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Polaris Chief Motorcycle
And What You Need To Know Before You Buy The Indian Motorcycle
Polaris Indian Motorcycle - The Choice is Yours!
Are these new Indian motorcycles going to fail in the marketplace like the other wishful Indian resurrections? I think we are going to see the new Indians for a very long, long time. Here's why...
Polaris, who owns and builds the new Indian, is filthy rich. They are dedicated and pouring big money into design and robotic production. The quality of the engine product is astounding. Just the engine alone is going to make the new Indians a huge hit winner. The engine will be solidly mounted to the bike frame, but should not be a vibration problem at all. Keep reading.
The Engine - Thunder Stroke 111
Left Side View
Right Side View
The engine is beautifully designed and crafted. 118 ft-lbs torque at 3,000 rpm on a stock 111 cubic inch (1,811cc) 49 degree V-Twin engine. Nice! It means it's going to sound and feel fabulous. However, do not expect it to sound just like a authentic Harley-Davidson because that sound can not truly be duplicated, but it will sound close with the right pipes installed.
The crankshaft is single pin totally forged steel one-piece design. It means the flywheels will never, ever, slip out of position like on the Harley-Davidson and throw the engine out of balance. No need to weld this crankpin to the webs. The main bearings are 2.5" which are incredibly huge for a motorcycle engine (they are as big a car engine bearings) which means you could get 300,000 miles or more on the bottom end. This beefy crankshaft is the beast within the Indian that will earn it big respect. The engine will remain strong when the top-end is punched out for bigger pistons, etc.. This crankshaft is not going to fail. The crank journal accepts Babbitt bearing fracture-split connecting rods just like heavy industrial diesel and high-performance racing engines. Wow! This is a real bullet-proof crankshaft and rod assembly.
The three cam shafts (one for each exhaust valve, the center cam drives both intake valves) are chain and gear driven where it counts to maintain precise valve timing. The cam gears are self-adjusting split helical gears. The intake cam is chain driven, the two exhaust cams are gear driven side-by-side just like the HD Sportster engine. The cam chain does drive the intake cam, but it is on the outside only, not an inner chain, so it means you can actually replace the cam chain, follower and chain guide yourself. Yes, there is a cam chain follower on that chain, but again, you can replace it yourself. As easy as replacing a spark plug! I would have rather seen all gears and no chain, but this design arrangement is so easy to inspect and replace the cam chain follower and chain I would buy this engine, no qualms about it. When Roland Sands makes a "Clarity" cam cover for the engine you should buy one to keep a visual watch on any follower wear.
Valve springs are beehive-shape design. Very, very nice! Look at the straight parallel push rods. No twisting taking place here in the valve train means better valve control and less wear and tear. The push rods rise nearly straight up like in the HD Sportster. This means valve lift control will be direct and much more precise then the HD Twin-Cam. The hollow push rods also act as oil gallery feeds to lubricate and cool the valve stems, springs, rockers, etc. Awesome!
20W-40 oil will lubricate the engine, primary and transmission. The Polaris Victory engine does this with great success too. It means oil changes is a one drain plug affair.
The clutch has spring shocks integrated into the clutch to keep things running smoothly. Only two fingers required to pull in the clutch. That's real nice. The primary pinion shaft has a torque converter. Imagine that! And with no primary chain to deal with, the primary drive is all gears in the primary case. No slop here or problems. The Victory engine was the same running gears instead of a chain.
Oil pump is gear driven behind and below the transmission that will eliminate dry starts, sumping (oil flooding) in the crankcase and oil flow cavitations (vacuum or vapor locking) that can bind the oil pump suction chamber to stop oil flow.
The engine has been tested for one million miles during development. The valve covers have cast shallow fins for cooling and looks, but some nice aftermarket deep-finned covers would be even better, just like the old Indian engines had and they would shed heat way better. Just nit-picking here.
The 6-Speed Transmission
Transmission gears are helical cut. Need we say more? Yes, the transmission is driven by a totally 100% gear driven primary system. No more primary chains. This, boosts smoothness like you never knew before in a big cubic inch V-Twin engine. You're gonna' love it. It means no maintenance, no horrific rough engine, no noises, no more tough, clanky shifting or mechanical problems. It likely will use the transmission oil as the same compartment (I do not know yet). The clutch is enormous so its going to last and take the power with ease.
The first gear is a spur gear and 2nd through six gear are helical gears.
The primary drive uses a 55-tooth crankshaft gear meshing with a 86-tooth reliable spring dampened gear on the rear of the clutch basket (vibration dampening sprung hub) like a high-performance car or heavy-duty truck to absorb engine drivetrain shocks.
The exhaust pipes are not sleeved into the cylinder heads, which is nice, but are sleeved into an adapter. This adapter can be removed, but it has a function of cylinder head fins so you got to keep this adapter on the bike. What it really means is this. You need to buy slip-on pipes. That is not a bad thing as slip-on's are fine, but for those who want performance pipes you need to wait until the aftermarket catches up and makes complete pipes that have those fin adapters on them.
The price of the new Indians may be too high for the average rider. The price may never come down! Why? Then Polaris Indian will be competing with their Polaris Victory brand motorcycles. This could very well kill the Indian in the marketplace over time once the initial marketplace is saturated. I have a strong fear if Indian does not make low cost rides it will be like the Harley-Davidson CVO's too expensive for the average rider. I'll keep my HD Sportster before I shell out tens of thousands of dollars, even if the Indian does have a reliable engine. It also means most riders will not jump ship from Harley-Davidson when they can buy a Harley at equal to less cost, and I don't blame them. If Indian made Sporty Brave that competes with the HD Sportster? I'll jump ship.
Valance Fenders: Be aware it will cost you more money in time/labor charges to change tires and renew brake pads since the large fenders get in the way and must be completely removed. The Indian "look" if too old looking will wear off quickly. If Polaris keeps the old look with giant flared fenders of the old Indian it will be a big mistake. People today really do not want vintage bikes. They want new bikes that look modern. The first year or so of Indian production may go over, but it will soon fade away. We live in the digital space age. Few want to ride what appears as a vintage museum piece. Resurrected Indian died many deaths due to the "old look" on a modern bike. It's okay to have a line up of vintage and modern bikes like Harley has and that is what Polaris/Indian will need to do too and they are diversifying their models. But hey, they must begin at some point and so far with that awesome Thunderstroke engine they are on the right track. In time they will make more models, but will they all be high-price custom vehicle monsters few can afford to buy?
"The new Indian may end up being another collector's bike if the price is too high. Let's hope not."
Engine Access? Will Polaris Indian make the same mistake they made with their Victory where you can not overhaul the top-end when the engine is still bolted to the frame? Must you remove the engine from the frame or lower it out of the frame? Or can the frame backbone be removed to allow the heads and cylinders to come off? Who knows? This will be a deal killer for me. I like the way Harley-Davidson allows us to just go to work overhauling the Sportster and Twin-Cam engines while it remains in the frame.
Will the bodywork be so massive and intrusive to obstruct easy access to work on the engine or even to inspect and fix a flat tire? Can the wheels be able to be quickly removed for tire replacement ease?
The drive belt will be on the right-hand side of the bike. This is good. Like the Victory and the Harley-Davidson Sportster you can change the belts and pulleys with great ease, but this feature has yet to be verified.
"To fix the transmission must engine cases be split or is there a trap door?"
The engine is a 49 degree V-Twin air and oil-cooled with an oil cooler radiator. This is all good, but rear cylinder is offset to the left.
The engine has hydraulic valve lifters. Excellent! Has wide-spaced parallel pushrod tubes like the S&S X-Wedge engine.
Engine is not rubber-mounted to the frame, but has internal balancers instead to tame vibration.
Intake Valve is 51.3mm and exhaust valve is 42mm. Valve lift is 12mm.
The clutch is low effort. Very good.
Engine has an internal helical gear primary balancer for smooth operation.
Compression release is automatic for easy starting.
Engine barrels and heads fins are deep for efficient cooling. Bore: 3.98" Stroke: 4.45" (under square engine).
The ECU is German design: Bosch ME17
Torque: 115 ft-lbs.
Drive: Belt drive to rear wheel.
Oversquare bore and stroke: 3.89 x 4.45 inches (101x113 millimeters) is 111 cubic inches (1911cc).
Flat-topped, three-ring pistons
Compression: 9.5:1 (premium fuel required).
Oil cooler is frame mounted (see comments below #7).
Frame is cast aluminum with a forged aluminum sub-frame.
More Technical Info
Cylinders are Nikasil-like coated with a durable thin plating that eliminates the insulating effect of iron liners, weight and increases heat transfer cooling. But there is a drawback to that setup. You can't bore the cylinder so a new cylinder will be required for upgrades or overhauls. This is not a deal-breaker by no means because hard-coated cylinders is acceptable and desirable.
The oil cooler appears to be too small, but it could be larger for such a powerful engine. I would install a larger aftermarket oil cooler with fan assist, if needed.
Compression ratio is perfect at 9:5 to 1. This keeps cylinder heat and risk of detonation lower. It may also take the crisp "pop" out of the exhaust note as Harley riders enjoy. A muddled and blended sound can result sounding like the Victory engine or a smeared Honda V-Twin sound. Only Harley has that succinct, crisp, po-ta-toe sound.
Will the engine be too smooth like the Victory engine where there is little to no feeling from the engine? It may sound good, but does it feel good? Does it sound muddled but feels strong? Only the Harley has that "tugging" feel as each piston fires. You feel each piston firing and pulling you forward. Does the Indian Thunderstroke engine feel this way? We don't know yet. There is a rotating engine counterbalance spinning down deep in the cases to reduce vibration, but not eliminate it. It is gear driven with no chains or tensioners required for trouble free operation. The flattop pistons are forged not cast so they are very strong indeed and the skirts are moderate to reduce reciprocating mass.
The 54mm "Y" intake manifold is connected to the engine via rubber mounts. This can become a source for air leaks to make the engine run lean, then again, we don't know yet.
Is the engine rubber-mounted to the frame or directly connected like the Harley-Davidson Twin-Cam B engine? Don't know yet. Don't know how it "feels" until a test ride.
The engine sound may have a monotone where each cylinder is not explosively heard like the Harley. It may tend to blend into each other. I found the Victory engine does the same. I saw a crowd of people in Daytona, FL no cheering when they heard the new engine fired up. They did not, or were not impressed, with the sound of the engine. So, this engine sound needs to be evaluated by the buyer. Remember, getting aftermarket pipes will be a tad slow in coming due to the Indian cylinder head exhaust adapter (bolt-on elbows) needing to be fitted. This is not like a Harley.
If the engine truly sounds and feels good this could be the best American V-Twin motorcycle cruiser/touring engine ever built, all things considered.
Poor Dealer Network
Polaris/Indian may or may not use their existing Polaris dealers to sell and service the new Indian motorcycle. I saw Polaris advertising for dealers in a Power Sports Industry magazine. This can spell disaster for Indian. By not using their own dealer network they have to build one up from scratch. It means the Indian will be unsupported like Harley-Davidson dealers are. You will have Honda, Kawasaki, Suzuki, "no name" and "who knows whom" becoming a dealer. It then means there will be no assurance you will obtain repairs with a certified Indian trained mechanic. This is really important.
Note: Just because an Indian dealer exists does not mean a Indian Certified Mechanic is on duty. For this reason I will not buy an Indian motorcycle. I have had my new bikes "butchered" buy untrained mechanics on warranty work. Never again.
The power sports industry is notorious for having unqualified and unskilled mechanics "hack-sawing" on new motorcycles, "winging it" and "hope-for-the-best" repairs. I have seen factory trained mechanic certificates hanging on the walls when the employee has long gone. These accreditations are used to "fool the customer" into believing a factory trained mechanic is on the premises and will be working on your bike. Beware!
Polaris should use or build their own tightly-controlled network of Indian dealers from scratch and not use existing power sports industry dealers to create an unsupervised and reckless network. Polaris/Indian will lose control of these dealerships and Indian will suffer as result. It's not going to be like Harley-Davidson where all the dealers are on the same page selling the same product. It's like putting Indian in with a Honda/Kawasaki/Yamaha dealership. That's the power sport industry format where dedication to a brand is heresy to them. But I am now seeing Polaris using existing Victory dealerships which are "power sports industry" dealerships. This is bad news for you!
Note: Do Not Buy: I do not recommend you buy a motorcycle from the Indian & Victory Reno, Nevada dealership. Why? Click here for a detailed explanation then scroll down the page to read #10 and #19. I do not believe this dealership is trustworthy based on my personal experience with them. They blamed this customer for their mishaps and wrongdoings which Victory bought my motorcycle back to fix the problems. You may not be so lucky. This dealer posted a certificate of a Factory Trained Mechanic, but no such mechanic was a current employee. They left it up on the wall to trick me to believe what was not true to be true which was a lie. Buyer, beware.
Five Year Warranty is Worthless - If the dealers do not have on site full-time employee mechanics Certified by Indian with factory training you will end up with a broken motorcycle butchered by incompetent mechanics. Most of these power sports dealers employ kids that wannabe mechanics. If you don't believe it then go visit these dealerships and see for yourself. Not only with the bike be ruined, it will never likely be fixed and keep breaking down and always in the shop for more repairs. I suffered 23 mechanical failures one brand new one bike in one-year dealing with these multi-purpose vehicle power sports dealers with uncertified mechanics. It was hell on earth. Sure, the bike was under warranty but it was never fixed, wasted my time and sorely ruined my mood for years to come (and still upsets me when I think of it). Don't fall for the long warranty for it is going to be useless when you need it. A five year roadside assistance is thrown in and that is good, but it is only for the motorcycle towing. The American Motorcyclist Association has a better towing program for one price you get their magazine and towing for every vehicle you own, including motorhomes!
1. The Indian motorcycle is brand spanking new. That means "bugs" can arise that can become troublesome. It is risky to buy a new anything these days.
2. Accessories for the motorcycle (and the engine) will be very difficult to obtain. Choice will be nil and any you find will be expensive. You won't find used parts and new products may not even exist by aftermarket firms. It means you will pay top-dollar at the dealer for any optional equipment. It will take years for Indian to get a huge assortment of accessories like Harley-Davidson has. Just do some searches for accessories for Indian and Harley-Davidson and you will be enlightened. I would wait 5-years for Indian to fill the market from first launch of its models before buying.
3. At first product launch in 2013 there is no Scout model similar to a Harley-Davidson Sportster. When the Scout arrives, and if is the question here, if it arrives it should be looked at seriously if it has that big Thunder Stroke engine in it and the price is right. That is the machine to watch and it should be chopped without those huge gaudy Indian-old-style flared fenders and body panels. It it looks modern I would likely buy it. But it must not have spoke wheels as the only option because you can't reliably fix a flat tire if it has a punctured or torn inner tube.
4. Again, be aware that dealers may not have Indian Certified "factory trained" mechanics and that means you are going to get shoddy repairs. I have had very bad experiences with Power Sports dealerships (dealers that sell all sorts of things along with motorcycles; jet skis, boats, off-road vehicles, etc.) as they generally hire mechanics from motorcycle mechanic schools and you never know what "grades" those mechanics are. Some that I have met should not even have a wrench in their hand due to gross incompetence. If the Indian you want is at a Power Sports dealership consider buying elsewhere at a Indian dealership that only sells Indian motorcycles. Then make sure they have a certified factory-trained Indian mechanic on the premises. Beware of dealers that hang the license, but have no such professional on the premises. Don't be fooled! I would verify any such mechanic with Indian to make sure. These Power Sports dealers can be very, very, corrupt. Factory training is critical. Just following a wrong procedure can destroy the engine or cause you to crash. It is why I like Harley-Davidson as they have factory training in a very big way, but even then, a dealer can by-pass and not have factory trained mechanics, so again, be careful and be aware. Never assume the mechanics at a dealership are competent and trustworthy.
5. Be careful. I bought a new Polaris/Victory/Kingpin motorcycle and found it was horribly uncomfortable to ride. The angle of handlebar grips contorted my wrists and the seat was a deep pocket so I could not shift body position and the foot boards were positioned in a strange place for long rides. I found the Arlen Ness styling was nice to look at, but totally horrible for comfort. Your new Indian motorcycle may have similar worries. Take a few test rides before you buy. At first it may feel comfortable in the showroom and on your first test ride, but on the third or fourth test ride the problems may be detected. Some can easily be fixed while other can not be done cheaply without custom alterations performed.
6. The new Indian models were just released and it appears Polaris made the same mistake as they did with Victory motorcycles. The rear cylinder head seems to have no clearance to be removed without lowering the engine from the frame. Granted, overhauling this engine would be rare, but it will be expensive for a shop to do the job or time-consuming to do yourself.
7. The engine runs hot even with an external oil cooler that is ill placed blocking air flow to the front cylinder. While this is not a cause of overheating itself, it certainly is not helping matters one bit. The oil cooler should have been offset or frame mounted on the down tubes. As is, it is a huge air dam blocking cool air from flowing into the front cylinder. This engine also should have had internal oil passages like the Victory engine had to keep the engine temperature down. Complaints are coming in that the new Indian engine runs too hot. Even Harley-Davidson is now converting their Twin-Cam engines to water-cooled cylinder heads. (Thankfully, the Harley-Davidson Sportster 1200 engines already has oil-cooling circulating around the exhaust valve seats along with under piston oil-jet cooling). You can purchase a heat-shield (Saddle Shield) that installs above the rear cylinder head and the right-side of the seat that will stop the burn to the right thigh. I recommend to invest in a larger size thermostat controlled aftermarket oil cooler to drop the engine temperature. You could also purchase aftermarket auxiliary electric cooling fans to blow air through the engine cooling fins. Overheating an air-cooled engine in stop & go traffic is easy to do and the heat will warp piston rings and/or fry valve guide seals resulting in a ruined top-end engine that must be repaired. Heat kills all air-cooled engines.
I will not recommend the new Indian motorcycle. I do not like the new model looks. They are 1930's styling. Even Harley-Davidson does not make bikes with that old styling that died almost a hundred oil years ago. Unless you desire a vintage bike look? If that were the case, Harley-Davidson would be scrambling to fill the demand. The new Indians need to look new, not an old clunker 80 years old. If you look at the body panels it looks like a Honda Goldwing. Those huge flared wheel fenders is Indian, but again out of style for the times today. These new Indians belong in a museum. Some people will like them just for being different, for being old looking, nostalgic retro appearance.
I loved the new engine until I saw it mounted in the bike frame. It is ugly. It looks squashed and has a horrible wide fin gap for the exhaust ports that takes away the looks. The cylinders are too oval-shaped like a BMW's cylinders. No nice engine contours like the Harley-Davidson engines. Also, the top valve covers are stamped metal with no real fins like the original Indians had. It looks like the engine got a crew cut. The engine has a solid design internally and if inserted in the right frame it may look great, but it looks horrible in those old-style Indians with flared fenders and body panels.
The new Indian is so old looking it is ridiculous. What they have done is created a brand new old vintage bike. They put a huge bold black ink date of "1901" on the primary case so everybody now knows you are riding an old bike, not a new bike. These Indians are also decked out with body panels and flared fenders that drive up the costs to buy one. When Indian makes a more "conventional" model I predict success will arrive for more people will buy them at a lower price to boot.
These old Indians also have old style leather saddlebags which we all know leather does not last long on motorcycles. The bags will dry out no matter how much leather conditioner you use, especially out West with high ozone levels, and the bags will be expensive to replace. There are also leather "frills" flapping in the wind and will absolutely slap the body panels and mark up the paint.
Huge valanced fenders is too old school 1940's appearance.
I now suspect the ergonomics on the 2014 model year motorcycles may be painful on these new Indians. The riding position appears to be way too clam-shell as the rider must reach for the handlebars despite long-stretched beach bars being used. Beach bars are also dangerous as the motorcycle can not be handled properly at low or high speeds on any curved roadway. Footboard angle is too extreme and this will cramp your ankles and lower and upper legs in no time at all never find a "comfortable" foot position. These are defects found in the Victory motorcycles of which I owned one designed by Arlen Ness and I found the bike was dysfunctional in ergonomic comfort. Even the handlebar grip angle twisted my wrists into pain and the grips were so rock hard they hurt the palm of your hands. These problems I see are being carried over to the new Indian so buyer beware. It will be very expensive to fix these problems, that I guarantee. Looking at the photo above the legs seem to want to cramp up. I had this problem on my Victory Kingpin. The handlebar grip angle was also painful cramping the wrist joint. So watch out for these things as the bike may not be as comfortable as it may appear.
When you get on a Harley-Davidson it is going to feel comfortable, that is my experience. When you ride a Victory it will give you pain. I may be wrong, but the new Indians do not appear to be comfortable. Look how high the rider's knee is in the photo. Look at the shoe position way up on the highly angled floorboard. The wrists appear bent in an awkward angle. The handlebars appear too wide. The valanced fenders are too huge. Things may change for the better in future models.
My 2012 Harley-Davidson Custom XL Sportster looks way better than these new Indian Chiefs' at half the price. The Sportster engine has zero defects too boot and gets 50 miles to the gallon of gasoline. I am not impressed with the new Indian overall. I appreciate it, but I will not buy one until they create modern designs. As for me, I will stay with Harley-Davidson. Those huge valance fenders make it very difficult and labor-expensive if you hire a repair shop to change tires as you will pay by the hour to remove and install the fenders to gain access to the axles and wheels.
Bottom Line -Rider's Will Benefit With Choice
No matter what happens, I believe you will see lower prices to buy a new Harley-Davidson when Indian rolls out its new models and that's going to benefit riders as the competition heats up for market share.
My prediction is Harley-Davidson will win in the end, but Indian may not die this time and may be around for a long time to come, slowly capturing a respectable share of riders. I like this engine a lot, but with strong reservations set in the current style frames. It is powerful, easy to work on and is a very modern design with very few flaws. But then again, so is the new Harley-Davidson Sportster at only 1/3 to 1/2 the price.
I would consider buying a new Polaris Indian motorcycle when they come out with "modern conventional" styles. Until then, I'll just sit on my Harley-Davidson Custom Sportster 1200XL and ride into the sunset smiling all the way to the bank.
The Indian Scout Motorcycle - Including The Smaller Scout Sixty
Polaris/Indian did build a Scout model motorcycle in the year 2014. After reading many magazine articles about the bike I decided not to recommend the bike or write a detailed article. Here's why you should not buy one:
1. The bike overall is just plain ugly. The engine appearance is awful and the water cooled radiator is huge and sticks out like a sore thumb = ugly, ugly, ugly!
2. The engine requires expensive valve adjustments with shim/bucket design. Even if you perform the valve adjustments yourself, you are wasting time and money for time spent and cost of gaskets and seals. Who needs this? Indian could have installed hydraulic lifters or hydraulic tappets as they have in their Polaris Chief and Victory motorcycles.
3. I like the large size wheels and tires. Headlight and handlebars are fine. Everything else is not good looking.
4. Good luck trying to find aftermarket accessories for this bike. I don't believe the aftermarket manufacturers are going to support this Chief motorcycle widely. Perhaps time will tell and vendors will support the bike.
5. This bike will not sound like a Harley-Davidson no matter what pipes you put on it and no matter what tuning you do.
6. The cost of the bike is too high to purchase and to maintain.
7. I believe the Indian Scout will prove to be reliable however, you will be way better off buying a Harley-Davidson 1200XL Sportster. Read this article: Harley-Davidson Sportster 1200 & Why You Should Buy One - The Most Perfect Harley Ever Made
8. Indian Scout motorcycle reviews a first were stunning, but now the reality is setting in and testers are being a bit more critical. It appears the ride quality is inferior with weak fork springs making for a bouncing po-go-stick ride which is tiresome. Aftermarket suspension will need to be purchased to correct this.
9. The Scout may be like the Victory and the Indian Chief motorcycles where the #2 rear cylinder can't be overhauled in the frame and the engine will need to be dropped out of the frame to repair pistons or cylinder head... this is not confirmed yet. The odds are, like the Indian Chief Victory, you won't need to overhaul this engine until about 180,000+ miles. Still, something to think about as you still need to adjust the valves every 20,000 miles on the Scout.
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