Indian Chieftain – Road Test

There’s a new Chieftain who wants to rule the cruiser clan. With a 1810 cc v-twin motor, you know he’s packing power!


So what is it?

The 2015 Indian Chieftain is a 1 810cc air-cooled, v-twin bagger aka a long-distance cruiser with saddle bags. The iconic Indian Motorcycles brand has recently been revived by Polaris (they own Victory too) and takes aim at Harley-Davidson buyers. Comfortable, large and here to stay, the 2015 Chieftain tops an ecliptic range of Indians in South Africa.


The Chieftain is an imposing, characterful bike and instantly recognisable thanks to the large, engraved Indian name on the clutch housing and prominently displayed in other prominent areas, not to mention the fancy, hood ornament on the front fender. Tank decals are loud and proud, while the painted logo makes a strong visual statement.

Optional extras for the bike abound, so owners can individualise their rides. On collecting the Chieftain from the dealer I was told the tassels on these bikes actually serve a purpose – when riding in the wet, the tassel ends allow the raindrops to disperse and this way the rider and bike dry faster.

Indian go to some length to talk about the low “valance” fender – a fancy word for detailed – and yes it is pretty and unique. It also covers the brake callipers which are most often exposed on other bikes.


The Indian’s warbonnet emblem is one of its defining features


Say it slowly: One hundred and eleven cubic inches. Or 1.8 litres of engine power and 139 Nm of torque. Or to put it another way, arm-out-the-socket-wrenching torque! From standstill, rev the motor up and drag it through to the red-line in first, second and third and you may just land yourself in the chookie! Sprints are impressive indeed, but the Chieftain prefers more composed and regal riding. That torque comes in handy though (no pun intended) when you twist the throttle to pass slower traffic. The speedo at 120 shows 2 500 rpm, a quick burst takes you up to 3 000 rpm and you hit the full 139 Nm of torque at that point. The ride-by-wire throttle gives lively inputs to the engine, and the big v-twin responds instantly – no lag, just oodles of pure joy. The engine is tuned to a very specific acoustic pitch, to give a muted growl at freeway speeds.

Ride and handling

The bike needs to be worked a little harder at low speed, with more rider input to go in the desired direction. The ride is soft and cushy – like you’re on a couch – but this can be adjusted in the workshop. Front dual cartridge forks allow for 46 mm of play, while the cartridge forks allow for 119 mm of travel (read soft). The 4-piston callipers, mated to the 300 mm dual discs up front ensure the bike stops effectively (tested this myself!) and comes with ABS as standard equipment. At the back the single 300 mm disc also comes with ABS.

The open road is where the Indian excels. The speedo-cruise is a handy feature many touring bikers will enjoy – easy to activate and even easier to deactivate. One more point to consider in the ride department – the comfort of the pillion. My pillion had this to say: “Very comfortable and a lot less noisy than the Harleys. The seat is plush and back rest awesome – when can we ride again?”.


With 111 cubic inches of displacement, the Chieftain means and looks the business

Likes and Dislikes

I liked the way people looked at the bike and how often it would draw a crowd. Onlookers would range from age 5 to 80, and everyone wanted to sit on the bike.

An elderly lady came up to me and told me the story of her late husband, a keen Indian fan, who had planned to tour the USA on one of these, but passed on before it could happen. She had me take a picture of her on the bike with her cellphone, to send to her son, informing him that she wants to do that trip. She remarked that this was the first Indian she had seen in South Africa, after having seen them in the 1950s in the USA…

About the bike: I disliked the turning angle that makes it difficult to back out of tight corners. The low seat makes this even harder, but this can be remedied by fitting a higher aftermarket seat. I felt the size of the panniers were a little tight and could have been 5 cm wider, without compromising the look of the bike. The one negative was the LO OIL reading when turning off the bike. This is not a low oil indicator, but an acronym for Level Of Oil – OK. Without having the manual nearby, I ended up checking the oil after each ride. Anyway, I got it eventually.

Verdict and rating

A worthy contender in the big v-twin sector, so give it serious consideration. Lots of extras thrown in for the standard price. My verdict and rating: a solid 7/10.

Also consider

Triumph Rocket III Touring, Suzuki Intruder VL1500, Harley-Davidson Road Glide Special.


  • Engine – 111 cubic inches / 1 800 cc, V-Twin.
  • Gearbox – 6-speed, sequential manual gearbox
  • Power – not stated
  • Torque – 138 Nm @ 3 000 rpm
  • Weight – 385 kg with all fluids
  • Seat Height/Ground clearance – 660mm
  • Fuel Capacity – 22.7 litres
  • Fuel consumption – 5.6 l/100km (claimed)
  • Tank range – 300km
  • Warranty and Servicing – 2-year unlimited km, with 8000-km service intervals
  • Price – From R359 000 for this specific model. Visit or call Marlee on 021 852 4851.

Review by Mukhtar Mukuddem

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