By Marissa Baecker
Since its 2013 unveil at Sturgis, SD, the Indian Chief has caused a lot of chatter. Daytona Bike Week was no different and after initially cancelling my ride due to rain, the sun came out and I rode the Vintage Chief through town to several thumbs up, rubber necking riders, passenger photographers taking my picture and answering questions about my ride at every stop light.
No doubt about it the Vintage Chief is a looker in Thunder Black or Springfield Blue but heads were definitely rolling behind the bars of the traditional Indian Motorcycle Red.
No matter what colour you prefer, this soft bagger’s leather is heritage tan from the saddle to the side bags with contrasting yet subtle baseball stitching right down to the fringe. Add a little shine with chrome conchos, retro Indian Motor Company medallions and other heritage accents like traditional chrome script tank badge and iconic Indian engine covers and even a light up war bonnet on the retro front valenced fender. Here is a cruiser motorcycle that offers style and attitude that doesn’t require mach1 muffler noise to get attention.
During my walk-through of the bike, I mentioned that the Indian motorcycles I had previously ridden made me feel like a bit of a wind sock as when I gripped the bars, the width between them opened up my chest wider than an average cruiser. Indian has addressed the issue and the new Vintage Chief comes standard with a quick release see-through (as opposed to over) windshield providing a wider rider protection area and cruising bars offering a narrower wing span but for those who like the wider grip, they can customize by adding optional beach bars.
The chrome 5.5 gallon tank mounted gauges offer analogue speedometer and fuel reading paired with digital tach, air temperature, fuel range, average fuel economy, gear position display, clock and several LED indicators including cruise control, neutral, signal indicators, high beam and ABS.
Additional standard style features of the Vintage Chief include ABS (dual, floating rotor 4 piston calipers in front and single, floating rotor 2 piston calipers in rear), highway bar (but no cruising pegs), the vintage leather saddle and quick release side bags. New on the chief is the keyless push button start paired with a fob that must be within 15 feet of the bike to start it. No fob, no start for a potential thief, so riders must be careful not to leave the fob in the jacket pocket and then leave the jacket in the bags or someone other than the owner may ride off on your bike. If the owner misplaces or loses the fob, a pre-determined PIN code that is set up at the time of purchase can be entered and the bike will be operational.
Cruise control is a great added feature and with the push of a button it is engaged. Speed can be adjusted with an up or down of the throttle thumb on the switch. The only problem I had with this feature is that my smaller hands didn’t provide enough length to actually reach the up/down switch while wearing gloves and maintain the throttle while riding. Back with the Indian rep, we discussed this issue and without gloves I could reach the switch but still had difficulty with the throttle. The only option to fix this issue would be rider time in the saddle and figuring out what works.
Rounding out the styling of the Vintage Chief are the white walled Dunlop American Elite 130/90B16 in the front and 180/65B16 in the rear. White walls always give a bike a classic look and they are the perfect final touch to a high powered cruiser, especially a vintage machine that weighs in at 835 lbs with a maximum weight capacity of 1260 lbs.
I was excited to actually see for myself the Spirit of Munro for myself – the vehicle designed to test the new Thunder Stroke 111 that would become the standard engine in the 2014 Indian motorcycle line up. When the original announcement came about the new engine, the press photos made the vehicle look like a jet plane so seeing it in person really put it in perspective how it would apply to the actual motorcycle.
With the Thunder Stroke 111, 119 ft lbs of torque is produced at 3000 RPM. To translate, this meant that while riding, the smaller powered bikes were first off the mark at the lights but when we got to the highway, a mere twist of my throttle and I was blowing by them.
If you invest in an Indian motorcycle, I would imagine you are planning some long hauls because this is definitely a touring machine. I was pleasantly surprised to feel the weight of the bike is no longer front heavy and has been lowered and centered so that around town operation is much easier – at least for me and maybe some other women. Highway cruising the bike feels solid. You open the throttle and the entire bike gets the power, no whiplash or tightening your grip, just consistent increase in speed.
Full angled floorboards matched with the saddle at a height of 29″ provides that extra comfort for extended time behind bars.
Despite all the protection the Vintage Chief offers, riding the Florida highway in gale force winds definitely presented some challenges. I would have expected this beast to hold it’s own but had to pull off the highway after about 45 minutes of what felt like being battered by a speed bag. I had no issues maintaining control of the bike but did struggle with lane drift which was worsened by the semi-truck traffic.
I exited the freeway for a break from the wind after about 30 miles. Before getting off the off-ramp, traffic came to a stand still and lo and behold, another Bike Week hub of activity including the infamous Budweiser Clydesdales.
All in all, I loved the new Vintage Chief. It is a great cruising alternative to the traditional North American cruiser. All decked out and waiting to go backed by a 1 year limited warranty with and an extended service contract with no mileage limitation for a total of 5 years of coverage plus a roadside assistance and a trade in guarantee program.
MSRP is $23,399 CDN