If you’re shopping for an American cruiser or tourer, and prefer traditional styling and a thumping V-twin engine note, chances are that your first stop will be at the Harley-Davidson or Victory dealership. This simple choice has now been complicated by the local début of a series of new contenders to the segment, which offer similar charms but an even more impressive heritage – and with sky-high pricing ensuring real exclusivity.
Indian Motorcycle, America’s oldest motorcycle brand, has been resurrected by Polaris Industries (who own Victory), and is now available in South Africa. Offering three models, they draw their inspiration from vintage Indian motorcycles, featuring swooping skirted mudguards, teardrop-shaped fuel tanks and illuminated front fender mascots.
These newcomers are more than mere historical re-enactments, however, because there is a big measure of new technology hidden under their retro-styled exteriors. All models are powered by the same 111 cubic inch (1.8-litre) Thunder Stroke engine, featuring drive-by-wire throttle control, multipoint fuel injection, keyless starting and cruise control. Seeing as V-Twins usually emphasise easy-riding low-end torque, the power output isn’t quoted at all, but 161 Nm of torque should ensure an easy-going gait in keeping with the cruiser theme. This combination of traditional design and modern technology extends to the braking system, which features ABS, and the six-speed transmission.
The range comprises three derivatives: the Indian Chief Classic, which draws inspiration from its 1950’s namesake and makes do without any fairing, rather displaying its tank-mounted (and very comprehensive) instrumentation. The next version is known as the Chief Vintage, and adds a simple curved windshield, leather saddle bags and chrome fender tips. Topping off the range, the Chieftain features powered windshield adjustment (for the first time on a fork-mounted fairing), integrated driving lights, remote locking hard saddle bags, tyre pressure monitoring and a high-powered audio system with Bluetooth- and smartphone connectivity.
These modern design features combine with the traditional styling and a powerful engine to create a unique ownership proposition – but at a price. With the Chief Classic starting the range at R 325 000, the Chief Vintage carrying a price tag of R 355 000, and the Chieftain costing R 385 000, only heritage bike enthusiasts with deep pockets need apply.