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Indian Chief Vintage: Thunder without lightening

Snapshot: If you want to feel really special, ride an Indian Motorcycle. We spend a couple of days with this 1,811cc V-Twin and got mesmerised by its beauty, power and charisma. It is big, it is imposing and it is truly fantastic.

Indian Chief is the sort of motorcycle range that lends you a sense of godly supremacy above other mortals. This is not a performance machine, this will never go bear a track, this is in fact not a machine; but it is a massive lifestyle statement. If you have one, nothing else would suffice.

We got to spend a couple of days astride this huge historic painting around busy streets and open highways. It might sound difficult on our roads riding a 1,811cc V-Twin Bagger motorcycle that weighs on the healthy side of 379kg, but the Vintage made it calm as winter breeze.

Design

Unquestionably one of the most radical designs of the modern age whose basic blueprints last pre-World War II era. The Indian Chief Vintage is designed to look contemporary with genuine 20s styling flair combined with modern touches in the correct amount. The usual bits from classic Indian models, like fenders, massive front forks, windshield, lots of leather and lots of chrome, look fantastic today.

Then is the engine forming an important part of the design. For interests of styling, this Thunder Stroke engine is air cooled so that it could have those intricately designed cooling fins on it. The brake callipers get tucked away under the fender to lend a smooth seamless design. The large headlamp and fog lamp setup is very intimidating in the rear view mirrors of other road users, and honestly they just let you pass by as they ogle looking at this beauty.

Also do not forget that genuine leather used on the seats and panniers it the best of the best. Indian engineers have not spared a penny designing this thing. One design feature that can be controversial for some are the hanging leather fringes which I personally hate.  

However if you do have similar thoughts as me, good news is that they are removable, so just take them off your Vintage when you want to. In terms of design and attention to detail, the Chief Vintage absolutely manages to win your heart.

Ergonomics

Again surprise surprise! Looking at the enormous thing you might wonder it will be super difficult to handle this hulk. Not so. The Chief Vintage is simple to operate and all the usable parameters are placed right where you want them. Ignition is keyless, which means you place the key-fob in your pocket and just thumb the starter.

The gauges are a combination of two analogues and a digital read-out. The analogues tell you about speed and fuel level. The digital gauge has a plethora of information like odometer, dual trip-meters, gear position, cruise control enabled, and a lot more. Seating position is laid back and very comfortable.

Fat cushioning means your bum stays relaxed on very long rides, and the pillion’s too. The foot rests are enormous for the rider and you get to place you entire boot on it easy. One niggle is the gear shifter which is a bit too far off the foot rest, so you have to move your entire foot to shift gears. The leather panniers are not just for style, and they can store a lot of stuff. But why may I ask the engineers can they not be locked, or the fuel filler cap for that matter!

Engine and performance

The 18,11cc Thunder Stroke V-Twin can be defined as a smooth operator delivering lazy and effective torque. As soon as you release the clutch in first gear, the bulk is completely masked away, hence the term effective torque. Indian Motorcycles does not release power figures for their range, but expect nearly a 100 horses from this engine.

They do have the torque figure, that is 139Nm peaking at 2,600rpm. The Chief Vintage pulls ahead with grace and surprising urge. You expect it to be slow, but it isn’t. The old girl and pickup her skirt and sprint to unlawful speeds in a blink. We took it to about 160kmph and were amazed how relaxed the engine was at those speeds.

And do not forget the thunderous noise that has been tuned not to be peaky at all, delivering a charming huge bass note. If you want it louder, Indian Motorcycle Company will be happy to oblige and provide you custom exhausts for your new Vintage. This bike can rack serious number of kilometres in a day without breaking sweat or you on it as it is supremely comfortable.

Ride and handling

Since Indian Motorcycles is owned by Polaris Industries, a significant know-how went into the suspension by its parent. The setup will keep you comfortable on long straight highways, and will continue to do so when the roads start becoming uneven and pimpled.

Handling too is commendable as the Vintage stays very stable at high speeds sitting on 130mm front and 180mm rear tyres with considerable profile. And it is not just straights, show it some fast corners and it dances a slow tune. You might think it will scrap its exhaust units on corners, but it manages decent speeds and lean angles before doing that.

The brakes are brilliant with 300mm dual discs on the front wheel and a 300mm single on the rear. It does come with a less-intrusive ABS system which is a must for a motorcycle of this heft.

The Indian Chief Vintage is yet another example of old coming together with the new. It restores your faith in classic beauty with that confident safe hand of new technology. You realise that the designers and engineers were let loose from the books of marketing and allowed to have a clean sheet of paper.

What they created is a piece of art that will want you break the embrace of sleep and urge you to get up very early in the morning to steal the first rays of the sun. Yes it is heavy, and yes it is expensive, but it is very very special. People spend crores on art that has some paint splatter on it, compared to that the Chief Vintage is a bargain!

Photography - Mohd. Nasir

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