2016 Indian Chieftain Dark Horse First Impressions

Perched beneath the big guns on the deck of the mighty battleship USS Iowa, Indian Motorcycle was flexing a little muscle of its own, the 2016 Indian Chieftain Dark Horse. The blacked-out treatment suits the big bagger well, injects it with a little more “rock & roll.” If Indian’s seeking to broaden their customer base and attract a younger demographic using essentially the same platform, it’s surprising how something as simple as a new color can do just that. Because during our adventure up the California coast, more often than not it’s been younger guys coming over to check it out, heads nodding and thumbs up. Mission accomplished.

“There’s an attitude difference and that’s really what the Chief Dark Horse lineup is all about,” said Indian Motorcycle’s External Relations Manager Robert Pandya.

In addition to making millenials drool, Indian designed the Chieftain Dark Horse “to be our most customizable platform.”

2016 Indian Chieftain Dark Horse ride review

We’ve rumbled around California and up to Oregon, logging 1000 miles in five days, to test out the 2016 Indian Chieftain Dark Horse.

“We’re starting to see a lot of custom baggers come out off of this platform,” added Pandya.

The Indian Chieftain Dark Horse has custom appeal right off the showroom floor. The distinctive fairing looks sharp in black, the treatment accentuates the swoop of the valanced front fender nicely, and the chief’s face under the ebony Indian headdress shines like a beacon at night. Indian trimmed down the electronically adjustable windscreen just a tad and slapped on a wide, studded solo seat with a cush contour and thick padding. The list of factory Indian aftermarket accessories is extensive, from apehanger handlebars to saddlebag speakers to performance parts.

An Indian Chieftain Dark Horse that had already received the custom treatment by Hollister Powersports sat next to the stock bike on deck to further demonstrate its customization potential. While the taller 21-inch RC Components front hoop, the lights frenched into the rear, trimmed-down stock front fender and custom paint required some expertise, the rest of the transformation was achieved with factory accessories. Rey Sotelo, Hollister Powersports General Manager, has seen Indian Motorcycles come full circle. He was one of the figureheads of the Gilroy Indian team who didn’t have the engineering and resources its current owner, Polaris Industries, does. Sotelo said it was a privilege getting to be the first to put the custom treatment on the Indian Chieftain Dark Horse.

2016 Indian Chieftain Dark Horse test

‘Merica! American Iron tests out some American iron, the 2016 Indian Chieftain Dark Horse.

Our journey aboard the latest Chieftain began at the motorcycle’s press launch in San Pedro. From there, it was a lane-splitting blast up the 405 and Highway 101 to Pismo Beach. In Pismo we met up with the Why We Ride group for a scenic spin of the California coast on our way to Carmel for the Quail Motorcycle Gathering. After that, we charted a course for California State Routes 9 and 35, a wonderfully twisty strip in the Bay Area on our way to the popular biker hangout Alice’s Restaurant. Then it was over to Dublin to Arlen Ness Motorcycles to get the Chieftain Dark Horse its first 500 miles service job and to get the infernal “Change Oil Now” indicator to shut off. We polished it off with a blast up I-5 to Oregon, logging just over 1000 miles in five days. We’ve run it over just about every type of road, from fast sweepers to snaking ribbons of asphalt to highway miles. So far we’ve averaged 38 miles-per-gallon on the Indian Chieftain Dark Horse, but our journey’s not over yet.

Did we mention this particular bike we’re testing has the Thunder Stroke Stage 1 Slip-On Exhaust Kit, Thunder Stroke High Flow Air Cleaner, and Stage 2 Performance Cams? While you’ll have to wait for the full ride review in an upcoming issue of American Iron Magazine, right now all we can say is “Oh, snap!” Until then…

Be sure to check out back issues for other motorcycle reviews, custom bike features, tech and DIY articles and plenty more good stuff at Greaserag!

The Indian Chieftain Dark Horse called "The Redeemer"on the deck of USS Iowa.

Hollis Powersports built “The Redeemer” to demonstrate how a few fairly easy changes can transform the 2016 Indian Chieftain Dark Horse.