Indian Chief Vintage Review
Bike Tested: 2015 Indian Chief Vintage
Price OTR Mumbai: Rs. 32,87,450/-
The Indian Chief Vintage has a load of old school character, it is a visual treat to behold
One very famous category of motorcycles is cruisers and among the big heavyweights of these types of bikes, competition is limited. While everyone and their dog knows about Harley-Davidson, the real cruiser king is Indian Motorcycles, a brand which is older than the ‘potato-potato’ sound making machines. Yes, that’s right, Indian is more than a 100 years old and was started in 1901. It’s flagship motorcycle, the Indian Chief has led its portfolio in the good part of last century. Making a comeback in today’s times, Indian Motorcycles has managed to keep the retro charm intact while offering modern technology. We get astride the Indian Chief Vintage which is one of the three offerings in the Chief range.
Motor Quest: The Indian Chief has a long history, production started in 1922 and the company ceased manufacturing in 1953. The company came back to life in 1999 and was taken over by Polaris Industries in 2011 who launched the all new Chief last year.
Styling – Nothing screams ‘look at me’ like the Indian Chief Vintage. This motorcycle has humongous presence on the road and it’s so striking that people actually follow you to get a glimpse of this machine. Beatifully crafted body panels with attention to detail that few can match, the Chief Vintage not only looks the part, it also stays true to the original from the 1940s. The bike looks heavy and has the meat on it to justify the iconic Chief name. Things which indefinitely stand out are the valenced fenders, whitewall tyres, warbonnet, teardrop tank and curly font on the badging.
The Indian Chief Vintage has a big round headlight with auxiliary lamps on either side, giving excellent illumination at night. An extremely large windshield (which is removable) ensures more classic design while the chrome dipped mirrors are nicely shaped to evoke thoughts of yesteryears. The Chief Vintage is bathed in chrome and yet there isn’t any excess of it on the motorcycle. Right from the handlebar to the front forks, engine to the long dual exhausts and side stand to the crash guard, there is a lot of chrome. Classic spoke wheels aren’t easily visible due to the mudguard and large disc brakes but they add to the old-school design of this bike. To keep symmetry intact, there are two fuel lids, the one on the left is a dummy.
Instrument Cluster and Switchgear – The tank mounted console is surrounded by a large dose of chrome. There are two pods, the upper (smaller one) is for the fuel meter while the lower (large one) has an analogue speedometer taking centre stage. Inside the easy to read speedo, there is an LCD screen which has multi-information display. Here one can toggle thru a digital tachometer, odometer, twin trip meters, temperature meter, current, fuel efficiency and range. Current gear and clock is displayed all the time on the console. The toggle switch for the MID is placed on the left side, behind the switches while the right too has a button but it’s a dummy as there is no pass light on the Chief Vintage. Switchgear quality is excellent and the bike gets a daytime running light but the button for the fog lamps is placed too far ahead, right behind the headlight and ahead of the handlebar. There is a hazard light switch and the bike gets a nice and loud horn.
Ergonomics – The Indian Chief Vintage is a very comfortable bike and one sits upright, piloting a wide and heavy handlebar. Both tall and riders with medium height feel at home. The seat is extremely accommodating and is made of genuine desert tan leather with a backrest for the rider. The rider footpegs are forward set and have a large footboard for utmost comfort. The pillion seat has good space too but the strap to hold on to isn’t very convenient. The bike gets leather saddlebags on each side but aren’t lockable although they feature a latch and are quite generous when it comes to storage.
Performance – Prior to Polaris Industries taking over the Indian brand, the Chief also used Harley-Davidson engines for a brief period of time. The new Chief is powered by an all new 1.8-litre Thunder Stroke 111 (the number signifies the cubic inch displacement) motor which thrusts out around 100 PS of power and 139 Nm of torque at just 2600 RPM. Starting the bike is very different, it isn’t the same traditional insert key to start, instead you should have the key with you and then you can press the button on the tank to start, yes, the Indian Chief has keyless go. The motor roars to life with a grunt and idles between 750-800 RPM.
The Indian Chief Vintage sounds really nice and thumps along, it has a strong mid-range punch
Being a V-Twin, there are quite a lot of vibrations although they are curbed in the low-end but make their presence felt in the top-end of the powerband, more so post 4000 RPM when the bike becomes too buzzy. The motor is however best kept to the mid-range as that’s where it truly excels and gives a good punch to reach triple digit speeds in a jiffy. The first two gears are tall so you do close to 70 km/hr in first and almost 100 km/hr in second while rest of the gears are short so third results in 130 km/hr while progress becomes slow post that. That’s the reason why Indian has kept the speedometer marked in small post 140 km/hr. Fourth gear onwards are cruising gears and it’s best to keep the Indian Chief Vintage trundling around at 120 km/hr.
Redline comes in at 5400 RPM and the motor sounds the best in the mid-range, emitting bassy vocals. With the bike doing the ton in top gear, the tacho displays 2400 RPM so when you want to overtake, a simple twist of the right wrist to activate more punch via the throttle-by-wire system is more than adequate, no downshifts needed. The gearbox is smooth shifting and there is no false neutrals at all, the clutch being light and well weighed. The bike will only start in neutral and not in any gear. Power is channelled via a belt drive and cruising is effortless because the Chief Vintage has a cruise control system. With a tank capacity of 21-litres and mileage of 20 km/l, the tank range is around 350 kms.
Riding Dynamics – The Indian Chief Vintage is a very heavy bike and that is obivous at parking speeds as you do feel all that mass. But get going and you realise little that this heavy weight machine tips the scales at a hefty 379 kgs. The handlebar is heavy but you get used to it quickly and then find it easy to manuvere the bike. Still, it’s not a motorcycle for riding in the city (taking u-turns are a pain) as open highways is where it feels at home. All that mass comes into play as the Chief Vintage is extremely stable at speed and the large windscreen ensures there is absolutely no windblast at all (the wind does come on your legs as they are stretched ahead).
Quick directional changes aren’t the Chief’s thing, instead it’s best to take it easy with this motorcycle which likes to munch miles with ease rather than utmost urgency. The suspension is stiffly sprung to prevent bounciness at high speeds and yet it manages to offer a firm yet cushioning ride on our bad roads. Handling is good as far as you don’t want to corner hard and fast, the bike requiring reduction in pace when you hit the twisty bits. The tyres are soft compound and offer good grip while braking performance is aided by ABS, resulting in good stopping power and positive feel at the levers.
Verdict – The Indian Chief Vintage is high on desirability and is a motorcycle designed so well that people instantly ogle at it. With more than adequate performance on tap, a nice sounding exhaust, a comfortable seating position, splendid ride quality and terrific attention to the minutest of details, the Indian Chief Vintage is made to gobble up miles in utmost style and comfort. However with a heavy asking price and a very small dealership network, Indian’s reach is limited to those few who know what this company is about and if you are one among them, then there should be no delay in writing the cheque for this highly impressive heavy-weight cruiser.
The Indian Chief Vintage brings the best of both worlds together in one beautiful motorcycle. It doesn’t compromise on any aspect and that make it quite the cruiser to own.
* Retro styling beautifully executed
* Engine performance, gearbox and sound
* Massive attention to detail
What’s Not So Cool
* Limited dealership network
Indian Chief Vintage Specifications
* Engine: 1811cc, V-Twin, Thunder Stroke 111
* Power: 100 PS (est.)
* Torque: 139 Nm @ 2600 RPM
* Transmission: 6-speed
* 0 – 100 km/hr: 7.10 seconds
* Top Speed: 170 km/hr
* Fuel Consumption: 15-20 km/l
* Fuel Type: Petrol
* Frame: Cast Aluminium
* Suspension: 119 mm Telescopic Forks (Front), 94 mm Monoshock (Rear)
* Tyres: 130/90/16 (Front), 180/65/16 (Rear), Dunlop American Elite
* Brakes: Twin floating 300 mm disc with 4 piston callipers (Front), Single 300 mm disc with dual piston callipers (Rear), ABS
2015 Indian Chief Vintage Dimensions
* Length x Width x Height: 2634 mm x 1011 mm x 1491 mm
* Wheelbase: 1730 mm
* Ground Clearance: 140 mm (est.)
* Seat Height: 660 mm
* Fuel Tank Capacity: 21-litres
* Kerb weight: 379 kgs
Picture Editing – Sri Manikanta Achanta
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