2015 Indian Chieftain Review
Here is my review of a 2015 Indian Chieftain. My bike was in the shop for some major work and the dealer loaned this Chieftain to me in hopes of making me want one; the turd. BLUF: This is a darn good machine all around!
For starters, this bike had 11K miles on it telling me the previous owner probably did not like it all that much. However, riding away from the shop told me I was going to like it a lot. I’ve added almost another thousand miles to it in just under three weeks.
I am not sure what exhaust it has but I am sure my neighbors know that I am leaving out in the morning. It is far louder than the TORs on my Rocket and I do like the rumble.
Let me get into the parts I do not care now. I consider this a ‘gold-plated’ motorcycle. In my line of work, when we issue a request for proposal to a vendor and they come back with more capabilities than we requested, we call it ‘gold-plating’ and that is not cool. This bike has a radio and the brochure tells me it is awesome. I have not turned it on once in the three weeks I have had the bike. Here in the winter I ride with a full-face helmet so listening to the radio is somewhat moot / mute anyway (see what I did there?). The fog light switch is out of place. One must let go of the grips if you wish to turn it on or off so make sure you are good with that. It is on the upper right side on the fairing. I flash left lane loafers with the fog light during dark riding, as I don’t want to use the brights.
A plus/minus thing is the push button ignition; like the Harley’s, you do not need a key. This worries me about theft in the case the fob is close enough for someone to start the bike and ride away. I know thieves have fob simulators and easily take cars and bikes with push button starts so I am Leary of it. For convenience though, it is nice. As a side note, when I turned the Indian back in last night, the service manager got on the Chieftain to ride it in to the bay and couldn’t figure out how to start it; he left the fob on the counter inside.
The kickstand works well and has a positive feel once pushed full forward. However finding the darn things is troublesome. Even after weeks of riding it, I still have to look down to engage my heel on the barely visible piece that sticks out.
This bike has Dunlop Elite tires on it with plenty of tread left. They are great on dry roads but I would say they are not ready for wet riding as compared to the Bridgestone Exedra Maxes I have on the Rocket III. The rear tire slipped out on me turning left from a traffic light on an icy morning and then again when turning left on wet pavement. Yes, I know any tire will slip on icy roads but it does not seem to happen with the Bridgestones as it did here.
And, that is about all I can complain about.
Some gold plating is good I guess; knowing why my hands are freezing is nice; the thermometer tells me it is 29°F. Oh, the cruise control is awesome, sure wish Triumph would make that standard on the Rocket III Touring!
In comparing it to the Rocket, the fuel gauge works instantly. The Triumph unit takes several minutes to register.
The windscreen is electric and moves up high enough to block all wind in front of my head. Even in the lowest position, I feel zero buffeting at any speed up to and above freeway cruising. The only other fairing bike I have ridden that did not buffet my noggin was the Kawasaki Vaquero. The Yamaha, Victory and Harley all cause me to keep a stiff neck while riding at speed. The Chieftain's cowling does a good job of blocking a lot of the cold wind too.
This bike has the solo seat with rider backrest and evidently, the dealer measured me when I was not looking and set it perfect for my ergonomics. The seat is comfortable and makes me feel well planted.
The bike moves easily from lane to lane when cagers try to kill me. The suspension works well over bumps and feels planted when hitting rough spots mid curve. I also admire its parking lot speed maneuverability. The short wheelbase compared to the R3T makes it great for the back yard slow speed races over the rough lawn.
Acceleration is not as quick as the Rocket but quick enough for riding around the National Capitol Region where cagers make sport of trying to kill motorcyclists. I admit (tongue in cheek) that it took me several minutes to get accustomed to having six gears again. The bike pulls well in any of them. Comparing it to the Street Glide of the same year, the Harley is flickable and might be slightly quicker off the line but I think the Indian handles better at any speed. I am not sure how these two compare at top speed, but both are smooth at a respectable 85 mph cruise. The Chieftain has plenty of torque to get one moving and like I said above, its roll on power is great in the DC area traffic.
In comparing the Chieftain to the Vaquero, the Kawasaki’s first gear is much taller. One must twist the go handle more initially, but all is great once moving. I considered the Vaquero to be the smoothest V-Twin around, I’m happy that the Chieftain feels as smooth. The Chieftain at idle is rumbly but not a problem. This particular bike though causes the headlight to flicker from normal to bright at the engine RPM rate. I let the dealer know that as I am sure that is not by design.
About those lights, they are all three bright white LED types (two fogs and one main head light). They hurt to look into them and illuminate the ground right in front of the bike quite well. However, the three halogen lights on my R3T provide far more usable light at night. I am sure there is some adjustment one could make to raise the light’s throw some on the Indian, I just did not see.
The side bags are big enough for my lunch box and much more. I did not look up the interior space but think they are bigger than my R3T’s. They electrically lock too and have keys holes; I just did not get the keys with the loaner.
The brakes work pretty well even on black ice. I mentioned hitting some above when talking about the tires when turning left from a traffic light one morning. I was expecting it somewhere along my path but did not see it in time to avoid it (head light issue mentioned above). The rear tire stepped out but a slight amount of rear brake kept me upright. I have not needed to try the ABS thankfully but have made several hard stops and the bike stays well balanced even when dodging the stopped car in front of me on the freeway.
The previous owner added engine guard chaps and they do a good job of fending off cold wind and rain. The covered area is larger than the R3T and my shins did not get wet. These are made by Indian and add a nice look to the bike I think.
I picked the Rocket up last night and when getting back on it realized it is not as tall as the Indian is. Not a problem of course, just the two bikes handle differently and I enjoy them both. While I can easily see myself riding the Chieftain across America, I still love my R3T. Now to convince Pretty Pillion that I NEED to be a multi-bike guy again…
Current ride: 2014 Triumph Rocket III Touring; 2007 EX 500R; 1981 XS650SH in resto