IN­DIAN WAR­FARE

New ver­sion of clas­sic Chieftain trans­forms the Amer­i­can bag­ger

Motorcycle News (UK) - - This Week - RICHARD NEW­LAND DEPUTY ED­I­TOR richard.new­land@mo­tor­cy­cle­news.com

Bag­gers might not be your bag for a whole host of rea­sons, but if your pri­mary ob­jec­tions re­volve around poor han­dling and agri­cul­tural en­gines Ð this new bike could chal­lenge your per­cep­tions.

No sin­gle el­e­ment of the spec sheet is re­spon­si­ble for its bril­liance Ð in­stead, what is cen­tral to its skill set is a level of holis­tic de­sign that re­minds me of BMWÕS R1200GS. Thereõs noth­ing in­di­vid­u­ally spe­cial about any part of it Ð and yet the over­all re­sult is ex­cep­tional.

As we carve through the sin­u­ous maze of Cal­i­for­nian moun­tain roads, tak­ing fast sweep­ers with the same com­po­sure as nadgery hair­pins, it seems that noth­ing can un­set­tle this new take on the fir­mõs Chieftain plat­form. Maybe more tellingly, IÕM strug­gling to make much of a short­list of bikes IÕD rather be rid­ing. Styling aside, the most fun­da­men­tal change that sets it apart from the sta­ble­mate on which itõs based is the 19in con­trast-cut front wheel, matched to an equally stylish 16in rear. The front is now topped in a more slen­der fender, ditch­ing In­di­anõs trade­mark faired-in look for a more mod­ern aes­thetic. Of course, thereõs the de rigueur solid bags that make this a bag­ger, too. Theyõre use­fully ca­pa­cious, while nar­row, and add a level of prac­ti­cal­ity that ex­plains their pop­u­lar­ity.

You might ex­pect the 19/16 wheel com­bi­na­tion, run­ning 130/16 R19 front and 180/60 R16 rear rub­ber (Dun­lopõs Amer­i­can Elite up front, and Elite 3 at the rear), a 371kg (dry) mass, 25¼ head an­gle and bag­ger stance to be a near-per­fect storm for lazy steer­ing Ð but youõd be wrong. And much of the Limit­edõs com­po­sure and steer­ing sta­bil­ity is gifted by the ex­cep­tional per­for­mance de­liv­ered from the KYB sus­pen­sion. Bikes of this scale are of­ten sus­pended so badly that they can barely con­trol their own mass. Add, in my case, an 18-stone rider into that equa­tion, and im­ages of jelly tri­fles slid­ing across grease­proof pa­per spring to mind Ð but thereõs none of that here.

Ground clear­ance be­comes the lim­it­ing fac­tor, but the hinged foot­boards give you a mar­gin of grace, and with such an im­pres­sive bal­ance be­tween the 46mm fork and air-ad­justable rear monoshock, bumps and swells mid- cor­ner give no cause for con­cern. The fact that you can ac­tu­ally feel what the front tyre is do­ing through that fat and heav­ily weighted fork is an­other con­fi­dence-boost­ing sur­prise. Thereõs no sig­nif­i­cant pitch­ing on the brakes, nor any see-saw­ing switch­ing from hard brak­ing to full-throt­tle.

The 1811cc Thun­der Stroke III en­gine gives plenty of en­cour­age­ment to get a shift on, too. Drive is punchy but lin­ear through­out the short rev range, and it pulls with su­per-smooth, glitch-free de­liv­ery through­out and danc­ing on the gear lever is only ever a mat­ter of choice, not ne­ces­sity.

The ad­di­tion of In­di­anõs Ride Com­mand mul­ti­me­dia sys­tem as stan­dard is also wel­come, and makes nav­i­ga­tion and all the bikeõs sys­tem man­age­ment just a touch­screen swipe (or but­ton press) away. The in­ter­face is ex­cel­lent, and only the chunky left switchgear comes close to be­ing dis­ap­point­ing.

Ever y as­pect has been prop­erly thought through

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