2016 Indian Chief Dark Horse: The New Bad Boy

2016 Indian Chief Dark Horse, Badlands National Park There's a segment of the motorcycling community where blacked-out everything ...

indian chief dark horse
2016 Indian Chief Dark Horse, Badlands National Park
There's a segment of the motorcycling community where blacked-out everything is the preferred choice of riding expression. Flat black paint, black leather, black wheels, black handle bars, everything blacked out, all seem to evoke a darker, more mysterious character, that is yet very much American.

The 2016 Indian Chief Dark Horse was made for this kind of rider.

Essentially the same bike as the Indian Chief in terms of engine, chassis, and amenities, the new Dark Horse is a blacked out canvass for which American-motorcycle enthusiasts can customize from the ground up.

Built around the company's flagship Thunder Stroke 111 engine (111 ci, 1811 cc), which too was covered in a stroke of dark, the new "black sheep" of the family comes with optional blacked out accessories, including 16" apes, black saddlebags (hard or leather), black exhaust pipes and tips, and blacked out air intake.

The folks at Indian let us take one of these bikes out for a demo at the 75th Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. And what better place to test ride a Dark Horse than in the Badlands of South Dakota?

For starters, this bike is truly a cruiser in the classic American sense. It's takes off from start very easily. The clutch and transmission is forgiving enough for new riders, you couldn't stall this bike unless you're trying to. The seat is plush, comfy, soft, allowing me to ride all day without getting sore. It also handles tight, slow speed turns easily, perfect for manuevering into city street parking.

By the time I got out of the traffic of Sturgis, I navigated to State Route 44 heading east. I found myself on long straight stretches into the towns of Scenic, Imlay, Conata, and Interior. The warm winds blowing my hair, the smell of grasses on the plains, the sturdy, substantial feel of the handlebars, and sound of the Thunder Stroke 111 rumbling, created this classic sense of motorcycling mysticism that seemed brushed aside among the bevy of weekend warriors lost in their MP3 players and coffee cup holders.

Somehow, I felt a return to the soul of American motorcycling.

Passing through the park entrance, the real fun began.

Highway 240 runs through the core of Badlands National Park, and features a wide array of riding, from switchbacks, to wide sweepers, steep climbs, downgrades, and long stretches of straight. It brings in a eerie feeling where life meets death. Green grasses teeming with life sway upon the plains while barren formations of sandstone canyon bear their layered hues of reds, yellows, and blues.

badlands national park
Cranking the throttle on a banked curve, the Dark Horse gave me the thrill of being pulled down into the seat while feeling the torque of the Thunder Stroke 111 carry me through. The throttle response is immediate, no lag, no lug, and always ready to give me more. And despite the long 68.1 inch wheelbase, which is 4 inches wider than a Harley-Davidson Road King, and 2 inches wider than a Honda Gold Wing, the Dark Horse still manages to take tight turns easily thanks to its low center of gravity.

As I descend one side of a canyon and ascend up the other, I drop down a gear and give the throttle another twist. Shifting is smooth on the Dark Horse, with minimal jerk and kick. There's only the engine's rumble revving up a few hundred more RPMs, giving me more power to get out of the canyon.

Meanwhile, the 785 pound wet weight Indian Motorcyles claims with the Dark Horse sounds heavy on paper, but doesn't feel heavy at all. The well-balanced design seems to find a perfect zone between tipping points at a straight-up-and-down stance. But yet the Dark Horse feels substantial, sturdy, and strong enough that you always know you're on a big bike.

Once I reached the town of Wall, I took the I-90 back into Sturgis. Head winds blew fierce against me almost the entire way. This is where a stripped down motorcycle like the Dark Horse has an advantage. Free of fairings, bags, and trunk, this bike punched a hole through the oncoming blast like a rocket. The speed limit on the Interstate was 80 MPH, but yet I passed by a hundred other motorcycles that seemingly struggled to stay at 70. All the while, the Dark Horse continued to offer more throttle if I wanted it.

I wondered what other riders saw when they watched me fly past them?

The 2016 Indian Chief Dark Horse might be the same motorcycle as the standard Indian Chief, but there's something about the blacked out look that makes your presence known and felt. It seems apparent the designers at Indian understand that the romance of classic American motorcycling had lost its way over the decades, and brought it back with the new Dark Horse.


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