I Took The Indian Challenger Challenge Today!

Discussion in 'Indian Challenger' started by ReBorn, Jun 13, 2020.

  1. ReBorn

    ReBorn Member

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    Long post warning, read at your own risk

    I finally got the chance to ride the new Challenger today! Grand Prix Motorsports in Denver had the demo truck this weekend and I was able to get two different Challenger slots an hour apart (pre-registered), which worked perfect to ride the Road Glide in between and compare the two bikes as part of the “Challenger Challenge.”


    In case you’re lurking and new to Indian Motorcycle, below is what I’m referring to. This screenshot was taken off of Indian’s website:
    [​IMG]


    I know there are several ride reports and reviews out on the Challenger (and Road Glide for that matter) already, but I thought I would add my two cents for those out there like me who have been scouring the web for any and all info about the Challenger as they "patiently" wait for their economic reality to line up with their desired reality:smirk:


    First, some base line stats. I’m 51 years young, 5’10, 230-ishlbs with a 33" inseam, and I currently ride a Honda ST 1300. And thanks to Indian Demo Days in the past, I have ridden everything in their line up except the Scout Sixty and the FTR Rally (rode that today too, more about that below).


    I have also ridden the Victory Cross Country, Cross Country Tour, and the Vision (most comfortable bike I’ve ever ridden) in the past, so I’m very familiar with and fond of Polaris/Indian touring bikes. I’m also decently familiar with Harley’s touring line up having ridden the Ultra Limited and Road Glide Ultra a few times, both the twin cam and the Milwaukie Eight iterations.


    I will also add that I’m not a brand snob, “Kool-aid drinker," or brand enthusiast, I’m a motorcycle enthusiast who likes multiple brands and bikes. So this is meant to be completely unbiased and simply my opinions and observations. And I’m not going to review every subtle nuance, that’s already out there and quite frankly can get a little boring. I’m just going to hit the main things I was curious about before riding the Challenger, so let’s get going already:sunglasses:


    Truthfully I had forgot about “The Challenge" until I got to the dealership, and only remembered because I saw the Road Glide parked away from the demo bikes at the end of the demo trailer. When I asked the Indian Demo Event leader (cool guy) if that was the Harley for comparison and if I could ride it after my first Challenger ride, he said ”It is and you sure can if you can get it started,” and then said no one has asked to ride it this weekend and it needs to “get charged."


    It didn’t come across like he was putting the bike down (as one might expect), but instead just commenting that it hadn’t been ridden much. Maybe if they mentioned the option verbally before each ride, they would have more takers. It started fine, by the way. More about that below.


    My first demo slot (10:00am) was for the Challenger Dark Horse. I left it in standard mode to start as I wanted to get a baseline before going to sport. When first starting the bike, I noticed right away the clutch pull was easy but it felt a little vague when squeezing in. I had no problems releasing in smoothly to get under way, though. There was also no primary noise that seemed to affect a few of the early bikes, so that was good news.


    The bike felt stable getting started and at slow speeds which I’ve come to expect from their touring/baggers, but the front tire seemed a little more "darty" than the Chieftain/Roadmaster if that makes sense. Not unstable or unsafe and nothing I didn’t adjust to right away, just wandered or tracked a little more than I was expecting up to about 5mph, then it disappeared. I noticed it on both Challengers I rode, and maybe it has something to do the the front tire specs?


    I was blessed to be right behind the lead rider, so once we got out on the highway and he got on it, I gladly followed suit:tonguewink: The power delivery in standard mode at elevation (Denver) and around 85 degrees was impressive. I wasn’t expecting it to pull like it did, especially during 5th and 6th gear roll ons at 60 and above mph. And when I switched to sport mode, the bike went from “I’ve got good power” to "hold my beer and watch this!"


    It pulled hard from the word “go” through every gear right up to red line, and made passing in top gear at freeway speeds even easier. Not KTM LC8 power mind you, but definitely impressive in this category. I had the pleasure of "accelerating briskly" on several occasions and this bike only hiccuped twice with fuel delivery, something I chalked up to the electronic nannies. It never stalled or died on me though, it just cut power when accelerating hard after slowing for a turn or from a slow start. I never really noticed any engine heat either, except when my left leg would inadvertently touch the primary at a stop.


    The bike also cruised smoothly and comfortably when asked to, turning low rpms in 6th gear at 60mph and above. The fairing provided good protection, and the windshield did it’s job whether up or down (great feature IMO). I found I was looking slightly over it when lowered, and through it fully up. And the handling was phenomenal, with the bike reacting quickly and predictably with minor handgrip pressure, regardless of speed it seemed. Good ground clearance too. I only scraped a floor board once in a slower turn, but it didn’t upset the bike at all.


    When we got back to the dealership, I got on the Road Glide, fired it up, and pulled it into line. It was the Road Glide Special so it has the Milwaukee Eight 114, as well as some blacked out trim and wheels. Fit and finish was what I’ve come to expect from the Motor Company...excellent. Indian’s are really good too and improving, but not quite to Harley’s level yet (to me).


    I found the clutch pull to be harder than the Indian, but not to the point of complaining. It also engaged almost as soon as you let it out, which has been my experience on other Milwaukee Eights. Not a problem, you just have to be mindful of it initially so you don‘t let it out too quickly and stall the bike.


    Once started, there was obviously more shaking at idle than the Challenger, but not irritatingly so for me. I actually kinda like it on Harleys for some reason. Part of the mystique I suppose, and it’s really a personal preference thing. I never noticed any engine heat on the ride either which surprised me as this version is only air/oil cooled, not twin cooled.


    The ergos were just a little cramped for me in its stock configuration (except the bars) compared to the Challenger, but that’s why there’s seat, floorboard and highway peg options out there, and nothing to detract from the ride per se. Just something I would need to get sorted if it were my bike. Seats are really subjective too so I hesitate to compare, but I will anyway. The Harley seat was softer and felt good initially, but got a little uncomfortable for me as the ride went on. The Indian seat was just the opposite. A little hard to begin with but got more comfortable as the ride went on. Again, subjective and a rider preference thing.


    Once under way, the bike demonstrates excellent slow speed stability just like the Indian, a trait I’ve noticed on every Harley touring bike I’ve rode, to include an old Evo bagger a friend has. It didn’t have the darty front tire nature at slow speeds, however. For me, their touring bikes have a way of instilling confidence in their stability, which I appreciate. I will also add the bike responds well to handgrip pressure too, but it’s not quite as quick to respond or athletic as the Challenger to me.


    The Road Glide accelerates really good too, especially if you know where the Milwaukee Eight makes it power best. I’ve been a big fan of this motor since it came out, and yes I’m aware of the sumping and transfer issues that plagued some bikes, but they appear to have been addressed by their newest version of oil pump and the primary vent tube, respectively.


    The bike pulled well in top gear passing at various speeds too, just not quite with the same ferocity as the Indian. It can hit hard when asked to though, and that “sweet spot" seemed to start just before 3,000rpms on this bike. Many Harley riders are leaving these motors stock because they can (shocking, I know). I would never recommend that with a twin cam 103.


    Wind protection was really good too despite having the low screen and no adjustability. The only serious knock on the bike for me surfaced on the way back to the dealership, and it was when we were on the freeway. There must have been more expansion joints in that section or something, because I started noticing every one of them without trying. It actually became a little annoying, but I can’t say for sure it’s just because of the rear suspension design and limited travel. It could be the pre-load wasn’t set right for my weight.


    When we returned to the dealership, I got right back on a Challenger (Limited this time) for my last demo slot, and was again blown away by the motor and handling. It really is a fantastic set up. And I paid particular attention to that same section of freeway that bothered me on the Harley, and the Indian just glided over it. Again, some of that may have may have been setup.


    I ended the day by riding the FTR Rally, which is the second time I’ve ridden the FTR. Both times the initial ergos feel like I’m playing twister, but then it just gets easier the longer I ride it. I would have to change seats if I owned one, but man that thing is scalpel-precise and loves to run hard. This bike had no fueling issues either, which seems to be an ongoing issue for some FTR owners. I did notice some engine heat, however, but not enough to keep me off it;)


    Final thoughts:

    Back to the topic at hand. Truth is a person would be lucky to have either one of these baggers in their garage. They both do what they were designed to do really well, just in slightly different ways. The relaxing lope of the Harley just makes eating up the miles a real joy for me, and you can see why they’ve sold so many of them. And if the bike could talk, it would be like “Bro, just chill and enjoy the ride. If you need more power, I’ve got you. Just twist the right grip.”


    The Indian eats up the miles equally as well, just in a slightly different way for me. It’s a rock solid, well handling, bullet that loves to run and ”stretch its legs" whenever it can. If it could talk, I think it would say “Dude, we can cruise all day if it makes you happy, or we can engage warp drive, then hit some curves and see how many times you can get the tach close to red line. How’s that sound?” Again, similar but different:)


    After riding both today and based on my riding style and preference, I’m planning on buying a Challenger Limited just as soon as I’m able. The engine, suspension, and more athletic handing put it over the top for me. The decision may have been harder if Harley had their alleged for many years new mono shock touring frame out, but I haven’t heard anything about it in a while, so who knows.


    And for me it’s also a more logical progression going from a sport touring to a “sport bagger," not that motorcycling is typically about logic. It’s more like passion bordering on obsession with a little logic mixed in in the vain attempt to justify it to family and friends.


    I encourage everyone here who doesn’t have a Challenger to take “the Challenge" when the demo truck is in your area and draw your own conclusions, as I think you’ll find they’re both great bikes. Then report back when you do. It helps those of us waiting pass the time a little easier;)








    Sent from my iPad
     

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  2. Baldhead_J

    Baldhead_J Gold Member
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    Welcome, thanks for sharing your observations and experiences. I enjoy the way you write and look forward to more of it.
     
  3. ReBorn

    ReBorn Member

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    Thanks Baldhead_J, I appreciate it.
     
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  4. Alpal

    Alpal Gold Member
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    I agree with baldhead,......a very interesting an well written article,.....and you were, as you said, quite unbiased which is something missing from a lot of reviews,......Good luk with the finances and I hope to see a pic of your new bird at some point in the future,...
    Regards,
    Alpal
     
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  5. ReBorn

    ReBorn Member

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    Thanks Al!
     
  6. muz

    muz Well-Known Member

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    Good honest write up, appreciated. Enjoy your Challenger when you get it, take care out there.
     
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  7. Verado

    Verado New Member

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    I still have my road glide but really enjoy my new Challenger Limited! Great review BTW. Going from the Chieftain Limited to the Challenger Limited was an excellent move for me since I'm 57 and 6'1" & 280. Challenger fits my frame better and much more comfortable. I've put more miles on my Challenger in two weeks than I did in two years on my '18 Chieftain LTD. I put the Klock tinted windshield on, Indian extended reach seat on and Indian Stage 1 kit on, pipes, intake & ecm mapping.....wow, it really brings it to life! Super fun bike to ride. Performance, handling, braking and overall comfort are amazing. Thanks again ReBorn for a great write up and review, I couldn't agree more. :) SXSp9R9RQZWQTUg55gXpeQ.jpg
     
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  8. ReBorn

    ReBorn Member

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    Nice! Looks great in black with that tinted screen.
     

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