2014 Indian Chieftain commands attention
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His car pulled into the park next to mine as I watched from inside the local cafe with an eagle eye locked on the Indian like a worried parent.
The old chap got out of the car - which had thankfully left plenty of room between itself and the Indian - and then began five solid minutes of thorough inspection.
Sitting with my partner in the cafe, we watched as the old chap inspected every detail of the Indian Chieftain. He eyed the badging which, at most recent count, stands at 29 Indian logos adorning the Chieftain. The chrome work caught his eye as he circled the bike and he got right down to inspect the beautifully crafted engine.
The old chap is the rule, not the exception. To say that the Chieftain pulls attention is an understatement. It grabs it by the scruff of the neck in some of the strangest places. I can't say I've ever been complimented on what I'm riding in the middle of the motorway during rush hour traffic, until now.
Styling is in touch with the rich heritage that Indian possesses as the world's oldest motorcycle company. The front mudguard with the Chief running light is straight out of 1940.
Flowing lines from front to back are a signature of Indian motorcycles and the Chieftain is possibly the best example to show it off, with the front guard, fairing, rear guard and panniers all getting the streamlined touch.
At 385kg the Indian Chieftain is by far the biggest bike I've ever had the pleasure to swing a leg over. I will openly admit that the weight of the "Big Chief", as I've come to call it, caught me offguard on a few occasions early in my week-long test.
Thankfully the low 660mm seat height makes saving yourself from a fall as simple as putting your feet down and the reduced rake, down to 25 degrees from the 29 degrees of the Chief models, helps make low-speed handling a little bit easier.
Marlborough | Blenheim
$274.23 p/w $1,096.92 p/m
The 1811cc Thunder Stroke 111 has the power to match its fantastic artisan looks. With a huge 161Nm of torque on hand, overtaking is as easy as rolling on the throttle and roaring past anything that gets in your way.
The exhaust ports are hidden behind some beautifully crafted blanking plates so as not to ruin the chrome-plated engine's aesthetic properties. As a piece itself, I would happily give it pride of place in my living room; if the boss at home would allow it.
The cast aluminium frame has the air-box built into it so well that you otherwise wouldn't know it is there.
If unleashing more of the V Twins rumble is your thing, Indian offers
a stage one kit which includes pipes, air filter and an ecu re-flash - while not officially unleashing more power it undoubtedly brings a whole lot more attention.
I will admit to being over-cautious when it came to cornering on the Chieftain, though that was due more to my confidence levels than the bike itself, as it never even came close to touching down and scraping the beautiful chrome.
Helping to prevent a trip to the medicine man, ABS comes standard and pulling the "Big Chief" up to a halt required me to remember only which brake - in this case the rear, as with most cruisers - was the optimal brake to slow the big bike to a halt.
Ergonomically the Chieftain is much like your standard big American cruiser with feet forward to the controls and a commanding reach to the bars. If I found one thing a bit big for my average-sized hands it was the switchgear on the handlebars, which required me to significantly move my grip to operate many of the buttons.
However, when it comes to the tech that those buttons control, you're quite spoiled compared with a more run-of-the-mill cruiser. Radio, Bluetooth, USB connectivity, and an adjustable screen are all controlled from your left hand.
One thing that there is no way I can possibly fault is the mirrors. You can even see clearly behind with a pillion, which I've gotta say is a plus, as the Chieftain is ideal for bringing a companion along.
The trip computer and incredibly beefy horn are also controlled from here and cycling through the trip computer also brings up the tyre pressure status.
Build quality is up there with the best with no visible imperfections in the signature Indian Motorcycle red paint (one of three colour choices).
I loved the remotely lockable hard 35-litre panniers and I am a sucker for quality leather parts.
Pricing for the Chieftain starts at $34,995, undercutting the closest comparable bike I found on the net by almost $3000.
You can find it, plus the rest of the Indian range, at Auckland's Cyclespot on Barrys Pt Rd.
Engine: Air-cooled 1811cc Thunder Stroke 111
Power: 161 Nm @ 3000rpm
Fuel capacity: 20.8 litres
Seat height: 660.4mm