2014 Harley-Davidson Street Glide Special vs. Indian Chieftain – Video

Old competitors on a new battlefield

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Rivalry (ˈrīvəlrē) n., Competition for the same objective or for superiority in the same field.

In the early days of motorcycling, Indian and Harley-Davidson began a decades-long battle. The first Indian motorcycle was created in 1901 while the first Harley-Davidson was born in 1903. Somewhere down the road an intense rivalry developed. Insults went from good natured to downright nasty. Owners of one brand wouldn’t associate with owners of the other.

However, rivalries can be a force for good, a creator of tradition and ritual, a motivating force. Manufacturers embroiled in a heated competition regard each other as an opportunity to hone their industrial might. They use their enemy to push themselves to innovate and improve. The benefactor is ultimately you, the consumer.

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Unfortunately for motorcyclists, the production of Indians ceased in 1954. Harley-Davidson won. Since then, many have hoped that the old marque could be reborn, and the last 20 years have been especially convoluted as various parties fought over the right to use the Indian name. Although bikes running Harley clone engines and, later, proprietary engines have worn the Indian logo in recent years, the acquisition of the name by Polaris was the best thing to happen to Indian in a long time.

View the gallery for more photos

During the last two decades, while the Indian name was so abused, Polaris successfully created, launched, and turned a profit with an all-new American motorcycle brand. However, Victory would have a hard time directly challenging The Motor Company since Harley has the weight of history behind it. So, Polaris, a formidable motorsports company in its own right, has brought Indian back from the dead to take another stand against Harley-Davidson.

Setting the Stage

Both the Indian Chieftain and the Harley-Davidson Street Glide Special come packed with premium features. The Special is $2600 more than the standard Street Glide model and bundles the most popular optional components. In addition to the Special designation, our Street Glide test unit’s Sand Cammo Denim color costs extra. The Chieftain, on the other hand, is the California model with the extra-cost red paint. This leaves us with two bikes with as-tested MSRPs separated by only $740 ($490 if you take off the Indian’s California-specific costs).

The Indian Chieftain has all you need to travel far and wide.

The Indian Chieftain has all you need to travel far and wide.

The $23,749 ($23,499 49-state) Indian Chieftain has a style that clearly weighs in on the side of forging a link to the company’s past with modern interpretive touches. Looking at the Indian’s deeply skirted fenders with the illuminated War Bonnet on the prow, it’s almost possible to believe it wasn’t manufactured many decades ago. That is until you notice details like the pickups for the ABS or the LED brake light and turn signals.

REVIEW: 2014 Indian Chieftain

The fork mounted fairing – a first for an Indian of any era – has the classic Batwing shape. However, the LED turn signals and even the lines of the fairing itself are clearly influenced by modern esthetics. Look on the inside of the fairing, and you’ll find premium standard features, like ABS, cruise control, and a 100W stereo with both wired and wireless connections to your personal electronics.

The Harley-Davidson Street Glide Special’s Sand Cammo Denim paint fits in nicely in the California mountains.

The Harley-Davidson Street Glide Special’s Sand Cammo Denim paint fits in nicely in the California mountains.

The $23,009 Harley-Davidson, without the handicap of the multi-decade halt of production and the ownership merry-go-round of Indian, only needs to be exactly what it already is: the “fully loaded” update of the best-selling motorcycle model in the United States. While its appearance was altered slightly as part of Project Rushmore, the bike’s lines remain essentially the same. The most dramatic visual change is the longer nose to the fairing.

In addition to the updated shape, the Batwing fairing received a vent behind the shorty windscreen to help reduce the rider’s head buffeting at elevated speeds. As part of the Special package, the fairing has a glossy black interior and a feature-laden stereo/navigation system.

REVIEW: 2014 Harley-Davidson Touring Models

Another big Project Rushmore change comes in the form of revised saddlebag lids and locks. Although, when seen in profile, the bags look unchanged, the new lock transforms the bags from a nuisance to a much more usable feature.

Engines

The Street Glide Special features a Project Rushmore High Output Twin Cam 103 powerplant – an upgrade but not the new liquid-cooled engine. While the 98.4mm x 111.1mm cylinders of the Twin Cam engine remained unchanged, an updated camshaft and a better flowing airbox were added to deliver improved bottom end power. Our seat-of-the-pants impression of the HO Twin Cam 103 was that engineers achieved their goal. However, the redesigned airbox isn’t just about power, it also gives the rider more legroom and redirects airflow around the cockpit.

The High Output Twin Cam 103 engine is one of the updates provided by Project Rushmore.

The High Output Twin Cam 103 engine is one of the updates provided by Project Rushmore.

The rider was the primary consideration when the hydraulic clutch was updated. Despite heavier clutch springs on the 2014 models, lever effort is the same as the pre-Rushmore engine. The hydraulic clutch also eliminates the need for periodic adjustment.

The Indian’s Thunder Stroke 111 49-degree V-Twin, courtesy of the 101mm x 113mm cylinders and the single-pin crankshaft, produces the pulse pattern that riders in this class of motorcycle demand. The Thunder Stroke 111 straddles the line of maintaining the Indian’s historic lines while performing as a completely modern engine. The engine’s bulbous cooling fins take advantage of the extra space at the top of the 49 degree V to gain more cooling capacity while remaining true to the engine’s visual roots. The hydraulically operated valves eliminate valve adjustment while maintaining the classic pushrod design.

Look at photos of vintage Indian cylinders and heads, and you’ll see the history reflected in the shapes on this chrome-covered engine.

Look at photos of vintage Indian cylinders and heads, and you’ll see the history reflected in the shapes on this chrome-covered engine.

Since the Indian displaces eight cubic inches more than the Harley, we’d expect it to have some kind of performance advantage. While the Chieftain never felt underpowered, it surprisingly felt a little short on oomph when ridden in conjunction with the Street Glide.

The Thunder Stroke delivered massive torque almost off idle – although having an absurdly immediate clutch engagement made it more of a challenge to get the most out of that initial grunt. Once under way, the Chieftain had a clear low-end power advantage – with the dyno charts revealing a whopping 33% difference in torque at 1900 rpm. Although the Thunder Stroke never surrenders the torque advantage, the HO Twin Cam 103 whittles it down to 11 percent at their peaks of 102.83 ft. lb. and 92.07 ft. lb., respectively. Still, the Thunder Stroke produces a stronger torque curve up to its peak torque at 3100 rpm. However, the TS’ torque falls off more quickly than the Twin Cam’s flatter curve after maximum output.

The story of these two engines can only be partially told in the dyno chart. The eagerness of the HO Twin Cam cannot be understated.

The story of these two engines can only be partially told in the dyno chart. The eagerness of the HO Twin Cam cannot be understated.

Horsepower follows a similar path with the Indian producing more horsepower at the lower rpm and carrying that lead to a lessening degree up to its peak of 74.24 hp at which point, the Harley matches it horse for horse – then keeps going on to a 77.04 hp maximum. If you think that the Thunder Stroke’s eight cubic inch displacement advantage would translate into more horsepower, you’d be wrong.

However, the dyno numbers don’t adequately reveal the difference in these two engines. The HO Twin Cam is more responsive and revs quicker than the Thunder Stroke. This is not to say that the TS feels like it lacks power, but the Harley’s engine always feels raring to go, eagerly awaiting that next twist of the throttle. Although the term perky may sound odd in the context of large displacement V-Twin engines, the word applies in the case of the Street Glide.

“While dyno figures see the H-D with more horsepower and the Indian with more torque,” observes Content Editor, Tom Roderick, “in the real world the Project Rushmore 103 engine delivered more immediate response to throttle inputs and was an overall more willing powerplant.”

The Chieftain’s extra weight, about 40 pounds, plays a role in blunting its power and hindering its low-speed acceleration. Conversely, the Indian’s torquier mill gives it an advantage in top-gear roll-on contests, motoring away from the revvier Harley.

The Indian’s clutch push lever placement (lower right) interferes with deploying the side stand.

The Indian’s clutch push lever placement (lower right) interferes with deploying the side stand.

Power delivery isn’t the only measure of these bikes’ performance. Fuel economy and, consequently, range are very important in the touring market. The Street Glide delivered an average of 36.5 mpg to the Chieftain’s 32.3 mpg. These, in turn, point to a calculated range of 219 miles for the Harley while the Indian could reach 178 miles, representing a significant difference for bikes designed to embark on tank-draining stints.

Our two contestants score a tie in the vibration department with neither delivering significant buzzing to the rider at a variety of speeds. The only noticeable difference is that the Chieftain’s bar-mounted mirrors had slightly more blur at highway speeds than the Street Glide’s fairing-mounted ones.

Finally, we believe both bikes could use a little refinement in their stout-sounding transmissions. Each shift is punctuated by a resounding thunk – with the Chieftain’s being slightly louder. We think that motorcycles in this price range deserve gearboxes that don’t sound like crude tools. The shifting effort is similar on both bikes (although the Indian lacks a heel shifter that many riders prefer with floorboards). Since we know that bikes making big horsepower can shift quietly, we wonder why these two machines don’t have 21st century transmissions.

Once the numbers are crunched, the engine advantage goes to the Street Glide Special.

Chassis

No area of these two motorcycles generated more debate than the suspension. However, most of the heat of these discussions was directed toward Harley’s self-imposed limits to rear suspension functionality because of the Street Glide’s shocks’ mere 2.1 inches of travel. The equation is simple; on any motorcycle – but particularly on these big, heavy motorcycles – the shock with half the travel of the other will have a more difficult time taking the hits out of road irregularities. Even with the easy, knob adjustable preload, the Special’s shocks come up short (pun intended) in every riding situation that doesn’t involve smooth pavement.

Within the constraints of the suspension travel, the Street Glide Special does a pretty good job of fending off the slings and arrows of outrageous pavement. However, we believe the suspension of a touring bike should have more than two inches of travel. Our time aboard these bikes was limited to California roads unscathed by frost heaves, so the limited suspension movement wasn’t a major issue. But feeling every ripple of pavement in the glutes will not increase the rider’s enjoyment of long days in the saddle. The bumpier the roads, the more you’ll suffer on the SGL.

While the Street Glide Special gave more immediate response to steering input, the overall quality of the ride was hampered by the harsh responses of the shocks.

While the Street Glide Special gave more immediate response to steering input, the overall quality of the ride was hampered by the relative harsh responses of the shocks.

The rest of the Street Glide Special’s manners were impeccable. The new, beefier fork is well sorted and shows the attention it received as part of Project Rushmore. Turn in and changing lines mid-corner were much easier than you’d expect from such a big bike. At speed, the Special feels much smaller than its 64-inch wheelbase and 810-pound specifications. In short, the Street Glide Special feels willing and eager to turn when you want to turn it. When asked to lean over far enough to touch down the floorboards, the Harley does so cleanly at a respectable angle for a cruiser.

Where the Street Glide is eager, the word that best describes the Chieftain is stable. Turning in requires slightly more effort – even with its wider handlebar. Changing lines is similar, requiring a little more effort but accomplished quite easily. Despite the use of an aluminum frame, Indian claims an 848-pound weight with its tank full, 38 pounds more than Harley’s claim for the SGL. The Indian’s stylish but massive valanced fenders surely add mass.

Where the Harley felt smaller than its heft, the Indian felt balanced. We never confused the bike for being less than its 65.7-inch wheelbase, but that is not a bad thing. When dragging floorboards, the Indian touched down sooner and had a smaller margin before grinding solidly mounted parts.

The Chieftain’s chassis provided a supple yet stable perch to either watch the world go by or tilt it on its axis.

The Chieftain’s chassis provided a supple yet stable perch to either watch the world go by or tilt it on its axis.

On undulating pavement, the Chieftain was unflappable. The suspension soaked up most of the pavement irregularities, only letting the hard, sharp-edged bumps directly affect the rider. On interstates, where the expansion joints had the Harley hobby-horsing and transmitting the jolts directly to the rider’s hind parts, the Indian’s single air-adjustable shock felt like it was still on the boulevard.

Hauling these big bikes down from speed produced another clear divide between this pair. The Indian’s brakes got the job done, although the front brake required more effort than we would like. Since the level of effort was high and the feedback was wooden, we figure that the Chieftain suffers from a poor pad compound choice by the factory. The ABS works exactly as it should, unobtrusively interceding when wheel lockup approached.

2014-Harley-Davidson-Street-Glide-Special-vs-Indian-Chieftain-IMG_0220

When you want to get away, both of these tourers would be a willing companion, but the Chieftain’s better sorted suspension gives it an advantage over rough road.

The Special, with its Rushmore-derived Reflex Linked ABS Brakes, uses electronics to assist the rider in the widely varying braking conditions. At speeds above 20–25 mph the linked braking system modulates the power distribution of the front and rear brakes. If you only hit one brake, the other will also engage. If you over- or under-use one of the brakes, the system will attempt to bring the ratio back into balance. Below the low-speed threshold, the system maintains the front and rear brake separation, making it easier to maneuver the bike at low speed.

The constantly adjusting nature of the Reflex system makes it very unobtrusive compared to many other linked systems. Still, experienced riders will notice that some of their single brake techniques cannot be used. The efficacy of the Special’s brakes was no doubt influenced by how well sorted the Reflex system was. Roderick commented that the Harley generated more braking force with less pressure. All riders noted how much more powerful the Special’s brakes were compared to the Chieftains.

The winners of the chassis and braking categories are: Chieftain and Street Glide, respectively.

Rider/Passenger Accommodations

Both of these bikes have chosen a fork-mounted Batwing fairing to ease a rider’s path through the air. The Indian steps in with an electrically adjustable windshield to help the rider tune the character of the wind that is allowed into the cockpit. The Chieftain’s windshield in its tallest position blocks the most of the air’s onslaught, giving the rider a calm pocket in the saddle.

The Indian’s classically styled Batwing fairing features modern touches, like LED signals and an adjustable windscreen for maximum weather protection.

The Indian’s classically styled Batwing fairing features modern touches, like LED signals and an adjustable windscreen for maximum weather protection.

While this gives the most protection in cold weather, the rider is forced to look through the windshield. However, the infinite adjustability allows the rider find the right compromise of weather protection and visibility – especially in light rain which builds up on the screen, making it almost impossible to see. In its lowest position, the wind flows easily over the helmet of riders in the neighborhood of six feet with minimal buffeting. Any turbulence encountered by riders can be tuned out with small screen height adjustments.

The Harley’s fairing features a short tinted windshield that riders of average height can easily see over. The new vent in the fairing just below the shield reduces some the turbulence created by the windshield – although the effect varies with rider height. Taller windshield options are available as factory accessories.

The shorty windshield on the Street Glide makes it easy to see over. The fairing vent reduces turbulence at speed.

The shorty windshield on the Street Glide makes it easy to see over. The fairing vent reduces turbulence at speed.

The riding positions of these touring twins are slightly different. The Harley plants the rider’s upper body in a more upright riding position while the Indian’s slightly laid-back position borders on the “cruiser slouch.” Our testers were divided on the riding position with Roderick giving the nod to the Special and myself preferring the Chieftain.

The rider portions of the saddles were well-shaped for the long haul. Both were wide enough to allow some wiggle room, though the Harley’s shape tended to center the rider’s butt a bit. Roderick commented that he wished the Harley’s seat rose up a little more in the rear to increase the lower back support.

The passenger accommodations were a different story. The Chieftain’s broad, flat pillion presented the passenger with a nice place to while away the miles. The narrow, rearward-sloping Street Glide pillion? Not so much.

Engine heat on the Indian was a surprising issue. The test days were not particularly hot, but during lower speed travel and stop-and-go traffic, the rider and passenger’s right thighs got pretty toasty.

Even with the thigh warmer, the accommodations category goes to the Chieftain.

Carrying Capacity

And a cheer was heard throughout the land as Harley’s overly complicated latch system was replaced with an elegantly simple one.

And a cheer was heard throughout the land as Harley’s overly complicated latch system was replaced with an elegantly simple one.

Baggers, especially those with locking hard bags, are all about the convenience of carrying gear. Locking and weatherproof sealing are expected in this class of motorcycle.

While the Street Glide’s bags may look pretty dang similar to the pre-Rushmore versions, their utility has improved immensely through the addition of a new locking mechanism. The old method of opening a bag involved lifting the latch on the outside of the bag which, in turn, raised the outside edge of the lid. Next, the lid was removed by sliding it sideways and flipping it over, towards the latch which was actually the hinge. Although opening the bag was relatively easy – once you knew the trick – closing the bag could get a little fidgety, requiring two hands, as the lid was lined up with the attachment points.

Both bikes offer good saddlebag storage, but the Indian wins the round with a higher carrying capacity and volume. Power for personal electronics is a plus.

Both bikes offer good saddlebag storage, but the Indian wins the round with a higher carrying capacity and volume. Power for personal electronics is a plus.

The new, much simpler bags use a latch on the forward inside corner of the bag. Lift it up and the lid pivots open on the hinge, looking like the old-style hinge/lock. Closing the bag requires a positive locking move of pressing the latch down. This brings up two schools of thought on bag closure: Some riders like to slam their bags closed, determining they’ve latched by the sound, but others like to press their bags closed to be positive of a secure seal. The Street Glide’s bags will not latch for you bag-slammer types. Rather, you close the lid and press down on the latch’s lever which tells the rider, tactilely, when the bag is locked.

The Chieftain, despite its uber-retro styling, took a high-tech approach to the hard bags. First, the bag locks are electric and can be unlocked with either the bike’s key fob or a button on the tank. If you prefer an analog mode of unlocking your saddlebags, you can always use the steering lock key. The bag opens via a button located in the center of the lid. Like the Harley, the lid pivots outward, giving maximum access to the interior. One plus for the Indian is the cigarette lighter plug in the right saddlebag for charging your personal electronics.

Both sets of bags are easily removable, requiring nothing more than your fingers to get the job done.

Both sets of bags are easily removable, requiring nothing more than your fingers to get the job done.

The saddlebags on both bikes are easily removable. The Street Glide’s bags come off with the twist of a couple Dzus quarter-turn fasteners. The Chieftain’s bags would be even easier if not for one exception. The bags are held in place by a pair of expanding rubber fasteners. An interference fit with a pair of billet aluminum cylinders on the Indian’s fender rails holds the bags in place when the levers inside the bags are flipped 90 degrees. A pair of electrical connectors behind the side panels slows down the Chieftain bag removal. Although the panels are only mounted with rubber grommets, the extra step takes a little time.

Neither bikes’ saddlebags offer any type of carrying handle (you’ll want to buy some accessory bag liners for transporting your clothes to your motel room), so removing the bags will largely be for access to the rear wheel for maintenance. Both bikes can be ridden without their bags, but the Chieftain looks far more finished – in fact, it looks quite similar to the Chief.

For those times when you want to strip down a bit, the Chieftain looks good even without the bags mounted.

For those times when you want to strip down a bit, the Chieftain looks good even without the bags mounted.

The final assessment of the bags is the capacity. The Street Glide’s saddlebags have a weight limit of 20 lb. and a volume of 16 gallons each. The Chieftain’s bags each can hold 22 lb. and 17.2 gal.

Chalk the luggage category up to the Indian.

Touring Extras

What would touring bikes be without electronic tools to help rack up the miles? Both the Chieftain and the Street Glide offer plenty of tools and entertainment options to keep a rider happy.

Fully functional: These bike will let you do almost anything from the handlebar switchgear. As with any reasonably complicated task, you’ll want to practice before you hit the road.

Fully functional: These bike will let you do almost anything from the handlebar switchgear. As with any reasonably complicated task, you’ll want to practice before you hit the road.

Both bikes offer cruise control that is operated from the handlebars. Unfortunately, our pre-production Chieftain had a non-functioning cruise control. We did get a chance to ride an Indian with a working cruise control, and it performed its duties with aplomb equal to the Street Glide’s system.

While both bikes offered infotainment systems that delivered just about everything that a rider could need – short of neck massages – the Street Glide with its Boom Box set the standard. Both stereo systems allowed Bluetooth and wired connections to and from personal electronics – including phones and headsets. The Harley’s dash featured dedicated storage with USB power and a holder to keep the device from bouncing around. The Indian, in an uncharacteristically, seemingly cobbled together approach, has a padded pouch hanging behind a door inside the fairing to hold the device while being charged. The Chieftain had the most information on the status of the motorcycle available at the flick of a pair of bar-mounted switches, but the tire pressure monitor did not work.

The Chieftain packs an impressive amount of information into its LED display. You can learn anything from a song title to the distance to empty to the status of your engine oil.

The Chieftain packs an impressive amount of information into its LED display. You can learn anything from a song title to the distance to empty to the status of your engine oil.

The stereos on both bikes have enough power to blast out the tunes over the wind and highway noise at speed. The dizzying number of options should keep even Iron Butters happy for weeks in the saddle. All of the functions on the Indian are accessed via buttons on the bar switch gear, and once learned are easy to operate at speed – although having large paws makes it easier.

The Street Glide has a plethora of switchgear buttons and toggles but could use some reworking to make it more user friendly. (Take a look at the BMW’s scroll wheel, for an example.) However, the Boom Box’s touch screen with GPS still steals the show. Being able to get turn-by-turn directions directly on the dash from a built-in unit is a deal changer. Roderick gushed, “The centrally mounted, full-color, touchscreen display with included GPS navigation has everything but an Xbox.”

The Boom Box offered the flexibility to perform most – if not all – functions from both the switchgear and the touch screen. And did we mention that it had a GPS?

The Boom Box offered the flexibility to perform most – if not all – functions from both the switchgear and the touch screen. And did we mention that it had a GPS?

Unfortunately, all is not perfect in H-D GPS-land. Every time you start the Street Glide, an annoying warning that must be manually dismissed comes up on the Boom Box screen. If you miss the verbal instructions, the on-screen information of an upcoming turn is limited to which direction to turn and what lane to do it from. On highways with multiple exits in short succession, this simply isn’t enough. Roderick concluded, “I have free mapping apps in my phone that provide better, earlier directional routing than does this system.” Still, a GPS that needs some refinement is better than no GPS at all.

The Street Glide Special with its Boom Box and GPS wins the infotainment war.

Summary

Indian Chieftain

Editor Score: 82.55%
Engine 16.5/20
Suspension/Handling 12.92/15
Transmission/Clutch 7.5/10
Brakes 8.25/10
Instruments/Controls4/5
Ergonomics/Comfort 9/10
Appearance/Quality 9.13/10
Desirability 9.25/10
Value 6/10
Overall Score82.55/100

Harley-Davidson Street Glide Special

Editor Score: 81.8%
Engine 17.5/20
Suspension/Handling 10.75/15
Transmission/Clutch 9/10
Brakes 9/10
Instruments/Controls4.5/5
Ergonomics/Comfort 7.75/10
Appearance/Quality 9/10
Desirability 8.38/10
Value 5.92/10
Overall Score81.8/100

Well, the dust has settled on our first pairing of these old rivals, and the results are more than a little surprising. These bikes delivered the closest score of any MO shootout ever with only 0.75 points separating the competitors.

Going into this comparison, we felt that, if the Chieftain finished close, it would be a victory of sorts. Instead, the Indian Chieftain squeezed by with a win.

Indian has managed to create a line of motorcycles in just 27 months – and produced a bagger that could go toe-to-toe with the best-selling motorcycle in the country. This bodes quite well for the Indian brand and riders alike. Although we’d like to see Harley address the shortcomings of the Street Glide, we don’t expect much to happen on the surface. When you’re on top, the last thing you want to do is give a new entry in your market the credibility of acknowledging it as competition. Indian has opened well, but no matter how well a single bike compares, it’s gonna need to stick around for a while before it gets more than a sidelong glance from Harley-Davidson – much less be considered a rival.

2014-Harley-Davidson-Street-Glide-Special-vs-Indian-Chieftain-IMG_0103

Both bikes attracted interest from passersby. The Chieftain’s viewers were always happy to see a new Indian. The Street Glide’s unusual color garnered many positive comments about its texture.

Harley-Davidson Street Glide Special
+ Highs

  • Revvy, willing engine
  • Responsive brakes
  • Boom Box entertainment/GPS system
- Sighs

  • Harsh rear suspension
  • GPS needs refinement
  • Passenger seat
Indian Chieftain

+ Highs

  • Great weather protection
  • Well-sorted suspension
  • Informative LED readout
- Sighs

  • High-effort brakes
  • Abrupt clutch engagement
  • Heavy

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  • Kevin Butler

    I was really surprised to see the Harley had the edge in the engine comparison since everyone seemed to marvel over the Thunder Stroke 111 I would have like to have seen 1/4 mile times tho. One thing I will admit being an owner of a 2014 Street glide Special is that Harley needs to increase the suspension travel on the rear shocks. That being said thats my only complaint about my Street Glide

    • fastfreddie

      Can one install aftershocks with abit more travel without sacrificing rideability?

      • Kevin Butler

        yes you can. Progressive makes some really nice shocks as well as Arnott. The designers at Harley chose to lower the rear of the Street Glides compared to the other touring bikes in its line up

        • Biker Bob

          I installed progressive shocks on my Honda Valkyrie at the cost of 900 bucks. I found the improvement minimaly better. The stock system of the Chieftain was considerably better. When you spend 900 bucks on just shocks(I did front and rear) you should expect big differences. I did not experience that.

          • Kevin Butler

            Thats lot for just shocks. I think ill go with the Arnotts for that price you get an air compressor to adjust the ride

          • Glenn Jaffas

            Or as Jerry Motorman Palladino posted above, stock Electra Glide airshocks are relatively inexpensive and bolt right on. Double the travel in 30 minutes.

          • Kevin Butler

            I agree The Street Glide was introduced as a striped down touring bike it was the first bagger.

    • Kevin Duke

      I’m not surprised the rear suspension is your only complaint about the SG. It’s an obvious wart on an otherwise terrific bike. We didn’t take the bikes to the strip, but Cycle World logged a 13.29 ET by the SGS. The Chieftain a 13.43. But the Indian dominated top-gear roll-ons: 5.1 secs from 40-60 compared to the H-D’s 7.0. And 6.0 secs from 60-80 vs 7.6.

      • Kevin Butler

        On my 2011 SG the air shocks were worst ! Im hoping Harley changes that soon! Im thinking about adding Arnott air ride shocks. BTW you guys are getting killed on Thevog.net over this article. Kep up the god work Kevin !

        • Evans Brasfield

          Thank you for that link! Great stuff.

          I particularly love reading about how I am on one manufacturer’s or another’s payroll. If that were true, after all the times someone has pointed the finger at me because I slighted a bike that they love, I’d have more motorcycles that I actually owned in my garage – and a larger garage to put them in.

          However, this is the first time I’ve been accused of being biased in favor of the losing bike! Again, great stuff.

          • Kevin Butler

            Yeah ive never hear of sore winners before 1

  • LabRat

    How about a follow up with a production bike. Many of your failings with the Chieftain are gone in the production bikes, particularly engine responsiveness.

  • Seefriedm

    Well got to say the numbers for my Indian Vintage with stock exhaust and the Chiefton with the Stage 1 are substantially HIGHER. Mine was done on an 87 degree day in Dallas Dec 4 2013. The 2nd is all 4 pulls on the dyno.

    • Evans Brasfield

      While it’s always nice to be able to go to a dyno to find out how much power your bike puts out (I’ve got dyno sheets from just about every bike I’ve owned), numbers generated by different dynos built by different manufacturers run in different locations using different bikes on different days (that’s a lot of variables) can’t be directly compared. Here are a couple snips about dynos – first from an article I wrote in 1997 about jet kit development and then another I wrote about dyno runs as part of a 1999 hop up article:

      “since the numbers generated by dynos built by different companies will generate slightly different results due to different manufacturing and calibration specifications, simply comparing dyno numbers without knowing their origin will prove less revealing than comparing baseline and subsequent runs on the same dyno.”

      “Finally, a note about dynos: The horsepower figures generated by a dyno are valid for that bike on that dyno on that day. Different brands of dynos will generate different numbers.”

      So, dyno data can be helpful to compare power output by two bikes at the same dyno on the same day. The data can be useful if you’re modifying a bike and want to track how your changes affect the power at steps along the way. (Of course, you probably won’t run modification tests on the same day, but if you use the same dyno, you will get a pretty good idea of how the changes affected your bike.)

      • Seefriedm

        I couldn’t agree more. What is the more telling is every Indian that has been run to this point BUT the one in this articlle has been comparable to the numbers on the dyno sheet’s I’ve posted. That is the wonderful thing about bench racing. They could have also used the 1st pull or the last pull from the same bike to use as well. ONLY the guy that did it knows for sure.

    • Grant Merritt

      It’s easy to tweak a dyno so it shows whatever the calibrator wants it to show. Big numbers make for happy customers and they know it…

      • Seefriedm

        Funny as I am not a customer of theirs and its strictly an HD shop. Guy was looking to refute the claims in torque and HP., I brought my bike over to see how it stacked up to HD’s motors and from what the dyno is saying pretty damn good IMO

  • RandleMcMurphy

    Of course, I’ll never have the coin to get either of these bikes but, I think I’d go with the Indian just on the basis of the suspension and ride. They are close enough in every other way (dismissing the infotainment part).

    This review begs to have a Victory included in a review/comparison. 3 American bike manufacturers go head to head.

    • Rick Vera

      That would be more like 2 manufactures (Harley and Polaris), but 3 brands. Furthermore, a Victory Cross Country would be more apt because of its fork-mounted, not frame-mounted, fairing like the other two.

      • Kevin

        They all have fork mounted fairings.

  • http://www.custombike.in.th/ custombike

    Beautiful

    • Curt

      Ok. I am listening to all this stuff about the dyno and how well this bike dips into the corners and I think all of that is great. However, I take a Bagger because I am carrying lots of items and traveling long distances. I don’t drive my Suv the same way I drive my Corvette. When I travel for long distances on my Bagger I need comfort first. I don’t go tearing down mountain passes, scrapping my floor boards on every curve. Instead I am taking my time and enjoying the scenery around me. I can get a sport touring bike to do the job better than either one of these bikes, and have plenty of fuel left over. All I am saying is these bikes are built for slow enjoyable riding and looking good, which it sounds like both have achieved there goals. The most accurate thing I have heard is the editor say it is time for a transmission that does not sound like a kids cap gun every time you shift it. On the the flip side it is pretty cool to see the heads turn when they hear that familiar sound, almost like riding up on a Tyrannosaurus. I like that Indian has jumped on the market kicking butt and Harley has seen them as a challenge and stepped up their game. We all benefit from this right? So I guess I will go back to ignoring the comments that start criticizing characteristics that certain bikes should not have.

      • Kevin Duke

        Just because a performance-minded person drives an SUV doesn’t mean he/she wants a slow/overweight/sluggish one. I think we laid out an excellent explanation of the personalities and distinctions of both bikes. It’s up to you whether those things matter to you or not and choose appropriately.

  • sgray44444

    It’s pretty obvious that the Indian is under-cammed when looking at the dyno charts, which is probably the biggest reason it has brutal torque and slow engine response. A little duration would probably wake it right up, even if sacrificing some on the low end.

  • Big Scotty

    This is a well-done comparison. In the end, it’s always just opinion. I tested the new Chiefs at a bike show and was impressed. I am pre-disposed to buy Indians. My dad left me a 53 Chief. I owned one of the Gilroy Indians and never had any issues with it. So I was excited to test the new Chiefs. My impressions were all good. But then I sat (for the first time) on a Street Glide. I road that bike within an hour of testing the Chieftain and the Chief. For me personally, the Indians felt like lumbering beasts compared to the Street Glide. The money is essentially the same so I could have purchased either. In the end I went with the Harley because it felt lighter than its 775 pound shipping weight. I could scrape the floorboards on that bike and feel confident. It FELT more powerful, even with a smaller engine. It leaned into the corners like a cafe racer compared to the Indian. The brakes felt way better. I just enjoyed the feeling. I did need to add the Harley Tall Boy seat to get a comfortable riding position but after that it was all love.

    The Indians I rode were very competent motorcycles. They sure look good too. I am sure anyone who buys one will enjoy it. But there’s a reason the Street Glide is the sales king. There’s just something about it. I’ve never owned a Harley before but my experience with the Street Glide has been great. The dealer support is amazing. Indian has far fewer dealers and that could be an issue on the road. I think the reviewers should have taken that into account when scoring the bikes but otherwise, they did a great job.

    • Kevin

      I just wanted to echo your findings on test riding the ’14 H-D’s and Indians, my rides left me with much the same observations especially that the Indians and especially the Chiefs felt like big lumbering beasts in comparison to the SG. These guys give the extra suspension travel on the Chieftain the edge in the handling and suspension category, and to a point that I personally would not, as I favor the greater agility the H-D has especially at slower speeds. I also feel like the brakes on the H-D were much better than the difference in scoring indicates. But much of scoring here is subjective and for the most part I have come to value the opinions of the guys @ MO.

    • Robert Pandya

      Which model Indian did you test ride?

      • http://www.bigscotty.com/ Big Scotty

        @robertpandya:disqus I rode all three

  • harleygwr

    While i like the new bikes im not a guy who needs all that info and electronics on my bike.Part of touring is discovering new places and things.Guess technology marches on for motorcycles i must be stuck in the 60,s.!! Instead of a wrench your going to need a laptop .

  • Jerry Motorman Palladino

    The fix for the Street Glides rear suspension is easy and cheap. Just put a set of stock E/Glide air shocks on the bike. You can find new takeoff shocks at most dealers or ebay. You’ll get a much better ride and a lot more lean angle.

    • Kevin Duke

      Good tip, Jerry!

  • SeniorSquidizen

    Some parts of this comparison could be described as “And your point is?” Neither of them is a serious 2-up motorcycle (at least not without some help from the aftermarket where a Harley –ANY Harley– will clearly have the advantage). Both Polaris and the MoCo make some very nice “turnkey” 2-up touring rigs, but these things aren’t that at all, so what’s the point of comparing them in that area?

    Also these are BAGGERS meaning just that. Harley Touring models are SUPPOSED to look unfinished with the saddlebags removed because they’re an integral part of the motorcycle doh! The MoCo makes a plethora of bikes that look fabulously “finished” without any saddlebags, because they are, but why would you even bring that up?

  • yakimascott

    I own a 2014 Indian Chief Vintage. It was the first one delivered in Washington. I can’t confirm the dyno readings but every other comment does not apply to the bike I own. Breaks are good, clutch is good, suspension when set up with proper sag is great, and fuel economy is 45mpg. I have owned over 60 motorcycles including Ducati, Aprilia and other mostly sport bikes.This is my first cruiser and I love it. The beauty is unbelievable. Please test a production bike.

  • Glenn Jaffas

    One thing I don’t really “get” about this comparison test is that H-D
    doesn’t market the SG as a touring bike, but rather as a stripped down
    around-town version of their actual touring bike. The fact that Harleys
    bar-hopper version stacks up so well against Indian’s premier version leads me to conclude that H-D still has significantly superior
    offerings (albeit for significantly higher purchase price).

  • Paul Currie

    Getting a little bored with all this pushrod envy….American cruisers are the only facet of today where yesterday is more desirable….

    • Robert Pandya

      There is always the OHC Victory or an EBR Superbike option.

    • http://www.bigscotty.com/ Big Scotty

      “ENVY” a feeling of discontent or covetousness with regard to another’s advantages, success, possessions, etc.

      @paul_currie:disqus since I own a push rod engine in my Street Glide I have no envy – however it might be that you do?

  • Chopperjoe47

    Chieftain vs Street Glide

  • http://prostobike.com Sasha Shturman
  • JAJ

    The Indian Chief Vintage is definitely a nice looking bike. Hats
    off to Polaris for coming up with a viable player in under three years -
    without poaching from the current crop of cloned engines. Polaris has the deep
    pockets to give H-D a run for the money. All it has to do is stay in the
    market. Don’t get me wrong I love my Harley but I will always keep a second non
    H-D as a back up or just when I want to be different. Variety is the spice of
    life.

  • offdwall

    Since the Chieftain is Indian’s top of the line tourer, why didn’t you compare it to Harley’s top of the line tourer? A comparison or the Ultra or Limited would have been more appropriate. The SG is met to be a stripped down bar hopper version of a touring bike. I would have liked to see a comparison of the real Harley touring suspension to the Indian. Also the Limited’s Tour-Pak (w/12v charger), wide/soft seat, etc would certainly have pushed it over the top for “Luggage” and passenger accommodations.

  • Gor

    I own a 2012 SG. Cool enough to bar hop and ride around town. Comfortable enough to ride eight hours each day for 600 miles. I can’t say anything about the Indian. Test drive them both.

  • Dmello

    Well if Polaris built these bikes in 2 years I can only image what they’ll accomplish in the next 2 years. Competition is good don’t you all agree.