I don’t consider myself a “bagger guy” which is a bit ironic because I have ridden so many for so many miles over the years. Because of my job I have ridden them across the country in every direction, modified them endlessly and spent more brain power on them than I ever intended. Most of those baggers I spent time on were Harleys, and as luck would have it up until recently I hadn’t really spent any time at all on Indian's Chieftain. But I did have plenty of time on the two bikes I would probably be considering if I was in the market for a Chieftain, the H-D Street Glide and Indian's new Challenger. I have a substantial amount of time on a Street Glide and if you are pondering purchasing a Chieftain you are almost undoubtedly looking at a Street Glide, too. And if I was in the midst of such a quandary I would also consider Indian's new hot rod Challenger. I know the Challenger may seem a bit odd because the bikes are fairly dissimilar, but seeing as how they are both Indian touring bikes, if you're on the showroom floor you'd probably consider either. The Challenger is a fixed fairing machine with a liquid-cooled overhead cam engine while the Chieftain is a more of a classic air-cooled, pushrod actuated V-Twin. As I spent time on the new 2020 Chieftain Limited I kept drawing comparisons to these machines.

The Motor
Our Chieftain was equipped with the new 116 engine and in addition to the extra 5 cubic-inches compared to the older 111, it also has a redesigned cylinder head resulting in a claimed 126 lb-ft. of torque (at the crank) from the aesthetically pleasing Thunder Stroke mill. It acts like you think a big inch air-cooled Twin would act. Power comes on quick with peak torque hitting at 2,900 rpm, but it doesn’t run out as quick as Milwaukee-Eight motors. It pulls well into the rev range but you do notice some vibration increasing at 4,000 rpm. Nothing to be concerned with but it's not as smooth as the more advanced Challenger engine (I know, not a fair comparison).

Overall it’s quick for a a stock motored bagger and seat-of-the-pants feels like an M8 motor with a bolt-in cam, exhaust and intake. I’ll definitely be adding an exhaust, intake and tuner to this down the road to see what else we can squeeze out. Our bike was also equipped with selectable fuel injection or riding modes in the form of touring, standard and sport. I actually found myself using the standard mode most often because it was smoother and less abrupt. For comparison, on the Challenger I used sport mode the most, but the Chieftain was smoother and felt quicker in standard even when charging through canyons.

The big Chieftain has no problem getting through the curvy stuff 

The Ride

The dimensions of the Chieftain are similar to its counterpart the Challenger but it feels much different. Technically the seat heights are the same but on the Chieftain it feels like you sit a bit lower because the fork-mounted fairing seems to be mounted lower. Overall you can definitely hustle it through a corner a bit quicker than a Street Glide but it's not as planted as the Challenger. The air-adjustable Fox suspension does a solid job out back but the fork-mounted fairing design will never feel as good as a fixed fairing when it comes to handling. The front brakes are capable but not outstanding. The Chieftain's rear brake bites harder than the Challenger I just tested and is more functional overall. The American Elite Dunlops are made for the long haul and do an adequate job in corners. The stock seat hit me in a weird spot in my tailbone and for me the bars could be a tad higher, but both are easy aftermarket fixes.

Accessories

The infotainment center is very much like the Challenger, easy to reach and very intuitive to use. It's loaded with plenty of ride tracking and GPS options and small things like the tire pressure monitors are nice touches. The keyless bags are fun but I don't care for the Indian bags overall, the top latches are heinous looking and cheap feeling. The electronic windshield is a game changer though. This is a feature I didn't think I would use but found myself using a fair amount and it made a difference in the ride. The stereo wattage is the same as the Challenger, 100 watts x 2, but isn't as loud. I am assuming that probably comes down to fairing design. It is, however, quite a bit louder than H-D's 50-watt system. Bluetooth integration to your phone is super easy and the top of the fairing mini-phone compartment is handy to use with its USB port.

Overall I really dig the aesthetics of the Chieftain Limited. The black/red/silver paint scheme combined with the chrome-to-the-bone Thunder Stroke engine is pure Americana. If you are looking to cruise in style with all the amenities but aren't into the geezer glide Tour Pak look, then the Chieftain won't disappoint. If you are looking for more performance to go with your slice of Americana, swing your leg over the Challenger.