INDIAN CHIEF CLASSIC: Chief Rolling Thunder


Big Cube, Big Torque, Big Steed

Review and pictures by Wahid Ooi Abdullah

  • 111 cubic inch (1811cc) engine.
  • 6 Nm of torque @ 3000 RPM.
  • 357 kg wet weight.

Thanks to Eagle Ranch Resort, Port Dickson for the venue

Inquisitive Man had never received a straight answer for his one question. He may have heard it many time before, but it was lost in the sea of half-truths and cow dung. Those who were truly wrong stood by their answers with the steadfastness of a pitbull on a postal worker’s leg. Those who his instincts told him were right, didn’t sound confident enough. 

So Inquisitive Man travelled far and wide, asking the same question along the way. When they failed to answer satisfactorily, he asked if there was someone else who knew. Each pointed him to another person in another place, until finally one person suggested that he should consult “The Guru.”

He was in luck, for that person knew where The Guru dwells. But the journey was perilous, nonetheless, as he rode through past the forest, with no soul in sight for the next three days.

He finally arrived at the cabin. The garage next to it was open. He called out “Hello,” and gingerly he entered. An old man was hunkered over a Powerplus engine.

The man stood, wiping his hands with a rag dyed black by oil. He spoke, “You seemed to have travelled far, my son. Tell me, what is it that you seek?”

Realizing immediately that he’s found The Guru, “I seek the one true answer for one question, O’ Guru. It has troubled me for many moons,” he answered. 

“Please, I am no Guru, in spite of what everybody says,” he let out a soft laugh, “But please ask, so your soul may be at peace.”

“Please tell me what is torque?”

The traditional Indian Chief headdress is lit

The Indian Chief Classic’s harks back to when the flared fenders made their debut in 1940 and somewhat continues where the last Chief left off in 1953.

But the new Indian Chief Classic isn’t just a lump of metal parts playing dress up. One ride and you’d discover how much effort, time and money Polaris had expanded to develop it.

The fins on the valve cover and cylinders hark back to the Powerplus engines of yore but it thoroughly modern

First impression was the size of the Chief Classic. I mean, it’s yuge. That headlamp nacelle seems to allude to a horse’s head. Those flared fenders gave the impression that it had super wide tyres. The Chief is also very long and low, too.

But as soon as you put yourself in the thickly padded leather seat, you’ll discover that the handlebar sweeps back to meet your grip, bending your elbows and dropping your shoulders into a natural position. The seat’s position was also well-placed: Not so far to the back that you’d need stilts to reach the handlebar grips and floorboards.

From the saddle, you’re faced with a large speedometer and a smaller fuel gauge and ignition on button.

A very simple layout: Top left – fuel gauge, top right – ON/OFF button, the LCD screen shows RPM, range, fuel consumption rate among other info

The Indian Chief Classic uses a keyless entry system. With the transponder in your pocket, just press the ON button to start the electrical juices flowing. Next, thumb the start button once (no need to hold on) and the engine fires to life in a deep throaty rumble that’ll stir primal instincts deep inside the souls of anyone nearby.

And it sounded beautiful!

The Chief Classic has cruise control for those extended highway rides

This has to be one of the best sounds in the motorcycling universe. It has the right mix of mechanical sounds and exhaust rumble. Blip the throttle and you’re rewarded another set of bassy aria and roaring exhaust note a long way behind you. It turns out that Polaris had put in lots of work to make the Chief to sound just right. They even employed an NVH (noise, vibration and harshness) engineer who has a musical background.

Clutch pull isn’t too heavy and the first gear clunks into place. Slip the clutch lever and the Thunder Stroke 111 V-Twin’s torque transforms into forward motion.

The Thunder Stroke 111 cu. in. (1811 cc) engine punches out a whopping 161.1 Nm of torque!

The throttle felt a little “light” at first but you’ll get used to it soon enough. You only needed to twist it just a bit more from its closed position and the Chief just roars off. Whooooa boy! It’s not that the acceleration’s uncontrollable, but it came as a huge surprise from a bike that weighs 350 kg, wet.

We rode with the Victory-Indian Riders Group (VIRG) to Maran, Pahang over the weekend and that presented some great opportunities to fully test out the Chief.

That engine is so smooth, yet you still could tell which cylinder is firing. The view in the mirrors stayed crisp all the way to the bike’s top speed, and there’s no vibration to put your arms to sleep or numb “other” parts of your body.

Having so much torque meant that the engine doesn’t have to turn over at high RPM for a given speed. One consequence is fuel economy. The 1811cc Tunder Stroke consistently returned a combined average of just 5.8 l/100 km (tested with the new Shell with Dynaflex).

RM 25.00 of RON 95 returns 240+ km range

The engine rides on that torque wave and purrs at only 2250 RPM when the speedo showed 100 km/h. 120 km/h registered as 2800 RPM, 200 RPM below the torque peak at 3000 RPM. Being pushrod actuated, convention says the engine should feel sluggish and vibration prone, but neither was the case.

The valves may be pushrod-activated but its power output is super smooth

As soon we hit 100 to 100 km/h (which was very soon) on the highway, it felt as if the bike was riding on a cushion of air. It’s Zen-like in that zone.

Of course, the suspension had a part to play in soothing out the ride. Only overly large and sharp bumps, or deep potholes snapped us back to reality. That’s a very commendable job to support so much weight on just 94mm and 119mm of rear and front travel, respectively.

The ride’s route also covered stretches of twisty rural roads. One could be forgiven to think that a bike this big and long-wheelbased is ungainly and sluggish when the road goes anywhere but straight. But surprise! The wide bars made it so easy to hoon the bike through the twisties and even S-corners. It took lots of lean angle before the footboards started to sniff the pavement. Credit goes to the stiff cast aluminum frame.

The Chief Classic may be big and heavy but slow speed maneuverability is easy

Corner exits became fun too as the torque comes on when you squeeze open the throttle. There’s nothing abrupt about the Chief’s throttle response, it was just smooth, smooth, smooth torque.

Another welcome feature was the brakes. They were truly effective in slowing things down from whatever speeds you’re riding at. Look closely and you’ll find the rotors are semi-floating just like those on sportbikes.

Back in the city, we found it relatively easy to ride through traffic given its easy handling, strong brakes and above all, that mountainous torque. Overtaking was just a matter of turning the throttle without having to downshift. We’ve lugged the bike down to 60 km/h in sixth gear without the bike juddering like a plane flying through turbulence. And once you’ve figured out the bike’s handling characteristics, you could actually swerve through traffic like it was a maxi scooter, despite the weight, despite the long wheelbase, despite the lazy 29-degree steering rake and wholly relaxing 155 mm trail.

Who would’ve thought. We didn’t either.

Our conclusion is, the Indian Chief Classic is one heck of a motorcycle. It could even be the best cruiser we’ve ridden. It’s expensive, yes, but greatness has a price. We’re sure that all doubts from having spent 168 big ones on a motorcycle will disappear as soon as it got going. Well, only if it’s 168K on the Chief Classic.

The Guru smiled at the question. Not a smug smile but one a teacher gives his best student.

“Torque is a twisting force that causes rotation. But simply put, it’s that push that you feel when you open the throttle. It’s more useful in the real-world.”

For more information and updates, please follow Indian Motorcycle Malaysia’s Facebook page. For more information on the Eagle Ranch Resort in Port Dickson, check out their Facebook page.

Some Coconut Shake Power to cool off on a hot day


Engine type Air/oil-cooled, 4-stroke, OHV-pushrod, 2-valves per cylinder, 49-degree V-Twin
Compression ratio 9.5 : 1
Bore X Stroke 101.0 mm X 113.0 mm
Displacement 1811 cc (111 cubic inch)
Fuel system Closed loop fuel injection, 54 mm throttle body
Maximum torque 161.6 Nm @ 3000 RPM
Front suspension 46 mm telescopic forks, 119 mm travel
Rear suspension Single shock, 94 mm travel
Frame Cast aluminum
Rake 29 degrees
Trail 155 mm
Wheelbase 1730 mm
L x W x H 2630 mm x 1000 mm x 1176 mm
Wet weight 357 kg
Front tyre 130/90-B16 (73H)
Rear tyre 180/65-B16 (81H)



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