Indian Chieftain 2023 Review: Some precise steering with a 370 kg bagger

The Indian Chieftain 2023, Dark Horse edition. If you’d have told me I would ride a bagger for a week, one year ago.. And actually enjoy it riding it.. I would have told you “Are you out of your mind?!” 

I ride sport bikes. Not baggers. But here we are.. And reality tells otherwise. I rode a bagger for a week. A brand new Indian Chieftain Dark Horse, to be precise. 



I had just ridden the 2023 Indian Chief for a week, to break it in. Indian Motorcycle Benelux asked me to ride 800 km with it in one week. No problem! As I returned to the Indian HQ in the Netherlands to bring back their Chief, I expected to take my own RSV4 back home. 

So I dressed up for that one. Leather suit, racing boots, etcetera. But nope! They had a surprise for me. I got to repeat the ritual, but they gave me the key to the Indian Chieftain this time. The bikes get bigger and bigger!



Compared to my RSV4 or Yamaha R6 race bike, the Indian Chieftain is a true heavyweight. Of course, there are even bigger motorcycles on this planet. Also in the Indian line-up. Think of the Indian Roadmaster or Challenger. 

But to me, this Chieftain is already a big guy. And gosh, I love the looks of it. I know that might come as a surprise. But I definitely am a woman with two sides. I adore sport bikes. True racers in particular. But I also have a huge soft spot for big ass V-twins. And custom bikes. 

The Indian Chieftain definitely qualifies in my book. Especially in all black. Absolutely love it! So here we go! Adventure time with this gorgeous black stud.



So I swung a leg over the Chieftain. First I had to get used to the different center of gravity and weight. It feels so much lower. And heavier of course. But once it’s upright, it’s fine. 

To kick the jiffy with my short legs required some dexterity, but after a few times it got better and better.

No need to twist a key, since tis big boy has a keyless system. So the key is tucked away in a little storage box. Good thing they told me to get it out if that storage box when parking it somewhere. If you forget the key is in there and just walk away, anyone could ride off with your bike. Big no no. 

Since I’m the type of person that easily forgets things like that, I just put the key in the inner pocket of my motorcycle jacket.

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The first few turns felt a bit awkward. The riding position – slightly slouched and upright – was all new to me. And what about front controls?! Such a weird, wicked thing. And a rear brake to use.. Man o man. All things I am definitely NOT used to.

But no time to be insecure. I chased Ron Betist on the Indian Scout, who is much more familiar with these bikes than I am. He’s a real petrol head and definitely knows how to ride bikes like these, fast. Almost with a bit of a hooligan touch. 

I am used to moving that bike and body of mine around when riding turns. But this time, the only thing I seemed to think of, was “Mind the floorboards! Mind the exhaust! Mind the panniers! No scraping, keep them nice and new!”. This Chieftain serves as a demo bike for the Indian dealers that participate in the Roadshow, where enthusiasts can ride every Indian they can think of.

So it had to look new and shiny upon return. Or matte, in this case. But you get the point. Scratched floorboards and exhausts because some sporty rider had to ride it like like a looney was a no go.

So I rode on eggshells the first few turns and kilometers. But it got better by the minute. Once we rode on the highway, I could relax for a bit. Simple straight forward riding, with the masses. No excitement there. Or is there..? 



I forgot what it is like to ride with decent wind protection. To give you an idea of the conditions we rode in: it was cold. 2 degrees, all grey, no sunny blue skies. I wore my old leather 2-piece suit, proper – and very cold and airy – race boots, and leather racing gloves.

So yep, not really dressed for the occasion. But oh well. Cold is an emotion, they say. I know, I know.. I don’t agree with that as well.. Riding in 2 degrees Celsius in your leathers is just freaking cold. Not to mention my fingertips. I still have all 10 of them, but it was close..

I was pretty frozen on the Indian Chief upon arrival, which does not provide any wind protection at all. But this Chieftain provided me with way more friendly comfort. 

I raised the adjustable windshield with a gentle push on a button. I tucked in a bit and off we went. Not bad at all! Still got cold hands and toes, but hey.. Things like that build character. 

Those highway miles were pretty doable, even in those cold conditions. Way more comfortable than doing the exact same thing on my RSV4, trust me.

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The Indian Chieftain literally JUST fits in my living room



Once I arrived home, I gave it a good rinse. There was salt everywhere. So it deserved a proper cleaning session. Scared of using the wrong products – what do you use for matt black bikes? – I just rinsed it with lots of water.

I let it dry for a bit and then got the engine running and rode it into my living room. Since I don’t have a shed at the moment, all my bikes live in my living room.

The next day, I wanted to take the big boy out for a proper spin. Surprise! I rode it into the living room, not thinking about how to get it out the next day. I have to ride it over a pretty high barrier to get the bike in and out my house.

Since I rode it inside, I had to get it out backwards. It has no reverse gear on it, so that meant push and pull action. And yes, a 370 kg bagger is a heavy thing when it comes down to that.

Long story short; I tried and tried, but failed. So the Indian Chieftain got stuck inside.. Getting it out was a two man job. Thinking of getting a Chieftain? Or another heavy weight? Don’t be like me. Think about things like this in advance. By the way, I was able to get the Chief out on my own, which weighs 304 kg with a full tank. But the 373 kg wet weight of the Chieftain turned out to be too much.



After getting help, the Indian Chieftain was outside again the next day. Ready for some rock ’n roll! I took it out to my favorite road in the area. 

A small, twisty road, which lies on a dike. The tarmac sucks. It’s really pretty bad. Cracks and holes everywhere. Some tar snakes, a bit of gravel, an average amount of mud, and so on. 

The perfect road to really test a bike on some precise steering and the amount of confidence it gives you while doing so.

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After getting help, the Indian Chieftain was outside again the next day. Ready for some rock ’n roll! I took it out to my favorite road in the area. 

A small, twisty road, which lies on a dike. The tarmac sucks. It’s really pretty bad. Cracks and holes everywhere. Some tar snakes, a bit of gravel, an average amount of mud, and so on. 

The perfect road to really test a bike on some precise steering and the amount of confidence it gives you while doing so.

Riding turns went smoother by the minute. It gave me more and more courage, while still being mindful about the whole scraping thing. And oh boy, was it fun!

Honestly.. I loved it. Your’e right, you can by no means compare it with riding a sport bike on this road. But you know what.. the Chieftain might even give you more confidence on roads like this. 

It feels so stable. And the steering is very precise. We had a little moment, when a Dodge Ram and Ford Transit van approached us from the opposite direction.. They had a bit of a race going on, and were both driving in the middle of the road. 

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Since these roads aren’t wide by any means, that left little room for me and the Chieftain. It would have been a close call on my sport bike, let alone this big boy. First I thought “No! Of all bikes.. don’t crash this one!”. But in a split second, I decided to react. I slightly hit the front brake, to get the suspension down and with a little bend, we flew by the two cars on the very limit of the tarmac. 

That my friends.. had me pooping my leathers.. almost. It was way closer than I wanted it to be. We made it. And I was heavily impressed by the precise steering and excellent handling of the Chieftain. But it took me a few deep sighs to lower my adrenaline level.



In my not so humble opinion; no motorbike is perfect. There is always something to bitch about. So let’s bitch about the Chieftain for a few sec. Because that is all it takes, really.

So what’s wrong with the Indian Chieftain Dark Horse? Well..

1. It is heavy to move around

Which is something you can’t really improve.. It just has a heavy engine, a decent fuel tank capacity (which also means extra weight) and it has huge fairings at the front with big ass speakers. All that stuff just make it a heavy motorcycle, which makes it not the easiest motorcycle to move around. Especially when you are a midget like me.

Once you get it on a roll or ride it, you don’t really notice it. Unless you have to stop, really quick, out of nowhere. But when riding with flow, you don’t notice all that weight.

2. It is matte black

Don’t get me wrong. I love matte black bikes. But like anything matte.. it is a pain in the ass to keep the thing clean. Whether it is rain or water from the gardening hose.. if you don’t dry it with a cloth or ride it dry, you will see the stains of waterdrops. Everywhere. 

Oh and about that whole ‘dry it with a cloth’-thing. Don’t rub it dry. If you do so, you might risk loosing the matte effect and make it shiny. So cleaning and polishing this machine requires some research, practice and skill.

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3. It is expensive

The Indian Motorcycle brand is not the cheapest brand out there. It doesn’t have to be, either. And let’s be honest, if you spend a lot of money on a motorcycle, it is kind of nice to ride ‘a one of a kind’. Which is the upside of riding an expensive motorcycle.

I know it isn’t truly a one of a kind. This Chieftain Dark Horse wasn’t customised at all. It came straight from the factory like this. But you don’t see many of them out there. Which goes for Indian in general. Which makes up for a lot, in my books. It’s one of the reasons I ride an RSV4. Even though you see the RSV more often on the road, it still is no regular sight. And I enjoy that.

4. It isn’t mine

This is a big issue.. because if it was, we’d be scraping floorboards and exhausts all over the place. It is an incredibly fun bike to ride, which is probably something most would not expect.

You can ride it like a hooligan, or take it for a proper cruise. Want a bike to commute with? And do so in style? Then the Chieftain has your back. I know what I would choose as a commuter bike, if I had this amount of money to spare..

Not just because it looks cool and gives you quite some comfort on long distance rides. But also because it is really easy to ride. Even the most sporty mode is forgiving on the throttle. And the engine runs flawless and beautifully.

You definitely cannot compare it to a Harley, with all its wobbling and shaking. And yes, maybe it lacks a bit of character on that part. But keep in mind I am used to 4 in line race bikes. And a modern V4 sport bike. I don’t really want an engine that’s wobbly and that trembles all over the place.



I never expected it in advance. But I enjoyed every minute on the Chieftain. Even the hassle of moving it around with all its weight. I like it when it all takes some effort. 

The Indian Chieftain is so different from what I normally ride. And although I wouldn’t trade my sport bikes for anything, I really appreciated the change. To ride something completely opposite. One thing it does have in common with my RSV4 though, is great brakes.

I was impressed by the precision with which the Chieftain allows you to brake, with both the rear and front brake. I have ridden cruisers before, and they all had shitty front brakes. But the front brake on both the Indian Chief and Chieftain were pretty good. Especially if you take all that weight in account. It actually did make it stop quite quick, which is nice when you are so used to using the  front brake a lot.

The Chieftain wasn’t made to be raced. But once you get used to the front controls, it is still pretty quick at traffic lights. It made me enjoy my rides to work way more. I actually enjoyed riding to work in 2 degrees Celsius.

I did the same thing with a BMW R 1250 GS Adventure a while ago. And I know this part is subjective.. But I enjoyed it way more on the Indian than I did on the BMW. The GS is great, but in my eyes, it just doesn’t have the flair, the balls or the charm the Chieftain has. A bagger or cruiser has to be your thing, I get that. But if you are into them, then make sure you take the Chieftain out for a test ride. It won’t disappoint.

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Riding a cruiser or bagger when you are used to riding sport bikes feels a bit weird at first. And I definitely had to get used to the weight of this proper ‘heavy weight’ motorcycle. But the Indian Chieftain surprised my in ways I never thought it would.

I rode 500 km in not even 5 days. More in like 3 days. And I loved every second of it. I loved it that much, that I want one myself. To me, it would be the perfect commuter bike. Which you can also take for a semi sporty spin on the twisties. Or on a cruise with the boys or girls. Only thing is.. it’s so expensive.

I know most of you won’t think of a cruiser or bagger as a commuter bike. And I get that. But redefine the ‘definition’ for a bit and get out of that comfort zone. And you might just be as surprised as I am about this Chieftain.

Yes, it could be more powerful. Yes, it could have been lighter. Yes, it has its limits regarding ground clearance. And yes, it is expensive. And normally, I would be annoyed with all these things as well. But somehow, I wasn’t. Somehow, the Indian Chieftain managed to sway me off my feet. In the best possible way.