How often do you come across a motorcycle that is eight and a half feet long and 370 kilos heavy? How often does a motorbike makes you check twice if what you’re riding does really have two wheels and is not a convertible instead? Well, the Indian Chieftain did that to us. If the Indian Chief Vintage could be called the Chariot of Gods, dressed in black, the Indian Chieftain is a modern day Barouche for Erebus.
Images: Chirag Mondal
With only black and chrome filling up the visual mass, the Indian Chieftain exudes such mighty presence that it doesn’t attract attention; it commands respect and admiration even from the most disinterested of souls. It isn’t a boy racer that screams a widowed howl to set your pulses racing, but is more of a Gentleman’s express that like some Tetrodotoxin, brings your insides to a standstill. Resurrection though, is taken care of by the 111 cubic inches, V-Twin Thunderstroke motor. Mechanically similar to the Indian Chief Vintage that we reviewed earlier (Click the blue part to get there), there are some key differentiators which make the Chieftain just as remarkable and outstandingly special. Let’s get down to business then.
Appearance & Kit
The biggest change on the Indian Chieftain has to be the large front fairing, which in comparison to the Chief Vintage, has been sculpted to incorporate front headlights, blinkers and an electrically adjustable windscreen. The main headlamp is swallowed by a wing shaped patch of chrome that looks like a symbol for some secret society. Flanking the main candle, which always stays lit are two auxiliary lights, while two striking LED blinkers extend towards the edges to complete the picture.
The curved windscreen is a motorized, adjustable unit, controlled via two buttons placed on the left hand side switchgear console. Although it does a commendable job of keeping wind blast away, at no point does it completely vanish inside that black fairing. The world ahead then, is always seen through that polycarbonate screen.
Once on the saddle, what occupies prime space below the windscreen is an instrument cluster that wouldn’t look out of place on a four wheeled parallel to the Chieftain. It is a modern unit that incorporates a digital display flanked by analogue dials for the speedometer, engine speed and fuel gauge on either sides. The digital display reads out a gamut of information that includes, speed, engine revolutions, distance to empty, twin tripmeters, instantaneous and average fuel economy, gear position display, outside temperature, tire pressure, engine hours of operation, engine oil life percentage, average speed, battery voltage, radio information, vehicle trouble code and when you forget to strap that Speedmaster around your wrist, the time. The space above that trio is occupied by tell-tale lights for ABS, Cruise control and every other modern bit that’s neatly tucked under this UNESCO world heritage site on wheels.
Occupying space along with the chrome lined instrument cluster is a 12V power outlet and a large switch for the front auxiliary lights. Next to that on either side are two 100 watt speakers! Yes, you read that right. They aren’t there for you to attach a microphone and announce your intent to invade Rome, but to listen to your favorite music via Bluetooth, a USB stick or if you wish, tune in to local radio. The sound that comes out is loud, really loud and crisp. The space beneath the right speaker has a glove box that has a USB slot and space to hold your cell phone too, should you wish to connect it with the music system via a USB cable.
The large U-shaped chrome piped handlebar has been carried over from the Chief Vintage and gets similar grips and eye-shaped mirrors. However, the switchgear on the Chieftain gets additional buttons to operate the motorized windscreen and toggle between the various parameters on the display unit.
What has also been been carried over from the Indian Chief Vintage is the large front fender that has an illuminated war bonnet. Hiding beneath that metal frock is a 16” multi-spoke alloy wheel wrapped in 130 section Dunlop rubber. The fuel tank is the same 20.8 liter unit, however, unlike the 3-D Chrome emblem present on the Vintage, gets the face representative of the brand in gold plastered across instead. The fuel filler cap on the left is a dummy, while the central space is occupied by a large slab of V-shaped chrome that gets a Start/Stop button and another little button for locking the rear panniers.
Unlike the aged leather that comes with the Chief Vintage, the Chieftain gets hard fiber panniers that can swallow quite a good amount of luggage and are remotely lockable via the key fob or the switch on the tank. Every other bit is similar on both bikes, except that the Indian Chieftain also comes with an Antenna that could break if the pillion carelessly swings his/her foot over, like it did on our test bike. Just for the record – we didn’t break it. For those who appreciate the finer details in life, the quality of workmanship and finish of materials on this motorcycle is stratospheric. Every detail has a hammer and chisel tale it can narrate, while the entire execution makes you stop and stare in amazement.
Performance, Ride & Handling
If some God of darkness ever decides to tie some souls behind the Indian Chieftain, stuff a few more inside the panniers and drag them along, a fuel injected V-twin 1811 cc Thunderstroke motor ensures it complies to that whip. Rated for 139 Nm of peak twist between 2600 – 3000 rpm, like a souped-up pushback tractor, the Chieftain pulls towards triple digit speeds in a jiffy. From the moment, you slot that toe operated lever into a clanky first, the Chieftain forgets about all its bulk and shrinks itself into a thoroughbred. As you ride a wave of torque that never breaks, shifting through and getting into higher gears brings the best out of this creamy motor. You may rev it till the 5000 rpm mark and a little further, but it isn’t what you’d ever have to do in order to get the best out of this motor. Also, if you revel in that pointless exercise, a few vibes creep in and are felt near the footboard and the bars. Shift action is pretty positive across all its six gears. It’s not like a click that you experience on a sports bike, but not a heavy metal clank that you’d experience elsewhere either. It finds a fair middle ground.
In a surprising manner, while that Thunderstroke motor is busy dragging near half a tonne mass including the rider, the large windscreen deflects all the wind away. It isolates you from the gusty drama that is normally associated with motorcycles, fooling you into believing that you are going slower, when you really aren’t. A glance on the speedometer is what it takes to realize that those PYTs ogling at you from the large SUV are left well far behind.
However, two 300 mm discs with a four piston caliper and a single rear matching disc ensure you allow them to catch up when you so wish. Coupled with ABS, a firm dab on the lever is all that is required to haul the Chieftain down from express speeds. The bike sheds serious momentum without unnecessary fork dive or losing even an iota of composure. For those who prefer using rear brakes in conjunction with the front units, the Chieftain drops its anchors at an even faster rate.
For a motorcycle that wants your feet to be placed on a footboard while you are perched on a couch, it isn’t a machine to go corner hunting on. However, the Indian Chieftain goes through fast sweeping bends like it was on rails, provided you are aware of the point where the floorboard might just start kissing the ground. Having said that, directional changes are easy, as long as you aren’t switching lanes in an overly eager fashion. Subtlety and smooth inputs are key here, and the Chieftain will reward you with a pleasingly mature riding experience.
For anyone upgrading from a motorcycle with forward set pegs to the Chieftain, no matter what the speed, your feet remain firmly planted on the wide footboard. If you do miss that feeling of your feet flying back at speeds though, there is another set of pegs on the crash guard for you to experience that feeling. A potentially hazardous place for your feet to be though if there ever is a situation that requires one foot slamming on the brake pedal, while the other frantically downshifts.
Now, coming to the aspect where the Indian Chieftain really shines; ride quality. With all that bulk, it glides through undulations without any judder felt through the handlebars or the chassis. That doesn’t mean it is a Spongebob though, as when we encountering sudden crests or potholes on the road, the Chieftain never did bottom out. Not even with a pillion aboard. The suspension setup on the Indian Chieftain finds the right balance to carry all its bulk in mighty comfort, without compromising on dynamics. For this big a motorcycle, that is some feat.
Maneuverability in town and traffic could be a pain though, as no matter who you are and how well built you might be, the turning radius, expectedly so, is quite large. Adding to that are those wide handlebars, which require really long arms if one has to turn them lock-to-lock, that enormous weight of the bike not helping matters. Out on the open road though, all of this can be forgotten as that is where this thing of art belongs.
For those who expected the sound coming from that exhaust to match the size, prepare to be surprised. The Indian Chieftain doesn’t bank on being loud to announce its presence; it has enough magnetism in its persona for that. However, it isn’t a muted ant either. With a delicious deep tone that emanates from the twin exhaust, you can turn it up further by adding a stage-1 slip-on exhaust. For those worried about the heat generated from a large twin, we were riding this machine on a sweltering hot day in Mumbai, with the sun coming across as the most scorching thing around. For those who care, the Indian Chieftain managed to haul all its weight for 13.6 kms on a liter of petrol.
How that war bonnet glows in the dark…
And smiles through the day
Although screen is adjustable, you always end up looking at the road through it
USB slot is neatly tucked in the fairing, difficult to find
Switchgear quality is top notch. Notice those buttons for cruise control!
Heated grips are optional
Side-stand requires a mile long foot to operate
Missing rear backrest brings the pillion closer to the rider
Mirrors do a good job of showing what’s left behind
Panniers have enough storage space for weekend luggage
Amalgamation of modern and classic
It took a couple hours to go through all the options in that menu
Clutch action is light for a motorcycle this large
The Chieftain has immense street presence
Headlights project a silhouette of a Red Indian against a wall
No spokes but a multi-spoke alloy
Shiny disco chrome
Tail light and blinkers are LED units
Broken antenna is for enhancing the radio reception
Is it worth all those three million then?
Like art, the Indian Chieftain is not for everyone. If we tell you that it costs Rs 32,00,000 lakh at a showroom in Delhi, some of you will start thinking of other things you could do with that amount of money. Only some of you then will bother to unbutton that neatly tailored Armani, take a seat in the museum and gaze in admiration at this piece of art. Out of those some, only a few will be able to delve deeper, be able to decipher the message or make something out of it on their own. Something that is in-sync with their individual traits and matches their persona.
Like its name, the Indian Chieftain is for those elite few who lead. People who take a liking towards something and make others emulate their choices. It isn’t just a machine or a motorcycle, but a milestone in your life that says a lot about who you are and what you’re made of.
|DRY WEIGHT||370 KG /385 KG|
|DISPLACEMENT||1811 CC (111 CU IN)|
|ENGINE & DRIVETRAIN|
|DRIVE/DRIVEN CLUTCH||WET, MULTI-PLATE|
|EXHAUST||SPLIT DUAL EXHAUST W/ CROSS-OVER|
|FUEL SYSTEM||CLOSED LOOP FUEL INJECTION / 54MM BORE|
|TRANSMISSION/FINAL DRIVE||2.2 : 1|
|TRANSMISSION/PRIMARY DRIVE||GEAR DRIVE WET CLUTCH|
|BORE X STROKE (MM)||101MM X 113MM (3,976″ X 4,449″)|
|ENGINE TYPE||THUNDER STROKE® 111|
|PEAK TORQUE (J1349 FT-LBS)||138.9 NM (102.4 FT-LBS)|
|PEAK TORQUE RPM||3000 RPM/2600 RPM|
|FRONT SUSPENSION||TELESCOPIC FORK/119 MM (4.7 IN) – 46MM CARTRIDGE FORKS WITH DUAL RATE SPRINGS|
|REAR SUSPENSION||SINGLE SHOCK / 114 MM|
|FRONT BRAKES||DUAL / FLOATING ROTOR / 4 PISTON CALIPER DUAL FRONT / 300MM WITH ANTI-LOCK BRAKES|
|REAR BRAKES||SINGLE / FLOATING ROTOR / 2 PISTON CALIPER / 300MM WITH ANTI-LOCK BRAKES|
|GEAR RATIO (OVERALL)|
|1ST||9.403 : 1|
|2ND||6.411 : 1|
|3RD||4.763 : 1|
|4TH||3.796 : 1|
|5TH||3.243 : 1|
|6TH||2.789 : 1|
|TIRES / WHEELS|
|FRONT TIRES||DUNLOP ELITE 3 130/90B16 73H|
|REAR TIRES||DUNLOP ELITE 3 180/60R16 80H|
|WHEELS||CAST 16 X 3.5″ FRONT AND 16″ X 5″ REAR”|
|FUEL CAPACITY||20.8 LITRES|
|GROUND CLEARANCE||140 MM|
|OVERALL HEIGHT||1529 MM|
|OVERALL WIDTH||1010.9 MM|
|SEAT HEIGHT||660.4 MM|
|OVERALL LENGTH||2571 MM (101.2 IN)|
|INSTRUMENTATION||FAIRING MOUNTED INSTRUMENT CLUSTER FEATURING ELECTRONIC SPEEDOMETER, TACHOMETER, AND FUEL GAUGE WITH ODOMETER, DUAL TRIPMETERS WITH DISTANCE AND TIME, INSTANTANEOUS AND AVERAGE FUEL ECONOMY; FUEL RANGE; REAL-TIME CLOCK; AMBIENT AIR TEMPERATURE; GEAR POSITION DISPLAY; FRONT AND REAR TIRE PRESSURE; ENGINE HOURS OF OPERATION; ENGINE OIL LIFE PERCENTAGE; AVERAGE SPEED; BATTERY VOLTAGE; RADIO INFORMATION DISPLAY; VEHICLE TROUBLE CODE READOUT; HEATED GRIP LEVEL (IF HEATED GRIPS INSTALLED); AND 15 LED TELLTALE INDICATORS: CRUISE CONTROL ENABLED, CRUISE CONTROL SET, NEUTRAL, HIGH BEAM, TURN SIGNAL, ABS, CHECK ENGINE, LOW TIRE PRESSURE, BATTERY, LOW FUEL, SECURITY SYSTEM, LOW ENGINE OIL PRESSURE AND MPH OR KM/H UNIT DESIGNATION|
|STANDARD EQUIPMENT||ABS; CAST ALUMINUM FRAME WITH INTEGRATED AIR-BOX; CRUISE CONTROL; DRIVING LIGHTS; HIGHWAY BAR; KEYLESS START; POWER WINDSHIELD; DESERT TAN GENUINE LEATHER SEATS; REMOTE LOCKING HARD SADDLE BAGS; TIRE PRESSURE MONITORING; 100 WATT STEREO WITH AM/FM BLUETOOTH AND SMARTPHONE COMPATIBLE INPUT|