2022 Indian Chief Dark Horse road test review: Simple yet fantastic

The new Indian Chief Dark Horse features a relatively simple design, but only in flesh does it reveal its true identity.Fine chilly December morning, and brawling, hot-tempered 1890 cc beast under the legs. Quite a combination, isn't it?
By Prashant Singh
| Updated on: 30 Dec 2021, 07:58 PM
The new Indian Chief Dark Horse features a relatively simple design, but only in flesh does it reveal its true identity. (HT Auto/Prashant Singh)
The new Indian Chief Dark Horse features a relatively simple design, but only in flesh does it reveal its true identity. (HT Auto/Prashant Singh)

Indian Motorcycle jumped backed into action earlier in 2021 after a hiatus of over a year as stricter emission laws forced its model lineup to go off sale in April 2020. Fast forward to August 2021, the company announced the launch of its Chief lineup in India including the new Chief Dark Horse.

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And I recently got a chance to swing my leg over the new Indian Chief Dark Horse for an entire day and here's the kind of impression it left on me. 

Honestly, I was very excited to see the Indian parked in my home street, especially considering the past series of events that surrounded the premium motorcycle industry in the country. 

The Chief Dark Horse is defined by the use of its simple yet authoritative elements such as the solo seat, machined wheels, mid-controls, and low-slung handlebar.
The Chief Dark Horse is defined by the use of its simple yet authoritative elements such as the solo seat, machined wheels, mid-controls, and low-slung handlebar. (HT Auto/Prashant Singh)

A looker:

The new Chief Dark Horse features a relatively simple design, but only in flesh does it reveal its true identity. It looks fairly big, and muscular in real life, and the mere sight of the Chief Dark Horse leaves an impression. 

The Chief Dark Horse is defined by the use of its simple yet authoritative elements such as the solo seat, machined wheels, mid-controls, and low-slung handlebar. Its chopped Bobber styling with a single seat and wide machine cast alloy wheels gives it a distinctive appeal. 

The front headlamp integrates full LED lighting with cleverly carved lighting elements on the inside that look very premium. But that's not it, the level of detailing done on the bike is simply beyond outstanding. Every bit of the frame has some sort of curvature or flow to it and the company has also managed to pull off welds very cleanly. A look at the engine mounts delineates the attention to detail carried on the bike. 

At the rear, the chopped-off rear fender, along with the twin-pipe blacked-out exhaust only make things more interesting. Also, the tail lamps and indicators come integrated into one unit, which looks quite appealing. 

The 4
The 4" touchscreen on the Chief Dark Horse serves as the information centre for the rider offering turn-by-turn navigation, controls for ride modes, Bluetooth smartphone connectivity, and much more. (HT Auto/Prashant Singh)

Technological marvel: 

The 4" circular touchscreen on the bike is conveniently placed right in the middle handlebar. It serves as the information centre for the rider offering turn-by-turn navigation, controls for ride modes, Bluetooth smartphone connectivity, and much more. It offers multiple display layouts that are visible even in broad daylight. The screen can also be operated while wearing gloves but the only downside is that the rider has to wait a couple of seconds before the screen loads up when starting the bike. 

The motorcycle doesn't require a key to turn on the ignition. You can feed in a passcode that turns the system on, just like a smartphone, and it is quite fancy for a motorbike, isn't it?

At the heart of the Chief Dark Horse sits an 1890 cc Thunderstroke 116 that also powers other Indian models.
At the heart of the Chief Dark Horse sits an 1890 cc Thunderstroke 116 that also powers other Indian models. (HT Auto/Prashant Singh)

The heart:

At the heart of the bike sits an 1890 cc Thunderstroke 116 that also powers other Indian models. The Thunderstroke V-Twin quite literally like its name delivers ground shattering 162 Nm of peak torque from as low as 3200 rpm. There are not many cruisers that have managed to give me a good scare because with experience you get a hang of the power. But not this one; riding the Chief Dark Horse in the most powerful ‘Sport’ mode was brutal. Give the gas a good twist and the rear slides, reminding you of mortality, almost swinging side to side, like riding a wild horse. And I remember, screaming inside the helmet with joy and pure adrenaline rush, and it was sure fun. There is so much torque on the rear wheel, but more importantly, the engine manages to stay smooth throughout the way. 

At 304 kg (wet), the Chief Dark Horse isn't exactly a lightweight motorcycle, but all this weight disappears as soon as it is on the roll.
At 304 kg (wet), the Chief Dark Horse isn't exactly a lightweight motorcycle, but all this weight disappears as soon as it is on the roll. (HT Auto/Prashant Singh)

Riding it on a winter morning, I didn't feel any heat from its mammoth of an engine, but only comforting warmth. But I can't promise the same for the other side of the year. 

The six-speed transmission remains slick, and the gears slot in nice and easy. 

Handling the bull:

At 304 kg (wet), the Chief Dark Horse isn't exactly a lightweight motorcycle, but all this weight disappears as soon as it is on the roll. Mid-set footpegs, big and comfortable seat, and wide handlebar, everything comes together to provide a fairly plush and comfortable riding stance on the bike. The rider seat is also low set - just 662 mm, allowing even short height riders to feel at ease. 

The front telescopic fork (132 mm) on the Indian Chief Dark Horse is backed up with dual shocks (75 mm) at the rear that can be adjusted for preload.
The front telescopic fork (132 mm) on the Indian Chief Dark Horse is backed up with dual shocks (75 mm) at the rear that can be adjusted for preload. (HT Auto/Prashant Singh)

The incredibly long 1626 mm of wheelbase along with the fat wheel combination of 130/60B19 (front) and 180/65 B16 (rear) give the bike a highly stable ride. Also, even though it might not be the lightest machine to handle around a corner, it holds the lines well; in fact so well that you will end up scraping footpegs often. Diving in and out of a corner is easy, despite its weight, also the sticky Pirelli Night Dragon rubber helps it with the required grip when you gas it out of a corner. 

The front telescopic fork (132 mm) is backed up with dual shocks (75 mm) at the rear that can be adjusted for preload. This kit has been tuned to simply make the bike glide over all the undulations without any fuss. Bad patches of road, or not, you won't mind riding the Chief Dark Horse anywhere because this heavy-duty setup gives the motorcycle a fairly plush ride. But you would have to mind the tall speed breakers as puny 125 mm ground clearance doesn't help at times. 

The Indian Chief Dark Horse is a beacon of outstanding craftsmanship.
The Indian Chief Dark Horse is a beacon of outstanding craftsmanship. (HT Auto/Prashant Singh)

The final word:

The Chief Dark Horse is a beacon of outstanding craftsmanship and it truly represents what the brand stands for. At 20.86 lakh (ex-showroom) onwards, it might be a bit on the expensive side for many, but the authority, luxury, and pride you'd derive from riding this motorcycle would be an unparalleled feeling, not many could match.  

First Published Date: 30 Dec 2021, 07:58 PM IST
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