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Common Tread

2021 Indian Chieftain Elite first look

Mar 03, 2021

To mark 120 years since the founding of the original Indian Motocycle company, today's Indian is building just 120 examples of its 2021 Chieftain Elite, which will make this premium bagger the company's most exclusive model yet.

Of course the first thing most people will notice when they see the Chieftain Elite is the Thunder Black Vivid Crystal over Carbon Crystal paint. Indian says the paint job takes a full 24 hours, and the Thunderstroke 116 engine also gets a special Slate Smoke finish.

Indian Chieftain Elite fairing
There's a lot of sparkle in the Thunder Black Vivid Crystal over Carbon Crystal paint. Indian photo.

The Thunderstroke 116 is Indian's biggest air-cooled V-twin, producing a claimed 126 foot-pounds of torque. The power is managed by three ride modes, with Sport, Tour and Standard settings. Rear cylinder deactivation keeps heat under control when you're idling at a stop.

Indian Chieftain Elite Thunderstroke 116 engine
The Thunderstroke 116 engine gets a Slate Smoke finish on the Chieftain Elite. Indian photo.

Of course if you're going to try to sell a motorcycle for $35,000, you'd better offer some convenience features. The Chieftain Elite comes with Indian's Ride Command infotainment system featuring a seven-inch screen that integrates Apple CarPlay and can show you everything from weather to traffic to navigation directions and who's calling you on your phone. You can also control the 400-watt stereo system through Ride Command. Ignition is keyless and the saddlebags open remotely. Lighting is LED and the windshield adjusts electrically.

If you want to outfit your Chieftain Elite for long-haul duty, Indian offers different seats, a passenger backrest, handlebars, color-matched fairing lowers and a remote locking trunk. Performance upgrades are also available, from intakes and exhausts that Indian says increase horsepower by eight percent up to higher performance cams. 

Indian Chieftain Elite front fender
Traditional Indian head on the front fender. Indian photo.

Of course you can get most of those features on a regular Chieftain. The Elite is aimed at the small group of riders who have the funds and want something special, something they won't see anyone else ride into the parking lot at Bike Night. Selling premium motorcycles with traditional styling and eye-catching paint is still a cherished part of the strategy for the two main American manufacturers, and the Chieftain Elite gives those buyers an alternative to the offerings from the competition in Milwaukee.

Indian Chieftain Elite
Indian will make 120 copies of the Chieftain Elite. Indian photo.

2021 Indian Chieftain Elite
Price (MSRP) $34,999 U.S., $42,999 Canada
Engine 1,890 cc (116 ci), air-cooled, four-valve, 49-degree V-twin
final drive
Six-speed, belt
Claimed horsepower N/A
Claimed torque 126 foot-pounds @ 2,900 rpm
Frame Steel
Front suspension 46 mm fork; 4.7 inches of travel
Rear suspension Single shock, air adjustable; 4.5 inches of travel
Front brake Dual four-piston calipers, 300 mm discs with ABS
Rear brake Single two-piston caliper, 300 mm disc with ABS
Rake, trail 25 degrees, 5.9 inches
Wheelbase 65.7 inches
Seat height 25.6 inches
Fuel capacity 5.5 gallons
Tires Metzeler Cruisetec, 130/60B19 front, 180/60R16 rear
Claimed weight 797 pounds dry
Available Now
Warranty 24 months
More info