We ride: 2014 Indian Chief Classic

By Greg Baxter Time of article published May 6, 2014

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Johannesburg - Baxter family legend has it that my father rode an Indian motorcycle in the 1930s. Of course, all those who would know one way or the other, have long since gone to the happy hunting grounds in the sky. From my own recollection, of second hand, hand-me-down information, my grandmother bought my father a brand new Indian, which I think was red.

Apparently he was a tear-away and the local constabulary could not catch him. One day they managed to stop him on the edge of town, somewhere in the Eastern Cape, and said: “Now we’ve got you!”

And they made him take his motorcycle licence test, which he passed.

When he came up to Johannesburg in the mid-1930s ( because of the depression), he supposedly left two motorcycles in the back yard; I wonder if one was the Indian? Can I have my dad’s motorcycles back, pretty please?

I recently rode the new Indian Chief Classic and it was a déjà vu moment for me, as I was the first Baxter (from our family line) to ride an Indian motorcycle in morte than 80 years. My father would now be 108!

As he and I, and all my male siblings, and siblings in law, are or were motorcyclists, it was a special moment for me.

Not to everyone’s taste, but I like it.

The first thing that hits you in the eyeball, is the swoopy styling. The second thing that is apparent, is that the motor doesn’t shake as much as some of the Indian’s direct competition. Out on the road, the bike was supremely smooth and comfortable.

Considering that the Chief Classic weighs about 350kg and has a long wheelbase, it felt very planted and safe. With triple disc brakes and ABS, cruise control and a huge 161Nm of torque, it devoured the kilometres.

At 120 km/h, the big V-twin is loping along at just 2850rpm. It has a six-speed gearbox and one needs to keep an eye on the gear indicator to see that one is in top gear.


I’m not a big fan of panniers, fairings and windscreens, but the one thing I would fit is a touring screen. As a rider broad of beam, anything over 120km/h had the wind buffeting off my chest.

With 1818cc of power, the Indian could muster a fair turn of speed if required, and I’m sure many tin-top drivers were surprised at its effortless overtaking ability.

Things I liked on the Indian:

Cruise control, self-cancelling indicators, keyless start, digital rev counter, the war-bonnet light on the front mudguard (that little light on the front mudguard – take a closer look, it is the head of an Indian with headdress, hence war bonnet, and it works), ride by wire throttle ( as in smooth, no cable) and pretty good fuel consumption (a little more than five litres per 100km). With 20 litres of fuel, 350km should be possible.

I also liked the tank mounted speedo with its digital readout, with all the info one would need, and more - and I loved the finish on the speedo background, it reminded me of weathered parchment.

The big tank-mounted fuel gauge was a big plus.

Sitting low in the saddle, looking out over the huge headlight nacelle, the upper edge reminded me of a gunsight. If the headlight were a barrel, wow, what a cannon!

With a long wheelbase and considerable heft, turning the Indian, especially in the car park, took some getting used to, but one quickly acclimatises, as one’s feet are firmly planted on the ground. No tiptoeing with this baby. As the old saying goes, Gently Bentley.

Resplendent in its Indian red livery and much chrome, as well as a delicious but restrained rumble from the tailpipes, the Indian Chief Classic is one desirable motorcycle. - Saturday Star

Price: R325 000


Engine: 1818cc air-cooled 49-degree V-twin twin.

Bore x stroke: 101 x 113mm.

Compression ratio: 9.5:1.

Valvegear: Pushrod with two overhead valves per cylinder.

Power: 68kW at 4500rpm.

Torque: 161.6Nm at 3000rpm.

Induction: Closed-loop electronic fuel-injection with ride-by-wire 54mm throttle body.

Ignition: Electronic.

Starting: Electric.

Clutch: Cable-operated wet multiplate clutch.

Transmission: Six-speed constant mesh gearbox with final drive by carbon fibre-reinforced belt.

Front Suspension: 46mm conventional cartridge forks with dual-rate springs, no adjustment.

Rear Suspension: Monoshock, adjustable for preload.

Front brakes: Dual 300mm floating discs with four-piston callipers and ABS.

Rear brake: 300mm floating disc with dual-piston floating calliper and ABS.

Front tyre: 130/90 - 16 tubeless.

Rear tyre: 180/65 - 16 tubeless.

Wheelbase: 1730mm.

Seat height: 660mm.

Kerb weight (claimed): 369kg.

Fuel tank: 20.8 litres.

Fuel consumption: Approximately five litres per 100km.

Warranty: One year - unlimited distance.

Price: R325 000.

Bike from: Cardinals (011 823 8400).

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