ROAD TEST: 2019 Indian Chieftain Limited

By Ray Seidel

When I picked up the 2019 Indian Limited, I could hardly get past the beauty of the sparkly red paint. Pictures in this magazine will not do it justice; you’ll have to see it in person to get the full appreciation. This got a lot of attention from people at the local watering hole, beyond what it would get anyway for just being an “Indian.” New this year for the Limited is the front vent under the windshield. I’ve seen these on Harleys, but discovered first-hand how well this feature directs the wind, either with the wind screen up, or down. Speaking of the windscreen, new this year is: the lever only has to be tapped a couple of times for it to travel up, or down; no longer do you have to continuously hold a finger on the switch to make that happen.

Another change this year is that the hard bags have some more room inside. I was just fine in all my riding with the carrying capacity it offered. The bags can be locked either remotely with the key fob, or the actual key that comes with the fob. Latching action is VERY smooth and solid. Removing the bags is also very easy, and quick.

The personality of today’s modern Spirit Lake Indians has always been good, and that continues. I’ve remarked since the return of the new Chief just how smooth the ride is, even going out of my way to LOOK for a pothole to get some negative feedback through the handlebars, yet the Chief smooths out every road imperfection. The 2018 and 2019 Limited models seem – albeit subjectively – to take that even further, noting speed bumps don’t launch me from the saddle as other bikes might. Performance-wise, the torque has ALWAYS been there, so kicking it with your spurs gives you instant response. I love that. This is not a light bike, but 119 ft. pounds of torque will pull this bike like a steam locomotive. While the exhaust note is very subjective, I really liked the sound of the stock pipes on THIS particular bike. A very deep, throaty sound, just loud enough without being obnoxious. Having said that, I’ll mention I did a review of the 2018 Limited with the Big Bore kit (119 cu in) paired with the free flow air cleaner and exhaust. For those performance mods, the louder exhaust really matches as a package (think Pontiac GTO vs. LeMans).

The great thing about the Limited model is the enormous amount of information it provides to the rider. In fact, some of it is redundant, which helps a lot. The speedometers are analog on the left dial face, digital on the front main screen. This keeps you informed if the sun is overhead and the glare makes it impossible to see the one…but not the other. Same with what gear you’re in; if you can’t see one, you’ll be able to read the other. The radio not only has lots of power, but also automatically adjusts volume depending on whether you’re stopped or going slow, to cranking up the sound when you’re at speed.

Another new feature I was curious about is the one cylinder deactivation when stopped. I had forgotten about that initially until I saw on the dash an icon for V-twin engine with a red slash on the left cylinder while I was sitting at a stop light. Ah, yes, one cylinder is shut down. Here, I hadn’t even noticed, it had been so “invisible” all this time. Keeping an eye out now, I notice that this doesn’t happen on cold mornings, so seems mostly to keep engine heat down during warm/hot weather.

Speaking of COLD weather, I’ve only had one issue with the big Indians, which is not really an “issue” as such. That is this: when the bike is cold, it is always hard to shift from 1st gear to 2nd gear for the first few minutes. There are a number of ways to get around that. In my previous reviews of Indian Chiefs/Chieftains, I’ve recommended just purchasing the heel shift attachment. Pulling up with the toe can be a huge effort, while pushing down with the heel is easy breezy. I have this on my personal garlic Indian, and has allowed me to shift when my leg & ankle were so frozen from wind-chill I would not have been able to shift with just a frozen foot to do so. Recommended, regardless.

The other work around is to just give the bike about 3 or 4 minutes to warm up if it’s cold. I’ve checked with an Indian Owners Group, and that seems to do the trick. Indian recommends thirty seconds of idle, but in the real world, give it more if stone cold. If you REALLY need to shift gears on a cold tranny right away, shifting while giving it very LIGHT throttle will let it slip into 2nd, though that may not be recommended. If it’s mid-morning and warm outside, it will be just fine right from the start. Once at operating temperature, it works like a charm, and no missed shifts.

While I love my Old School bikes with dash lights for HIGH BEAM and LOW OIL PRESSURE, I can quickly get spoiled for information on seemingly everything I could possibly want to know from the Limited’s dash. An early cold morning ride, I’m alerted to LOW REAR TIRE PRESSURE on a yellow band on the bottom of the screen. In this case a false alarm because of a cold tire, once warm again at normal operating temperature I see the tire pressure front and rear are where they should be, but good to know if the tire was heading towards going flat – I’d very much want to know in advance. Another trip to a day job, I see on the readout just how much range I have left in the gas tank. Enough to get there, maybe enough to get back? The return trip home – “You are low on fuel.” It will remind you of that, as well as ask if you want to know where the next gas station is. And show you where it is.

Riding this Indian can certainly keep you on track for having a pleasant ride and avoiding some unpleasant surprises. Especially if you feel like taking a ride where you have not gone before, the GPS/map feature, the compass, will be a big help in preventing one from just being totally lost. And on those long trips, you’ll appreciate the 2019’s very comfortable saddle. You also get to choose from three ride modes this year: Sport, Standard, and Touring. Something else: the low beam headlight puts out some serious illumination! I could see a trip to Sturgis on this baby, it is that good.

As expected, this is a near flawless motorcycle. And as stated, if you give it a little time to warm up, it IS flawless. Follow us on Facebook, where we’ll have a video walk around to show some of these really amazing features.

 

SPECS

  • Price: $25,999
  • Engine: 1,811cc V-twin
  • Transmission/Final Drive: 6-speed/belt
  • Torque: 119 lb.-ft. @ 3,000 rpm
  • Front Suspension: 46mm telescopic fork, cartridge type; 4.7-in. travel
  • Rear Suspension: Single shock w/ air adjust; 4.5-in. travel
  • Front Brake: Dual 4-piston calipers, 300mm discs w/ ABS
  • Rear Brake: Single 2-piston caliper, 300mm disc w/ ABS
  • Rake/Trail: 25°/ 5.9 in.
  • Wheelbase: 65.7 in.
  • Seat Height: 25.6 in.
  • Fuel Capacity: 5.5 gal.
  • Weight: 827 lb. (wet)

 

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