As my fingers slid across the Indian Motorcycle’s smooth sparkling Rye paint with gold and green accents, thoughts of 1980s metal flashed through my mind.
The first reason wasn’t a flashback to the glammy paint schemes of the ’80s. Rather, it was that known Jack Daniel’s logo with its serif font that revived memories of Guns N’ Roses lead guitarist Slash, his frizzy black hair always remaining in perfect position as he took a swig from his 750ml square bottle of JD Old No. 7.
The connections became strong once the idea of Slash sipping whiskey flooded my mind. Here’s one of America’s oldest motorcycle brands united with one of America’s most iconic whiskeys—yes, the “e” belongs there for JD—bringing back memories of one of America’s greatest guitarists, regardless of his singer’s passion for private-parts-hugging spandex shorts.
Meet the 2022 Jack Daniel’s Limited Edition Indian, built upon the completely legit Challenger Dark Horse bagger.
Completely legit? I can confirm this sentiment after riding a Challenger Dark Horse nearly 1200 miles in two days from my home in Northeast Pennsylvania to the home of Jack Daniel’s in Lynchburg, Tennessee (more on this later). I headed to southeastern Tennessee for the unveiling of the new JD Indian at Jack Daniel’s legendary BBQ Hill. There, representatives from Indian and Jack Daniel’s, and the bike’s designer, Brian Klock of Klock Werks Kustom Cycles, unveiled bike No. 001 of 107 available globally.
This is the sixth year of the partnership between these three mega-brands. Each year the customs draw inspiration from one of the whiskeys in production. This year’s Challenger’s design gave the nod to my second-favorite JD whiskey, the Tennessee Rye, which would compare to a peppery Shiraz in the wine world. My first? Old No. 7, of course, stemming from my music days when whiskey was only alcohol. Nowadays, I actually appreciate taste over inebriation.
Although engine performance is exactly the same as a base Challenger Dark Horse, the attention to custom details on this bike is pure boldness—subtle boldness, that is.
The custom paint—the colors match the label of the Tennessee Rye bottle—delivers immediate emotions towards a custom build. However, most know there’s truly no such thing as a “factory custom,” something I debated with a few Indian staff members.
The parts that truly strike some custom-like emotions are the Montana Silversmiths badge on the air cleaner, which features detailed metalwork, and the lettering of the barrel-aged Rye and the build’s unique number.
The two other standouts are the custom-stitched black leather seat engrossed with that iconic JD logo, and the rider and passenger floorboards engraved with three silver stalks of rye. The JD Indian is built on a Challenger Dark Horse platform with all the top upgrades, including the Pathfinder Adaptive LED Headlight and Pathfinder S LED Driving Lights, Fox rear suspension with electronically adjustable spring-preload, Powerband Audio, a flared windscreen, and lower bars.
Besides two other journalists, over 200 Indian Motorcycle riders, along with a few of their core “ambassadors,” were present at the BBQ Hill unveiling. The transportation from about an hour north in Franklin to the event was provided via buses as the event highlighted its main adage that adorned the rear fender of the unveiled bike: “Drive Responsibly: Bottles & Throttles Don’t Mix.”
Indian had the JD Challenger set up for custom pictures for these Indian fanatics arriving from all portions of the USA. And yes, the bike nearly got tipped over a few times during the photoshoots as the whiskey was flowing graciously.
And like the other five Jack Daniel’s Indians built by Klock—the 2020 Indian Roadmaster Dark Horse with a nod to Gentleman Jack, 2019 Indian Springfield Dark Horse, 2018 Indian Bobber, 2017 Indian Chieftain, plus the 2016 Indian Chief and Springfield models to commemorate JD’s 150th Anniversary.
I headed to Jack Daniel’s facility in 2017 for the unveiling of the Jack Daniel’s Chieftain. That time I got to ride the actual JD bike, but not this time.
My initial ride thoughts would have been basically the same if I was riding the Rye-inspired model built by Klock because nothing performance-wise had changed except the Pathfinder lighting, rear suspension, and louder audio. Actually, after typing that, I take it back. The ride would have pleased much more.
Not that I had any complaints about the Challenger Dark Horse I piloted.
When I fled Pennsylvania, I planned on spending much time on curvy roads via Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Kentucky. I had the Challenger’s Ride Command—by far the best and simplest interface to use on a modern bagger—ready to guide me. I planned to pounce on some back roads and take directions from the seven-inch screen that presents an image comparable to my latest MacBook.
But things changed weatherwise only about 75 miles into my ride, and rather quickly. Due to intermittent tumultuous storms, I decided to forgo the mountains and ride Interstate 81 directly to I-40. The motorcycle provided endless comfort for nearly 600 miles that day, the fairing protecting me nicely as the traction control, ABS, and Metzeler Cruistec tires did their jobs. And the PowerPlus 108 cubic-inch engine’s 122 horsepower felt immediately available at any rpm.
I made it to my unplanned hotel in Bristol, Tenn., in just over seven hours. If only the factory didn’t set this thing with a 110 mph speed limit. Even in some downpours, I felt safely in control.
The next day’s ride was a copy of the weather conditions. But this time, while riding I-40 through Crossville, I encountered an hour-long storm that prompted four-ways flashing and speeds under 50 mph. I found out later a tornado warning had come through while I was there.
The only issue I had? Not being able to change the riding mode from Sport to Rain. Hell, I couldn’t even change it to Standard because the dash was so wet, along with my gloves, that it wouldn’t recognize my touch. And I tried every possible way to switch it via the hand controls, but with zero luck.
Thankfully, the grooves of safely connecting a throttle to the connections are wired into my brain. All of those extended travels back in the day without traction control may have saved my life!
We have a popular review of the Indian Challenger Dark Horse here. Still, all I know is that motorcycle provided endless comfort and safety for nearly 1200 miles of riding—two days that ended up being 13 hours of seat time and a more spirited backroad ride of around 120 miles from the Franklin hotel to the Jack Daniel’s facility in Lynchburg.
Would I own one? Yes. But the bike needs to be set up with Stage 2 or better accessories. One Challenger owner told me he saw 142 mph with a tuned Challenger. Um, bring it on!
The only thing that would make ownership better is nabbing the Jack Daniel’s Limited Edition Indian Challenger Dark Horse, although you’ll pay $36,999—a $9000 premium over the base Challenger Dark Horse.
Then again, you can scratch that thought. All 107 JD Challenger Dark Horse motorcycles go on sale this month. If it follows the historical sales of the other JD models, the model will be sold out within an hour. Bummer. But that leaves an extra $9000 for some tires because you’ll be needing them often and, of course, some Jack Daniel’s whiskey. Old No. 7, preferably.