October 4, 2022

Welcome to Brand Breakdown, a series of comprehensive yet easy-to-digest guides to your favorite companies, with insights and information you won’t find on the average About page.


The History of Indian Motorcycle

The company currently known as Indian Motorcycle was founded in 1901 by George Hendee and Oscar Hedstrom, under the name Hendee Manufacturing Company. The goal was simple: build a motorized bicycle to help pace bike races of the time. Their invention, however, would go on to prove itself powerful and reliable, leading it to be desired by a much greater swath of society. By 1910, it was considered one of the largest motorcycle companies in the world, and it went on to hold multiple military contracts during the Great War. But it was not until the 1920s that the company officially became known as the Indian Motocycle (no “r”) Company.

Indian managed to solidify itself in the history of motorcycling through road racing, dirt racing and land speed attempts on the world-famous Bonneville Salt Flats throughout the 20th Century. Indian also established itself in the world of flat track, leading it to become rivals with Harley-Davidson.

But time then turned cruel to the company. Indian floundered for decades, changing ownership numerous times before ultimately going out of business in 1977. While it had maintained its Art Deco styling with ornate emblems and valanced fenders that gave it an iconic look throughout the years, no significant advancements in engineering or technology or new models had been introduced over the years, leaving it behind the competition until it expired. The company was bought in 1998, only to go bankrupt again in 2003 due to economic and business mismanagement. It was not until 2008 when Indian was acquired by Polaris Industries that the brand finally saw a resurgence. Today, Indian motorcycles embody the allure of its greatness from the 20th Century while strategically moving forward as a modern American motorcycle manufacturer.

In the 1920s, Indian Motorcycles introduced motorcycles called the Scout, Chief, Big Chief and Ace. Many of the motorcycles in the modern lineup of Indian motorcycles pays homage to Indian’s most successful models while also incorporating names of historical relevance to the brand. For example, the Springfield Dark Horse is named after the famed Springfield Mile in Illinois where Indian riders won numerous flat track championships.

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Indian Motorcycle Terms of Note:

Ride Command: Indian’s proprietary infotainment and navigation interface.
FTR: Flat Track Racer
ABS: Anti-lock Braking System
Rear Cylinder Deactivation: A system that deactivates the rear cylinder in the Thunder Stroke 111 engine during stationary or slow moving traffic for enhanced comfort.

The Indian Motorcycle Model Guide:

Indian FTR

The Indian FTR is among Indian’s most ambitious models to date, and the company’s foray into a new model segment outside of the traditional cruiser or touring models. Originally known as the FTR1200 but since renamed, it represents years of development on and off the dirt track, and stands poised to pave the way to an expanding portfolio of Indian motorcycles.

The FTR’s design is pure flat tracker, featuring a standard riding position and wide tracker bars. At its heart lies a new liquid-cooled 1203cc V-Twin engine making approximately 120 horsepower and 85 pound-feet of torque, making it plenty capable on the highway or occasional fire road.

  • Models: FTR / FTR Rally / FTR Championship Edition / FTR S / FTR R Carbon
  • Engine: Liquid Cooled 1203cc V-twin
  • Base Price: $12,999

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    Indian Scout

    The Indian Scout is Indian’s notion of what its classic 1928 motorcycle would have evolved into, had the company continued production. Of the motorcycles in the Scout lineup, the Scout Sixty features a smaller displacement engine ( specs) geared toward entry-level riders.

    The Scout is powered by a liquid-cooled 69-cubic-inch V-Twin that produces 100 hp and 72.2 lb-ft at 5,900 rpm. Its power delivery is smooth, and makes highway travel a breeze. Styling is nothing short of stunning, with the V-Twin taking center stage amongst dual chromed mufflers and the single saddle.

    • Models: Scout (Sixty) / Scout Rouge (Sixty) / Scout Bobber (Sixty, Twenty)
    • Engines: Liquid Cooled 60 cu in V-twin / Liquid Cooled 69 cu in V-twin
    • Base Price: $11,749
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      Indian Chief

      The Chief heralded Indian’s return to the world of motorcycling in 2015, and reproduces the classic style and design of its bikes from the 1940s with modern technology and more refined engineering.

      The Indian Chief Dark Horse and Chief Classic are powered by Indian’s Thunder Stroke 111 V-Twin, which produces 108 lb-ft of torque, affording riders smooth and effortless power in the low- and mid-ranges. Swept-back handlebars and forward foot controls to ensure a comfortable yet relaxed ride, and the low seat height ensures excellent slow speed maneuverability and comfort at highway speed. If you want more features, there’s also the well-equipped Super Chief models.

      • Models: Chief / Chief Bobber / Chief Dark Horse / Chief Bobber Dark Horse / Super Chief / Super Chief Limited
      • Engine: 1,811-cc V-twin
      • Base Price: $14,999

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        Indian Springfield

        The Indian Springfield is classic beauty wrapped in modern technology. For those who seek a versatile modern classic cruiser capable of long highway stints or simple weekend excursions, the Indian Springfield exceeds expectations.

        The Indian Springfield is powered by Indian’s Thunder Stroke 111 V-Twin, producing 119.2 lb-ft of torque. Additional features on the Indian Springfield: a genuine leather seat, remote-locking hard saddlebags, tire pressure monitoring, light Bar, ABS, cruise control, quick-release touring windscreen and keyless ignition.

        • Models: Springfield / Springfield Dark Horse
        • Engine: 1,811-cc V-twin
        • Base Price: $22,499

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          Indian Chieftain

          When the highway calls and you require premium amenities like extra wind protection, a multimedia system, and a banging audio system, the Indian Chieftain should be high on your list of considered motorcycles. Featuring the Thunder Stroke 111 V-Twin, the Chieftain combines smooth, effortless power and relaxed riding ergonomics for a plush and luxurious ride.

          Beyond the thrill of a proven power plant and classic styling, the Indian Chieftain includes premium features like a large fairing with electronic windscreen, keyless ignition, cruise control, lockable saddlebags, a 7.0-inch touchscreen, Bluetooth connectivity, ABS, rear cylinder deactivation, and three riding modes.

          • Models: Chieftain / Chieftain Limited / Chieftain Dark Horse / Chieftain Elite
          • Engine: 1,811-cc V-twin
          • Base Price: $22,499
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            Indian Challenger

            Retro style is cool and all, but if you want something a little more modern-looking from your bagger, the Indian Challenger might be just the ticket. 122 horsepower and 128 lb-ft mean it has power for days, while a lightweight cast-aluminum frame, inverted front suspension and adjustable Fox shock in back mean it’ll take turns with glee. And don’t forget about the integrated stereo.

            • Models: Challenger / Challenger Limited / Challenger Dark Horse / Challenger Elite
            • Engine: 1,768-cc V-twin
            • Base Price: $24,499

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              Indian Roadmaster

              Do you need to crush a thousand miles or more in a single day, but don’t want to sacrifice comfort and power? That’s no problem for the Indian Roadmaster. This machine is born to conquer the open road.

              Beyond the thrill of the proven Thunder Stroke 116 V-Twin and classic styling, the Indian Roadmaster comes complete with Indian’s full line of premium amenities including a premium audio system, Bluetooth connectivity, full dresser luggage pack, comfortable passenger accommodations, a large front fairing with electronic windscreen and side leg fairings with adjustable vents, Pathfinder LED lighting, keyless ignition, cruise control, heated hand grips, a 7.0-inch Ride Command touchscreen, ABS, rear cylinder deactivation, and three riding modes.

              • Models: Roadmaster / Roadmaster Dark Horse / Roadmaster Limited
              • Engine: 1,890-cc V-twin
              • Base Price: $29,999

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                Indian Pursuit

                The Pursuit may sound like a bike that you would see pulling you over on the highway. But it’s actually a luxury tourer that Indian calls “the most capable and refined American touring machine on the road.”

                The Pursuit uses the same 180 cubic-inch liquid-cooled V-twin engine as the Indian Challenger, with 122 horsepower and 128 lb-ft of torque. Indian says the Pursuit has a PowerPlus calibration for better low-speed drivability. And it comes loaded with comfort features for long rides like an adjustable windscreen, vented lower fairings, heated grips, a new Touring Comfort seat and a cargo trunk and saddlebags providing a combined 35 gallons of power-locking storage.

                • Models: Pursuit Limited / Pursuit Darkhorse
                • Engine: 6 Speed PowerPlus Liquid Cooled 108 cu in V-twin
                • Base Price: $29,999