QUIKSPIN: Indian Chieftain - Hail Big Chief

20 May 2014
The Indian Chieftain is a tad massive at 385 kilos, but its thumping 1811cc counterbalanced V-twin and wave-back-at- the-grinning-pedestrians styling will charm the most cynical sportsbiker. In fact taking the bike for a late-night cruise along St Kilda’s beachfront, where it received infinitely more attention than your common-as-a-garden-gnome Harley-Davidson, followed by a weekend-run along the Great Ocean Road, has left me questioning the need for a fire-breathing/ license-swallowing alternative. 
This is a bike that makes pottering along at ridiculously-slow speed limits enjoyable. It burbles along the highway at 2300rpm in sixth gear, while 60km/h zones, taken in third via the comparatively slick gearbox, doesn’t fray your nerves. This is chillaxin’ American-style. Think Bob Marley, California, Mojitos… 
It’s a flexible and smooth engine, with teepee-pulling torque climaxing at 3000rpm. The fairing offers plenty of hand and body protection, while the electronically adjustable screen offers a nice breeze on the neck/ unobstructed views on the lowest setting and total ensconcement on the highest. You don’t even need to lower your visor, so it’s as liberating as wearing an open-face helmet. The suspension soaks up bumps nicely and allows you to jam it into corners at a decent turn of speed. The ABS brakes have good feel, though the front anchors could do with a bit more bite. The clutch is light and offers a good biting point – imperative for slow-speed manoeuvring. The reach to the lovely chromed bars is inch-perfect and the miles fly past in the plush leather seat, which comes with a lower-back-cosseting bolster. The 100-watt radio with Bluetooth, operated via chunky buttons on the left bar, brings a symphony orchestra to your front door and is loud enough to be heard on setting number 10 on the highway. It goes up to 30 – which is tremendous fun, especially as you bop your head along to a classic tune in stationary traffic. It never failed to solicit a grin from motorists. The proximity key negates the need for an ignition barrel and the electronically-lockable 64-litre saddlebags are easy on the eye and feature one-handed latches. 
The valanced fenders, complete with a war bonnet emblem blazing the way on the front, driving lights, LED indicators and the engine detailing are pure class. The digital instruments include a tyre pressure readout, distance-to-empty, gear position, battery voltage and engine oil life percentage. The properlyloud horn will grab the dosiest driver's attention. Downsides? The lovely warble from the twin exhausts could be a few decibels louder, there’s no pops on the over-run, the cruise control is a bit notchy and splitting lanes is challenging due to its weight, but it’s definitely do-able. My advice? Choose a bolder colour and live happily ever after. 
Configuration 49-degree V-twin
Cylinder head Push-rod three-cam OHV,
two valves per cylinder
Capacity 1811cc
Bore/stroke 101 x 113mm
Compression ratio 9.5:1
Cooling Air/oil
Fueling Closed-loop fuel injection
Power Not given
Torque 161.6Nm @ 3000rpm
Type Six-speed
Clutch Wet
Final drive Belt
Frame material Cast aluminium
Frame layout Double cradle
Rake 25?
Trail 150mm
Front: Conventional 46mm fork, dual rate springs,
119mm travel
Rear: Monoshock, preload adjustment, 114mm
Wheels 60-spoke cast aluminium
Front 3.5 x 16 Rear 5.0 x 16
Tyres Dunlop Elite 3
Front: 130/90B16 (73H)
Rear: 180/60R16 (80H)
Front: Twin 300mm discs, four-piston calipers
Rear: Single 300mm disc, two-piston caliper
Control: ABS
Weight 385kg (wet, claimed)
Seat height 660mm
Max width 1012mm
Max height 1529mm
Wheelbase 1668mm
Fuel capacity 20.8L
Fuel consumption 5.2L/100km (measured)
Top speed 250km/h (est)


Cosseting fairing and seat
Iconic looks - people love it
Gorgeous chrome detailing
Weight (should lose 100kg)
Cruise control snatchy
Needs louder exhausts