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New Motorcycle Review: 2022 Indian Chief, Chief Bobber, and Super Chief

Heavyweight cruiser offers riders a significant power boost over the Scout models

By Kirsten Midura, WRN Coordinator
4/12/2021

Filling the gap between the Indian Scout cruisers and the larger touring motorcycles, the redesigned 2022 Indian Chief, Chief Bobber, and Super Chief feature Indian’s powerful 1811cc Thunderstroke 111 engine in a classic iconic American V-twin style.

This, my first ever press launch will be hard to beat. Our journey included two full days of riding the new Chief lineup—the Chief, Chief Bobber, and Super Chief—through sinuous mountain passes from Sedona through Jerome to Prescott, and finally to camp for the night before returning via the same route. I had driven a portion of this route a year earlier, and for twelve long months I had been envisioning riding a bike on these world-class roads.

new motorcycle review 2022 Indian Chief, Chief Bobber, and Super Chief
The new Chief lineup celebrates Indian Motorcycle’s 100-year anniversary with the completely reimagined version of the iconic bike. Combining American V-twin style with modern performance and technology, Indian designed the new Chief with a simplistic and mechanical aesthetic that pays homage to its roots. Shown here is the Chief in Black Metallic and the Super Chief, the touring-friendly version, in Pearl White.

new motorcycle review 2022 indian motorcycle chief touring woman rider
Testing out each of the 2022 Indian Chief models over two very chilly days in Arizona, I most appreciated the wind protection and luggage on the $18,499 Super Chief I am riding here. Many people will find it very comparable to Harley-Davidson Heritage Classic—one of women’s favorite touring motorcycles. I am wearing Indian's women's textile 1901 V2 jacket, Hedon helmet, REV'IT! Logan Ladies jacket, Ugly Bros jeans, and TCX boots.

I was anxious the evening before our ride. I usually ride a mid-sized streetfighter, but the Indians are heavyweight cruisers, the lightest of the fleet tipping the scales at 670 pounds. Quite a step up from my normal 675cc commuter bike.

new motorcycle review 2022 indian motorcycle chief kirsten midura women riders now
Despite my trepidation about riding a cruiser of this size for the first time, the ride was surprisingly nimble and I felt completely in control through the turns. Both the foot and hand controls were easy to use, and I had no problem lifting it off the sidestand or maneuvering it around parking lots at slow speeds.

new motorcycle review 2022 indian motorcycle chief thunderstroke 111
The $14,499 Chief, $15,999 Chief Bobber, and $18,499 Super Chief are all powered by Indian’s Thunderstroke 111 V-Twin (1811cc) engine.

new bike review indian motorcycle chief thunderstroke 116 engine
The premium Chief models, Chief Dark Horse, Chief Bobber Dark Horse, and Super Chief Limited, come with Indian’s Stage 3 Performance upgrade, making them 116 cubic inches (1890cc).

My mind was put at ease when I learned that the 2022 Chief was specifically designed as a stepping stone between Indian’s Scout lineup and its touring models, such as the 831-pound Indian Challenger WRN reviewed here. Stripped down to the essentials, all the Chief platforms begin as bobbers—then are given different treatments which pay homage to a different era, capturing “three distinct flavors” of the early 50s, mid-‘60s, and the ‘70s. The idea is to embrace customization so that the bike can belong to a different era and personality.

The Chief Bobber has an upright seating position with forward foot controls, fat 16 inch (front and rear) wire wheels, and solo seat. At 5 feet 10 inches tall, I don’t have problems getting my feet down on most bikes. The Chief’s low 26 inch seat height will allow most women an easy reach to the ground.

new motorcycle review 2022 indian motorcycle chief kirsten midura red
With a cast 19 inch front wheel, short 64-inch wheelbase, and Pirelli Night Dragon tires, the Chief is maneuverable and well-balanced.

All six models come with the same braking and suspension setups, as well as three riding modes: standard, touring, and sport. They also have a keyless ignition, which allows the rider to start their bike using a code if they frequently misplace their keys, like I do. Other modern features that come standard include cruise control, LED lighting, and Bluetooth compatibility. The bikes also have rear cylinder deactivation, which turns off the rear cylinder when the bike is stopped, thus reducing engine and exhaust heat.

The lineup was designed using the mantra “SPT: Style, Performance, Technology,” in that order. To preserve the classic look, the standard gauge on the Chief, Chief Bobber, and Super Chief is an analog speedometer with a digital tachometer and fuel level. The premium bikes get a modern 4-inch touchscreen digital display with Indian’s Ride Command integration.

new motorcycle review 2022 indian motorcycle chief cockpit
The Super Chief features the classic analog speedometer setup, wide handlebars, and a quick-release windshield that attaches securely to the bike’s windshield mounting spools and can be removed without tools. The windshield is available in three heights: low, mid, and tall.

new motorcycle review 2022 indian motorcycle chief touchscreen display
The Chief Dark Horse, Chief Bobber Dark Horse and Super Chief Limited get the super-functional digital 4-inch display with Ride Command. Riders can use either hand controls or the touch screen display to choose different gauge configurations, bike and ride information, and turn-by-turn navigation. Bluetooth compatibility also allows the rider to listen to music, answer calls, and view text history.

new motorcycle review 2022 indian motorcycle chief touchscreen display map gps
Indian’s Ride Command integration offers extras like real-time weather and traffic as well as GPS mapping, audio information, and more. Each time I got on a bike with the analog dash, I missed the functionality of the upgraded display, which you can toggle through via a button near the hand grip or touchscreen.

I rode the $14,499 Indian Chief base model first. This bike’s clean lines from the steering column to the rear axle, exposed forks and rear shocks, and bare bones style, this bike begs to be personalized.

new motorcycle review 2022 indian motorcycle chief tall woman riding
With a low, 26-inch solo seat, mid controls, and drag-style handlebars, my 5 foot 10 inches felt a little cramped on the Chief at first. However, as soon as we approached the switchbacks leading into Jerome, I was grateful for this more aggressive riding position.

Despite my hesitation about riding a heavy cruiser through the twisties, I had a blast riding this bike. It feels very well balanced around turns. I found the riding stance approachable, both the hand controls and the mid-set foot controls were easy to use, and it took both fast and slow turns like a dream. For better or worse, I consistently scraped pegs through turns, savoring the “flickability” and power of this bike, even in the standard riding mode.

new motorcycle review 2022 indian motorcycle chief wheel brakes
Most motorcycles of this size would get dual brake discs up front, but even with a single 300mm rotor in front and rear, the braking is smooth and consistent. ABS is optional on the Chief, Bobber, and Super Chief, and comes standard on the premium models.

new motorcycle review 2022 indian motorcycle chief red bobber
With a clean “bobbed” look with short fenders, solo seat, and single round headlight, the base model Chief makes a good starting point for customizers. With more than 50 Indian Motorcycle accessories available for this model, there are plenty of ways owners can personalize their ride.

new motorcycle review 2022 indian motorcycle chief bobber green
The Chief Bobber, at $15,999, is $1,500 more than the base model price and the noticeable visual differences include the spoked wheels, mini ape handlebar, forward foot controls, and shock covers. Typically, bobbers drop weight from a motorcycle, but in this case, the Chief Bobber is 24 pounds heavier than the standard Chief.

As we descended to the other side of the mountains and merged onto a blustery highway, I realized that the first modification I would make to the Chief would be to add a windshield. I was grateful after lunch when I was told that my next ride would be the luxurious Super Chief Limited, equipped with floorboards, saddlebags, the touch screen dash display, and—you guessed it—a windshield.

According to Ola Stenegard, Indian’s Director of Product Design, the Super Chief is reminiscent of the 1940s and ‘50s, “when bikers were real rebels.” Ola was intentional in celebrating the women of this era: “A lot of badass girls who built tanks and airplanes during the war didn’t want to go ‘back to the kitchen,’” he explained. “They continued being badass and rode in clubs like Tracy Gear Jammers, the Motor Maids and Satan’s Daughters.”

new motorcycle review 2022 indian motorcycle chief tracy gear jammers hollister 1947
The Tracy Gear Jammers in Hollister, California, 1947.

new motorcycle review 2022 indian motorcycle super chief touring bagger
With extra seat cushion, swept-back handlebars, and forward foot controls, I comfortably stretched out on the Super Chief Limited. Having never ridden a bike with floorboards, I quickly discovered that I love the ability to move my feet to any position on them.

Personally, the Super Chief earned a special place in my heart when I heard that Ola kept these women in mind during the design process. “These women were part of the original scene, heroes of their day,” he said. “We wanted to build a Super Chief so righteous that these badass women would’ve ridden it.”

new motorcycle review 2022 indian motorcycle super chief seat
The Super Chief comes with a touring seat and passenger pad. Indian offers add-ons such as bolt-on and quick release sissybars, as well as two backrest options, slim and touring.

new motorcycle review 2022 Indian super chief saddlebags
The Super Chief comes with quick-release, black leather saddlebags that is closed using four snaps—two on the side, and two on the front beneath the straps. Each bag can easily fit a tool roll, some mid-layers, water bottles, and other necessities.

Riding with the larger 116 Thunderstroke engine, I could feel the difference between the riding modes in a way I didn’t with the 111. I found that the standard mode met all my needs, and I rode in standard for most of the afternoon.

new motorcycle review 2022 indian motorcycle chief shock
The Chief’s front suspension includes 46mm telescopic forks with 5.2 inches of travel, while the rear suspension includes dual gas-charged monotube shocks with adjustable preload and 3 inches of travel. This setup is fine for well-paved roads. Given the low-slung design of these cruisers, though, it’s harsh when riding over rough terrain.

The sun finally came out as we approached our destination for the night: Vulture City. This venue is an infamous ghost town that was featured on the Travel Channel’s Ghost Adventures. Despite its morbid history, the campsite looked like something on a Pinterest board. Large, white tents populated the centuries-old western town, each housing a queen-sized mattress and (thankfully) individual space heaters. Garden lights were strung over a campfire that was already ablaze, welcoming our shivering group to its warmth.

That night, we ate perfectly-cooked steak and sat around the fire, recounting our moto war stories and discussing the bikes and roads. I got a chance to talk to some of the lead technicians who designed and built the 2022 Chief lineup. Each one showed a deep passion for this motorcycle on which they had been working for years. It was exciting for them to see their project come to fruition and to hear people’s initial reactions. The lineup had been fun to ride, but it was the people behind it who imprinted on me the sense of pride and loyalty surrounding the Indian brand. I was excited to continue the journey with these craftsmen the next day.

The following morning hinted at warmer weather, but that only lasted so long. As we backtracked toward the mountains, the clouds once again rolled in and the temperature dropped back into the 40s. This time I elected to ride the Chief Bobber, the “Outlaw” of the Chief family.

new motorcycle review 2022 indian motorcycle chief bobber left side
The Chief Bobber is inspired by the mid ’60s era and pays tribute to the choppers and bobbers, blue collar workers, the ones who kept mod-ing and racing back in the day. “It looks like it could ride straight out from a Dave Mann centerfold in an old Easyrider magazine,” Ola explained.

Unintentionally, I had made the decision to hop on this bike right before the most technical section of our ride. To be honest, I immediately felt out of my element. I had gotten used to yesterday’s more aggressive position on the base model; now, with the Bobber’s forward foot controls and mini ape hanger handlebar, I felt much less in control through the curves than I had the day before.

new motorcycle review 2022 indian chief man and woman riding
The mini ape hanger handlebar on the Chief Bobber (red bike) sets this model aside from the others. While this man looks comfortable with the shoulder-high reach to the grips, others, like me, feel uneasy with having to reach a bit further when maneuvering the bike.

It is a stylish bike that oozes with cool factor, and it would be perfect for cruising through the streets of L.A. but in the cliffside twisties, I felt the need to pace myself, steering more with my arms than I normally would. Cruising down the mountain at an embarrassingly slow speed, I eventually caught up with our group and gave a sigh of relief when I saw the flat, city-bound terrain before me. From here, it was smooth sailing all the way to lunch.

Our final stretch was a highway ride back to Sedona. Given the bone-chilling temperatures and blustering winds, I opted to finish our tour on the windshield-clad Super Chief Limited once again. I made a mental note that if this were my bike, I would upgrade to heated grips, one of more than 50 new accessories for the Chief lineup. The wind speed had picked up by now, and I found that while my core was warm, the tall windshield mounted to the bike I was riding acted more like a sail than a shield. It was a tough ride back for all of us. One rider’s visor was literally blown off his helmet. But even with the inclement weather, we found ourselves pulling back into Sedona wishing the trip could go on.

new motorcycle review 2022 indian chief accessories
The Chief Dark horse is powered by the Thunderstroke 116, with 120 ft-lbs of torque. It features the digital touchscreen display and blacked-out finishes. Available accessories include a stage 1 slip-on exhaust, a Thunderstroke forward stage 1 air intake, sissybar, passenger seat, and much more.

Reflecting on a question I was asked at the campfire, “…but, would you buy one?” I can confidently say that if I had $15,000 and was in the market for a cruiser, the 2022 Indian Chief would be at the top of my list. And I would be even more excited to shop for accessories to make it my own.

Specs At A Glance: 2022 Indian Chief
Engine size: 1811cc (Chief, Chief Bobber, Super Chief); 1890cc (Chief Dark Horse, Chief Bobber Dark Horse, Super Chief Limited)
Seat height: 26 inches (Super Chief and Super Chief Limited are 26.2 inches)
Fuel capacity: 4 gallons
Wet weight: 670 pounds (Chief and Chief Dark Horse); 694 pounds (Chief Bobber and Chief Bobber Dark Horse); 739 pounds (Super Chief and Super Chief Limited)
MSRP: $14,499 (Chief); $16,999 (Chief Dark Horse); $15,999 (Chief Bobber); $18,999 (Chief Bobber Dark Horse); $18,499 (Super Chief); $20,999 (Super Chief Limited)

WRN Recommendation: A step up from the Indian Scout, the 2022 Indian Chief lineup offers a range of smooth, stylish, powerful cruisers that are great for both city riding and touring, and are very capable through mountainous curves. The Chief is best suited for those who like to ride aggressively but are still looking for a timeless style. The Bobber is best for laid-back city riding or for riders who prioritize aesthetic but still want the power to take a longer trip. The Super Chief is best suited for those who frequently hit the road on longer rides, but still want the option of a daily commuter. Between these options and the upgraded versions, there’s something for everyone in the cruiser space.

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