A Top-Case Away From Being A Full-Blown Tourer

Indian Motorcycle, under the expansive Polaris umbrella, blessed its Chieftain lineup with a facelift ahead of MY2019, but the Chieftain Classic alone retains its looks to perpetuate the retro-styling that made it a hit in the first place. The “Classic” benefits from the same under-the-hood fandanglery as the rest of the lineup, so while its looks might be a bit dated in the most delightful ways, you can count on modern safety and comfort all the same. Indian is in the midst of its timeless conflict with America’s second-oldest manufacturer, Harley-Davidson, so today I want to take a look at the new Classic and see how it stacks up against the MoCo. Let’s get to it.

Continue reading for my review of the Indian Motorcycle Chieftain Classic.

  • 2019 Indian Motorcycle Chieftain Classic
  • Year:
    2019
  • Make:
  • Model:
  • Engine:
    Thunder Stroke® 111
  • Displacement:
    111 cubic inches
  • Price:
    24999
  • Price:

2019 Indian Motorcycle Chieftain Classic Design

2019 Indian Motorcycle Chieftain Classic
- image 795418
There's simply no mistaking that old-school Indian look.

There’s simply no mistaking that old-school Indian look. It starts out at full-strength right out the gate with a fully valenced front fender that swallows up half of the front wheel and carries that iconic war bonnet ornament that is repeated in the tank graphics. That fender reaches back into Indian’s heyday to a time when you’d be as likely to see an Indian as you would a Harley; something Polaris no doubt hopes becomes true once more.

The paint booth saved the black paint for other models to leave the Classic all chrome with a two-tone finish on the sheet metal and body panels, well, except for the achromatic Thunder Black version, of course. A brace of passing lamps bracket the large cyclops headlight, and all are recessed into the front fairing that maintains its full-bodied structure from the previous years and carries the front turn signals in the wings for a supremely clean arrangement.

Up top, a button-operated windshield gives you control over the size of the protective pocket so you can have some breeze on your bucket to make its vents breathe or crank it up for a buffet-free ride. Inside the fairing you’ll find a pair of analog clocks for the speedo and tach with small LED screens to cover some of the other metrics, but the real pièce de résistance here is Indian’s proprietary Ride Command infotainment system that rocks a seven-inch color touchscreen interface for easy manipulation of the navigation, audio and systems display. You can even configure it to display a split screen so you can multitask with some combination thereof.

The factory buffed the audio system this year, as well. Indian split the tweeters and cones for better sound clarity and added a 9-channel equalizer so you can tweak the mix just like you like it. That’s great news if you’re like me. I don’t always listen to Metallica, but when I do, so do my neighbors.

A 5.5-gallon teardrop fuel tank defines the flyline as it dives off to meet the concho-and-studs black leather seat that slings your butt at a low 26-inches high with a dramatic rise to the pillion perch. The saddlebags are also a carryover from last year with hemi tops and a backswept bottom corner to match the sweep of the front fender and tie the whole look together. Finally, a stylish taillight/turn signal assembly rides with the plateholder on the full rear fender to finish off the machine. I swear, the only thing I’d do differently is to run a tombstone blue-dot taillight.

2019 Indian Motorcycle Chieftain Classic Chassis

2019 Indian Motorcycle Chieftain Classic
- image 795416
This bagger is just a top-case away from being a full-blown tour bike, and you can expect to be able to use it as such.

The bones are as classic as the rest of the machine. It starts out with a double-downtube/double-cradle frame that bears all the weight and stress of the engine rather than using the cases as a structural member. A set of beefy, 46 mm standard forks buoy the front end with a steering-head angle of 25-degrees, and the 16-inch wheels factor in for 5.9 inches of trail; numbers that indicate a stable ride at speed with decent cornering performance.

The cast rims mount a 130/90 hoop up front an a 180/60 out back, so you can count on a nice fat contact patch with a few subsystems that help to preserve it starting with the ABS system that works with the dual front brakes and all-around, 300 mm discs to provide plenty of safe braking power. Granted, the Classic weighs in at 840 pounds wet so there is plenty of potential energy there that you’ll have to control, but these brakes give you the tools you need, you just need to provide the skill, and not very much of it at that.

A plush ride greets your derrière thanks to the air-adjustable shock that floats the rear end, because after all, this bagger is just a top-case away from being a full-blown tour bike, and you can expect to be able to use it as such.

Front Suspension/Travel: 46 mm Telescopic Fork - Cartridge Type/ 4.7 in (120 mm)
Rear Suspension: Single Shock w/ Air adjust/4.5 in (114 mm)
Rake/Trail: 25° / 5.9 in (150 mm)
Lean Angle: 31°
Front Brakes: Dual / 300 mm Floating Rotor / 4 Piston Caliper
Rear Brakes: Single / 300 mm Floating Rotor / 2 Piston Caliper
Front Wheel: Cast 16 in x 3.5 in
Rear Wheel: Cast 16 in x 5 in
Front Tire: Dunlop® Elite 3 130/90B16 73H
Rear Tire: Dunlop® Elite 3 Multi-Compound 180/60R16 80H

2019 Indian Motorcycle Chieftain Classic Drivetrain

2019 Indian Motorcycle Chieftain Classic
- image 795417
This year, tech wizardry includes Rear Cylinder Deactivation and Ride Modes.

When it comes to the powerplant, looks matter around these parts and Indian’s Thunder Stroke 111 powerplant fits the bill quite nicely. The massive mill borrows heavily from the looks of the side-valve/flathead engines of old with faux cooling fins on the rocker boxes, which work with the parallel external pushrod tubes that also mimic those antique plants.

A 54 mm throttle body feeds the beast and brings us to the second safety-oriented system; the new Ride Modes feature that lets you choose between three separate power-delivery profiles so you can dial in for the conditions. Sure, traction control would be nice, but there’s always next year, right Indian? Credit where it’s due, the factory trots out another new bit of tech with its Rear Cylinder Deactivation system that kills the rear cylinder when you are idling at a stop so as to reduce the waste heat washing up over you for greater comfort in stop-and-go traffic or areas with excessive traffic lights.

Bore and stroke measure out at 101 mm and 113 mm respectively with a 9.5-to-1 compression ratio and 1,811 cc total displacement. As usual for big V-twins, torque output is phenominal at 119 pounds of grunt at a low 3,000 rpm. That’s some serious power folks, and plenty to get the Classic’s bulk moving in a hurry. Power flows through a standard clucth (and another area where there is room for improvement) through a six-speed transmission and down a carbon-reinforced belt drive.

Engine: Thunder Stroke® 111
Bore x Stroke: 3.976 in x 4.449 in (101 mm x 113 mm)
Displacement: 111 cu in (1,811 cc)
Compression Ratio: 9.5:1
Horsepower: N/A
Peak Torque: 119 ft-lb (161.6 Nm) @ 3,000 rpm
Drive/Driven Clutch: Wet, Multi-Plate
Electronic Fuel Injection System: Closed loop fuel injection / 54 mm bore
Exhaust: Split Dual Exhaust w/ Cross-over
Gear Ratio: (1st) 9.403:1, (2nd) 6.411:1, 3rd) 4.763:1, (4th) 3.796:1, (5th) 3.243:1, (6th) 2.789:1
Transmission/Final Drive: 2.2:1
[Transmission/Primary Drive: Gear Drive Wet Clutch

2019 Indian Motorcycle Chieftain Classic Pricing

2019 Indian Motorcycle Chieftain Classic
- image 795415
MSRP starts at $25k for basic black and $26.5k for two-tones.

Indian took a page from Harley’s playbook with a tiered pricelist. At the bottom of the list is the Thunder Black model that rolls for $24,999. You can upgrade to a two-tone Thunder Black / Ivory Cream or my favorite, the Deep Water Metallic / Dirt Track Tan for $26,499.

Standard Equipment: 7" Ride Command® Touchscreen Display with Navigation; Power Windshield; Driving Lights; Highway Bars; Genuine Leather Seats; Tire Pressure Monitoring; Remote-locking Hard Saddlebags; Selectable Ride Modes; Rear Cylinder Deactivation; ABS; Cruise Control; Keyless Ignition; 100 Watt Audio System with AM/FM, Bluetooth, USB, Smartphone Compatible Input, and Weatherband
Colors: Thunder Black, Deep Water Metallic/Dirt Track Tan, Thunder Black/Ivory Cream
Price: Thunder Black: $24,999, Two-Tone: $26,499

2019 Indian Motorcycle Chieftain Classic Competitors

2019 Indian Motorcycle Chieftain Classic
- image 795419
2018 Harley-Davidson Street Glide / Street Glide Special
- image 731501
One is more a boulevard bruiser kind of bagger rather than a light-duty tourbike, but there is still enough overlap to appeal to the same sort of buyer.

No doubt about it, the company that Indian needs to beat is its erstwhile foe Harley-Davidson, so I’m going straight to the Street Glide since the MoCo doesn’t offer a tribute bagger with a modern front fairing.

The “SG” rocks the trim Batwing fairing with a full length fender that is the opposite of the Classic with high-and-tight sides leaving little of the prominent front wheel covered up. Honestly, the SG is more of a boulevard bruiser kind of bagger rather than a light-duty tourbike like Indian’s Classic, but there is still enough overlap to appeal to the same sort of buyer.

Infotainment systems are fairly equal across the board as both come with touchscreen interfaces and multi-function capability. ABS is standard across the board, but Harley gets a minor victory in the suspension department with its Showa Dual Bending Valve forks up front and emulsion shock out back. Anything over 100 cubic-inches is a big engine in my book, but Harley slips a little and surrenders a few inches to Indian with its 107 cubic-inch (1,746 cc) Milwaukee-Eight mill. That shows up in the torque figures with 111 pounds of grunt against the 119 pounds that the Thunder Stroke brings to the table. H-D gets some back at the checkout with a price range that starts at $21,289 for the Vivid Black and goes on up to $22,489 for the Custom Color packages. We don’t get to see that very often, at all.

He Said

“I like it OK enough I guess, though I’m not a huge fan of the front fairing to be honest. Love the engine and the Ride Modes, it means Polaris is looking to the future, but H-D has alreay started selling units with traction control, so the arms race among the American manufacturers is definitely heating up.”

She Said

My wife and fellow motorcycle writer, Allyn Hinton, says, “I like that Indian kept a Chieftain in the classic styling when it Victory-ized the rest of the Chieftain lineup. It seems reasonable that Polaris would want to move some of those styling elements and features from the old Victory line over into the Indian lineup, but I like that we still have the Classic. The Ride Modes are awesome. The pre-Ride Mode performance is now the “Tour” mode. If you really want a thrill, try the Thunder Stroke 111 in “Sport” mode. Just make sure you hang on when you twist it.”

2019 Indian Motorcycle Chieftain Classic Specifications

Engine & Drivetrain:
Engine: Thunder Stroke® 111
Bore x Stroke: 3.976 in x 4.449 in (101 mm x 113 mm)
Displacement: 111 cu in (1,811 cc)
Compression Ratio: 9.5:1
Horsepower: N/A
Peak Torque: 119 ft-lb (161.6 Nm) @ 3,000 rpm
Drive/Driven Clutch: Wet, Multi-Plate
Electronic Fuel Injection System: Closed loop fuel injection / 54 mm bore
Exhaust: Split Dual Exhaust w/ Cross-over
Gear Ratio: (1st) 9.403:1, (2nd) 6.411:1, 3rd) 4.763:1, (4th) 3.796:1, (5th) 3.243:1, (6th) 2.789:1
Transmission/Final Drive: 2.2:1
Transmission/Primary Drive: Gear Drive Wet Clutch
Chassis:
Front Suspension/Travel: 46 mm Telescopic Fork - Cartridge Type/ 4.7 in (120 mm)
Rear Suspension: Single Shock w/ Air adjust/4.5 in (114 mm)
Rake/Trail: 25° / 5.9 in (150 mm)
Lean Angle: 31°
Front Brakes: Dual / 300 mm Floating Rotor / 4 Piston Caliper
Rear Brakes: Single / 300 mm Floating Rotor / 2 Piston Caliper
Front Wheel: Cast 16 in x 3.5 in
Rear Wheel: Cast 16 in x 5 in
Front Tire: Dunlop® Elite 3 130/90B16 73H
Rear Tire: Dunlop® Elite 3 Multi-Compound 180/60R16 80H
Dimensions & Capacities:
Fuel Capacity: 5.5 gal (20.8 L)
Ground Clearance: 5.6 in (142 mm)
GVWR: 1,385 lb (628 kg)
Overall Height: 54.7 in (1,390 mm)
Overall Length: 101.2 in (2,571 mm)
Overall Width: 39.4 in (1,000 mm)
Seat Height: 26.0 in (660 mm)
Weight (Empty Tank / Full of Fuel): 808 lb (367 kg) / 840 lb (381 kg)
Wheelbase: 65.7 in (1,668 mm)
Electricals:
Gauges: Fairing-mounted instrument cluster featuring analog speedometer and tachometer with fuel gauge, range, odometer and current gear. 15 LED telltale indicators; cruise control enabled, cruise control set, neutral, high beam, turn signal, ABS, check engine, low tire pressure, battery, low fuel, security system, low engine oil pressure and MHP or km/h unit designation.
Infotainment: 7" Ride Command® touchscreen display with real-time clock; ambient air temperature; heading; audio information display; vehicle trouble code readout; Vehicle Status (tire pressure, voltage, engine hours, oil change); Vehicle Info (speed, fuel range, RPM, gear position); Dual Trip Meters (fuel range, miles, average fuel economy, instantaneous fuel economy time, average speed); Ride Data (heading, moving time, stop time, altitude, altitude change); Bluetooth Status for phone and headset; Ride Mode Selection; Map/Navigation
Lights: Halogen
Details:
Standard Equipment: 7" Ride Command® Touchscreen Display with Navigation; Power Windshield; Driving Lights; Highway Bars; Genuine Leather Seats; Tire Pressure Monitoring; Remote-locking Hard Saddlebags; Selectable Ride Modes; Rear Cylinder Deactivation; ABS; Cruise Control; Keyless Ignition; 100 Watt Audio System with AM/FM, Bluetooth, USB, Smartphone Compatible Input, and Weatherband
Colors: Thunder Black, Deep Water Metallic/Dirt Track Tan, Thunder Black/Ivory Cream
Price: Thunder Black: $24,999, Two-Tone: $26,499

Further Reading

Harley-Davidson Street Glide

2018 - 2019 Harley-Davidson Street Glide
- image 799916

See our review of the Harley-Davidson Street Glide.

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- 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, harley-davidson.com

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