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2014 Indian Chieftain First Ride

Monday, August 5, 2013
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We ride the 2014 Indian Chieftain around Sturgis and get the lowdown on the other 2014 Indian Chief motorcycles as well in our 2014 Indian Chief Motorcycle First Ride video.
Of all the motorcycles Indian introduced last night to a packed house on Sturgis’ Main Street, the one that elicited the biggest response from the crowd was the 2014 Indian Chieftain. And for good reason. The sculpted fairing has a bold, aggressive design, blending the new and exciting with familiar cues like the signature Indian valanced fenders just below it. It was the one motorcycle its new Polaris owners introduced that deviated the most from the norm. Including a bagger in its initial offerings was a savvy marketing move by Indian Motorcycle. It continues to be one of the most popular segments and there’s numerous custom builders doing big things with them in the aftermarket. Just look at Paul Yaffe’s Bagger Nation.

Indian brass stated it has one goal in mind with the new lineup: To build the premier premium American motorcycle. As it moves forward to that goal, it pays tribute to the brand’s Springfield heritage and its long history that dates back to 1901. The first 1901 production models coming out of Spirit Lake will be numbered, and the new model launch includes plenty of firsts for the Indian brand. The cast aluminum chassis is a first on an Indian, the bike’s skeleton providing both the weight savings and rigidity Indian sought as it attempted to pull mass out of the frame. The progressive linkage system used on the Chief Vintage and Chief Classic is another first on an Indian Motorcycle. The 2014 lineup includes the first hard-faired bagger the company has produced, too.

The Thunder Stroke 111 engine powering the trio of 2014 Indian Chiefs doesn’t share any parts with other powerplants Polaris produces either. Its unit construction crankcase is comprised of two castings. It has large fins that not only help in cooling but feature the same finning and parallel pushrod tubes as Chiefs from the early 1940s. It has a 5.5 quart oil capacity to keep those almost four-inch pistons oiled up and drumming. And do they drum. Indian has worked hard to keep mechanical noise down so its exhaust note is the bike’s defining auditory signature. And I’ll admit, the bike does put out a powerful, throaty growl when you’re on the throttle as it dishes out the lofty claims of 119 lb-ft of torque at the 3000 rpm plateau. This figure exceeds company expectations as Indian initially was shooting to get power numbers in the 115 lb-ft range.

During Indian’s technical presentation on the bike, they said the Chieftain’s styling cues were drawn from Indians from the 1950s, bold bikes with distinctive lines. But the new version departs from the norm by being the first Indian
The posse gets ready to ride out of Dodge on the new 2014 Indian Chiefs.
The posse gets ready to ride out of Dodge on the new 2014 Indian Chiefs.
The Thunder Stroke 111 engine is the crown jewel of the 2014 Indian Chieftain.
The Thunder Stroke 111 engine is the crown jewel of the 2014 Indian Chieftain.
produced with a hard fairing and hard bags. Indian designed them not only with function in mind, but made them quickly detachable and with the ability to be remotely locked via the bike’s key fob. The saddlebags are big enough to stuff in my backpack, which holds my 17-inch computer.

The starting process is all-electronic with a key fob taking the place of a traditional key. As long as it’s within proximity of the bike, it will start up. You can turn it on by depressing a button on the tank or engage the electrical system by pushing the traditional handlebar mounted start button once, then press it again to turn the bike over.

Sitting in its leather saddle for the first time, it feels compact for a bagger. The Chieftain is fairly slim in the saddle and it’s easy to get both feet securely on the ground at stop. Its ergos are relaxed and upright courtesy of highway bars and floorboards. The Chieftain’s seat has a comfortable contour and Indian said it intends to adopt it on the other two models as well.

The motorcycle is well-balanced so it’s easy to control during slow speed maneuvers on overcrowded Lazelle Street. Despite its generous size, the fork-mounted fairing doesn’t weigh steering down. Between the wide fairing and the electronically adjustable windscreen, the tandem shelters riders well so there’s little buffeting. The four-inch power windshield is activated via button on the left handlebar. The Chieftain audio system pumps 100 watts of audio through two speakers mounted in the front fairing. The sound is clean and loud. The motorcycle also has the capacity to run your smartphone through it and link to music lists through Bluetooth.

The gear sets on the six-speed transmission have been engineered to quell mechanical noise, and after riding the 2014 Chieftain up to Nemo and through Vanocker Canyon, we’d have to say engineers accomplished their goal. Gears engage smoothly and quietly as its big, high capacity clutch doesn’t require a lot of spring force. The clutch lever is firm but not stiff and the throttle-by-wire system is dialed, so response to input is crisp. It’s so non-descript, it took me a little while to think about the functionality of the transmission because it was easing into gear so naturally. Considering the tremendous amount of torque the engine is doling out, this is no small feat of engineering.

The 2014 Chieftain has good ground clearance thanks to boards positioned high which allows for plenty of lean. It has both the tightest rake of the three new Indian models at 25-degrees and the shortest wheelbase at 65.7 inches. The combination adds up to a bagger that is more than willing to lean into the turns and track true once it gets there.

The engine is smooth yet powerful. Not punchy, but strong and consistent. We wanted to crack its throttle more but confess that traffic in Vanocker prevented us from getting the full monty. On the rare occasion we did get to open it up, it pulls with the authority you’d expect from an 1811cc engine. Vibrations in the bars are almost non-existent. In addition to the surface area of its cooling fins, it has an airbox built into the cast aluminum frame to help keep heat down.

We rolled up to Nemo from Rapid City and rambled through Vanocker Canyon on the 2014 Indian Chiefs.
We rolled up to Nemo from Rapid City and rambled through Vanocker Canyon on the 2014 Indian Chiefs.
The first Indian models produced by Polaris debuted Saturday night to a packed house on Sturgis Main Street.
The first Indian models produced by Polaris debuted Saturday night to a packed house on Sturgis' Main Street.
The front brakes are powerful thanks to twin 300mm floating discs up front. Four-piston calipers put a strong squeeze without having to mash the lever hard. The units aren’t overly bitey but pressure is immediate and even. Braking duties get an assist from ABS that are part of the factory package, assisting the single 300mm disc out back.

Besides being attractively designed, the instrument console is placed intuitively, the round dial of its analog speedo easy enough to read at speed, as is the analog tach placed opposite it. Between the two dials is a digital readout with four different screens and plenty of information to toggle through. Among its functions are a clock and outside temperature gauge, radio, satellite radio, a plug-in audio device, range indicator, odometer, and tire pressure PSI readout. Cruise control comes standard and is operated via the right switch control.

The new Indian Chiefs have been the buzz of Sturgis. Every time we stop, someone will approach with a story about an Indian they owned and just about everybody has responded positively on the direction Polaris has taken.

“The original Indian was an everyman machine and these guys have brought that back,” said one gentleman we met called Ed Murphy, the unofficial “Mayor of Suches, Georgia.”

The 2014 Indian Chief combines classic cues with modern performance and technology. It will run your Bluetooth, tell you your tire pressure, has throttle-by-wire and ABS. It has traditional running lights in the fairing but features integrated LED turn signals too. Classic cues include the red hue the marque is known for, swooping fenders and a lit War Bonnet emblem on the front fender. Its crown jewel is its engine that sits like a mother of pearl within the six-piece modular frame. But it’s more than just a pretty face. It’s like a punch in the nose, which Indian just delivered to its competitors.

2014 Indian Chieftain Gear Bag

2014 Indian Chief Photo Gallery
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Technical Specifications
Of the three new Indian Chiefs debuted at Sturgis  the 2014 Chieftain received the lions share of applause from the crowd.
2014 Indian Chieftain Specs
111 cubic-inch 119 lb-ft @ 3000 rpm (claimed)
Bore/Stroke - 3.976 in. X 4.449 in.
Compression Ratio – 9.5:1
Electronic Fuel Injection System – Closed loop fuel injection / 54mm bore
Primary Drive – Gear Drive Wet Clutch
Clutch – Wet, Multi-Plate
Front Suspension – Telescopic Fork – 46mm cartridge forks w/ dual rate springs - 4.7 in. travel
Rear Suspension – Single Shock/pneumatic adjustment – 4.49 in. travel
Front Brake – Dual floating rotor, 4-piston caliper dual front, 300mm with Anti-Lock Brakes
Rear Brake - Single floating rotor, 2-piston caliper, 300mm with Anti-Lock Brakes
Front Tire – Dunlop Elite 3 130/90B16 73H
Rear Tire – Dunlop Elite 3 180/60R16 80 H
Wheels – Cast 16” X 3.5” front/16” X 5” rear
Exhaust – Split dual exhaust with crossover
Length – 101.2 in.
Width – 40.2 in.
Height – 60.2 in.
Curb Weight – 848 lbs (claimed)
Seat Height – 26 in.
Wheelbase – 65.7 in.
Rake – 25-degrees
Trail – 5.9 in.
Fuel capacity – 5.5 gal.
Colors – Thunder Black, Indian Motorcycle Red, Springfield Blue
MSRP - $22,999 Thunder Black, $23,499 Indian Motorcycle Red or Springfield Blue

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redcloud   April 30, 2014 07:40 AM
I also should have added I love how the windshield moves up or down depending on the weather or the riders likes. Also unlike Harley the turn signals are worked from the left hand "very convenient" but it will take getting used to only because I've road Harleys for so long. Sometimes its the small things that make the big difference and this bike has a few of them.
redcloud   April 30, 2014 07:31 AM
All I can say is I test road the chieftain and ordered one the next day now my 03 ultra is for sale. I thought it was a great ride, well balanced, no vibrations when sitting at a light and the trans shifted smother than either of my Harleys. The 111 cu power plant had lots of power to spare. The only thing I can say bad is the lack of aftermarket parts available but that will change with time.
seventhson   September 28, 2013 07:29 AM
TO: ROCKYCHARLESTON So...it sounds like nothing made in the modern era is to your liking...here's a reality check for you...you can't turn the clock back...there are a lot of very well made bikes out there from all motorcycle companies that handle better, last longer and are far more reliable on the road today...stop being so cynical, hop on whatever you like and enjoy...like the rest of us.
RockyCharleston   August 23, 2013 09:38 AM
Ever notice at a Biker event the new Road Kings, Heritage or even a new Turnip will draw a lot of looks from the crowd. That is until someone shows up on a Shovel or Knuckle Head. Even non-Bikers will gather around to admire this rolling form of artwork. Many of today's modern bikes don't have that charisma or styling. Instead they are cheap plastic utilitarian throwaway bikes. After so many miles you just junk them as they are not even worth rebuilding. On the other hand, a great motorcycle is a piece of ride-able rolling artwork. You would never think about throwing out a knuckle or classic Enfield. You rebuild these amazing pieces of motorcycle history over and over. Even the great Harley Davidson, having had no competition for so many years, has been hurt by the Companies pencil pushers forcing more and more cheap parts on their modern Harleys. Indian has the potential to avoid these mistakes and rival the indomitable Harley, by returning to the great motorcycle brand that it once was. The new styling is amazing and true to its old form by successfully capturing that classic look. But I am curious if the quality of the bike and its parts will propel Indian back to its former glory or just be an attempt to use an iconic name to push inferior bikes on the market. Is motorcycle history being made? or will the iconic Indian brand once again find itself fading back into history. We will find out soon enough. See you on the road. Rocky
Cycleryder   August 8, 2013 09:51 AM
I am an avid rider of motorycles and always loved the look of the Indian, especiall the valanced fenders. I got to say that I am looking forward to testing a new Indian and possible be purchasing one. I guess I will have to find room aside of my Harley for an Indian.
qatesting   August 8, 2013 08:18 AM
AZRwing19   August 8, 2013 07:22 AM
Kropotkin, wasn't the motor company owned by a bowling equipment mfg at one time. Why yes, I believe they were. And yet, they still call themselves Harley Davidson. Companies are bought and sold. Build a quality product, and they will come.
customaudiodesign   August 7, 2013 03:05 PM
I grew up in a family of motorcyclists where we have our own "heritage" dating back to the competition days of the board track era...on my grandpa's side of the family, his older brother rode for the original "Wrecking Crew" Indian board track team, and also rode for Harley and Excelsior. Everyone in the family rode, grandpas, grandmas, aunts/uncles, great aunts/uncles and cousins. My grandfather George rode his 1939 Indian Chief the whole time I was growing up, riding up until he was 80 in the early 1980's. I rode on the back of that bike as a kid to many places like the original Sturgis (Jack Pine era) and Speed Week at Bonneville. Considering that previous revival attempts were always going to be failures, grandpa would be proud that a company with the resources, manufacturing expertise and forward vision have been able to pull off bringing Indian back to market. Marketing Harleys with an Indian badge on the tank was a recipe for failure. Thankfully, although it is a cruiser, Polaris has decided to make something that's not a Harley, i.e. obviously better cornering clearance, solid chassis, better suspension performance and a decidedly we-are-not-controlled-by-the-past/heritage BS. Heritage is fine as long as it doesn't KEEP you in the past and gives you a foundation to keep moving towards the future. Less marketing hyperbole about tradition and heritage from Harley, and more real-world lean angles (yes, even cruisers need enough to swerve or tighten up your line in a corner if someone crosses the center-line), suspension performance and a chassis that doesn't feel like it has a hinge in the middle when I'm leaned over in a turn. Good work Polaris and Indian!
RaptorFA   August 7, 2013 03:01 PM
Well, Superlight, have some valid points. But you never know. This is just the beginning. Perhaps the next machine that comes out might be more similar to what you are looking for. I really hope they do that! But it seems to me that the first effort, the first goal was to bring back a great american classic, and it would appear that hey have achieved that. I know I am certainly going to go and check one out when I can. For what it's worth, I rather like this new engine. It's clear that a lot of thought and engineering went into it. Only one way to find out - I'm gonna go ride the thing!
Superlight   August 7, 2013 02:17 PM
z06vision, neither an Indian hater nor a Harley lover; in fact, I only own sport bikes. I do think, however, that Indian could have really differentiated themselves from the rest of the cruiser/touring bikes by developing something other than (insert yawn here) an air-cooled, narrow-angle V-twin. I'm also surprised Indian designers didn't take this opportunity to contemporize the look, even if it is based in nostalgia. They didn't notice that Camaro (contemporized nostalgia) has been outselling Mustang (pure nostalgia) the last few years? I guess not.
weitzman   August 7, 2013 12:16 PM
119 pounds of twist at 3,000 rpm means it also produces 68 hp at 3,000 rpm. depending how fast the torque falls off, this could be one powerful engine.
Madfoxx   August 7, 2013 12:00 PM
Love these new Indians. Being a Victory owner, I knew Polaris would do it right. Now I'm a little concerned about the competition Indian will give Victory! Those that have negative things to say, I say go ride one. You WILL change your mind. I know I did when I rode my Victory.
z06vision   August 6, 2013 02:56 PM
"Superlight August 6, 2013 12:21 PM Another opportunity missed." What a hater! Must be a Harley rider? Where other companies have failed with Indian, Polaris,,,,,Yes- POLARIS hit it out of the park. A bike with modern features that other bikes do not have.I own a vision and am proud that an American company has been producing revolutionary amenities instead of the same ole, same ole that Harley has been producing and going no where. 111cu inches. It will take Harley another 7 years before that hit that cubic inch mark. Know what the Harley haters will say, "We got heritage". Your trade in values are the same or worse as other manufactures. The ironic thing about Harley riders is that that are the ones that are jumping ship to Polaris,,,,yes- POLARIS because of their comfort, what you get for your dollar without buying 10k in accessories and the Victorys and the new Indians are a better bikes that were built in a shorter time than any Harley. Wake up and smell the coffee because Polaris is the NEW American Bike company. Stop being a hater and take a ride on a nice American Bike.
Superlight   August 6, 2013 12:21 PM
Another opportunity missed. Indian could have contemporized the look, but they chose to pretty much copy the old design cues. They could have brought back an inline 4 turned longitudinally, honoring Indian heritage, but chose to follow Harley and most others with (yet another) V-twin. I don't see anything special here.
McJitsu   August 6, 2013 04:16 AM
As an owner and restorer of an original 1946 Indian Chief... I like the new Indian motorcycle. They are not a Victory bike, which is interesting that they would re-invent the wheel to make this new Indian motorcycle. It is a new and very well designed motorcycle. They did it right. It looks right, and from several articles they got the suspension, brakes, electronics, wheels, handling down before they rolled it out. There was a reason Indian designed those fenders that way, not just for looks. They are very functional at keeping the road off of you and the rest of the bike. A nice long warranty on it too! They got the parts and accessories, and apparel right too. Snap on windshield, snap on passenger pad and luggage rack. Leather galore and not one single stupid looking brass stud on any of it! The got the 3 models right. Hardbagger with great spoiler, softbag and basic. And notice too, not one mention of excess heat coming off the back cylinder, requiring turning it off at stop lights (like another v-twin we know). Polaris is a home grown American company, just like Indian was. And now they have made two American motorcycles, Victory and the total new design Indian. It will have some break in bugs, like all new bikes, but this one feels right. My compliments. I will buy the new Indian Vintage to go with my original '46, and my 1999 1500 Drifter (Kawasaki tribute bike to the Indian), would not have done that with the Gilroy or Stellican.
RaptorFA   August 5, 2013 10:19 AM
One thing about air cooling is that if you can do it right, it takes a lot of weight and complexity out of the equation. Many BMW GS guys were not thrilled when they learned that the new models were going to be liquid cooled. I tend to like liquid cooling, but I guess it all depends on your perspective. In order to stay true to the original base architecture it would HAVE to be air cooled.
Kropotkin   August 5, 2013 09:39 AM
You don't mention if it's a air cooled engine, I'm not sure but I think it is. Nice motorcycles, but I think I'd have moved into the modern age with a water cooled engine to set it apart from Harley. Also, you can buy the name and call it an Indian. But it isn't really an Indian. It's a Polaris with the name "Indian."
RaptorFA   August 5, 2013 09:28 AM
Nice write-up, Bryan! Looks like a very impressive machine. How would you rate the suspension and over-all ride quality? I'm guessing you will get about 240 miles or so from a tank of fuel. Did you have an oppurtunity to run through a full tank ina single stint and how did you feel when you dismounted?
sloppy   August 5, 2013 06:58 AM
Thanks Brian! I really love this bike! This certainly will be my next one. This may not be good for H-D but it certainly will be good for H-D riders. There is no doubt H-D will put in a more powerful engine to keep up. Let the war start back again!!!!!!!!!! I look forward to a comparison soon. Hopefully between Indian, H-D, Victory, Kawasaki, and Yamaha Star.