Bikes we love

What I want: Indian Chief Classic

Yo quiero.
By now you should have figured out that I am a Minnesota fanboy. Sure, I am fiercely proud of my Texas heritage, but most of those years in which a man is truly formulating his personality (15-22) were spent in Minnesota; it is the place of my heart. And if something comes from Minnesota, there’s a good chance I’ll like it. So, I’m willing to admit upfront that I am biased when it comes to the newly relaunched Indian motorcycles.
Like Victory motorcycles (which have also shown up multiple times on my What I Want posts), this latest incarnation of the Indian marque is owned by Minnesota-based Polaris. Like Victory, the Indian machines are made in Iowa, which is still pretty much Minnesota if you look at NFL fanbase (ie, there are more Vikings fans in Iowa than say, Packers or Bears fans). But even without my rose-tinted regionalist glasses on, these bikes look pretty damn good. They possess that certain je ne sais quoi that makes you think: “I really want to ride that thing. No, wait. I really need to ride that thing.”
OK, there’s far too much chrome for my liking and in certain styling aspects the Victory influence is too obvious, but, still. I would spend my actual money on one of these. Fortunately, the one I like the most is also the cheapest: the Chief Classic.
Maybe it’s not bad ass in the traditional sense. It doesn’t have that threatening “I will get off this bike and break your bones” quality that the best stripped-down Harley-Davidson might possess. Instead, the Chief Classic looks even more menacing. That headlight set-up brings to mind the spaceships in the 1950s version of War of the Worlds. So, rather than breaking bones it will raze entire cities with a laser death ray.
The machine appears solid, too. ABS is standard (you know I love me some ABS) and the all-new “Thunderstroke 111” (a) engine gets a respectable-for-a-cruiser 45 miles to the gallon, according to the New York Times. There are also clever little features like keyless start and cruise control. According to Cycle World the bike is as comfortable as it looks and handles surprisingly well.
The initial response to the new Indian motorcycles has been positive. Even writers from the generally cruiser-hating MCN have described the bikes as “a revelation.” And as a Minnesota fan boy that makes me happy. But also I want to see Indian be a success because, as I said when writing about the Arch KRGT-1, I love the fact that there are people who are trying and adding to the American motorcycle lexicon.

I am particularly inspired by Polaris’ attitude toward Indian. They are putting all their weight behind it and it is so obvious that they want the marque to succeed not just for financial reasons but for heritage and history. And I like, too, that they have big ideas for what lies ahead.

We don’t want the brand pinned down into cruisers, baggers and touring, like everyone probably expects,” Indian’s director of product Gary Grey told Cycle World. “We want to go beyond that. That won’t be a quick process. It’s not going to happen next year, it’s going to happen over fives and tens of years.”

That is incredibly exciting. When they produce the new Scout, for instance, what could it be? Something retro cool like the Triumph Bonneville? A lower-cc fewer-frills cruiser like the Triumph Speedmaster or the Harley-Davidson Iron 883? A sport bike? An adventure bike? (Dude, Polaris knows all about building things that go off-road; imagine how bad-ass an American-made adventure bike could be) As I say, it’s exciting to think about.

In the meantime, though, I will continue to pine for a Chief Classic. As best I can tell, the bikes won’t be sold here in the United Kingdom in the immediate future, but I suppose that’s OK. With a weight of more than 800 lbs and a width of 41 inches, the Chief Classic is not exactly the sort of machine you’d choose for filtering through traffic. It’s the right machine for obliterating said traffic with your factory-standard death ray, perhaps (replete with leather-fringe trigger tassells, of course), but not for filtering.

Instead, this is a machine with which I’d like to wander across the great North American expanse. It is a machine that goes to the very top of my Bikes I Will Get When I Return To The United States list. It is a machine that is big, comfortable, announces its presence and is delightfully shameless in its flashy, unnecessarily ornate style. It is a machine that is pure Americana.

Hell yeah, I want one.

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(a) Yes, I feel like a tool for using the engine’s name.