Indian Dark Horse Test Ride
2015 Indian Chief Dark Horse – Click above for high resolution picture gallery

Indian Chief Dark Horse Review

Bike Tested: 2015 Indian Chief Dark Horse; Road Test No. 623

Price OTR Mumbai: Rs. 26,52,680/-

The all-black Indian Dark Horse looks distinctive and is made for the tough riders out there

Indian Motorcycles have always been about keeping the classic style quotient as one of the top priorities along with excellent performance in their motorcycles. The Indian Chief Dark Horse is one such unique bike that takes the ‘classic’ and the ‘cool’ tags together with it. With the all-matte black unpolished paint, the Dark Horse manages to grab attention with such ease. And with the 111 cubic inch engine at its heart, it growls really loud and doesn’t fail to create its bold presence. Launched on Valentine’s Day in 2015, the Dark Horse has been turning heads ever since.

Indian Motorcycles have launched a variety of motorcycles, one of which is the Dark Horse. Launched in 2015, the Dark Horse marks a new style beginning by stripping down to minimise any components on the bike and giving it a dark bold ‘Thunder Black Smoke’ paint scheme whilst following the trendy classic Indian look.

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The vintage look of the Dark Horse takes you back to the 80s

Styling – The design of the Indian Chief Dark Horse is what defines the real character of an Indian motorcycle. The half-covered front and rear wheels along with the iconic extra bulgy front and rear fenders take you back to the 80s and make you realise how beautiful motorcycles used to be, and people at Indian Motorcycles continue to remind that to us from time to time. The overall length of this cruiser makes it look beefy and bulky, while creating a tough presence while cruising down the highway. Large floorboards add on to the vintage cruiser look of this Indian.

Indian Dark Horse HeadlightIndian Dark Horse Tail Light

The headlight housing is unique and classic while the LED tail light gets a pinch of Indian logo in it

The Dark Horse comes in Thunder Black Smoke paint scheme and as the name of the bike suggests, it is blacked out from everywhere possible. The unpolished matte black paint makes it a bit vulnerable to scratches so obviously I wouldn’t suggest taking it out to get groceries for the wife. The headlight housing is distinctive from other Indian motorcycles while the LED tail light gets a touch of the Indian logo in it. The rider seat is wide and gives a good feel with the chrome buttons stitched on it. Moreover the fuel tank gets two chrome-finished caps out of which one is real and the other dummy is added by Indian just to complete the remaining one percent of the coolness, portraying how Indian pays attention to the finest details.

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The legendary Indian war bonnet that lights up every time the bike comes to life

Indian Motorcycles has given special attention to very minor details on the Chief Dark Horse

The Indian Chief Dark Horse also gets the iconic war bonnet on the front fender, which lights up every time the motorcycle comes to life. There is a pinch of chrome added to the Dark Horse as well. The long dual-exhaust system gets chrome finish along with the Indian badge on it. Moreover the fender struts get the chrome treatment as well for a change. If you’re one of those who like it completely dark, thank Indian for providing all of these parts as accessories in matte black version too. Adding on the coolness, Indian Motorcycles offers a host of blacked out accessories for the Dark Horse such as 16 inches ape handlebars, custom filter caps, exhaust tips and much more.

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Part analogue, part digital instrument console matches the Indian character

Instrument Cluster and Switchgear – The instrument cluster and its surroundings impressed me the most. The Indian Chief Dark Horse get host of aids in this department. The speedometer is analogue and rest of the features like odometer, tachometer, fuel gauge, trip meter, gear position, clock and fuel range are digital. Apart from this, there are indicators for tyre pressure monitor, check engine, ABS, turn signals and low engine oil. The beige background on the cluster felt the most appropriate colour, matching the matte black standard of the Dark Horse.

Indian Dark Horse SwitchgearIndian Dark Horse Ergonomics

The glossy handlebar uses top notch quality buttons with cruise control switches on the right side

There are many accessory options available for the Chief Dark Horse

The handlebars have regular controls along with a rocking cruise control switch on the right side. The Dark Horse comes with keyless ignition, being one of the coolest features of the bike. Just push the button near the cluster once to switch the bike to ignition mode post which a starter button exists on the handlebar. But the story doesn’t end here. The Dark Horse doesn’t require you to hold on the starter switch until the bike starts. Just tap on the button once and leave the rest to the motorcycle. Fancy huh?

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The hump on the comfortable seat prevents sore back and maintains upright position

Ergonomics – The Indian Chief Dark Horse comes under the obvious category of a cruiser and proves itself to be spectacular indeed. With cruise control at your disposal and supremely comfortable seat, the Dark Horse never disappoints in the area of comfort. There is no such tank region for the legs to make some grip, so the buttocks are guided by the hump on the seat to keep the rider in place when accelerating hard. The back remains straight throughout with handlebars easily accessible making the Dark Horse a very comfortable ride indeed.

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The 49 degree V-twin has a unique growling sound

Performance – Now with nearly 400 kgs residing on two wheels, the Indian Chief Dark Horse manages to push itself with the help of a 1811cc, V-twin engine which Indian Motorcycles like to call as Thunder Stroke 111 engine, 111 being the cubic inch capacity of the engine. It uses a belt at the final drive and is capable of producing 138.9 Nm of torque at 2600 RPM, which feels more than enough to pull such a beast off the ground. The engine is oil and air-cooled which means it will create a significant amount of heat when standing still most of the time. The wet, multi-plate clutch feels normal for a 49 degree, 1811cc powerplant.

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Once in motion, the Dark Horse doesn’t feel like a 400 kgs motorcycle

The Dark Horse has a very strong mid-range and pulls effortlessly

Now with ample amount of usable torque, the Dark Horse was capable of producing impressive performance results. 0-100 km/hr came in just under 7 seconds with the bike redlining in second gear. The first gear redlined at 60 km/hr at 5400 RPM. The engine is butter smooth and Indian Motorcycles did an impressive job in refining such a big block of V-twin engine. Though the handlebar starts vibrating and it increases exponentially as we go past 3600 RPM but then it’s a cruiser so redlining it might occur very rarely. Throughout the lower usable RPM range, the bike feels butter smooth and keeps the grin on your face.

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The Dark Horse manages to reach a top speed of 202 km/hr

The cruising range on the Indian Chief Dark Horse lies between 80-100 km/hr with the bike at 2000 RPM in sixth gear when doing the ton. The engine feels happy and comfortable cruising with plenty of available torque at just a twist of the throttle. The cruise control can be activated post fourth gear, which gives the rider any speed option to cruise at. With a growling engine beneath the rider, the Indian Chief Dark Horse feels the most appropriate bike to cruise, given the empty straight roads. Real world mileage is around 18 km/l.

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The Dark Horse has an upright seating position, perfect for cruising

Riding Dynamics – I’ll start with the first thing that came in my mind as I sat on the Indian Chief Dark Horse. How the hell am I supposed to turn this thing? The Dark Horse weighs 357 kgs (dry) and given the long wheelbase, it becomes very difficult to turn the motorcycle when at speeds as low as 2-3 km/hr. Given the Indian conditions, I encountered a lot of traffic as I test rode it in office hours. My priority was not only to maintain significant distance from other cars and bikes but also to lean it as least as possible at a very slow pace. As it came in motion, everything came back to normal.

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Indian badging on on all parts; minute details given importance

This Indian handles bad roads with aplomb, feels surefooted at speed

The floorboards have ample space for the feet. Though I felt that my right leg was taking a fair amount of heat from the engine. The Dark Horse felt long and I had to be extra careful in stop and go traffic, though highways were a charm. The wind caused a lot of pain in my neck. Going above 120 km/hr would not only take a toll on the neck but weirdly I had to do some effort to keep my foot intact on the rear brake lever as the legs have no protection from the wind as well. Because of the seating position, the hands and buttocks were the only things keeping me on the bike so I decided to stay at a constant 100 km/hr.

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Turning radius is large due to increased wheelbase

The suspension on the Indian Chief Dark Horse is butter smooth and takes bumps without disturbing my mental peace. It gets telescopic forks in the front and a monoshock at the rear. The motorcycle remains stable over unexpected potholes. Even the brakes feel good and progressively improved every time I braked from start to end. The Dark Horse gets dual floating discs with 300 mm four piston calliper in the front and single floating disc with 300 mm twin piston callipers at the rear. ABS comes as standard to avoid any wheel locks.

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Given the fuel and straight roads, you’d never want to stop

Verdict – The Indian Chief Dark Horse being the lightest and one of the youngest of Indian’s motorcycle line-up, has a combination of both, a classic vintage and bold dark looks that is well capable of turning heads easily. The growl from the Thunder Stroke 111 engine is unique and lullaby for ears. With top notch quality components and excellent riding dynamics, the Dark Horse proves itself to be well capable of standing head to head with other top of the line cruisers out there.

Indian made the Dark Horse very unique from other motorcycles in its line-up, giving it the unpolished Thunder Black Smoke paint. This is one cruiser that makes it hard for us to not ride it again and again, eventually making any rider fall in love with it.

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The Dark Horse makes a unique presence with its bold and classic look

What’s Cool

* The matte black finish is mouth-watering
* Perfect suspension for Indian conditions
* Growling sound note
* Refined engine

What’s Not So Cool

* Difficult to handle at low speeds
* Power fades away at higher RPM
* Horn switch position is odd

Alternatives: Triumph Thunderbird Storm

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Thunder Black Smoke paint with grey Indian badging looks perfect

Indian Chief Dark Horse Specifications

* Engine: 1811cc, oil and air-cooled, 49-deg V-twin
* Torque: 138.90 Nm @ 2600 RPM
* Transmission: 6-speed
* 0-100 km/hr: 6.8 seconds
* Top Speed: 202 km/hr
* Fuel Type: Petrol
* Suspension: Telescopic Forks (Front), Single Shock with Mechanical Preload (Rear)
* Tyres: Dunlop Elite 3 130/90/16 (Front), Dunlop American Elite 180/65/16 (Rear)
* Brakes: 300 mm Dual Floating Rotors with 4-piston callipers (Front), 300 mm Single Floating Rotor with 2-piston callipers (Rear), ABS

Indian Chief Dark Horse Dimensions

* Length x Width x Height: 2630 mm x 1025 mm x 1176 mm
* Wheelbase: 1730 mm
* Ground Clearance: 140 mm
* Fuel Tank Capacity: 20.8-litres
* Kerb Weight: 357 kgs

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Rs. 24 lakhs is fairly on the expensive side but it keeps you happy in the long run

Picture Editing: Sri Manikanta Achanta

Further Reading:

Indian Chief Vintage Test Ride Review
Indian Chieftain Test Ride Review