Polaris-owned Indian Motorcycle, pressing its assault on the big bike market, recently added the Chieftain Limited and Chieftain Elite to its line of Chiefs, Chieftains, Springfields, Roadmasters and Scouts.
I had a week on the Limited, and liked it a lot.
Like its full-dress Chieftain and Roadmaster big brothers, the new Limited is driven by Indian's Thunderstroke 111 engine. At over 1800 cc, that's a lot of beef between your legs.
At slow speeds, it's a bit of a challenge, though the low seat height compensates somewhat for the weight — 849 pounds when fully fueled.
On the road, especially on the highway, it changes character, shedding pounds and gaining grace as it picks up speed. Just like its older siblings, the Limited cruises at 80 miles per hour just below 3,000 rpm, chugging happily along and even at that speed ready to roar ahead.
But unlike the standard Chieftain, this one is missing the oversized hard side bags and deep dish fenders. Available only in "Thunder Black," it's a slightly stripped-down Chieftain, designed more for urban bar hopping than long-distance touring.
Identifying characteristics include a bobbed front fender and 10-spoke "contrast-cut" wheels found only on this model and its limited-run red Chieftain counterpart, the Chieftain Elite.
More than just a stylistic change, those wheels, and the tires that go on them, appear to make turning easier on the Limited. This was a welcome assist in slow-speed operation.
Not everything on this big bike is too big. The turn signal indicators and the rearview mirrors are too small to do their job effectively. The side bags aren't big enough to hold a full face helmet. And there may be too much information squeezed into the not-so-large information screen.
Still, there are thoughtful touches that show Indian is listening to its customers. For example, one side bag contains an electric plug-in to charge a phone, power a heated riding vest, or even hook up a trickle charger if the bike is being stored.
Also standard are ABS, keyless ignition (in the form of a fob that also locks and unlocks the side bags), push-button power windshield, tire pressure monitoring system, and a stereo/communication system that includes a 100-watt stereo and Bluetooth.
Also standard — as they should be on all motorcycles — are self-cancelling turn signals.
Personally, I am not a big-bagger, road hawg sort of rider.
I'm an upright guy. I like my legs and feet underneath me, where they can hit the ground fast, help me shift my weight on the foot pegs, or push me into a standing position when that's necessary.
Seated with my feet in front of me, cruiser style, I always feel a little like I've accidentally boarded a Barcalounger, and am hurtling down the highway in a far too casual posture.
So my feelings about the Chieftain ergonomics may not apply to anyone but me. But the seat and handlebars don't adjust — though a higher bar is available as an aftermarket option — and the suspension is adjustable only on the rear, and requires applying a hand pump to increase stiffness.
Still, the bike's charms were not lost on me. Headed to an evening meeting midweek, I found myself on the open road, at dusk, with a full moon rising and a Haydn piano concerto booming out of the Limited's sound system.
And I thought, "I could get used to this."
For $24,499, so can you.