As a motorcycle enthusiast, one always gets excited, when a new motorcycle manufacturer enters our market and I was no different. Ever since the news broke out that Indian Motorcycle were planning to land on our shores with the iconic Chief range, I started day dreaming of getting a chance to ride it. Well my opportunity came sooner than I expected but more on it later. Not many motorcycle enthusiasts will be familiar with the brand Indian Motorcycle and most of those who do will know it because of the movie “The Fastest Indian”. No doubt the movie inspired by Burt Munro was a breathtaking one, still, limiting the Indian brand just to the movie will be sacrilege as the company boasts of a rich history and legacy that is beyond the movie. Let’s wind the clock back to more than a century, to 1901; when Indian Motorcycle became the first American motorcycle manufacturer.
Initially the company was christened Hendee Manufacturing Company but it was renamed the Indian Motocycle Manufacturing Company in 1928. In 1910’s the Indians were among the fastest motorcycles of that era and also set various land speed records in USA and UK. In fact, at the 1911 Isle of Man Tourist Trophy, riders on Indian finished in the top-three places and it was the largest two-wheeler manufacturer in the world by 1920’s. The Chief, the latest iteration of which we rode was introduced in 1922 with a 1,000cc Powerplus engine and the trademark skirted fenders made their debut in 1940. The production of the bike seized in 1953, when the company went bankrupt as it never recovered post World War II. A number of organisations tried to resurrect the Indian brand with little success over the years until 2011, when Polaris Industries acquired it. Polaris designed and engineered the new Chief range from ground up in just 27 months!
The new range of Chiefs were launched in August 2013 and it was the first authentic Indian to roll off the production line in the past 60 years. History lessons over and now lets comeback to a chilly and gloomy morning of Delhi, where I was supposed to ride the new Indian Chief Classic. Though, the showroom was pretty faraway from the airport but it felt as if I was stuck in the cab for hours and I was getting impatient to get my hands on the bike. When my eyes gazed the Classic for the first time, The immediate though that went through my mind was that the bike is huge and has lots of presence. Though, I had seen the pictures of the motorcycle on the web from its international launch, I hadn’t gauged the proportions of the bike correctly. The most striking feature of the Chief is its skirted and curvy fenders, which add so much character to the bikes overall silhouette and makes the bike feel more bulky than it really is and is definately the trademark design cue synonymous wit the Indian Chief.
The charm of the Classic lies in its retro-detailing like white-walled tyres, leather strip on the fuel tank with embossed Indian badge, 40-spoke chrome wheels, straight-twin chrome pipes, sculpted leather seats and the trademark Red Indian logo on the front fender, which glows to make it more look even cooler. Other impressive elements on the bike include the oval shaped headlamps, sweeping handlebars, monstrous front forks and that tear-drop fuel tank design with the gorgeous Indian script. Being a big American cruiser, a dollop of chrome on the bike is not a luxury but a necessity and the Chief Classic has ample of it.
The new Thunderstroke Engine is a work of art in its own sense with those mushroom cylinder outlines and multi-directional cooling fins along with the beautiful Indian Motorcycle logo carved on them and various badges. The instrument cluster is tank mounted and there are two separate dials for speed and fuel along with a power button.There is a small LCD screen housed inside the main dial, which shows information like range, engine temperature and also acts as a tachometer and gear indicator. The whole switchgear has been draped in chrome and the quality of switches is top notch. The overall design of the bike is visually appealing and the designers have to be lauded for retaining the design ethos of the original Indian Chief but with a dash of modernity.
The boofins at Polaris could have taken the shortcut by fiddling with the engine of the Victory and plonking it in the new Chief range. But instead of that, they went the whole hog and built an all-new engine and thus the Thunder Stroke 111 powerplant came to life, which is the first new Indian Motrcycle engine in 70 years. The 1,811cc, fuel-injected, V-twin engine pushes out 139Nm of peak torque at just 2,500rpm and is mated to a six-speed transmission. It was time to ride the bike but there was a hitch as it had started raining heavily (rain in January, seriously?) and it seemed that my ride was all but over. Luckily though, my prayers were answered and it mellowed down to a drizzle and that meant I can finally ride an Indian, a desire, which I had harboured for long. I plonked myself on the thickly padded leather saddle and I felt completely at home with the comfortable ergonomics of the Classic.
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