The Star Of The 2020 Lineup Is The New Thunder Stroke 116 Engine

Indian Motorcycle carried over its popular Chieftain Dark Horse into MY2020 with much the same custom panache, but repowered it with the new Thunder Stroke 116 engine. Classic historical touches abound on this ride for a healthy dose of nostalgia, but of course, it rocks all of the factory’s electronic fandanglery to make it a thoroughly modern machine. Whether you want to do some light touring or just do some boulevard cruising, the 2020 Chieftain Dark Horse brings something to the table for you.

  • 2020 Indian Chieftain Dark Horse
  • Year:
    2020
  • Make:
  • Model:
  • Engine:
    Thunder Stroke 116
  • Displacement:
    116 cubic inches
  • Top Speed:
    115 mph
  • Price:
    27999
  • Price:

2020 Indian Chieftain Dark Horse Design

2020 Indian Chieftain Dark Horse
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2020 Indian Chieftain Dark Horse
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2020 Indian Chieftain Dark Horse
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Nobody can pull off the bagger look quite like a bona fide U.S. marque, and Indian Motorcycle has the experience to do it right.

Nobody can pull off the bagger look quite like a bona fide U.S. marque, and Indian Motorcycle has the experience to do it right. America’s oldest motorcycle manufacturer draws on its own deep design roots for a number of historical references on the Chieftain Dark Horse, but none are quite as effective in drawing us back in time than the war bonnet fender ornament that proudly rides atop the front fender. The fender itself copies the upper dimensions of the old-school sheet metal with a full-length outer arc, however, the factory dropped the full-skirt valence in favor of a high-and-tight look that exposes most of the contrasting black-and-polish front wheel.

As it’s devilishly clever name suggests, the Chieftain Dark Horse sports an abundance of blackout treatment that displaces nearly all the components that might otherwise rock a chrome finish. It starts out in earnest right up front with blackout fork sliders and old-school, beercan fork skirts to go with the darkened wheel and fender ornament. I’m also glad to see the shield-like chrome trim that was used on so many of the recent fairings didn’t make the cut, and the fairing itself is the pared-down that looks much like Harley-Davidson’s batwing model for lower visual (and actual) weight up front and improved penetration.

A series of vents above the recessed cyclops LED headlight shunt air behind the power-adjustable clear windshield to give some relief from the head-buffet effect where the upper slipstream meets the pocket behind the glass, and it provides fresher air than that which normally washes over you from the engine area. LED projectors make the taillight, taglight and blinkers muy visible, no matter what the ambient light conditions may be.

A pair of round analog gauges for the tach and speedometer are mounted in the inner fairing, but the real magic is nestled in between. It’s the full-color, seven-inch, TFT touchscreen display that acts as an interface for Indian’s proprietary Ride Command feature. The Ride Command bundles real-time weather and navigation together with a Bluetooth that networks with your smartphone so you can field hands-free calls under way and pipe in your favorite jams. Said jams are delivered via a pair of speakers mounted in the tips of the fairings “wings,” and the system also monitors a whole passel of ride telemetry that lets you keep your finger on your machine’s pulse.

The flyline strikes a classic pose that calls to mind the geometry of the old rigid bikes through the slope down to the 5.5-gallon teardrop fuel tank and continues into the deep-scoop saddle that rides at a mere 25.6 inches off the ground. Such a low seat makes for a comfortable, laid-back rider’s triangle, plus it provides plenty of leverage when you deploy your training wheels to help with rider confidence at stops and when Fred Flintstoning around a parking lot.

The pillion pad design strikes a gunfighter pose with fold-up footpegs to make up the other points of contact if you’d like to share the fun with a friend but lends the bike something of a solo-look that fits well with the clean rear end. Remote-locking, hard-side saddlebags provide secure dry storage for your gear/groceries/whatever.

2020 Indian Chieftain Dark Horse Chassis

2020 Indian Chieftain Dark Horse
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2020 Indian Chieftain Dark Horse
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2020 Indian Chieftain Dark Horse
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The Chieftain Dark Horse comes set for ease-of-handling with stable tracking and a plush ride.

The cast-aluminum frame on the Chieftain Dark Horse comes set for ease-of-handling with a rake angle of 25-degrees and 5.9 inches of trail over a 65.7-inch wheelbase that turn in 31 degrees of lean to both sides. This gives you tracking stability, so you won’t have to wrestle with it in a crosswind or when negotiating the pressure waves from the surrounding cagers and big rigs on the interstate.

Beefy front forks rely on 46 mm inner fork tubes for strength, but come with fixed preload and damping values for a rather vanilla setup. Out back, a single air-adjust shock delivers a plush ride with a wide range of air-preload adjustment, but nothing in the way of variable damping.

At 4.7-inches and 4.5-inches of travel at the front and rear respectively, the stems deliver enough give for the roughest urban jungle. Cast wheel round out the rolling chassis with a blackout finish and polished spokes for a bit of bling down low, and they mount Dunlop Elite hoops in a 130/60-19 up front opposite a fat 180/60-16.

At 830-pounds wet, this is a lot of bike to keep under control, so toward that end the factory threw on a pair of four-pot calipers that bite dual 300 mm front discs with another 300 mm disc and two-piston anchor out back plus a stock ABS feature across the color range. Folks, that’s plenty of brakeage, and the ABS ensures that you can safely get the most out of them.

Front Suspension/ Travel: 46 mm Telescopic Fork/ 4.7 in (119 mm)
Rear Suspension/ Travel: Single Shock w/ Air adjust/ 14.5 in (114 mm)
Rake/Trail: 25° / 5.9 in (150 mm)
Lean Angle: 31°
Front Brakes: Dual 300 mm floating rotors with 4-piston calipers
Rear Brakes: Single / 300 mm Floating Rotor / 2 Piston Caliper
Front Tire: Dunlop® American Elite 130/60B19 61H
Rear Tire: Dunlop® Elite 3 Multi-Compound 180/60R16 80H
Front Wheel: Cast 19 in x 3.5 in
Rear Wheel: Cast 16 in x 5 in

2020 Indian Chieftain Dark Horse Drivetrain

2020 Indian Chieftain Dark Horse
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2020 Indian Chieftain Dark Horse
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2020 Indian Chieftain Dark Horse
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The new Thunder Stroke 116 has almost six percent more torque on tap than its predecessor.

I gotta’ admit, I’ve been a fan of Indian’s Thunder Stroke 111 engine since its inception. Not only does it deliver the goods with plenty of torque, but it calls to mind the old sidevalve/flathead lumps through the faux cooling fins on the rocker-box covers and the parallel pushrod tubes on the right side. Well, the new Thunder Stroke 116 rocks a bore punched out to 103.2 mm — up from 101 mm — with the same 113 mm stroke to boost displacement up to 116 cubic-inches overall and compression up to 11-to-1, up from 9.5-to-1. This turns in a torque top-end of 126 pound-feet o’ grunt, up from 119 pound-feet to give us more of what we expect from an American-made V-twin.

The blackout treatment continues into the drivetrain, but the air-cooled engine has polished cooling-fin edges and chrome pushrod tubes to keep the lump from disappearing into the black hole under the tank. A 54 mm throttle body manages the induction with help from a Selectable Ride Modes feature that lets you dial in the power delivery to suit taste and conditions. The Rear Cylinder Deactivation system kills the rear jug when the bike is idling at a stop to help cut down on the heat wash felt by the rider, but honestly, you probably have to be in some pretty bad gridlock to feel much of a difference.

A six-speed transmission and standard wet clutch delivers the power to the rear wheel via a tough, carbon-reinforced belt final drive, and at redline you can expect a top speed of 115 mph.

Engine: Thunder Stroke® 116
Displacement: 116 cu in
Bore x Stroke: 4.063" x 4.449" (103.2 mm x 113 mm)
Compression Ratio: 11:1
Peak Torque: 126 lb-ft (168 Nm) @ 2,900 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, 2nd: 6.411, 3rd: 4.763, 4th: 3.796, 5th: 3.243, 6th: 2.789
Transmission/Final Drive: 2.2
Transmission/Primary Drive: Gear Drive Wet Clutch

2020 Indian Chieftain Dark Horse Pricing

2020 Indian Chieftain Dark Horse
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2020 Indian Chieftain Dark Horse
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2020 Indian Chieftain Dark Horse
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MSRP starts at $28k for basic black and runs up to $28.8k for colors.

The 2020 Chieftain Dark Horse rolls in a trio of colors. You can score the Thunder Black Smoke model for $27,999. If black-on-black ain’t your thing, you can spring for Ruby Smoke or Titanium Smoke for $28,749. It includes a two-year Connected Services feature that allows you to monitor your bike via smartphone so you don’t have to park it where you can see it from inside the restaurant for peace of mind.

Standard Equipment: 7" Ride Command® Touchscreen Display with Navigation; Power Windshield; Highway Bars; Vinyl Rogue Seat; 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
Warranty: 2 Years, Unlimited Miles
Colors: Thunder Black Smoke, Ruby Smoke, Titanium Smoke
Price: Thunder Black Smoke: $27,999, Color: $28,749

2020 Indian Chieftain Dark Horse Competitors

2020 Indian Chieftain Dark Horse
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2019 - 2020 Harley-Davidson Street Glide Special
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The Chieftain Dark Horse has variable power delivery, but has no answer for Harley's RDRS system.

Needless to say, no import can compete with an American marque in this category on its home turf, so I have little choice but to grab Harley-Davidson’s Street Glide Special for my head-to-head with the Chieftain Dark Horse, so let’s get to it.

Like brothers-from-another-mother, the Street Glide Special follows the classic bagger design with a high-side front fender, Batwing fairing and chopped, non-adjustable windshield. Blackout treatment is equal across the board, and so is the ventilation in the front fender.

H-D matches Indian in the infotainment category, and while it doesn’t come stock with a variable power-delivery feature like the Chieftain Dark Horse sports, for another grand you can get the optional Reflex Defensive Rider System that bundles corner-sensitive ABS and traction control with a two-channel variable power delivery feature for a pretty big advantage over the Indian.

The Street Glide Special’s suspension is only marginally adjustable with a remote preload handwheel out back, but the Showa Dual Bending Valve front forks deliver a superior ride to plain vanilla stems in spite of being non-adjustable. H-D powers its entry with a Milwaukee-Eight 114 that delivers 123 pound-feet of grunt to cede a slight advantage to Indian, even though even the most sensitive of heinie-dynos would be hard-pressed to feel the difference.

Ever the King of Paint, H-D offers its Street Glide Special in an array of paint packages with price tags from $27,699 up to $29,799 to bracket the Chieftain Dark Horse’s range.

He Said

“It’s hard to go wrong with black-on-black (on-black) in a boulevard bruiser, and it’s easy to see how Indian came to be an instant threat to the MoCo’s position at the apex of American Motorcycling under the Polaris umbrella. The Chieftain Dark Horse has the looks, the power, and the prestige all in a tidy package. If I had to identify a weakness, it’s solely in the paint department, because Harley puts out some sweet color packages that I have yet to see anyone match, and I’m talking worldwide here. That aside; would I ride it? Like I frikkin’ STOLE it!”

She Said

My wife and fellow motorcycle writer, Allyn Hinton, says, “In the ride modes, the old engine mapping is now the ’Tour’ mode, so flipping the switch to put the new Thunder Stroke 116 in ’Sport’ mode gives a lively ride, indeed. Suspension is plush. Power delivery is smooth, and the bike, overall, has a very balanced feel. It’s cruising at its best.”

2020 Indian Chieftain Dark Horse Specifications

Engine & Drivetrain:
Engine: Thunder Stroke® 116
Displacement: 116 cu in
Bore x Stroke: 4.063" x 4.449" (103.2 mm x 113 mm)
Compression Ratio: 11:1
Peak Torque: 126 lb-ft (168 Nm) @ 2,900 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, 2nd: 6.411, 3rd: 4.763, 4th: 3.796, 5th: 3.243, 6th: 2.789
Transmission/Final Drive: 2.2
Transmission/Primary Drive: Gear Drive Wet Clutch
Chassis:
Front Suspension/ Travel: 46 mm Telescopic Fork/ 4.7 in (119 mm)
Rear Suspension/ Travel: Single Shock w/ Air adjust/ 14.5 in (114 mm)
Rake/Trail: 25° / 5.9 in (150 mm)
Lean Angle: 31°
Front Brakes: Dual 300 mm floating rotors with 4-piston calipers
Rear Brakes: Single / 300 mm Floating Rotor / 2 Piston Caliper
Front Tire: Dunlop® American Elite 130/60B19 61H
Rear Tire: Dunlop® Elite 3 Multi-Compound 180/60R16 80H
Rear Wheel: Cast 16 in x 5 in
Front Wheel: Cast 19 in x 3.5 in
Dimensions & Capacities:
Fuel Capacity: 5.5 gal (20.8 L)
Ground Clearance: 5.1 in (130 mm)
Overall Height: 54.5 in (1,385 mm)
Overall Length: 98.7 in (2,506 mm)
Overall Width: 39.4 in (1,000 mm)
Seat Height: 25.6 in (650 mm)
Weight (Empty Tank / Full of Fuel): 798 lbs / 830 lbs (362 kg / 376 kg)
Wheelbase: 65.7 in (1668 mm)
Electric:
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; map/navigation with real-time traffic and weather; Bluetooth status for phone and headset; vehicle status (tire pressure, voltage, engine hours, oil change); vehicle info (speed, fuel range, RPM, gear position); current ride data (distance, moving time, stop time, altitude, altitude change); trip meters; ride mode selection; screen brightness; vehicle trouble code readout.
Lights: LED Headlamp/Tail/Brake/Turn Signal
Details:
Standard Equipment: 7" Ride Command® Touchscreen Display with Navigation; Power Windshield; Highway Bars; Vinyl Rogue Seat; 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
Warranty: 2 Years, Unlimited Miles
Colors: Thunder Black Smoke, Ruby Smoke, Titanium Smoke
Price: Thunder Black Smoke: $27,999, Color: $28,749

Further Reading

Harley-Davidson Street Glide Special

2019 - 2020 Harley-Davidson Street Glide Special
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See our review of the Harley-Davidson Street Glide Special.

Indian Motorcycle

ALLYN IMAGES: DO NOT DELETE
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Read more Indian Motorcycle news.

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