Horsing Around: A Day With The Indian Chieftain Dark Horse
After taking in the brutish exhaust note upon blipping the Indian Chieftain Dark Horse’s throttle for the first time, I couldn’t resist the temptation to immediately pair my smartphone with its 100 watt stereo, which comes with a radio, USB and Bluetooth compatibility. The next song lined up on my phone’s playlist was Do I Wanna Know, by the Arctic Monkeys, and if the sick guitar riffs weren’t indication enough of how my ride to Igatpuri from Mumbai on this badass cruiser was going to pan out, the jaw-dropping reactions and the undivided attention of passersby convinced me that I was in for something really special.
Despite not being an all-new model from the stables of the American manufacturer, the Dark Horse is a definite head-turner. By and large, it comes across as a variant of the Chieftain, with the matte black hues enhancing its retro appeal. As opposed to the model in the images, we were astride a twin-seater, courtsey a 300-part catalogue of accessories. Other changes on the Chieftain Dark Horse include a blacked out engine, a black handlebar and chrome bits – from the exhaust pipes to the rivets on the seat. The beefy dimensions, though, are retained, from the standard trim, with a 1668 mm wheelbase and 1000 mm width alongside an overall height of 1388 mm. Despite these intimidating numbers and all of its 370 kg heft, riding the Dark Horse is fairly comfortable on the highway. It’s only in parking spaces that you’re really tested by the weight of this bad boy.
In terms of features, the latest Indian in the country comes packed with everything that you would expect out of a high-end cruiser of its ilk. It gets keyless start, remote locking hard saddlebags, a power windshield and tyre-pressure monitoring as standard. Apart from the aforementioned stereo, other features include ABS and cruise control.
At the heart of things is the same powerplant as the Chieftain – the 1,811cc Thunderstroke 111 V-twin engine that feels reasonably refined, barring its vibrations that come along with the high-displacement nature of the motor. Climbing up the revs doesn’t feel like much of a task, as the 72 bhp engine proves sufficient for the weight of the bike. Even the 14.1 kgm of peak torque kicks in at lower rpms, enhancing its cruising properties at higher speeds. Speaking of the 6-speed transmission, it feels a little sluggish, but tackles shifting gears at high speeds fairly well. The large amount of heat coming off the engine is the biggest pain when it comes to the powertrain, something I was made to realise in heavy traffic under Mumbai’s relentless sun. But once you hit cruising speeds on the highway, it is hardly a concern any more.
The Dark Horse’s ride quality, however, comes as a pleasant surprise, for a bike of these proportions. It won’t be hyperbole to compare it with a mid-size cruiser while entering and exiting corners. The suspension also soaks up all potholes and bumps, ensuring that your spine remains unmolested. A pair of 300 mm disc brakes up front and a solitary one at the rear perform stopping duties, with an able dual-channel ABS as a support act. A certain bite though was missing in the rear stopper of the model that I rode.
All in, the Chieftain Dark Horse is a bike that will help you turn more heads than an SUV, at its price of Rs 32.5 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi). That said, it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, even if you love to bask in the attention that you will receive from literally everyone. But if you have a good track record with these heavyweights, and are crazy enough to spend all this moolah on a motorcycle, we say just do it.
After the inception of the company in 1901, the Indian factory team took the first three places in the 1911 Isle of Man Tourist Trophy. During the 1910s, Indian became the world’s largest motorcycle manufacturer. Its most popular models were the Scout and the Chief, until 1953, when the company went bankrupt. Various organisations tried to perpetuate the Indian brand name in subsequent years, with limited success. In 2011, Polaris Industries purchased Indian Motorcycles in a successful takeover. Since August 2013, it has marketed multiple modern Indian motorcycles that reflect Indian’s traditional styling.
1,811cc Thunderstroke 111 V-twin
72 bhp @ 5,075 rpm
14.1 Kgm @ 2,600 rpm
Rs 32.5 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi)
What we like
Ride quality, looks
What we don’t
Heat radiation, moving the bike while parking