RIDING DIFFERENT BIKES. RACING SOME
Is it possible? A cruiser that could match sport bikes? Well.. maybe not in terms of track aspirations. Or lean angle and all. But in fun and ‘rapido’ vibes? Definitely! Meet the Indian Chief 2023.
If you are new here, and haven’t noticed yet by all the sporty vibes.. I adore sport bikes. Those racy machines which require you to sit bend over. I left my beloved RSV4 at the Indian Motorcycle Headquarters of the Benelux for a week. And cruised around on the brand new Indian Chief 2023, the Dark Horse edition.
Let me be honest: I hardly ever ride cruisers. Or similar bikes, like choppers, bobbers, baggers etcetera. That doesn’t mean I don’t like riding them though. I just rarely do.
My sister and dad own cruisers. They both ride a Kawasaki Vulcan VN900. Once a year, I get on my sister’s bike. And I have a blast riding it. It’s way older and less technically advanced like this brand new Indian Chief, obviously. But it sounds awesome – very hooligan even – and it is great fun to ride.
So I immediately said yes, when Indian Motorcycle Benelux asked me to break in this 2023 Indian Chief.
It is something different from what I normally ride. And I love that. I enjoy riding all sorts of bikes. So let me tell you about my experience with this Indian Chief.
I admit, I had to get used to it for a bit. When we rode off, it felt a bit wobbly. Probably because I am not used to mid controls. I have to reach a bit to be able to reach the handle bars. Which just took me a moment to get used to as well.
It’s no big deal. I’m 1.68m tall (or short, rather.. especially for a Dutchie!) and it is perfectly doable. Just felt a bit strange, since the clip ons on my sport bikes are always so close within reach.
The shifting pattern is the regular one, so the first gear requires a push down. Shifting up requires you to pull the lever up. Which is just standard, basically. But not to me, since all my bikes have the GP shift pattern. After shifting gears a bit due to an insane amount of traffic lights, I got used to it again.
Let’s get the elephant out of the closet; the biggest competitor of Indian Motorcycle is Harley-Davidson. And if you are used to riding Harley’s, then riding an Indian might feel strange. Or even surprise you, not always in the safest way.
How so? Because the Indian jumps away as soon as you open the throttle. Whereas Harleys often have a little ‘delay’ in throttle response.
Harley engines differ from Indian Motorcycle engines. Which is often the reason why one loves HD’s. It’s got a certain character and charm to it. But do you want a motorbike with bold looks, and engine that runs smooth and sound? And a modern riding experience? Then an Indian is definitely the way to go.
The engine just runs so smooth. Like, insanely good. And it delivers the power in a very elegant and gentle manner. But with a bold touch. Does that make sense? Or sound absolutely bonkers?
What I mean is, it really jumps off its place at traffic lights. But with a gentleman’s charm. No chaos, lots of trembling and growling. But smooth and quick, and it still makes you feel like you ride the big cruiser you are actually riding.
I did a little ‘race start’ with a friend of mine on a Suzuki GSX-R. I’m telling you.. my friend had to whip that Suzuki and get all out of it to win from me on that Indian Chief. Honestly.. the only reason I lost, was because I had to roll off the throttle because I was on an insertion strip, which ended earlier than I expected.. Rookie mistake, sorry.
I just didn’t expect the Indian Chief to be that fast.
The Indian Chief isn’t the biggest cruiser out there. But it is definitely not little too. It weighs slightly over 300 kg. You might not expect it to handle well with all that weight, but it actually does.
It handles with a decent amount of precision. And the front brake is actually pretty good as well. I know braking often happens with the rear brake on these types of bikes. But since I ride sport bikes all the time, I am very used to braking with the front brake.
While it doesn’t react as well to it as my RSV4 of R6 does (dûh), its respons is not too bad. It surprised me. My sisters VN900 doesn’t do much when hitting the front brake. But this Indian Chief actually stops.
Which allows for precise turning as well. I wouldn’t say I brake it into a corner like I do on my sport bikes. But it does allow more accurate steering.
No. I would not buy this Indian Chief. Why not? Because it is not fully my thing. I loved the riding characteristics. It is way sportier than the Indian Chieftain, for example. And it weighs less than the latter. And if you take one good look around on redridingboots.com, you would know I love anything sporty and lightweight.
But the looks don’t do it for me, personally. The matte army green paint is pretty. I dig that. But the cruiser styling isn’t my thing. That doesn’t take anything away from the riding characteristics though. You might still love the looks of the Chief. And it does allow for some cool customising as well.
Does that mean I would not buy a Chief at all? Hell no. The newest introduction to the Indian Motorcycle line-up, the 2023 Sport Chief, is a Chief I would definitely get. If I had the money to spare.. Why I would go for that one and not for the Chief Dark Horse I rode prior to this article? Simple; because of its looks.
What keeps me from buying this Indian Chief – its looks – is the exact thing that would motivate me to buy the Sport Chief. Because I really dig the looks of that one. Which is basically the same model. Just different looks and styling and a few performance tweaks. So would I get one? No, but yes. Does that make sense?
I would never have picked the Indian Chief as a motorcycle to ride around with. Luckily, Indian Motorcycle Benelux asked me to brake one in. Otherwise, I might forever have missed out on this experience. Which would have been a shame.
Because it is a really fun experience. You might not expect it when you look at it, but this motorcycle is bloody fast. Really, really fast. And the engine runs so well. It allows for somewhat sporty riding, while riding a big ass cruiser. How many cruisers give you that opportunity?!
Would I get one? Even though I loved riding it, no. I would not. Not the one I rode. Simply because its looks are not my thing. The newest Sport Chief on the other hand.. that’s a totally different thing. Same base as the Chief Dark Horse, so similar great riding characteristics. But with looks that I favor over the standard Chief. But of course, that is a subjective thing..