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Revisiting the Chieftain


The re-invention and re-release of the Indian was here in Australia and was done with much fan fair and after test riding the full range I walked away a fan, particularly with the top of the range Chieftain.

First sight and I was a fan, Polaris kicked some goals especially when it came to fit and finish, the Thunderstroke 111 power plant exceeded all expectations and I wasn’t alone in my admiration for the bike with 20 of Australia’s and the several Kiwi’s sharing my admiration for the bike.

Twelve months on and still not much is known about the bike by the general public and it isn’t often that you see the bike on the road.

Indian, whilst competitively priced compared to its opposition, seems to be fighting an uphill battle when it comes to sales here in Australia and Aussie’s have been somewhat slow to take to the bike.

I was given the opportunity to borrow a Chieftain to ride the 320km round trip from Sydney to Newcastle and the Chieftain once again earned my respect as one of the finest Tourers on the market.

I forget what I wrote about the bike 12 months ago only that I had fond memories and after riding the bike this time with no limitations and on my own I have an all new earned respect for the Chietain.

With the new range of Indian, it is instantly noticeable how Polaris have been true to the iconic brand and have been able to take the nostalgic qualities of yesteryear and incorporate those in a modern day motorcycle.

The inspiration for the front fairing on the Chieftain came from a locomotive and it’s easy to see, but what is really remarkable is the function of the fairing and compared to the other touring fairings the Chieftain is in a class of its own when it comes to wind resistance and function.

The fairing is also fitted with an adjustable screen which can be operated from the left hand switch block and can be adjusted accordingly to riders requirements, the screen is also vented which allows airflow to stop any fogging.

The fairing mounted instrument cluster is chock full of features and houses an electronic speedometer, tachometer and in the centre is a digital cluster which includes a fuel gauge with odometer, dual trip meters with distance and time, instantaneous and average fuel economy, fuel range, clock, ambient air temperature, gear position, engine hours, average speed, battery voltage, radio information, vehicle fault code display, cruise control display and besides the standard ABS and low fuel gauges also has low tyre pressure and tyre pressure monitoring display and MPH or KM/H display.

A 100 watt AM/FM Bluetooth and Smart Phone compatible stereo is fitted standard and the fairing also has a mobile phone pocket with charging capabilities and a power socket on the dash for other applications such as navigators. Unfortunately one of the flaws in the dash were the speakers and whilst the stereo is more than capable the speakers didn’t seem to be up to the task and an upgrade may be called for (for those like me who loves their tunes).

The bars are much like the Victory and laid back which seems to be a trade mark of Polaris. The standard grips are comfortable and the switch blocks and controls are large and allow easy operation of the designated function once the rider masters the position. I recommend the rider familiarises themselves with the switches as they may be confusing at first. If I have one criticism it would be the size and positioning of the indictors switch, the switch is quite small compared to the other switches especially when it is without doubt the most used switch on the block and they may consider separating the switch into a left and right control switch similar to Harley Davidson. The mirrors are well position and a good size and vision quite good.

The starter button is located in a chrome console on the Chieftains 20.8 litre fuel tank and just below that there is the central locking button for the hard saddle bags. The fuel tank has two fuel caps, but don’t be fooled, the left side is a dummy cap.

One of the standout features of the Indian motorcycle is the leather and whilst I’m a fan of the look, quality and finish and I found the riding position great on the arms and easy access to the foot controls the sitting position in the saddle wasn’t great, but we will put that down to my long legs.

The bike’s finish is a credit to the Iconic brand from the traditional War Bonnet proudly displayed on the Valanced front guard that hides the four spot front callipers to the chrome trim that run’s down the back of the quick release hard bags resembling the seams on a woman’s stocking. The Indian is easily one of the most admirable motorcycles on the road, but looks aren’t everything and the Thunderstroke 111 and nimble handling deliver where it matters most.

The Chieftain is very nimble for its size and handles the corners with ease (scraping of the floor boards is common place through the twisties).

Braking on the Chietain is responsive, smooth and effortless as with the clutch and the fly by wire throttle.

The Thunderstroke 111 has to be said one of the coolest V-Twin I have ridden, not only cool to look at the 1811cc (111ci) is by far the coolest running air-cooled V-Twin I have ridden, even when competing with peak hour traffic in the Sydney CBD, I was still sitting quite comfortable where I would be squirming on many other bikes. That’s not all, this motor has balls, 138,9 NM (102,4 Ft-Lbs) of torque and don’t she sound great particularly with the optional stage 1 pipes and complementing the drive train is the smooth and responsive six speed box which offers effortless changing of gears and is extremely quiet and responsive.

Overall the Indian is a quality motorcycle and with Indian prices quite compatible with the competition the Indian is no longer the bike for the rich and famous (which isn’t to say you won’t look like a star riding one!) and is very much a great quality bike for the buck!

The Indian range comes in Thunder Black, Indian Motorcycle Red and Springfield Blue and come standard with tan premium leather seats. The bike tested was fitted with optional black seat, backrest and stage 1 exhaust.

A little known fact, Springfield Blue was the original colour of Indian Motorcycles not the red which with Indian is so well known for.

If you are looking for a tourer the Indian is worth considering and comes with a two year warranty and most dealers have bikes available for test rides now!

Special thanks to Sydney Victory, Ashfield.


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