Indian Motorcycles throw every resource at model development to ensure top-drawer quality and exclusivity. None of their models can be termed as inexpensive or made to a budget. But then the weight, heft and price meant they attracted mature buyers with the understanding and pockets to ride this all-American icon. Enter the Dark Horse focussed at the younger riders who still want that genuine veneer of history but a more manageable package. The Dark Horse is lighter, more nimble, comes with nothing less and at a more affordable price.
Darkness is the overall theme here, from the fenders to the tank to the seat and everything else has gone matte black. And then is the careful and fine use of chrome like on the fenders, detailing on the Thunderstroke and exhaust. This combination of matte black and shining chrome is an absolute stunning example of motorcycle design. It is a head turner in the day or night, with people flocking and taking pictures with it around you.
The entire look has the same lines as the bigger Chiefs adding more drama to the Dark Horse. And the paint texture is not exactly matte, but somewhere in the midst of glossy and matte, making it even interesting. Heck even the mirrors and handle bar is in gorgeous black, which is a small but very important detail. Another goodie sure to catch your eye is the fantastic looking monochrome Indian Chief badge on the tank that is unique to the Dark Horse.
The cast wheels chosen for this cruiser are black as well. You may also attach luggage-rack on the Dark Horse from the optional accessories if you wish to. The Dark Horse gets top marks when it comes to looks, it will win you over at the first glance.
As expected from a Chief, the Dark Horse is again focussed on rider comfort. The seat, handle bar and footing are all designed with comfort and ease. One difference as opposed to the bigger Chiefs is that the Dark Horse feels nimbler and easier to master. The slight diet it had pays dividends in managing this lightest Chief much easier than before.
The quality of switchgear is top notch and oozes class. The fuel gauge, unlike a separate analogue gauge like other Chiefs, is a small digital readout placed in the multifunctional display. One tiny niggle, and this is only because India needs it, is that the horn switch is not placed conveniently which happens to be very essential for our roads.
Engine and Performance
Because Dark Horse is a true Chief, it has the same Thunder Stroke 111 engine. It is a 1,811cc V-Twin pushing out nearly a 100 horses (Indian Motorcycles never release power figures), and a beefy 139Nm of peak torque at a lazy 2,600rpm. Unlike other motorcycles you just have to tap the starter button once to bring any Chief to life, an unnoticeable but very cool feature indeed. It settles in a powerful rumble marking its presence to people flocked around you.
The clutch action is smooth and soft so as to mask the heft this bike carries. You will instantly notice lightness and ease the moment you lift off. The rumbling V-Twin settles in a melodious hum as you cruise through the slick gearbox. The Dark Horse feels more active and nimble and in fact quicker than its bigger brothers. All the reduced weight makes this the most ride able Chief of the range. This is excellent and makes riding around town easier and enjoyable.
Ride and Handling
The best word to define any Indian Chief is ‘comfort’, and the Dark Horse delivers that in spades. The clutch is light, it has low end torque to ride off smoothly and ergonomics are comfortable for long distances. What is different is that the Dark Horse feels much lighter and nimble making it much usable in and around the city. Traffic riding is much easier on it and you can despatch corners with more confidence than before.
Ground clearance is a low 140mm, but it sure can handle rough roads well and average sized speed breakers. Though cornering hard is not what this motorcycle is all about, but a fair amount of that capability is essential when you are riding through hills. The Dark Horse is a joyous motorcycle while cornering and it can handle good speeds through them. You will just marvel and smile in confusion that it can do it so well at all, top marks for handling there.
Words don’t do justice to the Dark Horse when it comes to its majesty and grandeur. It looks mean, the Thunder Stroke engine rumbles like thunder and the fat seats keep you comfortable for kilometres. Putting this Chief on a diet has made it so much more manageable on the road and while parking. Indian Motorcycles have hit the bull’s-eye and younger riders are sure to get mesmerised by this new machine. The retail price is still on the higher side, but is quiet less when you compare the bigger Chiefs. There is no compromise at all when it comes to quality or performance, and the Dark Horse literally handles better than its elder siblings.
Photography - Mohd. Nasir