2021 Harley-Davidson Heritage Classic 114 vs. 2022 Indian Super Chief Limited America’s touring Big Twins put to the test. By Morgan Gales 9 hours ago Built for riding America’s highways in comfort and style, the Super Chief and Heritage Classic are different approaches to achieving the same goal.Jeff Allen As a kid, I’d always stay on my bicycle later and pass by my neighbor’s place a few more times if he was in the garage working on his bike. I’d sneak glances at the motorcycle parked under the center light, trying to understand my attraction to it. On weekday mornings, he would fire it up and ride to work with saddlebags and windscreen installed. On Sundays more bikes would gather outside, he’d pull down the driveway on his beautiful stripped-down machine and they’d all head out for a ride. It was business and pleasure, equal parts show and go. Just like the 2021 Harley-Davidson Heritage Classic 114 and 2022 Indian Motorcycle Super Chief Limited, two motorcycles designed to offer the best of both worlds, each manufacturer’s heavyweight cruiser platform in its highest level of trim, the result of competition that has spanned more than a century. Cruising along Southern California’s highways toward Mount Laguna in eastern San Diego County, there’s 30 feet and 25 years between Editor-at-Large Andrew Cherney and I. We have very different music playing in our helmets, but we easily agree on the Heritage and Super Chief. These bikes offer all the style and most of the convenience of hard-bagged touring machines built around each manufacturer’s big engine, but they’re lighter, more nimble, and more affordable. Remarkably similar in every measurable way, these two motorcycles were designed to perform the same basic task: Tour American highways and cast forth the beacon of freedom that has always been symbolized by Big Twins. Their job—and Americans love to define themselves by their job—is to represent decades of history from their respective companies while also employing modern technology and generally functioning at the level expected of today’s $20,000-plus machines. Editors Morgan Gales and Andy Cherney ride the 2021 Harley-Davidson Heritage Classic 114 and 2022 Indian Super Chief in the mountains east of San Diego.Jeff Allen Head-to-Head Engine Comparison: Harley-Davidson Heritage Classic 114 vs. Indian Super Chief Limited The first major similarity in both performance and form are the engines, two large-displacement V-twins with pushrod-actuated valves. The Milwaukee-Eight 114 is air-and-oil cooled, has four valves per cylinder, and operates with a slightly smaller bore and longer stroke, whereas the Indian’s air-cooled Thunderstroke 116 runs with a half-point more compression (11.0:1) but only two valves per cylinder. They’re different roads to the same destination, strong and visceral but refined, shaking with muffled pops at idle and smoothing out as the revs increase. Laying the dyno charts over one another, we can say they’re as similar as we’ve ever seen from two different manufacturers. Laying the Harley and Indian’s dyno charts over one another shows the similarities are remarkable.Jeff Allen Each engine’s torque curve powerfully establishes itself off idle and from around 1,300 rpm, where we start measuring it on our dyno, runs to a peak at 107 pound-feet near 3,000 rpm, then gradually slopes down afterward as the engines rev to redline. As touring riders tend to spend their time at lower revs with less vibration and a mellow beat from the engine, desire for peak performance at higher revs is outweighed by the need for comfort and immediate pull. Therefore these bikes were designed to provide power off the bottom-end, where the vast majority of users want it. And that’s where the first major disparity appears. ADVERTISEMENT Clutch and Throttle Feel For smooth, precise engine engagement off the line, good clutch feel and consistent throttle response are key. These are two of the Heritage’s greatest strengths; the Harley’s throttle is precise enough to gradually and carefully increase the lope off idle, and responds as expected throughout the rev range. But this area is also the Super Chief’s greatest weakness; there’s a delay in the Chief’s throttle response from idle, which varies depending on where the engine’s revs sit at the time of application. Communicative clutch lever feel also lets you know exactly when the Heritage’s friction zone is engaging the gearbox, but the Chief’s lever is springy and vague making it hard to be smooth and consistent. This leads to smoother launches with the Harley. With time and experience, Chief riders will undoubtedly learn the clutch’s engagement point and suss out the intricacies of how the throttle responds, but modulation of these controls will be more based upon motorcycle motion and engine sound than it is on feedback and feel. The feeling of connection to the machinery is an important part of cruiser motorcycles, and the Harley has that in spades. Indian’s air-cooled 49-degree V-twin, the Thunderstroke 116, and Harley-Davidson’s air-and-oil-cooled 45-degree V-twin, the Milwaukee-Eight 114.Jeff Allen Quarter-mile times were within a tenth of a second, with the Harley finishing in 13.28 seconds at 100.93 mph and the Indian coming in after 13.37 seconds at 98.58 mph. Zero-to-60 speeds were nearly identical at 4.45 and 4.47 seconds, though the Indian was slightly faster off the line, reaching 30 mph in 1.68 seconds compared to the Harley’s 1.9. All times recorded are the best of several runs at our test facility. Fit and Finish In the cruiser world, fit and finish are just as important as a rider’s feeling of connection to their motorcycle. Harley-Davidson gets a lot of credit for setting the bar high here, and it has continued its good work with this Heritage Classic. As usual, special attention has been paid to routing wires, positioning clamps, and arranging other necessary but unsightly features to make sure that focus remains on the bike’s form as a whole. H-D’s VP of Design Brad Richards called it “cable hygiene” in a recent interview. The Super Chief looks excellent from a few feet away, its metallic blue paint deep and vibrant; but put it next to the Heritage and its shortcomings are apparent. A large wiring loom hangs near the steering head, obstructing the view of a tubular frame that was clearly designed to be seen. Worst of all, the chrome Indian badge on the gas tank was stuck on with foam adhesive that was peeling up on either side. At $20,849 for the Heritage and $21,499 for the Super Chief, these motorcycles are luxury vehicles; exactly how the badge is secured to the tank is a conversation that we shouldn’t need to have. The Super Chief Limited’s touch-screen gauge is easy to read and highly functional, bringing a luxury component of Indian’s hard-bagged touring models into its cruiser segment.Jeff Allen Along that same line, small accents like chrome edges on the fenders, a chrome wheel hub cover, chromed top triple tree and riser clamp, and blackened nickel studs on the seat and tank bib give the Heritage a high-quality feel. Despite models being designated as Limited traditionally being Indian’s more chrome-drenched versions, the Super Chief lacks the same level of adornment; the exhaust pipes, engine covers, intake, and tank bib are in chrome, but most other functional components are muted with black finishes. Electronics and Technology As Big Twins are deeply rooted in traditional styling, gadgetry and tech aren’t things we have expected to see openly integrated until recently. The Super Chief does this very well, using a 4-inch touchscreen gauge system Indian calls “Ride Command” to display all vehicle information, Bluetooth connection, GPS, and more. It does all this while still retaining a simple round shape which seems no different from any other bar-mounted gauge when viewing the bike as a whole. The gauge on the Heritage is simple: an analog speedometer with a small digital readout in the middle displaying fuel level, alerts, and cycling (with a press of a button) between range, clock, trip or overall mileage, and tachometer. It seems dated and, next to the Indian, feels like the bike is missing a key component of a modern luxury touring machine, though the arrangement does keep things nice and tidy at the handlebars. Indian’s 2022 Super Chief Limited in Blue Slate Metallic starts at $21,499.Jeff Allen Three power maps, Sport, Standard, and Tour, are available on the Super Chief Limited, selectable through the Ride Command system. Tour mode is mellow, smoothing out initial throttle application and aimed to assist with long-mile fuel economy. Sport mode is the most aggressive of the maps, ramping up quickly on initial throttle input; though it can be fun to burn some tire here, it only exaggerates the disconnected feeling from the throttle and clutch. Standard mode is the one testers preferred, as it allowed for the most linear and precise application. The Heritage does not offer ride modes, but neither did it really need them; Cherney specifically noted that power was accessible and linear, and the butterfly and therefore engine response matched right-hand movements consistently throughout the powerband. The one “mode” just works very well, and always as expected. Chassis and Handling Despite only a 14-pound weight difference favoring the lighter H-D, these two motorcycles feel quite different from the moment you pick them up off of their sidestands. The Indian feels heavier and seems to carry its weight higher, even though the Harley carries a gallon more fuel. The Heritage simply feels more nimble and manageable. In Black Jet Metallic, the Heritage Classic 114 starts at $20,849.Jeff Allen Taking to the twisty mountain roads around our base at the Laguna Mountain Lodge, the Heritage was quicker to respond to steering inputs and would hold a cornering line without as much fight, due in part to the taller and better positioned handlebars but also due to the narrower Dunlop D401F rear tire. Because of the Super Chief’s 180mm-wide Pirelli Night Dragon rear tire, input to the rear brake or throttle while in a turn would want to stand the bike upright, making it more difficult at times to hold lean angle and maintain the intended line. The Heritage is still a large and heavy bike, but in direct comparison, its handling felt flickable and neutral. Roadside discussion and comparison helps break up long miles during test days.Jeff Allen While maintaining lean angle through a turn, the hinged floorboards on the Heritage Classic have several degrees of give, letting the rider feel when they started to scrape, communicating that there was a little more lean available before touching the underside of the frame. The Super Chief Limited has some room beyond its floorboards, but not nearly as much, meaning that it picks up on hard parts more quickly when pushed beyond the initial “soft” touch point. At higher speeds, when lean angle is really appreciated, the Indian tended to wallow, like the front and back of the bike were out of stroke, an effect often caused by light suspension damping. This paired with the small margin between feeling the road with floorboards and scraping hard parts meant that the Super Chief felt unstable while being pushed hard, zapping rider confidence and making its limits known. While the Harley was well in its comfort zone, the Super Chief had to be muscled around; even then, carrying the same speed through turns required the rider to pick just the right line in order to limit lean angle and keep hard parts off the tarmac. Toward the end of our first riding day, Cherney noted, from the saddle of the Indian, that the added effort of following the Harley through a long stretch of twisty roads was felt after only an hour; he experienced noticeable shoulder pump from the combination of a long reach to the bars and the necessity of constant pressure on them. Suspension and Brakes Whether you’re hitting canyons like that for a couple hours or just mellowing out to ride long miles, suspension can make or break a touring motorcycle. Both bikes come equipped with a telescopic fork, though the H-D’s larger, Showa-manufactured 49mm dual-bending valve set is better calibrated for both sharp hits and minor bumps; this keeps the bike controlled and composed. The Indian’s ZF-made 46mm damper-tube fork provides adequate low-speed damping while carving smooth, twisty roads and loading up the fork to enter a turn, but at highway speeds the suspension mechanism is easily overwhelmed and feels harsh. Rear suspension on each bike is preload adjustable only, but this category was also firmly graded in favor of the Harley, with its 4.4 inches of travel compared to the Chief’s 3.0. There were a couple of times when I reached the limits of the Softail’s monoshock, but only when hitting significant bumps at speed. The Chief’s dual shocks were adequate through minor bumps, but coming across anything major or while the shock was already compressed would use up the full stroke and send the force through the seat and up your spine. Harley-Davidson’s Heritage models have been around since 1986, but with the introduction of Indian’s new Super Chief Limited, competition has never been greater.Jeff Allen Brakes on the two bikes felt remarkably similar, as you’d expect from such similar weights and equipment. Each machine comes equipped with a four-piston caliper gripping a 300mm disc in the front, and a two-piston caliper in the rear. But as we’d also come to expect at this point, the Heritage just provided better feel at the lever and the pedal, allowing for more confident and precise application. Brake feel on the Super Chief was somewhat vague up front but especially so at the rear, making it a challenge to trail-brake well. In fact, rear-brake pedal travel was excessive and effort was high if you wanted to slow down rapidly. Despite brake feel leaning in the H-D’s favor, testing at our facility saw the Super Chief stop from 60 mph almost 4 feet shorter than the Harley-Davidson. Comfort and Ergonomics The ergonomic package of either bike is designed to be versatile and comfortable for the long haul with comfortably positioned handlebars and long floorboards putting the rider in a relaxed position. Both bikes achieve this goal, but back to back, minor differences decide the verdict. The Heritage’s floorboards sit flat, with mini apehangers providing a nice balance of height and pullback; we both preferred this setup, notable when considering the height difference between me at 6-foot-4 and Cherney at 5-foot-7. The Super Chief’s floorboards are more angled, with the heel down and toe up, and sit a little higher off of the ground. Its handlebars are low and wide, and even with their pullback were a little too much of a reach for Cherney. Reach on the Chief’s low bars wasn’t an issue for me, but the higher floorboards meant I had to move a knee out of the handlebar’s way in order to avoid pinching it against the gas tank while attempting to use full steering lock. Each bike’s saddlebags can be removed with two bolts a piece, but the squared off and lockable bags on the Heritage proved to be more spacious and convenient to use.Jeff Allen Although seat heights are nearly identical, the bikes have a different look while parked and a different feel when riding. The Super Chief’s seat is more in line with the gas tank and is flatter, placing the rider more on top of the saddle, rather than down inside the bike. The Harley’s seat is lower than the gas tank with a steeper back, providing some support on acceleration and a more cradled feel while riding. Both seats were plenty comfortable for a full day on the bike, though testers preferred the H-D saddle, which offers a little more padding and its more contoured shape was supportive, increasing area of contact. Accessories Removable windshields and saddlebags are two of the defining components of each motorcycle tested here, adding to the long-mile capability of the base cruiser platform. The Indian’s windshield is taller and more upright than the Harley’s, providing better protection while riding. The Heritage’s bags are leather wrapped with blackened nickel studs, close from the top with a hinged lid and locking latch, and incorporate a rigid plastic inner frame to help them hold their form. The Super Chief’s bags are soft leather with a couple of structural plastic pieces inside, and close with adjustable cloth straps and plastic clips underneath the decorative leather straps on either side. The lack of internal support on the Indian’s saddlebags make them look more traditional, but they’re also less convenient, less secure, and just don’t match the bike’s high-end feel. The Harley also has the added bonus of fog lights, which greatly increase the rider’s field of vision at night. A chrome bar mounts the Heritage Classic’s fog lights and turn signals, with chrome headlight bezels and windshield hardware nearby.Jeff Allen The Reigning Champ Remains After our spending a significant amount of time on each bike, the Heritage Classic simply felt like a more cohesive and thoroughly developed motorcycle. The handlebars, seat, saddlebags, and windscreen all fit the desired style while functioning beautifully, likely because this bike has been evolving since the first Willie G. Davidson-designed Heritage Softail was released in 1986. The Super Chief Limited is a new machine with a lot of potential, but it lacks refinement in many areas and feels like a first-year bike. There also seems to be a disconnect from design to engineering; for example, so much attention was paid to the Indian’s frame’s aesthetics only to be obscured by a large wiring harness. Also, some components, such as the gauge treatment, feel like high-end luxury, while others like the saddlebags and tank badging have been given notably less consideration. Although overall silhouettes are similar, differences in ride, style, and feel set the Heritage Classic and Super Chief apart.Jeff Allen The Chief works well in its Dark Horse configuration: stripped down with mid-mounted foot controls, blacked out finishes, and intended for more aggressive solo riding. But as that’s translated into a convertible touring machine and more is asked of the platform, it doesn’t demonstrate the versatility and refinement the Heritage has achieved. Given more time to smooth out the bumps, we have no doubt that Indian will continue to improve on the Chief platform, though that won’t be until 2023, as this is already a 2022 model. For now, Harley-Davidson’s decades of building and improving upon Heritage models have led to a truly refined product that is a pleasure to ride in town and on the highway, and make it our clear winner here.