WESTMINSTER, CALIF., MAR. 28–30 — According to reliable sources, more than 40 riders began queuing up at the door of the brand-new Indian/Victory Motorcycle of Orange County in Westminster as early as 8:00 a.m. on Friday morning, March 28, hoping to be in the first group to test ride one of the models in the 2014 crop of Indian motorcycles. When you consider that the dealership would not open its doors until 10:00 that morning, perhaps you will get an idea of how enthusiastically denizens of The OC have been anticipating the initial offerings from Spirit Lake, Iowa. How fitting that the latest hope for the iconic Indian Motorcycle brand would be manufactured in a town featuring the word “spirit” in its title.
I met the co-owners of Indian/Victory Motorcycles of Orange County, Robin Chreiten and Trent Merrill, who were both energetically greeting attendees and answering all manner of questions about everything from where in France does Robin hail from (Lyon) to when the full complement of Victory models will be available on the showroom floor. I never saw the smile on either man’s face slip for more than a few moments at a time throughout the day. Who could blame the partners for being so jazzed? Their place was bulging at the seams with curious and eager potential clients, and their sales staff was busy finalizing motorcycle sales. The apparel department was doing land-office business and the onslaught showed no signs of letting up over the course of the entire weekend. And I haven’t even mentioned the carnival atmosphere that was going on in the parking area where DJ Aaron Granger from contemporary rock station KROQ-FM 106.7 played age-appropriate music for the event.
While I was interviewing Leo Hartog, vice president/general manager/sales manager, who hails from Amsterdam, Holland, he was in the process of multitasking at a remarkable level. He was simultaneously overseeing the paperwork for a local V-twin devotee buying a Chieftain model while answering questions from staff members as he dealt with logistical issues in the fledgling dealership. How he managed to spare me the few minutes I needed for a photo would be a mystery to me if I hadn’t witnessed the scenario with my own eyes. When I got the chance to commandeer the two co-owners for some photo ops, I learned that Robin also owns a clothing line called “Robin’s Jean” (not jeans). I took a photo of Trent and Robin, who was holding up a pair of his jeans, standing in front of the display in the apparel department. Then I squired them around the facility snapping photos in various locations. I had to bid the guys adieu at around 12:45 p.m. since I was scheduled to ride a Chief Vintage in the 1:00 p.m. demo loop and I had been instructed to show up at the staging area 10 minutes early for instructions. There were around a dozen bikes available to go out on demo tours. The demo truck brought 15 bikes in all, but there were two or three road captains aboard one of the demo bikes to lead the tours, which started at 10:00 a.m. on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, with the last one going out at 4:30 p.m. each day (give or take). Each group headed out at half-hour intervals, making for 14 tours per day over the three days. Like I mentioned earlier, the two-wheel enthusiasts from The OC couldn’t wait to check out the new Indian Motorcycle lineup.
The Vintage model comes with distressed, tan-colored leather saddlebags and seat. The one I rode came equipped with a dynamically adjustable rider’s backrest (available for $374.99), which can be situated right on top of the saddle for lumbar support, or it can be elevated several inches to provide support to the lower-mid back region. I found that both positions helped take the strain off of my abs and upper body. Over the course of a lengthy journey I’m pretty sure I’d alternate positions to ensure maximum effect. Next I demoed the Chieftain. Terry Roorda, editor-in-chief of THUNDER PRESS, had mentioned to me that while he found each of the new Indian models to be well made and enjoyable to ride, he had especially appreciated his time in the saddle of the Chieftain. I found that the shorter wheelbase (65.7 inches as opposed to 68 inches for both the Vintage and the Classic) of the bagger gives the Chieftain a distinct advantage in the handling department. When I cracked the Chieftain’s throttle wide open from a standing stop, wound the puppy up to around 5000 rpm and power-shifted into second gear I wasn’t able to get much more than a considerable change in elevation out of the front end, and the maneuver didn’t exactly snap my head back. But don’t get me wrong; the available throttle response is pleasantly surprising and the 800-plus-pound behemoth is more than capable of getting out of its own way. The 9.5 to 1 compression ratio in combination with the 111″ motor tells me there’s plenty of headroom to be achieved by implementing moderate performance upgrades.
The vibration levels generated by the 111″ 49-degree Thunder Stroke engine fall somewhere between that of a Twin Cam Softail and almost none at all. The Chieftain I demoed came equipped with a tach so I was able to make mental notes regarding my impressions of the bike’s vibe tendencies. Up to 2400 rpm the vibration effect was barely noticeable. Between 2500 rpm and 3000 rpm, normal cruising range, I noticed a minimal amount of vibration in the grips, seat or floorboards. Above 3100 rpm the vibration increased to a slightly more noticeable level up to around 4000 rpm. That was as fast as freeway traffic would allow me to go on that busy Saturday afternoon and I was only able to maintain that rpm level for the briefest of intervals. When I downshifted into third gear I was able to get the rpm level up to 5000 rpm. The vibration level didn’t seem to increase much between 4000 and 5000.
I did a little research and discovered that the Thunder Stroke’s vibration is controlled with crank counterweights and a single engine-speed balancer designed to soften, but not eliminate, engine primary vibration. So, why did the motor designers allow the Thunder Stroke to vibrate at all? Turns out they left a minimal amount of vibration because they reasoned that, “Riders want to be in touch with what’s happening.” (This article A Striking First Impression was published in the May 2014 issue of Thunder Press, West Edition.) For more information regarding the Indian Chief models, visit www.indianmotorcycle.com/en-us/motorcycles