Indian Motorcycle on Thursday pulled the cover off the latest version of its Chieftain Elite model, this time choosing a less flashy paint scheme for the £27,599 bagger: grey.
Well, technically it’s silver – “Black Hills Silver” to be exact. According to Indian, it is an homage to the silver mines in the Black Hills of South Dakota – home to Sturgis and arguably thereby the spiritual home of American cruiser culture. The Black Hills are also pretty close to Spearfish, South Dakota, which is where Indian’s custom paint facility is located.
I got a chance to ride the (more attractive in red) Chieftain Elite when it was first unveiled roughly a year ago. It’s a fantastic bike, owing mostly to the fact that it is really just a Chieftain with some fancy stuff added. Primarily, that fancy stuff consists of a really nice stereo and an even nicer paint job.
The Elite’s paint scheme is all done by hand, each one taking roughly 25 hours to complete. Of course, all that human involvement guarantees that no two bikes will look exactly the same. Unless… uh… you happen to be looking at them from 10 feet away. Look at them from about 50 feet away, meanwhile, and they’ll look pretty much like the equally grey standard Chieftain, which costs £6,350 less.
Indian has a lot of really nice branded gear (I personally own a pair of Spirit Lake boots and a Rocker jacket) – you could buy a hell of a lot of it with the money saved. But, of course, then you’d miss out on the Elite’s super bitchin’ 200-watt audio system (as opposed to 100 watts on the standard Chieftain).
However, the real news is that with this latest version of the Elite, Indian has finally begun to introduce improved hand controls for its bikes. Long-time readers will know that my greatest criticism of Indian’s bikes is the company’s decision to place cruise control switches on the right grip, which is on par with Harley’s dual indicator system in terms of utter wrongness. Worse, the buttons to activate said feature require relatively large hands so you can stretch out the thumb while maintaining steady throttle. Anti-Trump joke goes here. But even for someone with digits long enough to make the reach it is annoying.
I expressed my frustration to some of Indian’s team at the Elite/Limited launch last year. They quietly confirmed it was a complaint they had heard often and were working to address. Taking a look at the pictures for the new 2018 Elite (or are we calling it a 2019 model, even though it’s only just turned March?), the cruise control buttons appear to still be on the right grip, but if the reach is now easier I promise not to complain (as much).