The New Thunder Stroke 116 Engine Delivers A Thrilling Ride

Indian Motorcycle spruced up its Chieftain Limited ahead of MY2020 with a new color palette and abundant chrome treatment. It ain’t all about the aesthetics, though. The factory powers its revamped Chieftain Limited with the new Thunder Stroke 116 engine with over 120 pound-feet of torque on tap. Custom touches abound on this top-shelf bagger with the usual smattering of historical references to tie in with the factory’s storied past along with a modern electronics suite to round out the package.

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

2020 Chieftain Limited Design

2020 Indian Chieftain Limited
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2020 Indian Chieftain Limited
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2020 Indian Chieftain Limited
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The Chieftain Limited is a straight-up classic bagger that hits all the necessary historical high points and fits the genre to a “T.”

The Chieftain Limited is a straight-up classic bagger that hits all the necessary historical high points and fits the genre to a “T.” Indian’s iconic war bonnet ornament rides in chrome on the front fender that has a long stretched look with cut-back sides to show off the big front wheel. A beefy front end rocks chrome sliders with old-school chrome beercan fork skirts that add a bit more bling and protect the inner fork tubes from grit and grime that would otherwise lead to early failure of the fork seals.

The factory didn’t stop cutting back the “sheet metal” there. The batwing-style front fairing loses the passing-lamps and recessed turn signals of the fully trimmed-out touring models to reduce overall bulk and improve penetration. A large cyclops LED headlight parts the night like Moses parted the Red Sea with bullet-style LED turn signals to wrap up the forward lighting.

Pullback bars and forward footboards combine with the 25.6-inch tall seat for a laid-back, relaxed rider’s triangle. The gunslinger-style seat comes with a vestigial pillion pad and there’s a set of fold-up footpegs to complete the passenger’s gear, but honestly, this bike looks best with a solo rider. Stretched, hard-side bags provide the remote-lockable dry storage – enough for a weekend ride or grocery-getting missions – and of course, the p-pad serves as a cargo deck for some open-air storage under some bungees or a net. The slanted bags add a bit of a custom flair to the rear end, and as with the front, LED taillights maximize your visibility to the surrounding traffic.

Up top, a push button-adjustable windshield allows you to shape the rider’s pocket somewhat, and the fairing comes with a pair of intake ports that improve ventilation behind the glass and lessens the tiresome head-buffet effect where pocket and slipstream meet. Behind the glass, a pair of round analog gauges for the speedometer and tach, each with their own little LCD screen and LED indicator lights, manages all of the pertinent metrics.

The real star of the show, however, is the seven-inch, color TFT display that acts as the interface for the Ride Command infotainment system. You can tap, pinch, and drag your way through the menus to access real-time weather service, navigation support, and a virtual jukebox along with Bluetooth connectivity that lets the bike network with your phone so you can field hands-free phone calls on the road. A 100 Watt sound system drives a pair of speakers in the inner fairing, and it relies on an AM/FM receiver and USB input for its track sources.

2020 Chieftain Limited Chassis

2020 Indian Chieftain Limited
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2020 Indian Chieftain Limited
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2020 Indian Chieftain Limited
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Steering geometry falls toward the nimble end of the spectrum and a 31° lean angle to both sides that's noteworthy for a big bike.

A cast-aluminum frame on the Chieftain Limited provides the main structure with a proper yoke-style swingarm to articulate for the rear wheel. While the construction method is fairly modern, the double-downtube/double-cradle configuration is timeless and effective as it completely supports the engine rather than using it as a stressed member to buttress the frame.

The rear end is all but completely concealed by sheet metal and saddlebags, but the fall of the backbone relative to the bottom of the frame suggests the geometry of the old hard-tail rides for an extra dose of nostalgia. A set of 46 mm rwu forks float the front end on 4.7 inches of travel and fixed damping values while an air-adjustable monoshock delivers the ride you can only get from air over 4.5 inches of travel.

Cast wheels round out the rolling chassis with Dunlop Elite hoops in a 130/60-19 up front opposite a 180/60-16. As for the brakes, dual four-pot anchors grab 300 mm discs to slow the front wheel with another 300 mm rotor and twin-piston caliper to haul down the rear. ABS protection comes stock with all three of the MY2020 color packages.

Steering geometry falls toward the nimble end of the spectrum with a 25-degree rake and 5.9 inches of trail over a 65.7-inch wheelbase that deliver a 31-degree lean angle to both sides, and that’s not bad for a big bike. Maybe not as agile as Honda, but definitely not stodgy in the bends.

Front Suspension/ Travel: 46 mm Telescopic Fork/ 4.7 in (119 mm)
Rear Suspension/ Travel: 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 Tires: Dunlop® American Elite 130/60B19 61H
Rear Tires: 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 Chieftain Limited Drivetrain

2020 Indian Chieftain Limited
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2020 Indian Chieftain Limited
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2020 Indian Chieftain Limited
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The new Thunder Stroke 116 has something to give when you twist the throttle in any gear and any point in the rev range.

I’ve always held the Thunder Stroke engine in high regard for its beautiful facade and solid performance numbers, and the new 116-inch version upholds the family name like a boss. Bore and stroke on the new mill mike out at 103.2 mm and 113 mm respectively, and not only does that boost displacement, it also kicks the compression ratio up to 11-to-1 which will require premium road champagne.

The trade off is arguably worth it. The new engine puts out a whopping 126 pound-feet of torque at a remarkably low 2,900 rpm. Numbers like that mean the mill has something to give when you twist the throttle, in any gear and any point in the rev range. Top speed is around 115 mph in top gear at the rev limit.

Power flows through a six-speed transmission before it heads to the rear wheel via a carbon-reinforced belt drive with a standard clutch and gear-type primary drive to couple the engine to the rest of the drivetrain. The engine-control electronics are limited to a Selectable Ride Modes feature that lets you dial in power delivery and a Rear Cylinder Deactivation system that kills the rear jug when idling at a stop in a bid to reduce the heat wash felt by the rider.

Engine: Thunder Stroke® 116
Displacement: 116 cu in
Bore x Stroke: 4.063" x 4.449" (103.2 mm x113 mm)
Compression Ratio: 11:1
Peak Torque: 126 ft-lb (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 : 1
Transmission/Primary Drive: Gear Drive Wet Clutch

2020 Chieftain Limited Pricing

2020 Indian Chieftain Limited
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2020 Indian Chieftain Limited
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2020 Indian Chieftain Limited
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MSRP starts at $28k for Thunder Black, $28.8 for color, and $29.3 for black with graphics.

The sticker on the Chieftain Limited is based on the choice of color. At the bottom of the range is the Thunder Black Pearl at $27,999. Next up is my personal favorite, the Radar Blue model at $28,749, and at the top of the range, the Thunder Black with red and gray graphics will set you back $29,249. Ride Command with connected services includes a two-year trial for connected features from the date of sale. After that, there is a subscription fee.

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 Pearl, Radar Blue, Thunder Black w/GRFX
Price: Thunder Black: $27,999, Color: $28,749, w/Graphics: $29,249

2020 Chieftain Limited Competitors

2019 - 2020 Harley-Davidson Street Glide Special
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2020 Indian Chieftain Limited
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While neck-and-neck on most points, Harley cedes the edge in engine-control technology with nothing in the way of an answer for Indian's Selectable Ride Modes feature.

The Chieftain Limited sort of channels an old-school custom hot-rod look, so I felt like I had little choice but to go straight to Indian’s oldest and only domestic competitor – Harley Davidson – and its Street Glide Special. Harley brings much of the same boulevard bruiser look to the table with custom touches of its own. Blackout is the order of the day regardless of which of the seven color packages you choose, and as always, the King of Paint is hard to beat in this category.

On the plus side, I love how the MoCo integrated the mirrors with the tips of the Batwing fairing, but on the down side, the Street Glide Special’s smoked windshield is chopped down to a sliver and is fixed in the fairing so there’s no chance to shape the protective pocket to suit yourself.

H-D gives Indian a run for its money in the infotainment department, so that’s pretty much a wash, but Harley cedes the edge in engine-control technology with nothing in the way of an answer for Indian’s Selectable Ride Modes feature. Next year, who knows, maybe Harley’s traction control and such will be an available option for the Street Glide Special, but for now the point goes to Indian alone.

As for seating, the Street Glide Special is in the same “I can, but I’d rather not” camp with a gunfighter-style saddle that looks best when seating one. Harley’s suspension is more-or-less a wash, and ABS protection is part of the standard equipment package across the board as well.

H-D powers the Street Glide Special with its Milwaukee-Eight 114 plant that cranks out a total of 123 pound-feet of torque to fall just a skosh shy of the Indian’s figures, but honestly, anything over 100 pounds o’ grunt is just a little gratuitous. Harley also breaks down its prices according to the color you pick, but the range runs from $27,699 through $29,199 so price won’t be used as a deciding factor here.

He Said

“Baggers always score well with me, and Indian doesn’t disappoint with its Chieftain Limited. I mean, the look and the infotainment system are enough to make it an appealing bike, but when you throw in the new larger engine, it become nearly irresistible. I’d sure as hell ride it like I stole it, but I would like to see another set of speakers in the saddlebag lids. For that, you have to hit the accessory catalog.”

She Said

My wife and fellow motorcycle writer, Allyn Hinton, says, “The Thunder Stroke 116 isn’t new new, but it is new as a production engine. Previously, the Big Bore kit was an option that enlarged the bores to turn a Thunder Stroke 111 into a 116. Handling is light and the 19-inch front wheel makes it really maneuverable. It’s just what you want for cruising around town or up the interstate. The ride modes are a nice feature. “Tour” mode is what the mapping would have been before the Ride Mode feature came in, so you can have a much more lively ride now. The Thunder Stroke 116 in “Sport” mode is quite thrilling. The Chieftain Limited is a big bike, no lie, but you don’t feel that weight when underway. It’s very balanced with smooth power delivery and roll-on wherever you are in the rev range.”

2020 Chieftain Limited Specifications

Engine & Drivetrain:
Engine: Thunder Stroke® 116
Displacement: 116 cu in
Bore x Stroke: 4.063" x 4.449" (103.2 mm x113 mm)
Compression Ratio: 11:1
Peak Torque: 126 ft-lb (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 : 1
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/ 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 Tires: Dunlop® American Elite 130/60B19 61H
Rear Tires: 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
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 (1,668 mm)
Top Speed: 115 mph
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 Pearl, Radar Blue, Thunder Black w/GRFX
Price: Thunder Black: $27,999, Color: $28,749, w/Graphics: $29,249

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.

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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