with the talent and resources to once again make it competitive. On Saturday, August 3, in front of a packed house on Main Street in Sturgis, Polaris rolled out the first three Indian Motorcycles it had produced, among them the traditional-styled 2014 Indian Chief Vintage.

The other company in this test has weathered on despite its own hardships to establish itself as the iconic American motorcycle manufacturer. Celebrating 110 years in continuous production, Harley-Davidson hosted parties around the world this year and threw a big shin-dig in Milwaukee. And rightfully so. It has survived the great World Wars, the
Black powdercoated heads and cylinders with machined cooling fins topped by chrome rocker covers add up to an eye-pleasing V-Twin powering the 14 Heritage Softail.
The 1690cc Twin Cam 103B of the 2014 Harley Heritage Softail Classic put out 82.26 lb-ft of torque @ 3200 rpm and 66.33 hp @ 5200 rpm.
2014 Harley Heritage Softail Classic Dyno Chart - Twin Cam 103BA powerful 1811cc Thunder Stroke 111 V-Twin sits at the heart of the 2014 Indian Chief models and turned our dyno to the tune of 100.87 lb-ft torque @ 2700 rpm and 73.33 hp @ 4500 rpm.
The 1811cc Thunder Stroke 111 V-Twin of the 2014 Indian Chief Vintage turned our dyno to the tune of 100.87 lb-ft torque @ 2700 rpm and 73.33 hp @ 4500 rpm.
2014 Indian Chief Vintage Dyno Chart - Thunder Stroke 111
Depression, the Recessions, and what is known as the AMF years. It has done so by staying true to itself, true to producing what it knows best, and it’s ability to transcend beyond simply sales and into a lifestyle is a recipe everybody’s eager to steal. On Monday, August 19, Harley’s introduction of its Twin-Cooled engine, Project Rushmore and a restyled Batwing fairing stole the headlines at the introduction of the 2014 models. But there was a long list of Sportsters, Dyna and Softails released for 2014 too, including a timeless American cruiser, the 2014 Heritage Softail Classic.

Hoping to stoke the flames of a rivalry that stretches over 100 years, we pit the 2014 Indian Chief Vintage against the 2014 Harley Heritage Softail Classic. Externally, the two are carbon copies of one another, big classic-cued cruisers clad in chrome, swooping fenders and softail-style suspension, chrome auxiliary lights and tall windscreens, cush leather seats and classic leather saddlebags. The tell of the tape shows both are powered by big pushrod-driven V-Twins, the Harley Heritage running a 1690cc Twin Cam 103B while the Indian’s propulsion is provided by the 1811cc Thunder Stroke 111. Both have six-speed transmissions fed by electronic fuel injection, each has ABS and hidden rear suspension. Dunlop is the tire of choice for both cruisers, whitewalls in the case of the bikes we tested, wrapped around shiny spoked wheels. Overall the long list of similarities is undeniable.

So Motorcycle USA test rider Justin Dawes and I set about testing the two under real-world conditions, from the clogged arteries of LA’s 405 freeway to cruising the PCH, doing dashes over Ortega Highway and inland to secret photo stops. We lived in their saddles for a week, from stop-and-go stints to light touring, and the 2014 Harley Heritage Softail Classic won the efficiency award with an average of 35.514 mpg, a bit better than the guzzling 33.99 mpg average of the 2014 Indian Chief Vintage. Given the Indian has a 0.5-gallon larger tank than the Harley, projected range is almost identical with the Harley good for approximately 177 miles before a fill up while the Indian should be able to stretch it out to around 186 miles. Peeking at the spec sheet, the ’14 Chief Vintage has an MSRP of $20,999 while the ’14 Heritage Softail Classic with the Morocco Gold Paint and wheel package as tested is priced at $19,259.

And while we believed the two would perform almost identically based on their similarities, we couldn’t have been more wrong. They offer much different riding experiences, from the output of their engines to the way they handle and steer. One stretches riders out and feels long and low while the other is tight and compact. From turn-in to braking, there are notable differences between the two. Read on as the 100-year-war reignites, Harley versus Indian, Heritage versus Vintage.

2014 Heritage Softail Classic Gallery
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2014 Indian Chief Vintage Photo Gallery
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2014 Heritage Softail vs '14 Chief Vintage
The 2014 Indian Chief Vintage has the more potent powerplant of the two to go along with a stronger braking package.
Gear Bag  - Cruiser Editor Bryan Harley

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mtsh2s   October 2, 2014 09:16 AM
I own a 2014 Fat Boy, 2008 Rocker C, 2013 Victory Vision, 2015 Indian Chief Custom, 2013 ZX14R, 2014 Moto Guzzi California, and older bikes. I bought a 2014 Ultra Limited in January 2014 and sold it after several serious (NO RIDE RECALL) issues prevented me from traveling on it. Regardless of how hard HD tries, they still cannot produce a precision, quality machine that measures up to the other motorcycle manufacturers.
Piglet2010   April 26, 2014 03:20 PM
In real world use, steel frames fatigue as well, particularly at welds and threaded fittings, since local stresses will exceed the fatigue limit. A properly designed aluminium alloy frame with the same fatigue resistance as a steel frame will be lighter - oh I forgot, heavier is better in the minds of some cruiser riders. "Even most bicycle connoisseurs prefer chromoly steel." - No, only retro-grouches still repeat the silly mantra "Steel is Real".
Piglet2010   April 26, 2014 03:12 PM
The comparison of the Indian to Chief Illiniwek (note spelling) is ridiculous - the former is merely a brand name with neutral implications towards the characterization of American Indians, while the latter was a mocking of culture (as someone with two degrees from UIUC, I say good riddance to the "Chief" and wish he had been dumped decades earlier).
jimmy6912   March 27, 2014 08:43 AM
Oh....the second issue is the new Indian motor head tops....are those cooling fins on top or just a new ruffled look that merely mimicks the part of cooling fins? At least they should have polished up the lower areas of those pieces. With only the most protruding sides of parts being polished smooth and the rest looking rough and unfinished....it just makes those pieces look cheap. They are the crowns of the engine and should look like crowns...not some cheap prize from a Cracker Jack box.
jimmy6912   March 27, 2014 08:30 AM
Two issues with the new Indian. Although I'm very happy to see Polaris take the Indian to the next level....they made a huge mistake with choosing aluminum for the frame material. First...it's not traditional. It's also subject to greater structural fatigue over time. It's a weaker material and therefore needing more of it just to compensate for it's inherent lack of strength. I know, I know....aluminum lovers will talk about the added components in the "new" aluminum frames to make them so-called "better".....but steel is still king when it comes road vehicle frames. Even most bicycle connoisseurs prefer chromoly steel. Remember the aluminum head tubes breaking off the main frame triangles? It's well known that the aluminum frame change in some of the newer motorcycles was nothing more than marketing hype which some people fell for.....and still fall for. I know....let's put aluminum frames on cars and trains too :-)
Panbobber   January 7, 2014 10:43 AM
Having seen these in the flesh, you have to impressed by the quality of the bikes. To me (as someone who has owned an original indian and 35 Harleys over the years old and new - i still have my 49 Panhead) these bikes really do feel right and proper with the indian name. The bikes of recent years bearing the name were really little more than Harley-esq clones with big fenders. Polaris have done a maginificent job by creating a machine that looks like an evolution of the brand - it feels right. One comment on an earlier post. As someone who loves his indian's and harleys, we must remember that Harley were bought by AMF in the 60's when it looked like they would go bust and whilst the AMF era may by some be seen as a nasty era of sloppy quality etc AMF threw them a line and kept the brand alive. My point is, that Harley has been through a changing ownership and is not the company it was in the 60's let alone the one set up by the founding fathers - despite the good fortune of finding someone to keep them alive until independence finally arrived in the 80's. Triumph motorcycles too has a similar experience (the Japs did some damage to our industry too) and were eventually bought by Bloor Holdings and re-imagined as a new brand - would you say that they were really Bloors rather than Triumphs? No the product stands its ground, is recognisable as having the spirit of a Triumph and is worthy of the name. Indian has been thrown from pillar to post over many years and not so lucky as either of the other examples, but whoever carried that name with them (even in the imported lightweight era) wanted the brand to carry on until the right hands were found. They have been found at last and we are about to witness the resurgence of a name and motorcycling spirit that is loved the world over. Indian Motocycle is part of your motorcycle heritage - lets be thankful that someone with global manufacturing and business expertise like Polaris can now finally help that brand back to where it belongs. And for the record - I will be buying one to replace my Road King, but keeping my 49 Pan ;)
sloppy   October 22, 2013 09:33 PM
mbonace, I think you bring up a good point. While Byran and Justin gave the nod to the Indian, both riders that evaluated these bikes are men that are experienced riders. Justin is about my height and I believe Bryan is around 6' tall. Obviously Indian is positioned more for an aggressive rider who wants more power and a better lean angle to carve up the curves. I think everyone wants better brakes though. I do see why they chose the Heritage Softail to go against the Vintage. It was because of the "hardtail" look and hidden horizontal suspension of both as well as the soft bags. The Road King would have certainly braked better due to the dual rotors. However while women riders have grown, they still account for only around 12-14 percent. Polaris made the decision to go after the biggest crowd initially. They also introduced the Chieftain to go after H-D's best seller, the Street Glide. (which is a fantastic bike) This was strictly a business decision. The typical Street Glide owner is not a first time motorcycle owner. They know what they want and want a real riders bike. Indian wants to capture a portion of the biggest market first. (the experienced male rider) Women are not the only ones that would prefer an H-D over the Indian. A new rider and a small man might choose it as well. Also, the number one bike that Harley sells to women is the Sportster. While you and other women might like the larger H-Ds, most women go to a Sporty. Large bikes are more difficult to control in tight places and at slow speeds. But as we all know, if you want a better lean, one thing that needs to be done is to raise the floorboards. I think anyone would be a fool not to test both before they bought one. The H-D certainly has some distinct advantages. The Indian weighs almost 100 more. It certainly has more testosterone but I agree about the size. The other point is that this is the first year that Polaris introduced their version of the Indian. I am sure it would have been almost impossible to have the wide line up like H-D, especially since they still have another incredible brand that they have been selling for a long time. I could care less if the name is associated with Polaris. I thought that the Stellicon offering looked way to much like a Harley and that is was a lousy overpriced bike. On the name, way too many people make too much of it. They say things like "it is not a real Indian". Sure it is, a 2014 Indian. Just like a 2014 H-D is an H-D. I don't think anyone believes they are getting the same bike as a 1953 Chief anymore than a H-D rider thinks he is getting a 1953 Panhead. It's like telling someone that the Magic Kingdom really has no magic. Ya think? I am glad Polaris bought Indian, we now have two motorcycle companies that push the other to be better and bring a ton of heritage to these two fabulous icons.
Poncho167   October 22, 2013 04:44 PM
Kropotkin, who thinks of a Mini as a BMW. Who thinks of a Rolls Royce as a BMW. Who thinks of a Bentley as a Volkswagon.

Only you and a small number will think the Indian motorcycle is a Polaris.
mbonace   October 22, 2013 04:06 PM
If I may I would like to weigh in with a woman riders point of view... I've been on two wheels since I was 5..nearly 50 years and have seen many bikes come and go. Rivals from the beginning and probably will be till the end is Indian and Harley's history. Both have had their ups and downs and I'm a Harley girl but always loved the look of the Indian. So here goes... I would have hoped that Indian would have taken into consideration the number of women riding in this day and age. I was a real oddball in the 70's and 80's being female but have to give credit to Harley for design changes that allow us ladies to now ride the bigger bikes instead of just having Sporty's to choose from. It seems like Indian didn't feel we were worth catering too by the looks of things. Wish they would have made design elements that would have caused us to look at their bikes with fresh eyes but with the added weight and other issues noted, may make this bike prohibitive for female riders. We've come a long way baby, but not far enough apparently for Indian. Oh well their loss.
sloppy   October 18, 2013 09:02 AM
Kropotkin you said "The first is that the name "Indian" is not acceptable, anymore than the name "Redskins" or "Chief Illinawec" is acceptable. You cannot name a commercial product with a racial tradename and get away with it. I bet they get sued." and then you say "I'm not offended by the name". You my friend are obviously a PC NAZI. I can't stand whiners like you that get in line to cry. I am a proud Native American (Eastern band of Cherokee) and Caucasian, If you saw me you would think I wear a war bonnet myself. I absolutely despise NAZIs like you. (no matter the race) They stir up trouble over nothing. That bike glorifies the name not insults it. Stick to the bike article NAZI. Talk that sh-- over with your crybaby friends at Starbucks or whevever you bi--hes get together to moan. Both bikes had strengths and weaknesses. Nathan, I do wonder how this stacks up against the Road King. (especially with the 2 rotors up front)
jim518   October 18, 2013 06:02 AM
I think a better comparison would of been a 2014 Road King to the Indian. The Heritage didn't get the upgrades that the touring models did. To bad..
nathan   October 18, 2013 04:53 AM
There's always a Troll lurking about ( especially when the HD fanboys feel threatened ) and Kropotkin is clearly one. There is clearly very little difference between Harley being bought and sold and Indian being bought and sold. It happened to Harley once and indian several times but, none the less, they were both owned by multiple groups. You either don't know Harley's history or are willfully ignorant in an attempt to prove some sort of point. Also, on what possible grounds do you figure they would be sued? Because the almighty PC police don't "like" the name? Absurd.
Kropotkin   October 17, 2013 12:13 PM
Just for the record, sloppy, I'm not offended by the name. I think the PC stuff is ridiculous. But I do think it's a racial name and that it draws upon a stereotype. Piglet, a Harley is a Harley, and always has been. An Indian is a Polaris, and always will be.
sloppy   October 17, 2013 02:29 AM
Kropotkin, Indian is very acceptable to most of us American Indians. There are a select few that have to get offended by everything. "Redskins" is a derogatory term for Native American but how silly is it to complain about everything. The company and most sport teams glorify the Native American culture not ridicule it. I am also white and I don't get offended by "Viking", "Celtic" or anything else. Take ownership of your own problem. The name Indian is only unacceptable to you and your PC Nazi friends that line up to cry that they are offended by everything.
Piglet2010   October 16, 2013 08:54 PM
@ Kropotkin - I doubt Polaris could be successfully sued over the name, or we would not still have Atlanta Braves, Chicago Blackhawks, Cleveland Indians, Kansas City Chiefs, and Washington Redskins. And the Chief Vintage is just as much an Indian as the Heritage Softail a Harley-Davidson, since H-D was once owned by bowling equipment specialist AMF.
Kropotkin   October 16, 2013 01:56 PM
Two points. The first is that the name "Indian" is not acceptable, anymore than the name "Redskins" or "Chief Illinawec" is acceptable. You cannot name a commercial product with a racial tradename and get away with it. I bet they get sued. Secondly, it isn't an Indian, it's a Polaris. Why Polaris thinks that the name of the motorcycle is do darn important that they would caim to be resurrecting a long since dead brand eludes me. Just make a good motorcycle, with valenced fenders and a retro look. Paint it red and call it an Indiana, if that's what they want to do. WHo do they think they are fooling by pretending it's an Indian? From what I can tell, Polaris makes better motorcycles than Indian ever did.
jimmihaffa   October 16, 2013 08:25 AM
You know, I'm going to catch a lot of flack from the American Iron faithful here...but, I ride a Vulcan 2000 and see a lot of design elements in the Chief that makes me think there was some reverse engineering of the Kawasaki product during the Chief's design. The motor's top end noise on the Chief sounds very similar to the Vulcan 2000's engine characteristics too...ok call me paranoid and bring it on fellas. Apart from that, I'm amazed how the Indian looks to be the more polished product. I love the styling cues, color combinations and impressive engine performance compared to the Harley.