Archive for the ‘2014 chief vintage’ Tag

2014 Indian Chief Vintage Vs Heritage Softail

They’re the most storied motorcycle manufacturers in American biker lore. Both scratched to life in the early 1900s, developed motorcycles that quickly earned reputations and fostered brand allegiances that ran deep. The companies grew by carving their names into motorcycle racing history books, from the Salt Flats in Utah to as far away as the Isle of Man. They bred Wrecking Crews and spawned Jackpine Gypsies, waged battles on board tracks, hill climbs, and the beaches of Daytona. They’ve championed Emde’s and Munro’s, Petrali’s and Parker’s while instigating countless rivalries. Harley-Davidson and Indian Motorcycle Company have been nemesis for a long time.

But disparate fortunes caused the rivalry to wane. Indian Motorcycles has risen and fallen with the tide as its golden years passed and production ceased in 1953. Several attempts to resurrect the brand failed as it toiled through the Gilroy era before a British private equity firm did its best to again relaunch the company with high dollar motorcycles built in Kings Mountain. Now it has landed in the hands of a very able partner for the first time in many years, parent company Polaris with a multi-billion dollar portfolio. That portfolio includes Victory Motorcycles, which helped Polaris trim Harley’s sales, but admittedly it lacked a company with an iconic American image and long-standing heritage. And so it bought Indian, and finally the company that has seen its share of turbulent times is in the possession of an entity with the talent and resources to once again make it competitive. On Saturday, August 3, in front of a packed house on Main Street in Sturgis, Polaris rolled out the first three Indian Motorcycles it had produced, among them the traditional-styled 2014 Indian Chief Vintage.

The other company in this test has weathered on despite its own hardships to establish itself as the iconic American motorcycle manufacturer. Celebrating 110 years in continuous production, Harley-Davidson hosted parties around the world this year and threw a big shin-dig in Milwaukee. And rightfully so. It has survived the great World Wars, the Black powdercoated heads and cylinders with machined cooling fins topped by chrome rocker covers add up to an eye-pleasing V-Twin powering the 14 Heritage Softail.
The 1690cc Twin Cam 103B of the 2014 Harley Heritage Softail Classic put out 82.26 lb-ft of torque @ 3200 rpm and 66.33 hp @ 5200 rpm.
2014 Harley Heritage Softail Classic Dyno Chart – Twin Cam 103BA powerful 1811cc Thunder Stroke 111 V-Twin sits at the heart of the 2014 Indian Chief models and turned our dyno to the tune of 100.87 lb-ft torque @ 2700 rpm and 73.33 hp @ 4500 rpm.
The 1811cc Thunder Stroke 111 V-Twin of the 2014 Indian Chief Vintage turned our dyno to the tune of 100.87 lb-ft torque @ 2700 rpm and 73.33 hp @ 4500 rpm.
2014 Indian Chief Vintage Dyno Chart – Thunder Stroke 111 Depression, the Recessions, and what is known as the AMF years. It has done so by staying true to itself, true to producing what it knows best, and it’s ability to transcend beyond simply sales and into a lifestyle is a recipe everybody’s eager to steal. On Monday, August 19, Harley’s introduction of its Twin-Cooled engine, Project Rushmore and a restyled Batwing fairing stole the headlines at the introduction of the 2014 models. But there was a long list of Sportsters, Dyna and Softails released for 2014 too, including a timeless American cruiser, the 2014 Heritage Softail Classic.

Hoping to stoke the flames of a rivalry that stretches over 100 years, we pit the 2014 Indian Chief Vintage against the 2014 Harley Heritage Softail Classic. Externally, the two are carbon copies of one another, big classic-cued cruisers clad in chrome, swooping fenders and softail-style suspension, chrome auxiliary lights and tall windscreens, cush leather seats and classic leather saddlebags. The tell of the tape shows both are powered by big pushrod-driven V-Twins, the Harley Heritage running a 1690cc Twin Cam 103B while the Indian’s propulsion is provided by the 1811cc Thunder Stroke 111. Both have six-speed transmissions fed by electronic fuel injection, each has ABS and hidden rear suspension. Dunlop is the tire of choice for both cruisers, whitewalls in the case of the bikes we tested, wrapped around shiny spoked wheels. Overall the long list of similarities is undeniable.

So Motorcycle USA test rider Justin Dawes and I set about testing the two under real-world conditions, from the clogged arteries of LA’s 405 freeway to cruising the PCH, doing dashes over Ortega Highway and inland to secret photo stops. We lived in their saddles for a week, from stop-and-go stints to light touring, and the 2014 Harley Heritage Softail Classic won the efficiency award with an average of 35.514 mpg, a bit better than the guzzling 33.99 mpg average of the 2014 Indian Chief Vintage. Given the Indian has a 0.5-gallon larger tank than the Harley, projected range is almost identical with the Harley good for approximately 177 miles before a fill up while the Indian should be able to stretch it out to around 186 miles. Peeking at the spec sheet, the ’14 Chief Vintage has an MSRP of $20,999 while the ’14 Heritage Softail Classic with the Morocco Gold Paint and wheel package as tested is priced at $19,259.

And while we believed the two would perform almost identically based on their similarities, we couldn’t have been more wrong. They offer much different riding experiences, from the output of their engines to the way they handle and steer. One stretches riders out and feels long and low while the other is tight and compact. From turn-in to braking, there are notable differences between the two. Read on as the 100-year-war reignites, Harley versus Indian, Heritage versus Vintage.

Who says a motorcycle can’t project an aura around its rider? You can’t help but feel a sense of class riding Harley’s Heritage Softail Classic. Ours is a regal ride, pearl paint and polished chrome that reflect the world passing by in its sheen, spinning spokes and whirling whitewalls. A drumming exhaust note declares your approach long before you arrive at a destination. It’s a cool customer cruising between the avenues of trendy Huntington Beach stores, skateboarders gliding by in front of surf shops as people fill the umbrella-covered tables of sidewalk cafes. We sit high in its saddle feeling like a king on his throne as we comfortably cruise down California’s palm tree-lined boulevards.

It is in the stop-and-go of city traffic that the Heritage Softail Classic shines. The first thing you’ll notice about it compared to the Chief Vintage is how much smaller H-D’s cruiser feels. A peek at the spec sheet discloses that the Harley has a 3.7-inch smaller wheelbase and is nine inches shorter in total length. The Heritage Softail Classic also tips our scales 90 pounds lighter than the Indian cruiser. The rider’s triangle on the Harley cruiser is much more compact, riders situated relaxed and upright in its saddle. The bike’s floorboards are forward and a rider’s legs are almost parallel to the backbone but it doesn’t stretch you out as much at the Chief Vintage. The bars on the Heritage Softail Classic are higher and in closer than the Vintage and have a wider range of motion. Dawes called the Heritage’s seat “This big cushy Barcalounger looking thing but it works really well,” adding “It’s comfortable, it supports your butt, the passenger seat presses on your lower back a bit and that can get a little uncomfortable, but there’s room to move around. It doesn’t lock you into place like the Indian seat.”

Once situated in the Harley’s compact rider’s triangle, launching the bike is facilitated by a clutch pull that is firm but not overly stiff. Even though its bars are up, they are easy to negotiate as the front end on the Heritage Softail Classic has less weight to it. Despite having a couple more degrees of rake on the fork, a more compact wheelbase and good centralization of mass give the Harley lighter steering. This makes it easier to handle at low speeds and allows for sharper U-turns when cruising around town.

“Right when I got on it, I was surprised by how light that bike actually feels for how big of a bike it actually is. It doesn’t feel long, it doesn’t feel big, it feels low to the ground and the center of gravity is real easy. It’s got this really light handling which was a big surprise for me because I didn’t expect that at all out of that bike,” agreed Dawes.

Out of town and in the twisty stuff, the ’14 Heritage Softail Classic is quicker to turn-in and transitions with less effort than its bulkier counterpart. It’s primary deficiency in turns are floorboards that scrape easy and often so riders get much less lean angle to play with as the Indian sweeps deeper.

“Cornering clearance – there is none. The floorboards, they look pretty high, but you dip that thing into a corner and it starts dragging almost immediately, it’s pretty crazy. I mean it looks cool, sounds cool, you’re throwing sparks everywhere and people are looking at you like you’re a cornering bad-ass, but it limits the speed at which you can ride around a twisty mountain road. Granted, it’s a Heritage Softail and you’re not going to be ripping it up anyways, you want to cruise, but when you want that extra cornering clearance, it’s not there for you,” lamented Dawes.

Despite its lack of lean, the 2014 Heritage Softail Classic is a bit more composed on the road thanks to suspension that is dialed in almost ideally. Spring rates on the thick fork keep the front firmly in contact with the road as it ranges through a generous 5.1-inches of travel. The hidden horizontally-mounted rear shocks on the rear are equally adept at absorbing bumps in the road while riders remain comfortably shielded and in control. As Dawes said, “The suspension, it’s pretty much spot-on for a cruiser. It’s not too harsh, not too sluggish, not too soft. It’s pretty much like the Goldilocks of suspension for this type of bike,” in the sense that it’s dialed in just right.

And while its low-speed handling and slick suspension set-up are better than the arrangement on the Chief Vintage, the Twin Cam 103 comes up a bit short in comparison to the Indian powerplant. Aesthetically, it’s a thing of beauty, stout pushrod tubes against black powder-coated heads offset by machined cooling fins and chrome rocker covers. The undersquare mill features a healthy 3.87-inch bore hammering down at a 4.374-inch stroke so you’d anticipate an arm-wrenching jolt of low-end torque. And indeed, a peek at the spec sheet shows that you do have a 70.68 lb-ft to play with as early as 2000 rpm. But glance at the Indian’s chart which shows it’s pumping out 92.69 lb-ft at the same 2000 rpm. Overall the Harley’s powerband is very even, strong but not intimidating as it builds up to its 82.26 lb-ft peak at 3200 rpm. Both motorcycles are geared to top out in first just below 45 mph while second gear gets riders up to freeway speed as it signs off at approximately 64 mph. But the Indian will definitely get up to that speed with more enthusiasm. Once up to speed, the Harley’s counter-balanced TC103 operates smoothly as riders drop the transmission into its six-speed “cruise drive,” but the bike did demonstrate a little buzz in the tank at higher rpm before hitting the shift point. Shifting down, the Heritage Softail Classic demonstrates a generous amount of engine braking. Overall though, the output of the Harley engine felt subdued compared to the torque-rich punch of the Indian Thunder Stroke 111.

“It’s a really flat, mellow power band. Usually, think Harley motor, you think character, but the Indian motor actually has more character. It accelerates well, it’s got plenty of power, it just doesn’t have a rush or a hit to it, it kind of just builds,” agreed Dawes.

While its engine didn’t match up, the six-speed gearbox on the Harley is slightly more refined than the transmission on the Indian. Gears engage just a tad smoother and quieter as the Indian transmission is a bit rawer. It only takes a quick push on the heel/toe shifter to run up and down the Heritage’s mechanisms and overall gear ratios are very close, but Harley has had more years to fine tune its gearbox and it shows. One thing the Harley lacks is cruise control, a standard feature on the more expensive Indian Chief Vintage, a feature we believe should come stock on a bike equipped with bags, a windscreen and capable of light touring.

The greatest area of disparity between the Harley and the Indian though is in the braking department. Both cruisers come with anti-lock brakes, the Harley’s system unobtrusively integrated into the wheel hub. But grab a handful of front brake on the Heritage and you don’t get much bite or power out of the four-piston calipers. The Harley also sources a single disc while the Indian uses a dual arrangement on the front. Riders really have to squeeze the brake lever to get the calipers to dig in and provide any feel. A big brake pedal for the rear provides better feedback and the rear unit bites more aggressively than the front, but it doesn’t take much for the ABS to kick in. When it does, it pulses much faster than the Indian and pushes hard in the ball of a rider’s foot while its impact on braking distance is minimal. Both Justin and I agreed that we’d like to see more power to the front while cutting back on the rear’s ABS a bit.

“It feels like you’re pulling on a block of wood, the front brake lever. You can squeeze on it really hard and it doesn’t do much. You’ve got to really rely on the rear brake. Rear brake, it’s got more power, it’s got more feel, the ABS though kicks in pretty soon on it. Too soon. You’re relying on that rear brake to slow you down, so you’re pressing on that rear brake and you get into the ABS and it kicks back on your foot pretty quickly,” concurred Dawes.

While there is notable disparity in the braking department, the two compare favorably in curb appeal. The Heritage earns its name with time-honored styling cues, from nostalgic chrome laced wheels wrapped in wide whitewalls to its studded seat and bags. Chrome trim dresses up everything from its front fender to its auxiliary lights. And the depth of Harley’s paint is unparalleled. The Heritage Softail Classic has a detachable windshield whose height is quite a bit shorter than the Indian. The cutoff line of the windshield sat right across Dawes’ line-of-sight causing him to either look up and over or slouch a tad to peer under. I’m a bit taller so it wasn’t an issue for me. Wind protection is excellent and rider buffeting is nominal, but the fact that it’s fork-mounted means air channels created by other vehicles in front of you create a little buffeting in the bars. Instrumentation is relegated to the essentials, highlighted by an analog speedo centrally located on the big tank-mounted console. The dial doesn’t rise up quite as steeply as the cluster on the Indian so it’s not quite as easy to see. The “low fuel” gauge, embedded in the faux gas tank cap to the left of the console, requires riders to take their eyes off the road, especially as it drops in to the far left corner as it gets closer to “E.” The bike’s leather saddlebags add to its “Heritage” bloodline and are just big enough to cram my backpack and computer in, but that’s about all. Plastic clasps cinch them closed, but there’s no way of locking the bags.

Billed as a boulevard cruiser, the 2014 Harley Heritage Softail Classic excels at exactly that. With a compact rider’s triangle, tight overall design, and easy-going characteristics at parking lot speeds make it a great bike to cruise locales like Huntington Beach. It’s got upscale good looks when you pull into Duke’s on the pier for lunch. We expected a bit more punch from its 1690cc engine, but admit the power of Indian’s 1811cc V-Twin left us jaded. We’d definitely like to feel more power from its front brake and less intervention from the ABS on the rear and would dearly love a bit more lean angle. Overall though the big cruiser is a refined, dignified member of the Softail family, traits which are easily projected upon its rider as well.

Speculation ran rampant as to what direction Polaris would take the Indian Motorcycle Company. Would Polaris carry on tradition, or take it in an entirely different direction altogether? Would a Scout be included in the offerings, or maybe they’d surprise us with something new that paid homage to its racing roots like a 750cc flat tracker. The questions were duly answered when Polaris pulled back the covers on the 2014 Indian Chieftain, Chief Vintage and Chief Classic at Sturgis. While a hard-bagged, hard-faired bagger in the form of the Chieftain was the biggest deviation from the norm, the one bike that held truest to Indian form was the 2014 Vintage. It is imbued with styling cues that made the Indian marque famous, from the deeply valanced fenders to distressed leather seats and tassled saddlebags. On the front fender sits a stoic-faced “Chief” in his light-up “War Bonnet,” the signature trait as recognizable as the script on the tank and the red of the paint. Laced, 60-spoke wheels and a thickly striped whitewall add to its “Vintage” designation.

As classic as the Indian looks, fortunately its performance is 21st century. Ignition is keyless, the standard key replaced by an electronic fob that has to be within proximity of the motorcycle for it to start. The bike drums to life courtesy of an electric starter, roll on the throttle and a ride-by-wire system controls the closed loop fuel injection system and it is equipped with anti-lock brakes. Though its engine sports multi-directional cooling fins, a left-side intake and down-firing exhaust similar to Indian Chief engines from the 1940s, its three camshaft and parallel pushrod arrangement delivers power numbers never before achieved by a stock Indian engine. With the 2014 Indian Chief Vintage, Polaris has done an admirable job of combining the classic and contemporary.

“When I first saw the Indian, photos of it, I really actually wasn’t impressed. It didn’t look that great in photos. But once you get up close to it, it’s a beautiful bike. There’s no getting around it. They really paid attention to every little detail on this bike. Every little thing – the logos, all the castings and the millwork, and the body work and the awesome leather seats and bags that’re old and distressed looking, all of it is spot-on for an American cruiser. You can tell that they really cared about this bike when they built it,” said fellow test rider, Motorcycle USA Editor Justin Dawes.

Climb into its 26-inch high saddle and the Indian Chief Vintage feels long and low. With a total stretch of 103.7 inches, it is a big bike. Its riding position is dictated by long floorboards that are out a bit further and up more than those on the Heritage Softail Classic so a rider’s knees are higher. Its bars are more beach-style, set lower and much wider. The vintage leather seat is a work of art but is scooped at steep angle, so it pushes riders back in the seat. Dawes didn’t like that as a result of this scoop, it locks riders into place and for him, put numbing pressure on his tailbone. On the up side, Indian is already aware of this and the production Chief Vintage motorcycles will feature a slightly different seat.

“You get on the Indian, and it’s got these wider beach bars, it’s real long feeling, it’s real low feeling, and it definitely feels heavier maneuvering at slow speeds. When you’re first pulling out of the parking lot, you’re like ‘whoa, this thing’s quite a bit heavier feeling than the Harley.’ Once on the road, that heaviness goes away a little bit but it does take more effort to get it around corners and muscle it around,” said Dawes.

This is due in part to the bars of the Chief Vintage carrying more weight. Its chrome headlight housing looks fantastic, a ribbed spine running down along its top, but its sheer mass adds heft to the bars. So do the great looking running lights, big steel fender and removable windscreen. The wide bars also have a limited range of motion before physically coming to a stop, giving the Harley an edge when executing U-turns and slow-speed maneuvers. The Indian Chief Vintage doesn’t turn-in or transition as easily either, giving up 90 pounds to its competitor, much of it front-biased.

The disparity in low-speed handling decreases attacking corners at speed though. Contrarily, the big bike stays true to its line in turns, its Dunlop American Elite tires tacky and reliable. Because its floorboards are higher, riders can confidently carry more speed into turns than the Harley and achieve greater lean angles. On the winding SoCal stretch known as Ortega Highway, the Indian Chief Vintage hustles fluidly, never letting the Harley out of its sight. Twist the throttle upon corner exit and its power advantage quickly closes any gaps.

Because the Indian definitely has the Harley covered in the engine department. The difference is notable from the first crack of the throttle as the Chief Vintage surges off the line with arm-wrenching power, the 1811cc mill putting out peak numbers of 100.87 lb-ft @ 2700 rpm and 73.33 hp @ 4500 rpm. As low as 2100 rpm, 94.94 lb-ft of torque is already accessible. After hitting its 2700 rpm peak, another wave of 100 lb-ft midrange muscle quickly follows when it hits 3100 rpm. It beats the Harley in roll-on power and by the time you throw the Indian into sixth gear, the powerful mill is maintaining that speed with little effort. We noticed a difference at redline, too. As the Heritage Softail Classic reaches the parameters of its powerband and signs off abruptly, the Thunder Stroke 111 has a little over-rev so it continues to deliver power even at redline.

“The motor on this thing is very impressive to me. It has a much more gruntier feel than the Heritage Softail did. It just seems, when you gas it, it kinda tugs on your arms, pulls on your shoulders and it pulls out. It’s got a rumble and a lope that when you gas it, you feel it in your chest,” Dawes said.

This isn’t to say that the Indian V-Twin isn’t without it nuances. There’s more valve noise coming from the engine on the Indian, a constant ticking we believe may come from the shape of the valve covers. In congested stop-and-go LA traffic on a warm day, the long-stroking mill with the almost four-inch pistons puts out noticeable heat on a rider’s right calf, too.

Hitting the less-than-smooth thoroughfare known as the 405, similar suspension arrangements between the two cruisers provide comparable ride qualities. While both motorcycles feature traditional forks, the one used on the Indian is a little springier with less travel at 4.7 inches. Both cruisers use a Softail-style arrangement on the rear, albeit the Chief Vintage sources a single rear shock instead of the Harley’s double shock set-up. And while there’s not much disparity in performance of the rear, Dawes and I agreed that the fork is slightly off.

“It seems to have too much rebound, and so you’re going around corners and over bumps and stuff and you get this, it’s not really a hop, but it just comes back through the stroke too fast and has this bouncy feel to it. Going down the freeway in a straight line, when you hit seams and things, the front and the back react at a little bit different speed so you get a teeter-totter, back-and-forth effect when both ends spring back too quickly. If it was a little more cush, a little more slow reacting, that would go away and it’d be a pavement-gobbling machine,” Dawes said.

Once again, we have to include the disclaimer that the Indian Chief Vintage we tested is a pre-production unit. Indian says it is already addressing the issue with the seat, is changing out the floorboard rubbers and has other small details to attend to. Whether one of these details is the spring rates on the fork is unknown at this time.

What is known though is that the 2014 Chief Vintage definitely has the stronger brakes of the two. There’s much better power and feel on the front thanks to big, dual floating rotors teamed to four-piston calipers. Action from the Indian’s single floating rear rotor is comparable to the power and feel of the Harley and will seize with a heavy stab of the pedal before the ABS takes over. That said, the ABS on the Indian is less intrusive and the pulse rate is different so it doesn’t kick back in the ball of a rider’s foot as aggressively as the system on the Harley.

“Braking power from the front brake on the Indian is far superior to the Harley. It’s got good feel, a nice lever pull, and doesn’t take too much effort. The rear brake doesn’t have so much feel. The ABS locks and lets off, you can lock it and slide it, half-second pulses. Up front, it’s really difficult to get it into the anti-lock,” added Dawes.

On the form and functionality side, Motorcycle USA’s tester Justin Dawes already commented on how Indian has paid an admirable amount of attention to details. Its chrome, tank-mounted console features a large analog speedo with a digital window that reads out gear position, dual tripmeters, and digital tachometer. The console also includes a small round dial for the fuel gauge. The instruments on the Indian are mounted higher and slanted more toward the rider making them easier to see than the cluster on the Harley. Cruise control is a standard feature the Chief Vintage has that the Heritage Softail Classic doesn’t. The system is push-button activated via switches in the right control housing, the system operable even with gloved fingers. Like the Harley, the Chief Vintage also has a removable windshield, albeit the one on the Indian is a bit taller. It offers first-rate wind protection, but Dawes commented that he was getting a reflection off the “awesome looking dash” in the windshield.

“You have these kind of lines and flares in the windshield all the time, especially noticeable when you go from light to dark on country roads,” he said.

Being a little bit taller than Dawes, my line of sight is higher and the reflections he mentioned weren’t an issue for me. But both he and Jason Abbott, who tested the Chief Vintage for Cycle News and is about the same size as Dawes, mentioned it so we thought it a valid enough point to comment on. Its saddlebags have the same high quality leather workmanship as the seat and are a tad wider than the ones on the Harley. Metal clasps are a sweet accent, but like the ones on the Heritage Softail Classic, the bags don’t lock.

As noted in our introduction, we thought the two American cruiser motorcycles would be carbon copies of one another. But they’re not. The Harley sports a more compact rider’s triangle, feels like a much smaller bike than it is, and enjoys an advantage in low-speed handling. The Indian on the other hand is long, low, and feels large and in charge. Riders are sprawled out more, from the stretch to the floorboards to the reach to the bars. After spending time on both bikes, it is a hard one to judge. The Heritage Softail Classic is easier to ride, its suspension is dialed in better, and its gearbox is just a tad more refined. Bottom line though, the Indian Chief Vintage stops and goes better. The pop of its Thunder Stroke engine makes you drunk with power. Its binders on the front are much more powerful while its ABS is less intrusive. While the Harley has lighter steering at low speeds, it also grinds boards much easier than the Indian and sacrifices lean angle at speed as a result. The Heritage Softail has the better fork, but ride quality on the backside is almost identical. The differences between the gearboxes are minute, and Indian has said it is already addressing Dawes’ issue with the seat. Overall, we believe the Harley’s soft front brakes and monotone power delivery are a bigger trade-off than the fast rebounding fork and heavier steering of the Indian. Having 18.36 lb-ft more torque to play with and faster-reacting roll-on also tilts the scales in favor of the 2014 Chief Vintage. Indian’s marketing strategy declared that “Choice is Here” for people who want an American cruiser motorcycle. We say buyers do indeed have a choice now in high quality American cruisers as the flames of a 100-year-old rivalry are once again ignited.

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