Opinion

Dear Indian: Please make a smaller bike

The Chieftain’s fairing is inspired by Streamliner trains.
It is also quite train-like in size!
I got a chance to see the new Indian motorcycles in the flesh today –– both the Chief Classic and the Chieftain. They are incredibly beautiful machines, but great googly-moogly are they massive. It is comically huge. I mean, this thing is gigantic. Colossal. Monumental. It is an informal monster.
Take, for instance, the Streamliner-esque fairing on the Indian Chieftain. It is beautiful and stylish, but it also contains a dashboard larger than that which you would find in an economy car. It is just this whopping great console right in your face. It is so big, and so loaded with bits of information, that I’d be worried about its obstructing my view. Since you really sit “in” a Chieftain rather than on one, it seems the Chieftain’s dash would eat up 40 percent of your vision.
The Chief Classic struck me as even more enormous. Its alien laser cannon of a headlight is incredible. In-credible. It is too large to be a credible bit of a bike. I’m pretty sure that headlight assembly is larger than the entire tank on my Honda CBF600SA.
Beautiful and ridiculous. And in that Indian is the most American motorcycle I’ve ever seen. It is a perfect representation of a beautiful and ridiculous country. There’s no doubt that I love both the Chief Classic and the Chieftain, but I’ll admit my heart sank a little upon seeing them. Because there is no way in hell I would buy one.
At least not in Britain. As I mentioned in reviewing the Triumph America, cruisers are not well suited to the roads of Her Majesty’s United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Omnipresent roundabouts, and needlessly twisty, pothole-ridden narrow roads mean constantly having to shift a bike’s weight and launch it into teeny gaps. I suppose a spirited and determined individual could perhaps get away with manoeuvring a small cruiser like the America around (I’m keeping hope alive for one day owning a Triumph Speedmaster), but anything larger is a fool’s game.
On this tiny island of rain, I feel the Chief or the Chieftain would be an idiot’s game. You could only ever ride the thing on the motorway –– all other roads are too small. Though, in riding back from the dealership I found myself on the motorway and even there thinking how inappropriate are Indian’s products for this landscape.
Traffic on the M4 backed up to an almost complete stop for at least 12 miles. I slipped easily between the lanes, filtering, and passed car after car after car after car after car after car. At one point I found myself squeezing through a space in which my shoulder actually touched a semi-truck (it was stopped) and one of the guys in the van opposite (also stopped) said through the window: “Ya got balls of steel, mate.”

That, and I’ve got a bike that can fit in such tight spaces. I’m pretty confident I could have cut the same line through traffic on a Bonneville. I might have been able to do the same on a Harley-Davidson 883. But had I been astride a Chieftain, I would have been several miles back, waiting in line with everyone else.

It got me thinking about what bike Indian will next produce. There are rumours that a new Scout is on the horizon, though only one website has reported the rumour. And there’s no idea of when it might exist or what it might be. I know I’ve talked about this before, but my deep, abiding hope is that Indian will produce a machine to rival the Bonneville and 883 –– a machine that I could actually ride in Britain.

If they don’t, I’ll have to keep buying Hondas…