Tag Archives: Indian motorcycles

Replicate or Innovate?

 

I don’t know about you, but it really pisses me off when companies replicate instead of innovate. Case in point: I’m looking at two new Indian motorcycle bagger models. The Indian Chieftain Limited and the Indian Chieftain Elite. Both of these motorcycles look a lot like Harley Davidson’s Street Glide. The motorcycle bagger market is the “cash cow” for HD. Road Glides and Street Glides are leaving HD’s factories like bullets out of AR-15 in full auto! Sorry about the gun reference, but it fits.

You don’t need a PhD to figure out that Indian’s Chieftain Limited is trying to go head-to-head with HD’s Street Glide Special. Duh! Nor do you need to use a super computer to determine which HD model Indian’s Chieftain Elite is gunning for. Double duh!! Before this goes any further, I own a 2015 Indian Roadmaster and a 2014 HD Ultra Limited. So you don’t need to reply with the following words of wisdom. You suck big time, Harley boy! Or my all-time favorite, “F$$k you, f$$k your Harley, I’m going to kill you when I see you.” Writing a blog is a lot more dangerous than you might imagine.

Okay, you’re probably wondering what’s the point to all of this babble. Companies that replicate will go the way of the dinosaur. Honda, Suzuki, Kawasaki, Victory and Yamaha have all failed against the motorcycle giant Harley Davidson. In many cases, the other manufacturers built a better mousetrap. But when you compare silhouettes, they were pretty much copies of what was already in the marketplace. The lesson learned is that most consumers don’t want replicas or derivatives, they want the original.

Just so were clear here. Innovation is a tough road to go. It takes balls and a lot of money. To make matters worse, the motorcycle marketplace takes no prisoners. Either you’re going to sell your product or you’re going to shut down the assembly lines. It’s that simple. The fairytale story of four guys building a motorcycle in a shed sounds wonderful and also provides solid street cred for the brand. But the truth is that Wall Street runs the show.

Polaris has resurrected the Indian brand which provided them with some leverage that the other manufacturers didn’t have to use in the marketplace. They also kept true to the design of the prior Indian motorcycle models. That was enough for me to purchase one. I believed they had a line of motorcycles that could stand on their own in the marketplace. With a little patience and a whole lot of money, I’m pretty sure that the Indian brand would be a strong competitor with Harley Davidson in the market place.

But it appears, Polaris is running out of patience and looking at their stock prices and seem to be running out of money. I find this a troubling trend to parallel what Harley Davidson is doing. In my opinion, this strategy threatens the brand’s survival in the marketplace.

Since I can’t just grab photos of Harley Davidson’s Street Glide Special or Indian’s Chieftain Limited off of the internet. This act could land me in copyright jail. I provided two links below. Do me a favor, click on these links below and compare them. I’d like to hear your thoughts about the two motorcycles.

Harley Davidson’s Street Glide Special

Indian’s Chieftain Limited

2015 Indian Chief Classic’s first 200 mile trip!

This is going be a continuing series about how my 2015 Indian Chief Classic performs and my experience of owning it. I’m not going to bullshit you about anything about this motorcycle. I don’t work for Indian. I’m just another motorcycle consumer like you. If something sucks, you’re going know about it. I’ll deal with facts, figures and my opinion.

Last Sunday, I rode with the Lilac Village War Lords. Nope, not true, sorry. Sounds pretty cool, though, say it with me “Lilac Village War Lords.” The truth is I rode with the Jersey Pine Cruisers. The Jersey Pine Cruiser’s home base is in Mount Prospect Illinois.We rode into the fine state of Wisconsin around the Lake Geneva area.

Okay back on track! I need to have the pre-load adjusted on the rear shock. I’ve got a feeling that motorcycle comes from the factory for someone south of 200 pounds. Well, guess what, I’m north of 200 pounds. So during the ride, my spinal cord got adjusted, a few times. I’m hoping that there’s going to be aftermarket air-shock available soon.

It was a 90 degree day. Good day to see if that big V-twin gets hot between my legs. Guess what? It does! But, it seems to be concentrated on the right side. I saw that coming, not a big deal. Just the nature of the beast. If you want a cooler running engine, then get one that’s water-cooled. I will say this, my old Harley-Davidson 2012 Softail Deluxe would roast both legs, medium well!

The transmission works like a charm. No bouncing back and forth from first to second trying to find neutral. My 2014 Harley Davidson Road King on occasion likes to play “find neutral if you can.” No sponge gears either! What’s a sponge gear? Let’s use my 2014 Moto Guzzi California Touring as an example. Sometimes when I down-shift, it feels like I’m stepping on a sponge. There’s some resistance, but nothing happens. When I feel the “sponge gear” coming on, I up-shift and then down-shift again. It’s all good. It adds some spice to my life.

The engine develops a lot of useful torque. I find myself lazily going through the gears. There have been times when I should have down-shifted, but I didn’t. The engine doesn’t complain by the usual methods. It’s almost like you only need the transmission to get the motorcycle moving. After that, it’s pretty much like an automatic with a few adjustments now and then.

I really don’t feel this motorcycle is drag strip material. It’s new and I haven’t put it through its paces yet, but you can tell. I’m good with that, too. I’m going to guess it’s all about the mass your trying to propel. Send this motorcycle to Weight Watchers for a few months and you’ll have different story to tell.

I can set my helmet on the seat with the engine running. If I try the same feat with my Road King, Ultra Limited or the Moto Guzzi I’d be picking up my helmet off of the ground in seconds. Engine vibrations are kept under control. So if you’re dead set on shaking handlebars, mirrors, floorboards and fuel tanks you’re out of luck.

I read that some people complained about the distance from the handgrips to the levers. I have a normal size hand and didn’t have a problem operating the levers. By normal, I mean I am unable to palm a basketball. The brakes have a really good feel to them. It would appear they provide more than enough stopping power.

I guess my brain is starting to attenuate out the engine noise. It just doesn’t bother me anymore… nor does the rattling coming from the fuel tank area that I once heard in the distant past.

2015 Indian Chief Classic Day One

This is going be a continuing series about how my 2015 Indian Chief Classic performs and my experience of owning it. I’m not going to bullshit you about anything about this motorcycle. I don’t work for Indian. I’m just another motorcycle consumer like you. If something sucks you’re going know about it. I’ll deal with facts, figures and my opinion.

Why did I buy an Indian Motorcycle?

The truth is I wanted own a piece of American motorcycle history. Not the history of a brand that died sometime in the 1960s. I know Polaris is trying to link their Indian motorcycles to the ones that were built in 1901. I’m not having any of those shenanigans. I have no emotional link with those motorcycles. The whole Indian motorcycle beginning and ending happened before my starting date on this planet.

Although, I’ve read about the history of the old Indian brand and their motorcycles in few books that I currently own. My Indian motorcycle’s history started in 2014. This was when a very competitive and cool product was brought to life. Also putting these new motorcycles in the mix was bold move! You’ve gone to war with the “Death Star” aka Harley Davidson. Honda, Yamaha, Suzuki, Victory and Kawasaki have all made changes to their line ups. They’ve retreated from certain motorcycle segments in hopes of greener grass in other segments. I’m hopeful Polaris / Indian has a lot of cash and the “force” is with them.

Something made in America! Yep, as I get older that’s starting to be a factor in what I purchase these days. I know all of the parts are not made in America, but at least it’s assembled by an American worker in an American factory. I know that people in other countries read my blog. So I want to make this perfectly clear. I am not suggesting that the craftsmanship in other countries is less than what goes on in the United States. I just think it’s cool to build things in the USA.

I’m not a Harley Davidson hater! I’ve been to several Indian demo rides where Harley owners couldn’t trade in their motorcycles in fast enough. There have been some painful and frustrating Harley Davidson experiences for me too. But I consider owning a motorcycle like any other life experience. You’ll have your ups and downs, that’s just how it goes. Without a doubt, I know that Indian dealer will one day will provide me with a painful and frustrating experience too.

Which model did I buy?

I bought a 2015 Chief Classic in black. The 2015 Chief Classic in black was cheapest one of that model. Any other colors than black raised the cost of the motorcycle. I thought about buying the Chieftain in the same color, but I needed to control costs. It’s about a $4,000 dollar difference between the two. Plus, I already have two motorcycles like the Chieftain.

Being able to remove the windshield was a big factor in my decision. In July and August it gets very warm in the state of ILL. I’m not a big fan of riding a motorcycle without a leather jacket. I have a Vanson perforated leather jacket that is bearable to wear in warm weather. Removing the windshield even makes it more bearable because air flows through it, cooling me.

What did it cost me?

I paid roughly 6.25% less list price. You do the math! I know you will. The Indian dealer provided me with a mid-size windshield. The windshield was part of a promotion to promote sales. Yep, nothing like giving something to get something. If I would have bought a 2014 model last year, it would have been roughly 9.55% less than list price. Indian had a stronger promotional mechanism in place last year. But, I have a strict unyielding no loan policy, no cash no buy! One of my life rules, I guess.

What Indian extras parts did I buy already?

Well, I cannot go without a toe-heal-shifter. It seems odd to write this down, but it’s a fact. It just doesn’t feel like a motorcycle without floorboards and a toe-heal-shifter. That cost me another $160.00. I’m getting older and lose things on occasion so I bought a second fob. That was damn close to $150.00.

What other extras parts did I buy already?

At this point in my life I can’t go anywhere with my stuff. I don’t know when in the hell that switch flipped but it did. Back in the day I’d ride a motorcycle all day long without bring a single thing with me! Now a days I’ve got hand tools, tire repair kits, air compressor, jumper cables, rain gear and a bunch of other stuff. So I bought a set of soft bags manufactured by US Saddle Bags. These bags are made in the USA. The cost of the bags and mounting hardware was right around $800.00. This was about 40% less than the Indian bags.

US Saddle Bags did not provide me with any monetary incentive to purchase their product. I prefer it that way. There are a couple reoccurring themes in my life, I’m not very good at kissing ass, nor have I ever been employee of month.

I bought the hardware to mount my Garmin GPS unit to the handlebars. I’m a big fan of GPS units. I believe I don’t use GPS unit like most others. I don’t use it to get to a destination. I just use it to find my way home. I roll my motorcycle out of the garage and just go! After three to four hours of riding I hit the home button. It plots a course home and I’m on my way.

I do have one little problem with my new GPS unit. It somehow knew where I lived without programming that information into it. This is a bit unsettling and feeds my paranoia about the New World Order. The old GPS unit required me enter my home address. The guy at Garmin told that when I connected the GPS unit to my computer it got that information. I know he’s probably lying to me and he’s part of the New World Order.

What Indian extras parts do I plan on buying in the future?

I’ll probably buy the front crash bar and the rear crash bars. I don’t know why they call them crash bars, but in reality they’re more like fall over bars. Also I’m pretty sure I’m going to buy the rear backrest and a rack to hold more of my junk. I’m not completely sure, but I’ve estimated that these parts will run me around $2500. Basically I plan on outfitting it exactly the way my 2014 Harley-Davidson Road King is set up.

What is way cool?

This motorcycle is loaded with chrome bits! The Indian branding is all over the motorcycle. I love the sound that resonates from the exhaust pipes. From what I’ve seen so far, it looks like the accessories are extremely easy to install. The transmission has worked like a charm from day one. No fooling around for neutral or ghost gears. I can’t think of a better term to describe its operation than “smooth.” The red background lighting on the faceplates of the speedometer and gas gauge at night.

What blows already?

The engine seems a little bit on the noisy side. Rode it a little bit without a helmet to make I wasn’t hearing other things. The noise is not a big deal, but it’s there. The noise is also hard to define and the exact location can’t be determined.

The suspension seems a little on harsh side. During its next visit to the dealer, I’m going to ask them to adjust the pre-load on the rear shock. I didn’t see any adjustment for the front forks. I’m not going to bitch too much about this, because part of the problem is my mass.

There seems to be some rattles coming from the motorcycle. I noticed this on the several demo rides that I did on other Indian motorcycles over the last two years. So it’s not really a big deal for me because I’m used to riding Harley Davison’s. So I should be conditioned to tune out any rattles. But for some reason these rattles resonate in my brain.

The rear cylinder on right side does generate some heat. I wear Kevlar lined jeans this might help to reflect the heat away from my right leg. To be truthful, it was not as hot as my 2012 Harley Davidson Softail Deluxe that I owned. The fact is on an air and oil cooled engine, the heat is just the nature of the beast.

2015 Indian Scout

I guess I’ll start off with this statement. This is a great motorcycle, not perfect, but great. Essentially this is an entry-level motorcycle for the Indian brand. This motorcycle is a very important component for the survival of the Indian brand motorcycle. This is what I would consider as a gateway vehicle. But if you look at it closely, the bits and pieces are by no means “entry-level.” I really think Indian/Polaris will make an impact with this product.

The Leather Couch
The Leather Couch

The 2015 Indian Scout will definitely end up slowing down the assembly lines for Yamaha’s Bolt and Harley Davison’s Sportster motorcycles. Indian is also incorporating the same boots on the ground strategy that Harley-Davidson has been using for years. I’m referring to the demo trucks showing up to the dealers’ locations in providing individuals the opportunity to ride their products.

Nice Logo!
Nice Logo!

I’m still somewhat confused that Honda and Kawasaki still think they’re in the retail business. I also think Honda and Kawasaki better be careful. One day they’ll be sold on Amazon and lost in the flood of books, food processors, video games and so forth.

Nice Clock
Nice Clock

I guess if you haven’t figured it out yet I am somewhat enamored with this motorcycle. There are a few cheap bits here and there, but the total package is really unbelievable. Just sitting on the motorcycle creates a sense of emotional need. Putting your butt in the solo retro leather seat will generate a smile on a rider’s face. It’s just not a seat, it’s kind of a one-person leather couch.

Let’s start with the engine. It’s a liquid cooled 60° V-twin that is nicely packaged in the frame. The engine is actually one of the stress members in the frame system.  I really like the frame design and how it goes around the radiator. The engine looks very industrial to me, almost reminds me of one of KTM’s engines. It does have some chrome parts, polished parts and blacked out parts. The engine is also well branded so there’s no confusion who manufactures the motorcycle. The chrome bits are well-positioned to bring your eyes at the right longitude and latitude to view the engine.

The Engine
The Engine!

The plumbing is minimal on the engine so not to interrupt the flow of the design. The valves bounce around using a double overhead cam system. Four valves per cylinder are instrumental in moving air through the engine keeping it aspirated. The cams are driven by a chain. No pushrods clicking away or belts flopping around inside the engine.

Not too much plumbing
Not too much plumbing

The displacement of the engine is 69 cubic inches or 1133 cc. The engine has a very throaty sound being generated out of the exhaust pipes. The exhaust system is completely chromed front to back and really looks nice on the motorcycle. From the brochure, the engine produces about 100 HP at 8100 RPMs. The peak torque is around 72 foot-pounds at 5900 RPMs. The transmission is a six-speed and never missed a beat. Nor did I have any problems finding neutral.

The front forks have approximately 4.7 inches of travel with no adjustment capability. The two rear shocks appear to have a preload adjustment with approximately 3 inches of travel. I did have one bone jarring incident that was transferred from the road to me. I definitely don’t think the suspension to system is designed for someone weighing over 200 pounds. Don’t plan on doing any two-up long distance riding on this motorcycle.

Each wheel is equipped with a 298 mm rotor. The front caliper has two pistons and the rear caliper is one piston. I would’ve liked to seen two pistons also in the rear caliper. I’m going to guess that a lot of beginning riders will choose this motorcycle for its coolness, weight and seat height. I think those noob riders would best be served with more de- acceleration capability. And let’s not forget the addition of an ABS system in the future.

Only One Disk  On The Front Wheel!
Only One Disk On The Front Wheel!

The rims are casted. But still have a pretty cool design. Chromed spokes and rims would have been nice. But I’m sure Indian needs to meet a certain price point. The front and rear tires are both 16 inches. Each tire has the Indian logo on it. Taking a page from Harley-Davidson’s play book?

The second thing you’ll notice after looking at the engine is the seat. The seat is aesthetically pleasing and a very effective butt holder. I rode the Indian Scout twice and spent approximately 50 minutes in the seat. I could’ve easily gone hours sitting on that seat. The one downside is there is no seat for your significant other. That might make it a tough sell to get it in your garage.

I was a little bit surprised that Indian didn’t incorporate some type of seat for a passenger. Because I can think of several other very cool motorcycles that went the way of the dinosaur with the same strategy. But I’m sure the marketing and the research department at Indian/Polaris spent hours upon hours determining not to incorporate a passenger seat in their selling strategy.

Okay what was the Indian scout like to ride.

One thing I can say right off the bat is this motorcycle had a sport bike feel to it. The engine was quick to rev up and provided plenty of power for any shenanigans that you deem necessary. The engine produces max horsepower at approximately 8000 RPM which is pretty high for a cruiser motorcycle. During my ride I decided to wind it out in second gear. At the higher end of the rpm range I felt considerable vibration from the handlebars. Don’t fret, this rpm range was way beyond what you would normally run in second gear.

I felt very confident pushing this motorcycle hard into the turns it seemed like a very stable platform. I didn’t feel any flexing in the front forks or behaviors emulating from the back of the motorcycle. The handlebars provide plenty of leverage to control the motorcycle. This is an extremely comfortable motorcycle. I foresee people taking this motorcycle on some long trips.

The only obstacle would be the size of the gas tank. The gas tank is approximately 3.3 gallons giving the motorcycle limited range. I definitely wouldn’t attempt riding for an extended period of time unless the rear shocks were changed.

Would I buy this motorcycle? No, I’m used to bigger motorcycles with more amenities. I see this motorcycle as a gateway product to get customers on Indian’s larger motorcycles. Also incorporating this motorcycle into the line is a good strategy to develop brand loyalty. This might be a good fit for someone who is thinking transition from the sport bike into cruiser. Like I mentioned earlier, the engine generates a sport bike feeling to the riding experience.

I sure hope they don’t f**k this up.

Polaris motorcycle sales of Victories and Indians took a backward slide after the introduction of Harley-Davidson’s brand-new 2014 motorcycles. According to Forbes magazine, Polaris’s motorcycle sales took a 7% slide. Ouch! This is probably not what the Board of Directors at Polaris were expecting. According to what I read in the Wall Street Journal, one of the board members told the CEO of Polaris industries “you better not f**k this up.” I wonder where a slide in sales falls with relationship to f**king this up.

The CEO of Polaris industries said ”that the introduction of the Indian motorcycles is like having a baby you have to nurture it and help it grow for the future.” I got a feeling he’s going to be breast-feeding that “baby” for a long time. I’ve ridden all three Indian models several times and they are very nice motorcycles. I believe they‘re a really competitive products in a very crowded market segment. So, I’m thinking something biblical is going to need to happen to increase Indian motorcycle sales.

To make things worse I had to drive to Indiana and Wisconsin to demo the Indian motorcycles. Not a single Indian dealer in the state of Illinois. Indian has deal on their website that they’ll pay for an airline ticket to get to a dealer. Am I the only one who sees a problem with this? I believe I mentioned this previously in another blog, I’m somewhat confused why Polaris did not put a strong dealer network in place before they released the Indian motorcycles.

I spoke with one of the Victory dealers that is near me. With a big frown on his face he tells me “Polaris wants him to double the floor space that he currently has in order to sell Indian motorcycles.” Then a smile appears on his face while he’s looking around his store and he tells me “if I double the space, I could turn this into a pretty nice restaurant.” Okay, I guess selling motorcycles must not be the greatest gig in the universe.

Harley-Davidson on the other hand has pumped out 71,000 new motorcycles since the introduction of the Project Rushmore in August of 2013. These sold units correlate in to a 9% increase in sales of Harley-Davidson motorcycles. I guess the Project Rushmore was the ticket to sell motorcycles. Okay, I know what you’re thinking, “Coolcycledude get off your Harley-Davidson soapbox.”

First off I don’t own a soapbox, second I think I would buy an Indian motorcycle if I didn’t have to travel to another state and the wife lets me. I’m just concerned that the Three Stooges are in charge of the destiny of what I consider some really cool motorcycles. I sure hope they don’t f**k this up.

 

Polaris is out for blood!

Well Harley Davidson better pick up the pace because Polaris is out for blood. Polaris now has two contenders to devalue the HOG stock prices. You’ve got the old one-two-punch with Victory motorcycles and now the Indian motorcycles. Harley-Davidson better start bobbing and weaving and get to a neutral corner. Well maybe not to a neutral corner anyhow.

Polaris is going to have a tough epic battle against Harley Davidson. I’m talking Star Wars epic battle! The movie where the evil half robot dude says to Luke Skywalker, “I am your father, Luke.” Got the picture now? Sure, smashing the other manufacturers of snowmobiles and side-by-sides is on Polaris’ resume. But now they’re on a path that has seen other manufacturers fall to the wayside.

Let’s take for instance one of the motorcycles that I own. The Honda VTX 1800 which became available to the public in 2002. This baby has a powerful V-twin and all kinds of other amenities which make it a really nice motorcycle for cruising. Honda sure thought they had a product which was going to pull the air out of Harley Davidson’s sail. Honda tried emulating the aftermarket parts business, customer experience and tried creating a “Honda VTX” tribe. In 2008 Honda stopped manufacturing the VTX 1800, boom there it is, complete and total annihilation. Not even a blip on Harley-Davidson’s radar screen.

2005HondaVTX

Next in the ring was Kawasaki with their Vulcan 2000. Another super-sized V twin making gobs of torque and horsepower. A little bit of a change up from the Honda which had a water-cooled cylinder jackets. The Kawasaki had a head cooling system to remove the unwanted heat from this 2000 cc engine. I guess cooling the heads gave this motorcycle more street cred with the Harley Davidson disenfranchised. I got a chance to ride this motorcycle and it did have one problem maneuvering at low speeds was a definite workout. Kawasaki removed it from the lineup in 2010. Another blip on the radar screen.

Yamaha on the other hand is still producing cruiser motorcycles that try to compete in Harley Davidson’s market segment. They’ve actually started a second company which they referred to as “Star.” Yamaha refuses to give up even though they have lackluster sales numbers in this market segment. Their motorcycles are considerably cheaper than Harley Davidson’s motorcycles, but I guess that’s not enough to distract someone from finding a Harley Davidson dealer.

The only real contender is Victory. That’s right, Victory, sort of a fitting name considering what their objective is. Might even have a subliminal message thing going on. Victory is in second place in the large displacement cruiser market. Every time I read this fact I am utterly amazed that an American motorcycle manufacturer was able to push the Japanese and the British to the curb. I’ve ridden the Victory motorcycles on several occasions and if I didn’t have a Harley brain, I’d own a Victory motorcycle.

Polaris’s latest salvo is in the form of the Indian motorcycle brand name. They’ve purchased the brand name from some holding company. Reviving an old nemesis seems like part of Polaris’s master plan for domination. Twenty-seven months later, they have three motorcycles for sale to the public. No doubt they’ve got all of the Victory trials and tribulations incorporated into design and manufacturing of these new motorcycles. I’ve ridden all three of the Indian motorcycles and I wish I had more garage space.

I especially like the Indian Chieftain which is going to be a game changer. In my mind the chieftain was design to go head-to-head with Harley Davidson’s Street Glide. The Street Glide is a very popular model for those people wishing to own a Harley Davidson in the 40s to 50s age bracket.

The two models are pretty much in the same price range. Each one of them has some sort of advantage over the other. So this should be a very interesting time for Harley Davidson.

Harley Davidson’s brand loyalty has been written about thousands of times in books, articles, journals, white papers, blogs and so forth. Used as lecture material in major business colleges. Studied under an electron microscope by other motorcycle manufacturers. This loyalty is definitely a powerful tool that can be used to hedge the onslaught of any new contender.

What does Las Vegas say about this epic battle. I have no idea. If there was a roulette table that had motorcycle manufacturers names on the wheels instead of numbers, I’m putting my money on Harley Davidson.