Lifestyle

Ride Review: Indian’s 2022 Super Chief Limited Combines Style, Power

In case you haven’t noticed, motorcycles are not cars. Obviously, right? But the key difference I want to highlight is that for the most part, you can pop into most any car (or light truck) and just drive it. Maybe you’ll have to adjust the seat a bit, but over all, for most us, we fit in most any car or truck just fine and can drive off into the sunset in comfort. No big deal. But motorcycles are very different when it comes to “fit.”

In my many years of riding, I’ve definitely owned and reviewed some very nice bikes that… just didn’t fit. It’s not just a matter of inseam, seat shape and where your hands fall to the handlebars. All of those things can be adjusted for a better physical fit. For motorcycles, there’s the even more important aspect of a good mental fit with the bike that makes them that much more enjoyable. And, yes, it’s a bit intangible. A bike maker can hand a rider the keys to its latest wonder machine with 300hp, carbon fiber this and magnesium that and every tech trick in the book, and some riders will sell their current bike, car, dog and grandma’s china to buy it, while others will just walk away and get on their well-worn 1990’s rat bike with a smile because… that glorious new bike just didn’t fit. And no, there is no tried and true formula to solve and sell this intangible “fit” quality, as much as bike makers would like to find the special sauce to make it so. Motorcycles are just much more personal vehicles in a way that cars – for the most part – just aren’t.

Over the years, some bikes have clicked with me, and some just haven’t. This bike, the 2022 Indian Super Chief Limited, was a joy to ride over the weeks I had it in for review. It was a very, very good fit. And as I’ve said in many a review, I’m not a die-hard cruiser rider. I don’t even own a cruiser-style bike. But I’ve been riding a lot of them lately.

Super Chief Limited Tech And Hard Parts

The Super Chief Limited is based around Indian’s stout 116-cubic inch air-cooled Thunderstroke V-Twin. It’s not exactly a high-tech engine, with two valves per cylinder working via pushrods, but Indian (which is owned and operated by Polaris) has it set up just right for this bike, and it follows the familiar axiom that there is usually no replacement for displacement. Torque is listed at a massive 120 pound-feet and while horsepower is not specified, it feels like about 90 or so as the engine peaks at 4,500rpm.

Six speeds sit in the transmission, and suspension isn’t adjustable outside of preload on the twin rear springs. A single 300mm front brake disc is backed up by another 300mm rotor out back, with the front getting four pucks in the caliper and the rear just two. The Super Chief Limited comes ready for light touring (or commuting) duty with a set of semi-rigid black leather saddlebags and a (sort-of) quick release windscreen that is also height adjustable. Add a backrest and rack for even more long-distance capability, but be aware the sleek tank only holds four gallons, although in my riding, the Limited typically got about 40 miles per gallon in mixed riding and often saw 50mpg on the open road with the cruise control activated.

One major highlight of the Limited was the digital Ride Command system housed in the single 4-inch instrument on the handlebars. Whoever designed the user interface and functionality of this digital display system needs a raise. Rather than have to mind a set of clocks and a GPS and/or a phone display, all of that functionality was in the single instrument. It has a touchscreen that works with gloves and gives copious information – or just the basics. Riders can change ride modes (Rain, Tour, Sport), see live GPS (phone link required), the weather, RPMs, MPG, fuel range, fuel level, gear, air temperature, the time and what song is on, pretty much all at the same time, and in a way that isn’t confusing or overly busy.

At a stop, Ride Command can help with error codes and has tons of trip data. It is by far the best “digital speedometer” system I’ve used so far, not just in terms of features, but also in terms of its excellent visual design, customization options, display options and operability. If you like to keep your handlebar situation simple, Indian’s Ride Command system on the Limited is a godsend. It did everything I wanted, needed and more.

On The Road

My review bike arrived in a lustrous Blue Slate Metallic paint scheme (+$500) with chrome pipes, a bright engine finish, black forks and spoked black wheels. It looked great and got a lot of compliments. Riding the Limited was far more ergonomically accommodating than I expected. The seat is dished but rather firm, and the floorboards, while forward, aren’t way forward and allow a lot of foot placement options. The low-rise bars fell right to hand and give a lot of leverage. Shifting on my bike, which had over 4,000 miles on it, was smooth and precise. The rear brake pedal was up a bit high for my taste, but worked well enough with decent feel. ABS is standard on the Super Chiefs.

The Super Chief Limited starts with a bark and rumble, and the stock pipes sound decent enough at idle, and emit a pleasing soundtrack under throttle. Fall was in the air when I received the Limited, and I headed towards the quaint Oregon timber town of Vernonia via a network of well-maintained but twisting back roads to soak in some foliage and put the chassis to the test.

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I was immediately impressed with the Super Chief’s cornering manners and capabilities. No, it isn’t a sport bike and really pushing it hard gets the floorboards to touch down, but at much steeper angles than I anticipated. As I rolled the bike from corner to corner, I realized I wasn’t working too hard, yet the pace was rapid. Indian has done an excellent job with suspension and frame revisions, resulting in a bike that’s both east and fun to ride aggressively – high praise for a cruiser. Turn-in is neutral and low-effort. Bumping the rear shocks a bit with a solo rider aboard may even speed up the front end a bit more, which is wearing a 130/90 tire most people would put on the back wheel of their bikes. At least traction was never really an issue.

The only sore point in spirited riding is the brakes, which were adequate for the job but did have a bit of fade when worked hard. The front brake requires a solid full-handed squeeze to realize some urgent stopping power, and it was a good idea to include some rear brake action as well since there was a fair amount of weight (mine) over the wheel so the traction was there. Certainly, I’m used to the powerful brakes on my sportbike, and I’m not saying Indian needs to put giant Brembo monoblocs on it, but a second disc up front – or perhaps a larger, stronger single rotor setup – would give me a bit more confidence. It would be great to see a dual-disc setup as an option.

After a lunch in Vernonia, I worked my way back to Highway 30, which traces along the Columbia River back into Portland. The highway is two lanes in most places but broadens to four as it rolls through several river communities; in between the speed limit is 55mph, although no one really goes that slow. I tapped the cruise control at just over 60, which seemed to be the speed du jour, and settled in behind the large windscreen, which initially rattle my helmet a bit with buffeting, but a quick adjustment with an allen key, raising it up about an inch, made all the difference.

With my phone linked to the excellent Ride Command system and my Cardo Packtalk Bold in my helmet, I was able to enjoy some music and chat with my mom as the miles rolled by. The big pistons ticked away below in 6th gear, unhurried and unstrained, as the sun dipped towards the Coast Range foothills that border the highway. Traffic was light, and as I rolled into Portland, and the air was blissfully cool and crisp following the blazing summer Oregon just endured. It was a great day out riding on a beautiful and very capable motorcycle.

Conclusion

Indian has raised the bar again for light-duty touring cruisers and I was a bit entranced by the Super Chief Limited while I had it. I rode it as often as I could and always had fun, and being able to remove the windscreen sort of gives you a cool second bike as far as the style goes. Cruiser riders often roll with some attitude but I never felt I needed pretense on the Limited. It was just fun to ride, and a joy to look at. I had several random people ask me about it and comment on the retro-style engine, which really stands out from competitors with those vintage-style finned valve covers and blacked out wheels. I got a lot of ride requests and in terms of passenger comfort, it’s good as it but a backrest would be at the top of my option list, and hopefully one with a rack so I could strap on some camping gear for longer trips. The excellent Ride Command system is all the tech most people will ever need besides their phone, and that fat torque curve powers the Super Chief forward with authority.

Nitpicks? As noted, some more braking power would be welcome but really, beside that, I have no other complaints. The Indian Super Chief Limited was surprisingly capable when the going got technical, and is ready to weekend tour right out of the box. Even though I don’t own a cruiser, the Super Chief Limited goes a long way towards changing my mind. It fits great.

Indian Super Chief Limited: $20,999 MSRP, $21,499 as tested

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