Indian ditches the funky fender and strips back the Chief for 2022
Heritage, heritage, heritage. It hangs like a lead weight around the necks of American cruiser companies, calling back to better times, simpler times, or perhaps just times when our knees and backs worked better. When Polaris had to choose between the slick, modern designs of its Victory brand or the old-school Indian back in 2017, it went with heritage and Indian survived the cut.
But the times, they are a-changin'. The Boomers, who made Harley-Davidson, and then arguably broke it by refusing to let the company evolve until it was already a punchline, are drying up as a market. Indian seems to get it; the FTR1200 was a radical departure for the brand, and one of the most exciting bikes to come out of America this side of the electrics.
And for 2022, the company has honored a 100-year-old model in the Chief not by slavishly looking backwards, but by stripping away some of its most iconic features. When I think about the Indian cruisers of yesteryear, I think of tassles, of ornamentation and of mawkishly foofy front fenders. And that's more or less what the Chief has delivered in recent years; all headlight shroud and loud fender.
But not this latest version. The 2020 Chief was renamed the Vintage for 2021, and Ola Stenegard and the Indian design team have started over with a back-to-basics design for a brand new 2022 Chief that I think looks much nicer. Now, there's nothing revolutionary going on here; this is after all a steel cradle-framed American cruiser in the Softail vein, and the look is definitely more conservative than the daring ideas put forward in the Scout. But the new Chief offers tiny fenders, a barely-there headlamp and a general sense of minimalism that highlights that big 1,890 cc (116 ci) "Thunderstroke" engine and should make it a solid base for the custom-minded.
There's plenty of grunt, with 162 Nm (108 lb-ft) available at the tidy-looking twistgrip. The dash looks nice, its classic, rounded nacelle housing a full color IPS Ride Command touchscreen that gives you navigation and Bluetooth media controls without ruining the look at a standstill, and lets you cycle through different gauge options. There's cruise control, which is always a great addition to a bike you're actually going to ride, a fairly modest 15.1-liter (4 gallon) tank, multiple throttle response modes and optional ABS.
There are six different spec levels, from the murdered-out Chief Dark Horse with its flattish drag bars and solo seat, up to the Super Chief Limited, which adds a mid-sized windscreen, saddlebags, touring seat, passenger seat and footboards. Prices start at US$14,499.
Now, there are clearly folk who will prefer the "classic" Indian look, with too many headlights, Trump-hairdo fenders, studded leather, teardrop panniers and the whole box and dice. These folk shouldn't feel neglected, the Springfield and other models remain in the range, looking as odd (to me) as ever. But the new Chief gives Indian a nice basic platform that'll find its full expression in the works of custom builders, and joins the Chieftain, Scout Bobber and Roadmaster lines leading Indian in a more modern direction. Video below.
Source: Indian Motorcycle