Indian Motorcycles has reinvented the Chief, changing it into a lighter and more airy layout. With a steel-tube frame and dual rear shocks, it’s like an Indian version of the dearly departed Harley-Davidson Dyna platform.
The Chief is actually three Chiefs. The standard model has cast aluminum wheels and is joined by a Bobber version and the windshield-and-bags-equipped Super Chief. Pricing begins at a very reasonable $14,499 for the Chief with its standard 111-cubic-inch Thunderstroke V-Twin.
Each new Chief features full LED lighting, cruise control, ride modes, and keyless ignition as standard equipment. Rear-cylinder deactivation helps keep a rider cooler while stopped.
Opting for the higher-end Dark Horse versions of the Chief and Bobber or the “Limited” Super Chief plants the bigger and burlier 116-inch motor between your legs. It also gets a touchscreen TFT instrument panel as an upgrade from the traditional gauge on the regular models, as well as standard ABS that is an $800 option on the base models.
How Did We Get Here?
The Chief was the bike that launched Indian’s rebirth under Polaris in 2014, replete with bodacious valanced fenders and the ornamental fender headdress. Indian initially figured their new bike needed obvious visual ties to the original Chiefs that ended production in 1953, but that ethos has faded away in favor of this leaner and stripped-down Chief.
The result is a fresh profile that fits in nicely with modern design language. The simple and elegant seamless fuel tank teardrops into a descending line along the subframe and into the sharply angled dual rear shocks. Negative space above the front cylinder and behind the rear gives it an airiness unknown to the previous Chiefs.
The new Chiefs not only look lighter, they actually are. Their 64-inch wheelbase is just 2 inches longer than Indian’s “mid-size” Scout, and wet/curb weights begin at a reasonable 679 pounds.
Compromise: Technically Speaking
In a way, the new Chiefs have taken a backward step, eschewing the lighter aluminum frame seen since its 2014 debut in favor of a traditional tubular steel frame visible for the world to see. Meanwhile, twin direct-acting shocks replace the former Chief’s hidden monoshock stroking through a more sophisticated linkage setup and an aluminum swingarm that boasted 4.5 inches of travel. The new dual shocks help reduce the wheelbase by 3 inches, which is good for agility, but they supply just 3 inches of bump-absorbing travel. As in all design work, there are compromises.
For the record, Indian still offers several models using the older aluminum-framed chassis, including the Springfield, Chieftain, and Roadmaster. As previously, the Chiefs are built here in the USA at Indian’s Spirit Lake, Iowa factory.
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