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Indian Chieftain Dark Horse First Ride Review

25 April 2017, 08:27 AM Charles Pennefather

What is it?

A Chieftain with a matt black paint job, which makes every little boy who sees it go ‘wow’ loudly. The big boys merely queue up with their camera phones. This particular one has a few optional extras as well, like a pillion seat, two back rests, and those awful tassles. Hard luggage that has remote locks is standard, as are a few other things that one wouldn’t usually expect on a motorcycle.

How does it ride?

At rest you can feel every gram of the 370kg kerb weight. The bottom also tends to touch on large speedbreakers, and coupled with the weight, it is a difficult machine to manage at slow speeds and in traffic. Start rolling, however, and it all becomes surprisingly manageable, even feet-up U turns. You wouldn’t want to ride around on this in traffic, though. For one, this particular version of the Thunderstroke 111 engine does not have water cooling, so once it (and you) start cooking, you’ll remain ‘on the boil’ until you get off. It is so wide, you have to view gaps in traffic with a cager’s eye. Oh, and it can’t stop on a dime, even with those large dual discs up front and standard ABS. On the highway it is comfortable, the suspension soaking up all but the harshest of bumps, and its willingness to tip into a corner making a mockery of that kerb weight. Of course, it is a cruiser, so the usual negatives remain: it is great on great roads, and bad on bad roads. 

Indian Chieftain Dark Horse

Last known Avg. Ex-showroom price

₹ 31,52,891

Special mention needs to be made of the Thunderstroke 111 engine – the vibrations from this 1811cc motor are more than acceptable, it is quiet with the stock exhausts, and the 136Nm of torque seems to be available right off idle. This is a very good thing, because the gearbox needs a firm leg to shift gear – very rarely have we experienced such a heavy shifter in a modern motorcycle. The clutch action is also very light and progressive for that torque figure. More of these moving monuments need to include a reverse gear like the Honda Gold Wing and BMW K1600 GTL do – it is impossible to back up these motorcycles by yourself if you’ve nosed into a parking space facing the curb.

Anything else I should know?

On open roads, it is sublime. Set the cruise control, raise the electrically adjustable windscreen so that you’re out of the wind, and the engine turns over at a lazy 2100rpm at 100kmph. Let the 100 Watt audio system play your favourite tracks over Bluetooth. If you’re running out of juice for your phone, you can use either the 12V power socket or the USB port on the mobile phone holder to charge it. If the sound isn’t right, use the three-band eq to make it sound just so. If you run out of tracks, well, there’s always the radio! In addition, the display in between the analog clocks shows quite a bit of information, including tyre pressure, data on the engine oil, the standard trip computer parameters and the Bluetooth display. It has got ABS, but the momentum of the motorcycle is something that always remains on your mind. You also need to know that the ‘tassle pack’ includes footboards with tassles that hang from them, but they were absent on our test vehicle. 

Why should I buy one?

If you’re the kind of person who appreciates a large cruiser that has everything but the kitchen sink, yes, you should. Just don’t miss the ‘leg’ days at the gym, because you’re going to need those muscles. The optional pillion seat is a good idea – it is one of the most comfortable perches we’ve experienced. India’s love for cruisers knows no bounds, and when presented with a matt black spaceship lookalike like the Indian Chieftain Dark Horse, you’re assured of celebrity status. You’re going to have to beat them off with a stick should you stop in a crowded place. You can also earn bonus adulation points if, like Pratheek, you use the audio system to play your tunes.

Just stay away from the tassles, please. 

Where does it fit in?

It retails for a shade over Rs 33 lakh, ex-showroom, Mumbai. That makes it cheaper than the equivalent Harley-Davidson, the Street Glide Special, but more expensive than the Moto Guzzi MGX-21 and almost the same price as the Honda Gold Wing GL1800.

Photography by Kapil Angane

Gear check

1. Arai Astro-IQ Second in the Arai street models hierarchy, the Astro-IQ is a comfortable, stable helmet at any speed. Price: 50,000 

2. Scorpion Hat Trick Mesh/Textile jacket Although not on sale for a while now, the Hat Trick is a jacket that is protective yet allows decent airflow. The fleece liner keeps you warm enough, and the waterproof liner makes it truly impermeable, even in a Mumbai monsoon. Drying it out takes a while, though. Price: Rs 15600 (Scorpion Phalanx) 

3. Royal Enfield Spiti riding gloves Made for comfortable touring, these short-cuff gloves offer a lot of comfort right from the first ride. Price: Rs 3200

4. Royal Enfield long riding boots With a little inspiration from both off-road boots and touring boots, the RE long riding boots are comfortable and yet protective. Price: Rs 11,000