NashvilleRiders.com – First Ride: 2014 Indian Chief Classic

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Indian Chief Classic

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First Ride: 2014 Indian Chief Classic

Details Category: Bikes Published on Thursday, 10 October 2013 14:16 Written by Brandon

The new 2014 Indian motorcycles are making their way around the country presently for demo rides. These demo bikes are stopping at dealer locations to facilitate demo rides for the public. Recently, our friends over at Sloan’s Motorcycle and ATV Superstore in Murfressboro. one of the new Indian dealers, played host to a couple of demo ride days and we of course signed up for our chance to ride the bikes.

The following is my look and impression of the 2014 Indian Chief Classic which is the starting point in the current lineup. Kevin was also there that day and took the Indian Chieftan for a spin so keep an eye out for his review in the coming days. (Follow us on Twitter and/or Facebook for the latest updates).

I’ll start off by pointing out that I am not a cruiser rider nor do I typically have any desire to ride them. At the same time, though, I was very excited to ride one of the new Indian machines. Partly because I like the story of the marque making a (hopefully) strong return but also because the new Chief’s are very good looking machines.

The first thing that struck me when standing next to the new Indian bikes for the first time is their size. Looking at photos online gives the impression of a very large and heavy cruiser. Seeing them in person though I was struck by how they really didn’t appear so massive. After looking through the specs I believe I understand why. Many similarly styled cruisers have 19 inch or sometimes larger front wheels.

The current Indian lineup currently uses 16 inch tires front and rear which gives the bikes a stout look.

I said earlier, I’m not a fan of cruisers, but I do feel I know when something looks good even if I’m not partial to the aesthetic. So with that said I think the new Chief Classic is a lovely machine. The Indian (Polaris) engineers and designers seem to have struck a good balance between recalling the heritage of the brand without going overboard.

There is plenty of chrome, as befits an American cruiser, but not so much as to reach the level of gaudiness. The Classic in particular is a great example of clean and simple. The engine is displayed proudly and looks particularly good from the right side of the bike.

The left side is unfortunately obscured partially by the huge “111” airbox cover which in photos online doesn’t look too bad.

I took some photos from a more typical angle one would view it (standing next to the bike looking down) and as you can see the airbox dominates the left side of the engine. I feel this really spoils an otherwise great view of the sculpted fins and head covers.

Kevin is pretty sure that the airbox size is due to EPA requirements and I get that, but as I understand it, the frame of the bike is also part of the airbox. If true, I’m surprised that the airbox couldn’t be a bit less prominent, but this is a subjective thing.

The large flowing fenders, and the “war bonnet” light on the front, are probably the most iconic aspects to the new bikes and they do a very good job of recalling the heritage here. The fenders are made from steel and up front they cover the brake calipers which helps keep the front end neat. Going to those calipers are stainless steel brake lines which are standard.

Oh, and speaking of brakes, ABS is standard on all models of the Indian Chief.

On top of the tank is a large chrome bezel containing the instruments (the Chieftan has fairing mounted instruments) as well as the “power” button. You may notice in the photos that there are two tank filler caps, however, there is only one opening. The cap on the left is a “falsie”.

A lot of information is displayed on the large analog speedometer/ multifunction digital display (MFD) combo on the tank. The speedo face is tan with dark numbers with a red needle sweeping the arc. There are several backlit cutout graphics around the needle base that serve as idiot lights for check engine, ABS, neutral, etc.

They are easy to see when lit even in bright sunlight but the black and tan face of the speedometer can be a little hard to read due to the less contrasty nature of the tan dial face. There is a digital LCD multifunction display below the needle that can be set to offer quite a lot of information including a digital tach, fuel range, ambient air temp, and more.

Above the speedo/MFD is a fuel gauge which shares the same tan face and red needle as the speedometer. To the right of the fuel gauge is the power button. All the 2014 Indian models use a wireless “key” to start the bike. One just has to be close to the bike with the keyfob and press the power button to turn on the ignition.

Once it is powered on, pressing the traditional thumb starting button is all it takes to begin the fun.

Thumbing the starter instantly brings the big twin to life and it quickly settles into a smooth lope. The sound is rather subdued but has a nice deep tone to it. At idle, the new Indians are very quiet and something that the neighbors might appreciate when you leave on that early morning weekend ride.

Once underway the noise turns up a bit but only so much. Put the bike into a higher gear and roll back on the throttle though and you do get a nice fat “blatt blatt” from the pipes. Nothing to too sharp though, just a nice round sound that lets you know you’re on a big American twin.

The new Indian machines are, as expected, heavy cruisers with the Chief Classic I was riding tipping the scales at over 800 lbs with all the fluids topped up (778 lbs. dry). The Chief Classic sits low, as a cruiser should, and as such it makes it a bit easier to manage that weight at a standstill in the parking lot.

Now I realize it is a cliché to say this but once you’re rolling, the weight just disappears. Yes this can be said, and often is, about most any large motorcycle but there is a difference here. For being so massive, the Chief Classic feels nimble.

Indian Chief Classic

The profile of the tires of course has some bearing on this as do the wide handlebars with all the leverage they impart to the steering head. However you want to explain it, though, I was very impressed with how easily this long and heavy machine was willing to change direction.

When changing directions, the Chief Classic was very stable and sure footed. The chassis feels very solid and stiff for such a heavy bike due to the cast aluminum frame, a first I believe for a big American cruiser. Despite the length and weight of the Indian, and the fact I usually ride a much lighter sport-touring bike, I found the Chief Classic quite easy and fun to ride.

The 111 Thunderstroke engine is effortless in its power delivery. The amount of torque on tap (119 ft/lbs at 3000rpm) all but renders shifting gears redundant. Roll on the throttle at nearly any point in the rev range and you’re rewarded with swift and smooth forward motion.

The engine is very smooth with what feels like just the “right” amount of vibration being passed to the bars and floorboards. Just enough to let you feel it working but not so much that it will numb your extremities during a long ride.

Fueling appears spot on for the most part but the ride by wire throttle system is a bit soft. Initially twisting the grip off idle results in less revs than one would expect. Since this is a ride by wire unit it should be something that can be easily corrected electronically.

It could also be that this behavior is “baked in” so as to keep the prodigious power from catching a newer rider off guard.

Like the initial throttle response, the front brakes on the Chief Classic have a soft initial bite to them. Once one gets past the initial bite, though, they are very powerful and easily haul down the 1000 lbs. of bike and rider with two fingers on the lever. The rear brake is has a more grabby feel to it and though it was very strong as well, I wasn’t impressed with the feel.

One thing that took me a while to get used to is the very forward positioning of the foot controls. I missed a shift on more than one occasion simply because I failed to stick my foot out far enough to reach the shifter. For the cruiser veterans I doubt this would be an issue but if you’re coming from a sport bike or other more upright motorcycle, be prepared to stretch.

Despite having my feet so far forward the Chief Classic is very comfortable. Coming from a history of standard, sport, and sport touring bikes, I never really appreciated how comfortable a good cruiser seat can be. Granted I only had about 20-25 minutes in the saddle but it was a luxurious experience while it lasted.

Riding the Indian Chief Classic, I understand the draw of the big cruiser. These bikes are comfortable and take little to no effort to prod them into motion. Overall the Indian Chief Classic has a truly solid and strong feel to it.

The engine’s massive torque easily moves the 800+ lbs. pounds around and combined with the nimble handling it makes these large cruisers great fun to ride.

I want to point out that during our time with the new Indians, we did find some nits to pick here and there. However, it turns out that these demo bikes are all pre-production units and were assembled by hand in many cases. As such we’re not going talk about some of the small issues we noticed on these demo bikes.

This could also be responsible for the brake and throttle issues mentioned earlier so further research (more riding!!) is obviously due. We do plan on visiting Sloan’s again once final production machines are in the shop so expect an update coming down the road.


Indian Chief Classic

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