2019 Indian Chieftain Dark Horse Review
The Indian Chieftain Dark Horse debuted two years ago with one goal in mind: a blacked out, hard-boiled bagger for those that wanted to gobble up the miles aboard an American V-twin with a steely personality to match its looks.
Part of the touring lineup, the 2019 Indian Chieftain Dark Horse, has gone through several aesthetic and technological changes that aim to raise the bar for rider comfort and appearance for Indian’s favorite bagger.
We explored the wondrous Cascade Mountain range in Washington with the revised Chieftain Dark Horse as our unwavering steed. Let’s get on with the Fast Facts.
1. The 2019 Indian Chieftain Dark Horse was built for touring and has ergonomics to match. For 2019 the Dark Horse gets a slightly stiffer and reshaped saddle. With its low 25.6-seat height, the new Dark Horse has a lovely spread when in the cockpit, with handlebars that keep your arms at a neutral height and allow good leverage when needed. At 5’ 10” and with a 32-inch inseam, I felt comfortable maneuvering this bagger around tight spaces, knowing that I could always plant my feet firmly when necessary.
2. The Thunder Stroke 111 has serious American V-twin soul. Powering the Chieftain lineup is Indian’s 111ci air/oil-cooled powerplant that claims to produce a whopping 119 ft/lbs of torque at 3000 rpm. Thanks to all that torque on tap, the 111 will plant you in the seat in any gear, at any time.
3. Rolling on the throttle of the Chieftain Dark Horse is smooth and responsive. Despite it being of formidable displacement, the V-twin won’t be rattling your bones. Indian has managed to strike a balance between classic big twin feel and comfort.
4. For increased comfort, all Thunder Stroke 111 engines now feature rear-cylinder deactivation. One of the criticisms of the heavyweight Indians was heat dissipation when at stops or slow speeds. To combat that, Indian upgraded its engine with seamless rear-cylinder deactivation. When the engine reaches operating temperature, and the ambient temperature is above 59 degrees, listen carefully. You’ll hear a slight cadence change when the rear-cylinder cuts out. It’s so subtle that I missed it a few times and was only made aware by the notification on the dash. Once you touch the throttle, the cylinder fires back up instantly and off you go.
5. American baggers don’t usually have selectable riding modes, but Indian has changed the game. Thanks to the ride-by-wire throttle, all Indian touring models now have three selectable ride modes: Tour, Standard, and Sport. “Tour” features the softest throttle response, so much so that I would be inclined to label it a rain mode of sorts. ‘Standard’ is average, boasting a good response and it is what I used predominately. ‘Sport’ mode has the most direct response available, which can be abrupt during initial application and when closing the throttle. Generally, I stuck with Standard mode. However, when the rain came pouring down, and the roads got slick, I switched to Touring for that extra buffer.
6. Cruise control is standard, making those long hauls much easier.
7. An American Touring machine that can hang with the best of them, the strength of the Chieftain line against its competition is its chassis. With a lengthy 65.7-inch wheelbase and 25 degrees of rake, and 31-degree maximum lean angle, those numbers fall right in line for the Touring class, but the experience is far from par for the course. At low or high speeds, the Dark Horse is stable as can be. There is virtually no headshake, or ill-mannered behavior felt through the chassis, even on rough asphalt. Whipping the 827-pound beast into corners takes almost no effort, either. The Dark Horse turns on a dime and never falters—that’s all I can ask.
8. A good chassis includes good suspension, and the Chieftain line does as well. This year, the Dark Horse has been lowered one inch in the rear to give it that mean-mugging, slammed appearance. Luckily, they retained the same suspension travel figures. The 46mm fork is equipped with cartridge damping and has 4.7-inches of travel, while the single air-adjustable shock has 4.5-inches of travel. The road is felt and translated excellently. Very little harshness ever comes through to the rider—not something that most v-twin baggers can claim.
9. Dunlop American Elite tires are built for mileage but at the cost of grip. In dry conditions, the Dunlop American Elite tires, which are slapped onto the 19-inch front and 18-inch rear alloy wheels are adequate. In the wet, one needs to take extra care, as the mileage-minded hard rubber compound will let go if your inputs cross that low threshold. I understand why Indian has opted for this set of rubber—they’ll go for thousands of miles. Regardless, Touring machines will invariably see inclement weather, and I’d like to have more faith in my rubber when the clouds start forming or the temperature drops.
10. Big bikes need good brakes, and the Dark Horse doesn’t disappoint. Dual four-piston calipers clamp upon 300mm dual floating rotors and provide plenty of braking power. Feel at the lever requires a bit of a pull, which isn’t unheard of for large touring motorcycles. In the rear, a two-piston caliper grips a 300mm floating rotor. The initial application is a bit soft on the rear brake. However, the rear brake can be modulated quite well, allowing riders to correct lines or keep the bike steady when at slow speeds. ABS is standard.
11. Designers set their minds to giving the 2019 Indian Chieftain Dark Horse a fresh look this year. The fork-mounted fairing has been slimmed down, casting the fog lights aside, and pushing the turn signals to either side of the fairing. Indian didn’t stop there—the pushrod tubes, primary cover, valve cover, cam cover, and saddlebag hinges now sport gloss black, as opposed to the previous matte black finishes. Those touches of gloss paint certainly liven the Dark Horse up a bit and improve the appearance. Not to be left out, the exhaust features an excellent black ceramic coating. Lastly, the saddlebags have been whittled down and streamlined.
12. Restyled bags retain our favorite features—self-latching and remote locking. Flip the lid of the saddlebag closed, and it will latch shut all on its own. That feature removes the risk of a saddlebag popping open while heading down the road. You don’t want to lose precious cargo just because you forgot to fiddle with a pesky latching system. In addition to having a decent amount of storage, the remote locking is a great feature to have. Press the locking button on the tank, listen for the locks to secure, and nobody will be getting their mitts on your cargo.
13. An adjustable windscreen allows tailoring the riding experience. Easily raised or lowered with a control on the right-hand side, the windshield can be adjusted to your preferred height. For someone of my stature, I felt that the up position worked well and reduced helmet bobbling.
14. On a (white) Dark Horse I ride. There’s a Johnny Cash reference in there somewhere, but when the Indian Chieftain Dark Horse launched, it was available in black—strictly. Now, the Dark Horse is offered in White Smoke, Bronze Smoke, and Thunder Black Smoke, all of which are matte paint jobs to fit with the brooding motif.
15. The 100-watt stereo has a few tweaks. For the 2019 model year, the tweeter in the speakers has been separated from the mid-range speakers to improve clarity. Supporting that is a dynamic equalizer, which adjusts depending on your speed. The new dynamic equalizer allows the rider to hear music admirably even with heavy wind buffeting at highway speeds and increased engine noise. Most importantly, the volume still goes to 11.
16. The touchscreen infotainment system gets the job done, with top marks going to navigation. A rider can program routes into the navigation system or send a file from a smartphone to the motorcycle via Bluetooth or USB connection. Also, riders can connect their phones to play music, take calls, respond to texts, and what have you.
17. The Indian Chieftain line raised the bar when it was released, and it just got nudged higher. When it comes to handling, chassis performance, and rideability, the Chieftain stakes out its own impressive territory in the American V-twin touring segment. We should also note the Thunder Stroke 111, as it’s quite the tasty V-twin treat, as well. The styling updates have given the lineup a fresh look, and have moved away from Indian’s staunchly traditional, almost Art Deco stylistic cues. Indian’s history is still on display in full force, but the Chieftain line and the 2019 Indian Chieftain Dark Horse have turned a welcome corner.
- Helmet: Shoei RF-1200
- Jacket: Pando Moto Capo Rider
- Gloves: Racer Soul
- Jeans: Pando Moto Boss Black
- Boots: Stylmartin Jack
- Rain gear: Spidi H2Out
2019 Indian Chieftain Dark Horse Specs
- Motor: Thunder Stroke 111 V-twin
- Displacement: 111ci (1811cc)
- Bore x stroke: 3.976 x 4.449”
- Maximum torque: 119 ft/lbs @ 3000 rpm
- Compression ratio: 9.5:1
- Fueling: Closed loop EFI w/ 54mm throttle body
- Cooling: Air
- Transmission: 6-speed
- Final drive: Belt
- Front suspension; travel: Non-adjustable 46mm fork; 4.7 inches
- Rear suspension; travel: Air-adjustable shock; 4.5 inches
Wheels: Cast aluminum
- Front wheel: 19 x 3.5”
- Rear wheel: 16 x 5”
- Front tire: 130/60 x 19; Dunlop American Elite
- Rear tire: 180/60 x 16; Dunlop Elite 3 Multi-Compound
- Front brakes: Floating 300mm discs w/ 4-piston calipers
- Rear brake: Floating 300mm disc w/ 2-piston caliper
- ABS: Standard
DIMENSIONS and Capacities
- Wheelbase: 65.7 inches
- Rake: 25°
- Trail: 5.9 inches
- Seat height: 25.6 inches
- Fuel capacity: 5.5 gallons
- Curb weight: 827 pounds
2019 Indian Chieftain Dark Horse Colors:
- Thunder Black Smoke
- White Smoke
- Bronze Smoke
2019 Indian Chieftain Dark Horse Price:
- From $25,999 MSRP (Black Smoke)
- From $26,749 MSRP (White Smoke; Bronze Smoke)