100 years old and still going strong!
Last year, the Indian Motorcycle chief celebrated his 100th birthday. And what happens when you let an idea evolve over a century? You get a beautifully evolved motorcycle that keeps one foot in its past heritage and legacy and one foot in today’s ever-changing world. And for the 2022 model year, Indian has planned something different and big for the Chief and that’s what we’re here to see today. So say hello to the brand new Chief Darkhorse.
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Indian Motorcycle abbreviates its new approach with the Chief line as SPT. Style, performance and technology and later in this article we’ll tell you why the order of the three matters.
Now you need a long look at the bike for the design to really sink in. And it will take time, because look at its size. And it’s not just the size that sets him apart, as there’s also that matte black paint scheme for the Dark Horse builds that makes Batman look like he would go if he wasn’t in such a rush all the time.
The design philosophy is minimalist with great attention to detail. Contrary to what you would expect from an 1890cc muscle bike, the Chief Dark Horse is quite thin. Now, just because a beast can let you pet it doesn’t mean it stopped being a beast itself. So there are a few defining characteristics that make it a hot-rod like the long wheelbase, big 19-inch front tires and 16-inch rear tires, bobbed fenders and a low-slung dual-barrel exhaust.
Now, for a bike that works on the core idea of freedom, giving you that rock music feel on the open highways, features don’t really matter much, do they? Nevertheless, it is. The motorcycle comes with three riding modes including Touring, Standard and Sport. The 4-inch dash comes with Apple CarPlay and independent navigation.
The chef gets the typical hot rod style. This means that the seat is quite low with low footrests and wide handlebars. Now for reference I am 5ft 7in and things are a little cramped here. This will very much be a problem for taller runners or even long distance hikes.
In town, and that too in a city like Mumbai, the motorbike made as much sense as a fork in a bowl of soup. A roughly 50-kilometre ride around town on a motorcycle proved difficult when the wide handlebars and low seat forced you to beef up the bike. But the same handlebars and low seat proved to be a godsend on the highways, and I understood why the highway is touted as its perfect habitat. Sheer presence, even when flying past you with the 116 engine roaring, is something many would bet their money on.
Engine and performance
That brings us to its heart, the 116 V-Twin engine. Now an 1890cc motorbike on paper can be quite intimidating, but the Chief managed to overturn that fear in a rather exciting way. The engine is all about torque available from 3,200 rpm. Overtaking is exciting and the bike manages to reach speeds of just 60 km/h in 5th gear. Unlike the crude mechanical engine you’d otherwise expect from a motorcycle of this stature, the chief engine’s main selling point would be its refinement.
The 6-speed gearbox took some effort to operate at first, but we found it’s something you can get used to. Now, while the engine seemed to be friendly in nature with no nasty surprises, we found the clutch to be a little heavy and snappy, so a little extra attention while you’re doing that tight U-turn would be nice.
The engine also features Engine Deactivation Technology, which means it automatically shuts off a cylinder when the bike is stationary. A good way to achieve good energy efficiency. Now remember, the SPT approach we mentioned earlier? Indian paid a lot of attention to the styling department, which is also one of the reasons they skipped a liquid-cooled engine, considering that a radiator wouldn’t fit well into the design formula.
Suspension and brakes
Now speaking of cycle parts, the Chief Dark Horse gets traditional telescopic forks and a twin shock in the rear. The setup is surprisingly plush and fits like a glove for Indian driving conditions. The bike is quite confident in the corners, but any bumps or potholes make the bike feel a bit unstable. The brakes, however, are where we thought the Chief showed room for improvement. For a bike of this size and weight, the brakes felt underpowered with not enough bite or feedback.
Now when I got my hands on the bike I was eager to check out how well it suited India. Well, I would say pretty well if not perfectly. And there is also another American manufacturer that enjoys a large share of the heavy cruiser segment. But if you ask me, this one feels like a safer bet.
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