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Indian Chief Dark Horse First Ride Review

10 December 2015, 10:59 AM Vikrant Singh

What is it?

Thank god for tinted visors! How else can you still look cool, almost demigod like, while sweating profusely and holding the damsel-in-distress expression of ‘help me!’ inside that helmet. Welcome to my yesterday when I picked up this near 350kg motorcycle with a wheelbase that can shame cars at a time when the Mumbai traffic is at its worst. Welcome to the Indian Chief Dark Horse; a motorcycle launched early this year but somehow we have only just managed to get our hands on it.

The Chief Dark Horse is the non-chromed, alloy rimmed, single seater twin of the Indian Vintage. It’s also lighter, tubeless tyred and cooler than both the Vintage and the big daddy which is the Indian Chieftain. The Chief Dark Horse uses the same near 140Nm, 1811cc, V-twin engine that powers the Chieftain; uses the same five piece chassis; and like its siblings gets a 6-speed clunky gearbox that drives the rear wheel via a belt.

How does it ride?

If you are on an open dual carriage highway, early in the morning, with a little nip in the air, the Indian Chief Dark Horse feels heavenly. The ride is confident, if a bit noisy; the throttle is light, if a bit snatchy; and the seating comfort is simply outstanding, if a bit outstretched. The Chief Dark Horse glides over bumpy roads and one rarely needs to slow down for stuff. The light throttle means you aren’t going to be struggling with a sore wrist even after long hours of riding. And the seating with that cushy seat and a handlebar that reaches out to you makes for recliner rivaling comfort levels.

Indian Chief Dark Horse [2019-2020]

Last known Avg. Ex-showroom price

₹ 20,37,523

The Chief Dark Horse also has a mammoth of an engine. It’s all about low and mid range torque than free revving performance. So, every time the throttle is opened with even the slightest hint of aggression, the rider quickly turns into a passenger; like being walked by a Great Dane in a hurry. Moreover, all you need to overtake the world is less than 3,000rpm. I rarely went over; one, because it’s pointless (maximum torque arrives at this point), and two, the Indian just gets louder and vibier with no perceivable benefit.

Bottom line: The Chief Indian Dark Horse is an outstanding cruiser, a motorcycle I’d love to have on a Mumbai-Delhi ride, but would totally avoid riding to Goa on, on NH17.

And, if like me, you get introduced to the Chief Dark Horse within city confines during rush hour traffic – unless you survive on protein shakes and live in the gym – you too will need a dark visor. The fear of tipping this 350kg hulk of metal is omnipresent at slow speeds. Then of course there’s the absolute horror of having to pick it up…if you bin it. Plus, there’s the heat from the cylinder heads threatening to barbeque your thighs. And if that’s not bad enough, there’s this whole bunch of silly motorists trying their best to crash into you while trying to get a closer look at the bike; a bike that’s so large you can probably see it from space.

Anything else I should know?

…apart from the fact that the Chief Dark Horse is long, heavy, and a pain to park? Yes. It also has an unnecessary heavy clutch. It has brakes that lack both feel and bite. And, even though our test bike had only done 7,000km or thereabouts, it was rattling all over.

But, there’s good news too. Rattles or not, the Indian is one of the finest finished and built motorcycles in its class. The attention to detail is great. And, it is loaded with features. The Chief Dark Horse gets a trip computer, cruise control and ABS. And like cars, it has keyless start with a throbbing red ‘power on’ switch. It’s also great at changing directions helped by a sharper rake compared to its siblings.

Lest I forget, the Indian Dark Horse doesn’t come with a pillion seat…or pillion footpegs…or that fancy exhaust pipe you see here…or even the chrome crash guard; these are all optional extras.

Should I buy one?

This isn’t a rational purchase like say buying a washing machine or a car or even a large capacity adventure bike. OK, the last one isn’t either. But the thing is, you buy the Indian Chief Dark Horse, because you WANT a large, look-at-me, quintessential American cruiser. And if you want one, you MUST have one. That’s that, so what if it costs over Rs 25 lakh on the road in Mumbai and can’t even carry a pillion.

Where does it fit in?

According to Indian Motorcycles, the Chief Dark Horse has no equal. But, that’s not entirely true. It does compete with the Harley Davidson Fat Boy in terms of stance, riding experience and price. And, there’s the Suzuki Intruder M1800 as well. The Suzuki might lack the same snob value as the Indian but when it comes to road presence or the riding experience, the Suzuki is right up there.