Now With Ride Modes And Rear Cylinder Deactivation

Indian Motorcycle, under Polaris Industries Inc., keeps a long tradition alive with its 2019 Chief Vintage powered by the Thunder Stroke® 111 engine. The designers build upon 95 years of Chief tradition with this ride, and while all Indians show their historical roots in varying degrees, none is quite as overt as the aptly named ’Vintage’.

Continue reading for my review of the Indian Chief Vintage.

  • 2016 - 2019 Indian Chief Vintage
  • Year:
    2016- 2019
  • Make:
  • Model:
  • Engine:
    Thunder Stroke® 111
  • Displacement:
    111 cubic inches
  • Price:
    19999
  • Price:

Indian Motorcycle Chief Vintage Design

2016 - 2019 Indian Chief Vintage
- image 796481
The full front fender with its traditional figurehead takes us all the way back to 1940 when Indian first started using their now-iconic skirted fenders.

The word “vintage” gets tossed around a lot, but when a company with a history as long as Indian Motorcycle uses it, you can believe they mean it. Though the company has changed hands many times, the Chief model family, in one form or another, has been part of the Indian lineup since its inception in 1922.

At a glance, the Vintage looks like it was torn from a page in history. The full front fender with its traditional figurehead takes us all the way back to 1940 when Indian first started using their now-iconic skirted fenders. Cast your eye down the top lines. Follow them down the fat fuel tank and across the saddle, and you will come away with the impression that there really could be a rigid rear end under all that sheet metal. It’s an illusion of course, but it adds to the suggestion of antiquity.

The fat front forks, headlamp nacelle, pimp lights, and over-sized windshield give the front end a retro look that reinforces the overall classic vibe. Even the engine design attempts to capture the look of the flathead, side-valve V-twins used in the early Indian bikes, down to the cooling fins across the rocker boxes and the pushrod tube geometry. The tan saddle and saddlebag leather is the icing on the cake, and the fringe is attached with Velcro, so you can easily remove it if tassels ain’t your thing.

Indian makes a wide variety of accessories that can enhance this illusion significantly, and tipple into the “classic custom” zone. I think my favorites so far would have to be the mini-apes, and the fishtail muffler tips available for the Stage-One exhaust system, but there are literally hundreds of accessories to choose from, so you can make a Chief Vintage that is “all you.”

Indian Motorcycle Chief Vintage Chassis

2016 - 2019 Indian Chief Vintage
- image 796479
Ride quality is quite cushy; the suspension and mass absorb the jolts, passing little to no energy on to the rider.

Low, wide, and stable are the words that best describe the rolling chassis. Good thing too, ’cause all this sheet metal and classic design elements come at a price: it’s fairly heavy. The Vintage weighs in at 801 pounds dry, and will weigh around half-a-ton once you add 5.5 gallons of fuel and a rider. Bottom line here is, when you have a lot of bike, you need a lot of support, and the designers knew they were making a heavy cruiser when they started.

Let’s start with the hoops. The 16-inch, laced chrome rims mount 130 mm, and 180 mm Dunlop tires on the front and rear, respectively, and the whitewalls play right into the dated look the designers were going for. Too bad the all-around, 300 mm brake discs all but completely obscure those beautiful chrome spokes; but chrome won’t get you home, and I will trade aesthetics for safety any day. The dual front brakes come with big, four-pot pistons up front, and a dual-pot caliper in back, all managed by an ABS so you can use those big brakes with confidence.

On paper, the 46 mm front forks and rear monoshock would seem to be barely adequate with 4.7 and 3.7 inches of travel respectively, but as it turns out, the ride is quite cushy. The suspension and mass just absorb the jolts, passing little to no energy on to the rider. Result: a bag-tastic cruiser that will keep you comfortable on rough roads, and in the saddle longer during road trips.

Suspension, Front/Travel: 46 mm, Telescopic Fork/4.7 inches
Suspension, Rear/Travel: Single Shock / 3.7 inches
Rake: 29°
Trail: 6.1 inches
Lean Angle: 31°
Brakes, Front: Dual / 300 mm Floating Rotor / Four-Piston Caliper
Brakes, Rear: Single / 300 mm Floating Rotor / Two- Piston Caliper
Tire, Front: Dunlop® American Elite 130/90B16 67H
Tire, Rear: Dunlop® American Elite 180/65B16 81H
Wheel, Front: 60 Spoke 16 x 3.5 inches
Wheel, Rear: 60 Spoke 16 x 5 inches

Indian Motorcycle Chief Vintage Drivetrain

2016 - 2019 Indian Chief Vintage
- image 762497
Wanna thrill? Put that baby in “Sport” mode and twist it like you mean it.

It takes a lot of power to get big bikes moving, and even more to make them as responsive to the throttle as the Thunder Stroke®111 engine. This 111 cubic-inch (1,811 cc), air-cooled V-twin grinds out 119.2 pound-feet of stump-pulling torque at a mere 3,000 rpm, and surprisingly rapid acceleration that seems to belie the weight of the bike. Part of this is due to the relatively long, 4.449-inch stroke, and part because of the heavy flywheels tucked away in the cases. I’m sure the 54 mm throttle body with closed-loop fuel injection doesn’t hurt, either.

Power flows through a wet clutch to the six-speed transmission that helps keep the cruising rpm low and near the peak in the powerband for instant throttle response and a strong, 60-to-80 mph roll on with its 2.789-to-1 top-gear ratio. The final drive is a quiet, and low-maintenance, belt drive system that runs with a 2.2 to 1 final-drive ratio. Bottom line here: the engine won’t be frantic trying to keep up with (or keep from being run over by) traffic on the highway.

New for 2019, the Chief Vintage features Ride Modes and Rear Cylinder Deactivation. The RCD system shuts off the rear cylinder at a stop to reduce the amount of heat washing up over you and your passenger in slow or non-moving traffic if filtering isn’t an option. The cylinder automatically comes back when you twist the throttle for seamless power delivery. Ride Modes let you get more out that awesome Thunder Stroke®111 engine with “Tour,” “Standard,” and “Sport” modes. Wanna thrill? Put that baby in “Sport” and twist it like you mean it. Just make sure you’re holding on and your passenger is ready when you do.

Engine: Thunder Stroke® 111
Displacement: 111 cubic inches / 1,811 cc
Bore x Stroke: 3.976 x 4.449 inches (101mm x 113mm)
Compression Ratio: 9.5 to 1
Electronic Fuel Injection System: Closed loop fuel injection / 54 mm bore
Final Drive: 2.2 to 1
Primary Drive: Gear Drive Wet Clutch
Peak Torque: 119.2 pound-feet at 3,000 rpm
Drive/Driven Clutch: Wet, Multi-Plate
Transmission: 6-speed

Indian Motorcycle Chief Vintage Price

2016 - 2019 Indian Chief Vintage
- image 796474
MSRP hangs in there same as last year minus a two-tone color choice.

You can score a Vintage for $19,999 in basic black and get a lot of bike for the money. Two-tone colorways will add a grand more. All of the leather components stay in character with a natural-looking, tan finish.

Standard Equipment: Quick Release Lexan Windshield; Genuine Leather Seats; Genuine Leather Saddlebags; Highway Bars; Light Bar; ABS; Cruise Control; Keyless Ignition; Indian® Script Tank Badge; Indian® Headdress Fender Ornament
Gauges: Tank mounted electronic speedometer with odometer; dual tripmeters; digital tachometer; ambient air temperature; fuel range; average fuel economy; battery voltage; gear position display; real-time clock; vehicle trouble code readout; heated grip level (if heated grips installed); low engine oil pressure; and 9 LED telltale indicators: cruise control enabled, cruise control set, neutral, high beam, turn signal, ABS, check engine, and MPH or km/h unit designation; Tank mounted electronic fuel gauge with low fuel LED indicator
Colors:
2017: Thunder Black, Indian Motorcycle® Red over Ivory Cream, Springfield Blue over Ivory Cream and Willow Green over Ivory Cream
2018: Thunder Black, Willow Green over Ivory Cream, Sky Blue over Pearl White, Star Silver over Thunder Black
2019: Thunder Black, Willow Green over Ivory Cream, Sky Blue over Pearl White
Price: Thunder Black: $19,999, Two-tones: $20,999

Indian Motorcycle Chief Vintage Competitors

2018 - 2019 Harley-Davidson Heritage Classic
- image 741179
2016 - 2019 Indian Chief Vintage
- image 796485
The wide/fat front ends and old-school looks should put both bikes in the sights of riders who appreciate historical tributes and are willing to pay for it.

The Cross-Country from Victory was a good competitor in years past, but since the demise of Victory Motorcycle takes the CC out of the current market, I’m thinkin’ Harley-Davidson’s Heritage Classic makes for a good-enough replacement. Sure, the Classic’s Softail frame gives it that faux-hardtail effect that really takes the retro look to another level, but most of that is lost behind the stock saddlebags so the bike doesn’t really gain any real ground on the Chief’s deliciously-dated panache.

H-D gives the Classic a bit of blackout for a slightly different attitude, and I gotta’ say you can pencil me in as a fan of the blackout instrument console that is sure to reduce the glare coming up under your shades. Beyond that, the wide/fat front ends and old-school looks should put both bikes in the sights of riders who appreciate historical tributes and are willing to pay for it.

Harley’s fancy Softail frame is even fancier from an update last year, having been re-engineered from the ground up, but the running gear is almost as vanilla as ever with naught but an adjustable-preload feature on the rear end, just like the Indian. ABS is also present across the board, but Harley slips a little with only one disc up front against dual, 300 mm discs on the Chief Vintage. Since ABS is there to catch your over-braking mistakes, I’d prefer to have more in the way of anchors up front like the Chief brings to the table.

In the engine department, Harley’s new Milwaukee-Eight brings back the classic Harley look with the traditional, single-cam nosecone area. It brings the cubes too, with 107 cubic-inches in the standard version and a 114-inch version as an option. These sizes bracket the 111-inch Thunder Stroke®that powers the Chief, but I want to focus on the smaller/stock version. As you’d expect, the torque figures from the Mil-8 107 are respectable with 109 pound-feet that comes on at a low 3,000 rpm. Indian’s big V-twin gets the most out of its inches (no giggety) with a whopping 119 pounds o’ grunt at the same mark. I still say anything over 100 is lagniappe, even a little gratuitous, but I still have to give Indian its props for ithe Thunder Stroke.

You’ll pay for it though. The Chief Vintage rolls for 20 grand, but you can score a Vivid Black Softail Heritage Classic for as low as $18,999, and even the top-tier, two-tone packages stay below the $20k mark. ’Course, at this price point, a grand here or there really doesn’t matter that much.

He Said

"I always do like historical — or historical-looking bikes — and the Chief Vintage is definitely a big ol’ slice of Americana. If anything, they went a little too far. The full sheet metal along the flanks of the bike is just a little too much for me. I prefer to be able to see what a bike’s got going on in the back and the full body panels leave too much to the imagination. Still, it’s a good-looking bike and the sheet metal is definitely not a deal-breaker."

She Said

My wife and fellow writer, Allyn Hinton, says, "This feels like a big ol’ easy chair to ride. The low seat height makes it friendly for height-challenged folks like me, yet tall riders don’t feel cramped (at least not the ones that spoke to me, ’cause I wouldn’t know). Great power, of course, and smooth transitions. Awesome roll-on. I love the look, I love the ride; what else is there to say?”

Indian Motorcycle Chief Vintage Specifications

Engine & Drivetrain:
Engine: Thunder Stroke® 111
Displacement: 111 cubic inches (1,811 cc)
Bore x Stroke: 3.976 x 4.449 inches (101 mm x 113 mm)
Compression Ratio: 9.5:1
Electronic Fuel Injection System: Closed loop fuel injection / 54 mm bore
Final Drive: 2.2 to 1
Primary Drive: Gear Drive Wet Clutch
Peak Torque: 119.2 pound-feet @ 3,000 rpm
Drive/Driven Clutch: Wet, Multi-Plate
Gear Ratios: 1st: 9.403 : 1, 2nd: 6.411 : 1, 3rd: 4.763 : 1, 4th: 3.796 : 1, 5th: 3.243 : 1, 6th: 2.789 : 1
Exhaust System: Split dual exhaust w/ cross-over
Chassis:
Suspension, Front/Travel: 46 mm, Telescopic Fork/4.7 inches
Suspension, Rear/Travel: Single Shock / 3.7 inches
Rake: 29°
Trail: 6.1 inches
Lean Angle: 31°
Brakes, Front: Dual / 300 mm Floating Rotor / Four-Piston Caliper
Brakes, Rear: Single / 300 mm Floating Rotor / Two- Piston Caliper
Tire, Front: Dunlop® American Elite 130/90B16 67H
Tire, Rear: Dunlop® American Elite 180/65B16 81H
Wheel, Front: 60 Spoke 16 x 3.5 inches
Wheel, Rear: 60 Spoke 16 x 5 inches
Dimensions & Capacities:
Wheelbase: 68.1 inches
Seat Height: 26.0 inches
Overall Length: 103.7 inches
Overall Width: 39.4 inches
Overall Height: 58.7 inches
Ground Clearance: 5.5 inches
Fuel Capacity: 5.5 gallons
GVWR: 1260 pounds
Dry Weight: 805 pounds
Curb Weight: 835 pounds
Details:
Standard Equipment: Quick Release Lexan Windshield; Genuine Leather Seats; Genuine Leather Saddlebags; Highway Bars; Light Bar; ABS; Cruise Control; Keyless Ignition; Indian® Script Tank Badge; Indian® Headdress Fender Ornament
Gauges: Tank mounted electronic speedometer with odometer; dual tripmeters; digital tachometer; ambient air temperature; fuel range; average fuel economy; battery voltage; gear position display; real-time clock; vehicle trouble code readout; heated grip level (if heated grips installed); low engine oil pressure; and 9 LED telltale indicators: cruise control enabled, cruise control set, neutral, high beam, turn signal, ABS, check engine, and MPH or km/h unit designation; Tank mounted electronic fuel gauge with low fuel LED indicator
Colors:
2017: Thunder Black, Indian Motorcycle® Red over Ivory Cream, Springfield Blue over Ivory Cream and Willow Green over Ivory Cream
2018: Thunder Black, Willow Green over Ivory Cream, Sky Blue over Pearl White, Star Silver over Thunder Black
2019: Thunder Black, Willow Green over Ivory Cream, Sky Blue over Pearl White
Price: Thunder Black: $19,999, Two-tones: $20,999

Further Reading

Victory Cross Country

2016 Victory Cross Country
- image 645093

See our review of the Victory Cross Country.

Harley-Davidson Heritage Classic

2018 - 2019 Harley-Davidson Heritage Classic
- image 741180

See our review of the Harley-Davidson Heritage Classic.

ALLYN IMAGES - DO NOT DELETE
- image 794320

Read more Indian Motorcycle news.

All images featured on this website are copyrighted to their respective rightful owners. No infringement is intended. Image Source: indianmotorcycle.com, victorymotorcycles.com, harley-davidson.com

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