I love the rejuvenated Indian Motorcycle brand, of course as part of my day job is selling these marvellous machines you could call me bias but I love them so much that I put my money where my mouth is and own one too, a Chief Vintage bagger, it’s a lovely motorcycle. Though the 2015 Indian Scout has stolen the headlines with its light weight chasis,water cooled 100bhp engine and Sportster-baiting price (closely comparable to Harley Davidson Sportster 1200, 48 and 72) it’s the Chief range that shows Polaris’ engineering at it’s best. The Thunderstroke 111 engine is a work of art even before you fire it up and witness the sound and power it produces.
Yet despite soaring sales the Scout won’t be having it all its own way come 2016 as Indian have just launched its latest beast, the Chief Dark Horse. Based on the same platform as the current Chief range it strips everything back to black but not necessarily back to basics. Sure the Dark Horse will come as standard with a solo seat, no light bar and without any of the fancy leather tassels but the keyless ignition, ABS and cruise control remain. What’s more is the price knocks an astonishing £2,000 off the standard Chief Classic bringing the UK price down to £16,499. Sure it’s still a lot of money but you’re getting a true American built motorcycle with an iconic name on the tank, not to mention a class-leading chassis and powertrain.
At £16,499 it’s difficult to work out what the Dark Horse’s natural rivals will be. For just £12,349 you can get Kawasaki’s VN1700 Classic♦, Yamaha’s XV1900A Midnight Star (called by the much cooler sounding name of ‘Stratoliner’ stateside) weighs in at £13,499♠ while Suzuki’s offering is the M1800RBZ at £11,499 but with each of these you lose cruise control, fuel capacity and tonnes of character that comes from the Thunderstroke 111 engine.
Moving away from transverse V-Twins, Honda’s closest offer comes from the flat-six Gold Wing F6C which at £18,399 makes the Dark Horse seem a steal. At £13,399 Triumph’s Rocket III Roadster seem’s a bargain. With a 2300cc triple engine there’s plenty of grunt to play with but the chassis is essentially a decade old and not as dynamic or easy to maneuver at low speeds as the Indian and that wide engine means it’s difficult for the more vertically challenged among us to get a firm footing on the tarmac♣. Moto Guzzi’s longitudinal V-Twin California comes in at £14,734 but at 1400cc gives away some 400cc’s to the Indian♥.
Polaris even have their own rivals to the Chief Dark Horse from stable mates Victory. The 2015 Victory Gunner is a stripped back bobber style bike with a huge ‘Freedom’ 106 cubic inch (1731cc) engine while the High Ball uses the same power plant but adds ape hangers, spoked wheels and white wall tyres. At £9,999 and £10,999 respectively they both offer fantastic value with that torquey engine and brilliant chassis giving plenty of smiles per mile.
The closest rival to the Indian Chief Dark Horse however comes from their main US rivals, Harley Davidson with the £16,045 Fat Boy. Yes that’s right, the motorcycle that Arnold Schwarzenegger’s T800 favoured in Terminator 2 is probably the bike that matches the Dark Horse the best. Though when I say ‘matches’ I only really mean in price and aesthetics because the Indian is a much more modern, better handling, powerful piece of kit than the Harley.
So the Chief Dark Horse doesn’t really fall into a well defined market. At sixteen and a half grand might sound like an awful lot of money for a stripped-back motorcycle but when you consider the rivals it does begin to make some sense. You could certainly have a cheaper bike but it probably won’t have keyless ignition and cruise control and definitely won’t have the silky smooth power from that Thunderstroke 111 engine. The only cheaper bike to have the Indian badge on the tank is the Scout which might be £6,000 cheaper but doesn’t pack the same punch or road presence as its Chief sibling.
There’s no definite UK release date though with the US release date expected to be September 2015 I’d predict it to be late 2015 or early 2016 before the Dark Horse reaches British showrooms. Available with over 40 accessories including ape hangers, saddle bags, engine covers etc I’d expect this stripped-back chief to be the basis of many custom jobs. I can’t wait to see what creations folk come up with.
♦For £14,599 you can get the Kawasaki VN1700 Voyager Custom which adds hard panniers and a batwing-style fairing while £16,699 gets you the full spec Voyager with touring screen and top box (trunk) but all of these are down on power and character.
♠For £15,999 you can get the Yamaha XV1900A Casual Full Dress which adds hard panniers and batwing fairing.
♥For £16,634 Moto Guzzi offer the California Touring which adds a screen and panniers to the package though there’s no price yet for the 2016 ‘Audace’ model which more closely matches the matt black spec of the Dark Horse.
♣Triumph also offer their Thunderbird rage with a 1699cc parallel twin at £12,899 for the Storm, £13,299 for the Commander and £14,299 for the LT but again it’s not as friendly for the shorter rider.