Indian Chieftain - Long-Term Test Wrap-Up

Hail to the Chieftain.

Indian Chieftain action shot

We've all heard the sage advice, "Never buy the first-year model of any bike." What about the first-year motorcycle from a reborn manufacturer like Indian? Not a worry at all, in the case of our long-term Indian Chieftain because, in addition to being fun and easy to ride, it was also totally reliable.

The bike ended its tour with a little more than 10,000 miles and tread remaining on its original tires. It served on long journeys fully loaded in the hands of Jamie Elvidge prior to my taking over the reins midterm. Early on, our Chieftain was treated to some accessory trim: Front Highway Bars ($399.99), Rear Highway Bars ($299.99), attractive Chrome Saddlebag Protector Rails ($399.99), and Chrome Caliper Covers ($149.99), each helping to preserve the classy Chieftain.

Unfortunately, one of the Infinite Highway Pegs (available from Indian for $299.99 a set) fell off somewhere between fuel stops along the interstate. “I wasn’t the mechanic who secured the set, but I will be the one who tightens the replacements,” Elvidge notes. “Forward-mounted footpegs are a super-nice addition to this bike, which can be a little cramped for my 5-foot-10 frame when I’m sitting through big travel days.”

Indian Chieftain static side view

While the peg never got replaced, I found the standard floorboards sufficient as I primarily spent time commuting on heavily traveled Southern California freeways as well as negotiating the mean streets of downtown Los Angeles. Our NFL-size Executive Editor Andrew Bornhop had a different view headed to Las Vegas. "I'm a bit tall for the Indian Chieftain, and I wish the bolster on the back of the fringed, well-padded saddle could be moved a few inches rearward. At 6-foot-4, I sometimes found myself sitting on top of that rear bolster rather than in front of it, in an effort to reduce the bend in my knees as I motored across the Mojave."

Traveling the open road is where the Chieftain truly shines, particularly so with your lady on back and the roomy “audio” bags filled to the brim. The electrically adjustable windshield helped us deal with changing temperatures and does a nice job of deflecting wind so you can enjoy the awesome stereo that comes standard on this machine. The accessory saddlebag lid/speaker/amplifier kit ($999.98) greatly boosted the volume output and clarity, particularly for the passenger. One caveat: The saddlebag speakers sacrifice precious storage space and the speaker magnet can scuff items that come into contact with it. You can always strap an extra bag to the accessory passenger backrest ($449.99) if additional cargo capacity is required.

The Chieftain’s 111ci (1,811cc) motor and 537-pound load capacity make light work of everything. A model of reliability throughout its CW tenure, the smooth and torquey V-twin hardly vibrated as it churned out miles of smiles wherever we rode.

Polaris has succeeded in building a stylish and reliable bagger that’s worthy of the iconic Indian name. If you’re looking to rack up miles in style and comfort, supported by just the right amount of technology, the Chieftain is a legitimate contender in the class.

PRICE AS TESTED (2014)|$22,999
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****Andrew Bornhop:**** The air-cooled V-twin felt fully relaxed on the highway, spinning only 2,500 rpm at 65 mph in sixth gear. Besides its lusciously throaty sounds, the heavily chromed pushrod powerplant makes abundant torque. Takeoffs from stoplights are a cinch, a simple matter of letting out the cable-operated clutch. No finesse really needed.
Don Canet: My best Chieftain memories were spent two-up on its posh, leather saddle. The engine’s relaxed lope, the sure-footed chassis, the effective windscreen, and accessory passenger backrest make this Indian an ideal mount for sharing the sights, sounds, and smells of the passing landscape.
Ryan Orr: One of the things that impressed the people I rode with was the Chieftain’s performance on winding mountain roads. This thing ripped! The balance, low CG, and smooth power let you lean to the floorboards with confidence.

Static side view.

Fender ornament.


Action shot.