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First Ride: 2017 Indian Motorcycle Chieftain Limited and Chieftain Elite

Indian Motorcycle turns up the heat on the big cruiser bike market with a pair of upscale factory custom baggers

By Ben Lamboeuf, photography by Brian Hathaway and Felix Romero Garcia
4/3/2017


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During the 2013 Sturgis Rally, the entire biker world bore witness to the return of Indian Motorcycle as a bona fide American motorcycle manufacturer. This was a huge deal as the Polaris-owned company hit both the highway and the competition pretty hard with no less than three models: the Chief Classic, the Chief Vintage, and the Chieftain. Since then, the rejuvenated Indian Motorcycle company has been busy broadening its product line with a number of variations off of its established core models. A new model line was even introduced with the nimble Indian Scout series (such a fun bike, by the way). 
 
Not about to slow its momentum for 2017, Indian Motorcycle has announced today the release of two custom-infused high-end models to the Chieftain platform: the Chieftain Limited and Chieftain Elite. Back in February, Bikernet was invited for a super secret day of riding the pair of new custom baggers. The action shots that illustrate this article were taken in the San Diego area during our press ride. 
 
 
The two new Chieftains boast a host of refined features, sleek lines, bold styling, and loads of accessories. These bikes are real attention-getters, whether it's the Chieftain Limited in its Thunder Black livery, or the Chieftain Elite with its unique marbled graphics over a rich, Fireglow red candy custom paint.
 
“Our goal was to evolve the award-winning Chieftain platform with new models that elevated the overall style of this bike significantly, while still staying true to the signature design qualities that Indian Motorcycle is known for,” said Reid Wilson, Director of Marketing for Indian Motorcycle. “There’s no doubt these bikes have a more commanding presence combined perfectly with the flowing lines and signature details that make them 100 percent Indian.” 
 
To take the Chieftain platform to new levels of refinement, Indian Motorcycle used contrast-cut 10-spoke 19-inch front wheels. They are showcased by a cut-down, hugging front fender that breaks away with Indian's iconic valanced fender silouhette. The tricked out 19-inch front wheels are complimented by a pair of massive floating brake rotors and 4-piston calipers with Indian Motorcycle script logo. Out back, the same wheel styles is used with 16-inch rims featuring a single brake rotor and 2-piston caliper. A color matched headlight bezel and streamlined leather saddle complete the more sleek, aggressive look. Color matching the expansive chromed bezel to the rest of the bike on the new Chieftains is a welcome fix to what some felt was a design faux-pas on the original model.
 
 
Both bikes come with Indian Motorcycle's Ride Command seven-inch infotainment system and powerful Thunderstroke 111 engine with 119 ft-lbs of torque. Additional features include key-less ignition, remote locking saddlebags, anti-lock brakes (ABS), chrome front highway bars, power adjustable windshields, and tasteful touches of chrome here and there. The Thunder Black color treatment on the Chieftain Limited is our favorite, with its classy and subdued finish. The Chieftain Limited has an MSRP of $24,499.
 
But if you prefer making a louder statement and like your Chieftain with extra toppings, you will just have to go down the Chieftain Elite route for $31,499 MSRP. Check out the custom Fireglow Red Candy with Marble Accents. The red candy is applied over a gold bascoat, so the color changes dramatically depending on how the light hits it! This red masterpiece is unique to each bike and is done at Indian Motorcycle’s custom paint facility located in Spearfish, South Dakota. You may have to shell out a bit more cash for the Chieftain Elite, but keep in mind that there will only be 350 Chieftain Elites manufactured for 2017. Also consider that in addition to this whiz-bang paint job, the Chieftain Elite comes with a wealth of premium accessories, including Pathfinder LED headlight and driving lights, a flare windshield, billet driver and passenger floorboards, and a 200-watt premium audio system.
 
Now Let's  Ride!
 
I spent a day with fellow motojournalists riding both the Chieftain Limited and the Chieftain Elite. Our group encountered a massive rain storm that forced us at times to ride in poor visibility, but I was grateful to have a new Bell full-face helmet for the ride. As a side note, famous pinstriping artist Scratch was on hand to customize every helmet. Make sure you check his work out on social media. Before heading out to ride I always treat my face shield with Rain X, and I used one of these anti-fog cloths to keep the plastic from fogging up from the inside. Keep that in mind if that's not something you're already doing. 
 
 
Since I do 99 percent of my riding in Southern California, I am not what you would call an expert at riding in the rain. When it's pouring, I ride very gingerly, keep my distance with other riders and cars, watch out for slippery white stripes on the road and try to stay out of trouble. The Chieftains I rode that day did their part too. They tracked true the whole time and made me feel at ease, letting me concentrate on the road ahead. As the weather cleared, I looked forward to pushing the bikes a bit more and had a ball. Being familiar with the Chieftains I rode in the past, I was able to fall back into a familiar and pleasant groove. Indian Chieftains are nimble performers for their weight, thanks to their suspension geometry. This frame and fork arrangement makes you as comfortable on long stretches of highway as it does in more sinuous conditions. I was wondering if the larger front wheel was going to impart a heavier feeling in the steering, but it didn't appear to have a significant influence. Keep in mind that Chieftains use a specific set of fork trees that position the fork tubes behind the neck. This help reduce the heavy steering you would otherwise experience from the loaded fairing. 
 
 
The Thunder Stroke 111 V-twin still uses multiport injection with throttle-by-wire actuation. Throttle response is crisp and its range is rider-friendly. The engine delivers 119.2 foot-pounds or torque at 3000 rpm. Power delivery is strong, smooth and predictable; perfect for cruisers of this type. I love the progressive clutch on these bikes. Effort at the lever is minimal, and it lets you manage the bike effortlessly in stop-and-go conditions. There's so much available torque from the engine that launching the 830-pound beasts from a dead stop is never a problem. 
 
 
Once under way, the Thunder Stroke 111 reminds you of its presence with a healthy exhaust note and subtle vibrations thanks to a gear-driven balancer. The smooth 6-speed constant-mesh transmission shifts nicely up to top gear, where you still enough beans to hit the throttle without downshifting if you feel like passing. (I still like downshifting anyway, but that's just me...)
 
The ABS braking system is doing a bang-up job at bringing the Chieftains to a safe stop and I find them well matched to the bikes, their weight and the kind of power they deliver. I like the Chieftains' seats and riding position. If I owned one, I would probably shorten the bars considerably so I could lean forward more, but it's a personal preference. Indian Motorcycle offers a selection of accessories that allow you to tailor your bike to your needs. There are tall bars, tall windscreens, short reach kits and much more. 
 


With the 2017 Chieftain Limited and Chieftain Elite, Indian Motorcycle keeps bringing exciting variations to its core models. And with more and more late-model Indians seen on the road, the American manufacturer is now flexing considerable muscle, further establishing itself as a major player in the field of heavyweight cruisers. Folks, look forward to more new stuff coming up in the future. Indian Motorcycle is clearly on a roll! —Ben Lamboeuf


2017 Chieftain Limited Specs

 
 
Color: Thunder Black
MSRP: $24,499
 
ENGINE
Engine Type — 49º V-twin
Transmission — 6-Speed 
Bore x Stroke — 101mm x 113mm
Charging System — 42-amp max output
Clutch — wet, multi-plate
Compression Ratio — 9.5:1
Cooling System — Air/Oil
Displacement — 111 cu in / 1811 cc
Exhaust — Split dual exhaust with crossover
Final Drive — belt, 152 tooth
Fuel Capacity — 5.5 gal
Fuel System — EFI closed loop/54mm bore
Oil Capacity — 5.5 qts
Primary Drive — Gear drive wet clutch
Torque — 119.2 ft-lbs at 3000 rpm
 
SUSPENSION
Front Suspension — Telescopic fork, 46mm diameter, 4.7 in travel
Rear Suspension — Single shock 4.7 in travel, air adjustable
 
CHASSIS
Dry Weight —  817 lbs
Ground Clearance —  5.6 in
GVWR — 1,385 lbs
Length —  98.7 in
Rake/Trail — 25º, 5.9 in
Seat Height —  26 in
Wheelbase — 65.7 in
 
BRAKES
Brake System Type —  Individual ft and rr control with ABS
Front Braking System —  Dual 300mm floating roto/4-piston caliper
Rear Braking System — Single 300mm floating rotor/2-piston caliper
 
WHEELS & TIRES
Front Tire —  Dunlop American Elite 130/60B19 61H
Front Wheel —  Cast 19” x 3.5”
Rear Tire —  Dunlop Elite 3 Multi-Compound, 180/60R16 80H
Rear Wheel — 
Cast 16” x 5.0”
 

 

2017 Chieftain Elite Specs 

 
 
 
Production limitsed to 350 units worldwide
Color: Fireglow Red Candy
MSRP: $31,499
 
ENGINE
Engine Type — 49º V-twin
Transmission — 6-Speed 
Bore x Stroke — 101mm x 113mm
Charging System — 42-amp max output
Clutch — wet, multi-plate
Compression Ratio — 9.5:1
Cooling System — Air/Oil
Displacement — 111 cu in / 1811 cc
Exhaust — Split dual exhaust with crossover
Final Drive — belt, 152 tooth
Fuel Capacity — 5.5 gal
Fuel System — EFI closed loop/54mm bore
Oil Capacity — 5.5 qts
Primary Drive — Gear drive wet clutch
Torque — 119.2 ft-lbs at 3000 rpm
 
 
 
SUSPENSION
Front Suspension — Telescopic fork, 46mm diameter, 4.7 in travel
Rear Suspension — Single shock 4.7 in travel, air adjustable
 
CHASSIS
Dry Weight —  831 lbs
Ground Clearance —  5.6 in
GVWR — 1,385 lbs
Length —  98.7 in
Rake/Trail — 25º, 59 in
Seat Height —  26 in
Wheelbase — 65.7 in
 
BRAKES
Brake System Type —  Individual ft and rr control with ABS
Front Braking System —  Dual 300mm floating roto/4-piston caliper
Rear Braking System — Single 300mm floating rotor/2-piston caliper
 
WHEELS & TIRES
Front Tire —  Dunlop American Elite 130/60B19 61H
Front Wheel —  Cast 19” x 3.5”
Rear Tire —  Dunlop Elite 3 Multi-Compound, 180/60R16 80H
Rear Wheel — Cast 16” x 5.0”

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