Chieftain Dark Horse


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Review: Indian Chieftain Dark Horse

Driven April 2017

Review: Indian Chieftain Dark Horse

A 'dark horse' is not considered to be the favoured candidate to succeed, yet exceeds expectations when it’s time to deliver. The term has much to do with the element of surprise. And it's this relentless attitude and refusal to be ignored that Indian Motorcycle slapped its Chief cruiser with back in 2015 – with its rather inconspicuous, blacked-out styling – and the company carried it forward in its flagship bagger, the Chieftain, a year later.

Unlike the regular chrome-brandishing Chieftain, this 2016 Chieftain Dark Horse version doesn’t look like it was ushered out of the factory gates on a red carpet to be immersed in a sea of camera flashes, rather, it was kicked out onto the street by some bouncer at a bar for inciting violence. Mechanically, it’s the same motorcycle as the Chieftain but with a lot less chrome, and is blacked out from war bonnet to rear fender, giving the bagger a meaner attitude. Both versions sport an identical number of Indian branded bits strewn all over their parts and panels, but this Dark Horse model exudes the aura of a convention-defying badass. Why? Because, it simply chooses to.

It won't be long before drivers and occupants in the cars ahead notice this black smear in their rear view mirrors quickly grow into this broad-face behemoth. Watching them ease off the gas and pull aside just to get a glimpse of this eight-and-a-half-foot-long matte black draped marvel gently rumble past became a usual affair after that. One thing’s for certain, it may lack the flash and catchy appeal of chrome like some traditional baggers but it certainly commands attention, this Dark Horse.

There aren’t many motorcycles in the world which compensate you with the seamless riding experience like the Chieftain. Hearing the distant gurgle of that masterstroke of an 1811cc V-twin resonate through the twin pipes out back feels special. It’s a thrill that only Indian motorcycles bring. And dark horsemen are rewarded with just that, with a darker attitude thrown in. With its highly composed and non-intrusive mannerisms in a straight line and around long sweeping bends, this Dark Horse feels as magical a steed to ride as the chrome-clad Chieftain. I appreciated the fact that I could opt to completely block out the headwind or let the breeze through at the push of a button. Riding that massive wave of torque down the open road, effortlessly jogging past traffic at 110kph @3000rpm in top cog feels sublime. It is nowhere close to being the quickest straight shooter off the line, but the long-stroke motor has enough grunt for you to pull away from a standstill in third.

As you would imagine, the Chieftain Dark Horse isn't a motorcycle that enjoys crawling through the average thriving metropolis, but out shooting the breeze at triple digit speeds on the highway. It’s what this bike was meant to do. And boy, does it feel great doing just that on long, sweeping highway bends. It feels like it's running on rails. It’s not like it’s a real task in the ride and handling department in the city, but more because this bike once at standstill attracts more questions than a stagnant puddle of water does mosquitoes, and once you’re off the bike you’ll have to fend off a hoard of people from hopping in the saddle to take pictures.

The ride quality is as plush as can be. But you'll have to shell out extra for the backrest, even for a pillion seat. The Chieftain effortlessly wafts over rutted surfaces, most regulation-size breakers and potholes, ruling out belly scrapes or you having to call the local chiropractor for an appointment. Even with the remote looking hard panniers filled to capacity, a couple of minutes after taking to its reins, you’ll find the Dark Horse's handling to be a walk in the park too, because that fork mounted fairing isn’t half as heavy as it looks to be. After a four-hour run astride, it felt as though I’d just gotten out of bed to start my day. It’s that relaxing a ride! The 100-watt smartphone compatible audio system certainly helps make it so.

Now the Chieftain was always a step ahead of the competition in terms of overall build, ride quality and handling, but that was until the Road Glide was launched last year end. But we’ll reserve judgement on who comes out on top when we actually get to testing them simultaneously. Unlike the regular, more blingy Indian Chieftain, its competition won’t see this one coming a mile down the highway, but for now, if I had to bet my top dollar on a motorcycle of this sort I’d put my money on this fine steed.

2-cyl, 1811cc, 73bhp, 139Nm, 377kg, 6M, 0-60kph: 2.6s; 0-100kph: 5.7s; 80-0kph: 38.3m in 3.6s; 30-50kph (3rd): 1.7s; 50-70kph (5th):2.7s; Ground clearance: 142mm; Fuel tank: 20.8ltrs

Price: Rs 32.5 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi)

A sublime ride with fantastic attention to detail. The best-looking stock bagger in the world, an expert in its class.

Christopher Chaves

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