Hi boys and girls!
Before I get carried away telling the story of how I fell in love with an Indian I just wanted to say that I am a lover of all things on 2 wheels! If I could find a way to make a living with my wheels spinning I’d never leave the saddle. I have never been a brand-specific rider in the dirt or on the blacktop. I currently have six different brands of motorcycles in my garage and I love them all for different purposes and different reasons.
That being said I am simply here to share my completely amazing experience with Indian motorcycles at this year’s Sturgis rally and how my new Chieftain Dark Horse made me want to leave my Harley Davidson Street Glide behind.
This little story actually starts a long time ago.
Once upon a time I saw a 1938 Indian scout Hillclimb motorcycle and have never forgotten that image it has always just been my “Unicorn” motorcycle. I got up close and personal with several of them at the Bonham and Mecum auctions in Vegas a few years ago and I think I have more photos of those motorcycles then I do my son! There is no reason up to now why I have waited to take one of these fine pieces of machinery for a test drive so I decided this year’s rally was going to be the time!
Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday flew right by me! Next thing I know it’s Saturday morning. There was some type of stunt show happening at the Yamaha tent this week and I really wanted to see what this crazy looking motorcycle would do that they had parked out front. There was a sign listing the showtimes as 12, 2 and 4 and today was the last day for a show.
You can’t help but wonder exactly what this thing is and does right!?
I had bought a leather vest with a skull patch as requested by my son and I also had a new patch of my own to sew on my vest so I went downtown around 10 AM when everything starts to open up to have these things sewn together. As I stood there on Lazelle street waiting for the seamstress to finish up I noticed I was directly across the street from the Indian exhibit and the Yamaha exhibit and it was only 10:45. I had an hour and 15 minutes to kill before the stunt show.
It was like the announcer was reading my mind as I thought to myself, “What should I do for the next hour and 15 minutes?” I hear loud and proud over the speaker system, “Free demo rides all day here at Indian!”
That message couldn’t have been any clearer if it was tattooed on my forehead. So there I went across the street directly into a field of Indians! Every size, shape, color, model, and option available was displayed out there in one way or another. I knew instantly I was going to get my leg lifts in today by tossing a leg over each and every one of those beautiful machines!
I’m a huge fan of Bobber style bikes and was drawn to the Scout Bobber 1st. Then the Scout Sixty. Then the Scout. By the 3rd bike I was full of questions and as I looked up for someone to ask a friendly guy in an Indian polo shirt with a handful of flyers was already standing by to help me!
This would be the 1st of a dozen or more fantastic Indian motorcycle company employees to assist me with my day. He smiled shook my hand and asked what he could help me with. I had noticed each bike had a drastic difference in foot and hand control positions and wanted to know if those were standard positions on each model or if they were part of a certain accessory package available. This guy was prepared! He hands me a flyer not only detailing the different handlebar/ footpeg position options all mapped out by rider height (genius way to fit a person to a bike which I have never been shown at another dealer) but also has any and all statistic info about each Scout model. I had engine size and stats, color options, reach options, weight, fuel capacity, and stock features all right in front of me along with prices! Having something in hand with all the necessary details was perfect and much easier to compare from bike to bike than listening to a salesman list things off about each one.
5 minutes in and I was hooked!
Now that I have successfully sat on and compared each of the display models it was time to check in to taking one for a spin. I had about an hour yet before the stunt show would start and was assured by one of the guys who worked the exhibit here that I should return shortly before noon if I left with the next group. My friendly helper directed me through yet another field of Indians to a semi truck with a large awning attached to it. Here under the awning was a table with 2 of the nicest ladies I’d talked to all day! I was a ball of energy, as usual, bouncing off the walls wanting to ride one of these machines! I was rambling a mile a minute full of questions and they smiled and answered every one I had. Most importantly they got me signed up for a demo ride and informed me I could ride as many times as I wanted for free throughout the day! I had a bag with me containing some Sturgis garb and the girls even offered to set it behind the table there for me for safe keeping while I went on my ride.
At this point my dad was still with me, he rode up from Colorado for a day to ride and hang out with me at the Rally. This was pretty awesome since this year marked the 20th anniversary of the first time he brought me to Sturgis! Dad was sticking around until noon so he was going to take advantage of a free test ride too. I walked out and sat on a Scout Sixty because they just look like fun, Dad wandered over to a Chieftain and we were off and rolling with the crew after the guys came around to make sure we were comfortable and knew where the controls on the bikes were.
The test ride route was a 30-minute loop that involved in town riding, frontage/back road riding, and a nice stretch of interstate. A little bit of everything to get a feel for the bike, excellent route choice! I obeyed all the rules but being a bit of a rebel simply could not let this ride go by without seeing what this little beast was capable of. As we pulled up to the on-ramp for the interstate segment of the ride I hung back until the bikes in front of me were near the bottom then turned that corner along with the throttle and yeeeehaw was that Scout a zippy little thing for only a 60 cu in engine! I was zero to 6th gear and at the posted speed limit by the end of the ramp! The Scout Sixty definitely had my attention, I’d say built for a good time but comfortable enough to travel some distance on too. I’d recommend one of these sporty rides for any beginner rider, those looking for the commuter bike, or those of us who just like a weekend backroad cruise. At this point in my day, I knew I was never making that stunt show at noon because I would be back out on another demo ride with something more my size.
We wheeled back into the lot by the semi, parked the pretty maids all in a row, and everyone scattered except dad and I. I was going back in line for round 2 and dad was considering another ride but knew he had to get rolling south to make his 400-mile ride home. He was very impressed with the Chieftain Limited and I asked if he would rather ride it or my Street Glide, he chose the Indian hands down. “Ok.” I thought to myself, “Now I need to ride that one after this Springfield I’m currently drooling over.”
Demo ride 2; I pulled out on a Springfield Dark Horse which caught my eye from the moment I walked into the Indian exhibit that morning. This thing just screams, “Twist my throttle and let me out of my cage!” Flat black paint, flowing body lines sexier than most models in the magazines, 111 cu in engine that growls even with the stock exhaust, and a solo seat made just for me!
I think I’m in love.
As we pulled back into the exhibit I knew right away I had to ride a bagger. The idea of leaving my Harley right here in the lot and never looking back was beginning to consume my mind. The fact that I hadn’t put sunblock on today and left my water on the bike earlier was also creeping up on me. I walked over to the smiling ladies at the table again and they thought I was coming for my bag but quickly put it back down when I smiled and said, “Do you happen to sell water here?” They giggled and one of the ride guides pointed to a cooler and told me to help myself. Excellent! Slam a bottle of water and take a chance of a sunburn to get in a few more rides. Let’s go boys!
This trip around I snagged the blue Chieftain Limited that dad had tried out. This thing had all kind of bells and whistles I would most likely never figure out how to use since I tend to be a tad technologically challenged. But…WOW! Touch screen radio and navigation, push-button retracting windshield, push-button locking saddlebags, extra long footboards, a glove compartment on the dash, USB port, and so many other lights gauges and gadgets! I tuned in the local country station and realized immediately that this stereo put my Street Glides to shame. We rolled on and I continued to play with the controls and do some side to side swerving to test out the handling and weight of this machine. What I discovered is that it felt light as air under me and could turn on a dime. Perfectly balanced, again, WOW!
There I was flying down the interstate for the 3rd time and on the 3rd model of the bike when I realized that I was not leaving this rally without at least asking about my trade-in options.
Back at the Indian exhibit, just like each ride before, I had all the staff members right there asking what I thought, what I liked, and if there was anything I didn’t like about the bikes I had ridden.
At this point, the only thing that concerned me about any of them was that the engine throws a lot of heat up on my inner thighs. My Dyna Street Bob is notorious for this and on my long trips with regular 700-1000 mile days it can get very uncomfortable depending on the weather. One memorable Sturgis trip I arrived at Hog Heaven after 840 miles on the road on a 90-degree day only to discover that the heat had gotten so bad my thigh blistered and my skin peeled away with my jeans. That being said you can understand why this is something I notice on bikes I ride. I asked one of the wonderful employees there if this was something they had heard before and the answer was yes. He informed me that was not the first time someone had mentioned the heat situation and that the bikes have been improving in this area every year. Now, this is what I like to hear, a company aware of a problem and working to solve it!
I once mentioned the heat situation on my Dyna to a serviceman at a Harley shop and his response was, “Well engines get hot.”…. Gee thanks mister I never would have known!
Alright, not a deal breaker but definitely something I need to consider before jumping headfirst into a new machine.
Time for demo ride #4! I saved the best for last, 2018 Chieftain Dark Horse. It was a “love at first sight” moment. Then I threw my leg over and stood her up, OOOOOOH! THIS is THE one!!! I honestly wondered in today’s world if I’d be considered crazy to buy this machine a ring and roll her down the aisle!?
This was going to be an excellent 30-minute cruise!
If the looks of this beauty aren’t enough to reel you in the performance will! I put her through the now routine test run, swerve side to side at various speeds, let go of the bars and see if it drifts to one side or the other, hammer on it down the on-ramp, slam on the bakes at least once (sorry for those who may have been following me), play with all of the switches and gadgets, and of course test out the radio!
A+, 100%, passed with flying colors! Perfectly balanced light as a feather floating down the highway, smooth as a baby’s butt when I rolled on the throttle, torque/power for days -actually felt the tires grip the pavement and catapult me down the road, raised and lowered the windshield at the touch of a button, and the stereo, WOW! I would usually lose the sound of my Street Glides stereo around the 70-75 MPH mark even at full volume, this was not the case here! The volume level went to 30 and I could hear it loud and clear at level 9 and 80 MPH!!! The solo seat was as if it was molded just for me and the floorboards were long enough that I had a variety of positions to choose from without needing highway bars or extra pegs. Not sure I have ever been so happy on a bike, and I’ve owned 16 of them!
It was official, I was in love.
Once again back at the exhibit I put the bike in neutral but had to peel myself off of it and hesitated to walk away, I just wanted to keep riding it for days!!! Due to my lack of sunscreen and need of some lunch, I managed to step away from the motorcycle. The girls at the sign-up table were smiling away and had my bag in hand when I walked up, we chatted a minute about the bikes I had ridden today and I walked away before I decided to ride yet another. On my way across the lot, the riding guides were all wondering what my favorite bike was and if I had anything to say about them. Well, I had a lot to say about all of them but I kept my report brief and said I was pretty certain I needed to own one of these, one of the guys told me to head over to the dealership and talk to someone named Matt.
Okey Dokey, time for some food! The Knuckle Saloon never disappoints so I walked in for some Steak tips while I chewed over the idea of a new motorcycle. I recognized a few bartenders from years past and had fun chit chats along with great food. Next thing I knew I was backing my Harley up in front of the Sturgis Indian Motorcycle dealership.
It is after all 2017 and I probably should purchase my 17th motorcycle, right??? RIGHT!!!
I had already spent close to 4 hours with some high-quality customer service people and had been thoroughly impressed, I had no idea until I walked through the doors here that my day could get any better!
This was the end of the rally week for these people and they had been running around the clock bending over backward to help people all week and still had positive attitudes and huge smiles on their faces! I have worked with the general public my entire life and I can tell you first hand smiling and pretending you give a shit about everything that comes out of people’s mouths can be a stressful and difficult task but these people had it covered! This group of staff was as fun-filled and energetic as it gets and I loved the atmosphere here.
I was greeted immediately with a handshake and a smile then asked what I could be helped with. I said I had been told to speak with Matt about buying a new motorcycle. The lady found me a stool to sit on, got me a bottle of water to drink, and then asked if she could do anything else for me before she went to find Matt. How great was that!? I was simply expecting to stand there and wait or follow her through the store looking for him, this was just grand!
Not 5 minutes later I was being introduced to Matt who also shook my hand and gave me a big smile. I explained that I had gone on 4 demo rides today and was interested in leaving my Street Glide here and riding home an Indian.
Out the doors, we went. He told me right away that the bikes I rode today were 2018 models and not available for purchase yet so I would be looking at 2017 models. Good to know right out of the gate. I told him I was looking for a Chieftain Dark Horse and he let me know there were only 2 here but there was a flat silver Chieftain fully loaded with accessories and options. Alright now I know what I have to choose from so I can be flipping coins over decisions while we go through the motions.
We cruised the new bikes for a bit and then walked over to look at my Harley to get an idea on trade value. On the way over to my bike I told Matt that after 4 demo rides today I was positive, I should just take one home with me and he said he was pretty positive too! Excellent let’s make some magic happen! I told him the need to know basics, 30k miles, a couple scratches, no mechanical issues, not modified other than exhaust….after a good once over we were headed back inside where I was introduced to my soon to be sales girl Abby was grinning ear to ear and ready to take on the world! I knew from her attitude we were going to get along great. Abby gathered the necessary info from me and asked if I needed anything while she went to crunch numbers for me.
I decided to take a walk around the store and check out some clothing and gear. I noticed they had Frogg Toggs hanging with their rain gear, I’ve never checked these out but have heard a lot about them so I took some time to look them over and read the tags. I was just about to look for someone to ask some questions to when the lady that had originally greeted me here walked over to see if I needed anything. Man, this crew is on top of things around here! I asked if she knew anything about the life expectancy of the Frogg Toggs because after looking them over I couldn’t help but think they were not a long-term investment. Turns out I was correct, she had a customer who was on his 4th set in a few years. This was not going to be a good fit for me, I have had the same rain suit since 2007 and it has more miles on it than my friends’ motorcycles do. Thanks a bunch for the info I will be buying a regular Indian rain suit soon!
Next up was this adorable little lady bouncing through the displays toward me smiling. She stopped to ask if I was the girl trading the Harley for the Chieftain. I said, “Yep that is me!” Which she responded to with a giant hug, then she proceeded to tell me she wished she could be as much of a Bad-ass as I am and ride a bagger to Sturgis alone then turn around and ride another one home! Well if that wasn’t a compliment I don’t know what is! Thank you so much! I believe her name is Lauren. Later I caught her running in and out of the dealership helping a customer and I asked if she was getting her steps in?! She stopped to tell me that actually, she had just discovered that her phone counted steps and she hit 12,000 one day this week! WOW, as I said, this crew had been running around the clock this week. Yet she in the midst of her running took the time to stop smile and chat for a minute, love these people!
Abby came around the corner grinning again with papers in her hand and I was very anxious to hear what she had to say!
“Good news,” she says to me as she lays out the papers on the counter in front of us. According to the numbers there I could have any bike on the lot I just needed to let her know which one I wanted.
Oh boy Oh boy decision time!!! One of my biggest pet peeve’s, picky people, so I try hard not to be one, BUT I seriously couldn’t figure out which bike I wanted. I asked if we could go out and look at them all again and she was more than happy to oblige!
First, I sat on the fully loaded flat silver Chieftain, every option anyone could ever ask for….but, it was silver.
Second, was the shiny black Chieftain Dark Horse, same options and blacked out, …. but, it was shiny.
Third and final bike, was the flat black Chieftain Dark Horse, not many options, ….but it was the color I fell in love with at first sight!
So many things to consider here and I apologized to Abby for being undecided, she just smiled and told me to take all the time I needed it was after all kind of a major decision.
Roughly a decade later I finally chose the basic flat black model because I figured I can always add options it’s much harder and more expensive to change paint. Aaaaaaand back inside we went, now over to the service desk for a quote on installing a backrest. I had to have some way to haul my things home from camp, Abby told me they are more than happy to ship things for me if it came down to it. AMAZING seriously is there anything this crew doesn’t do??? Price quote in hand 2 minutes later and I said to go ahead and put the backrest on before I take it home. I also got a quick look at some tie down options while in the service area there was a man with his new bike testing out bungee chords and nets with an employee showing him various places to hook to. This was important info for me since I was going to be riding around 800 miles home with my new trusty steed in the morning.
Next, we wait.
I met the security guard who kept me company for a bit and then Abby came back to sit and talk while my bike was being prepped for departure. I told her how my dad and I started coming out here 20 years ago to off-road ride and Hillclimb and I’ve been coming back ever since. I said if I could just find a way to ride a motorcycle for a living I’d be set, she told me of a couple she knows that actually does this! Now that is one fantastic career, they live in Arizona and South Dakota and test bikes, gear, and equipment for Indian motorcycles…talk about living the dream! I also got to hear how Indian tested one of their engines but continually running it, without any load, for a million miles only shutting her down for oil changes. That should be the equivalent of a 300,000-mile motor when actually putting miles on the road. I told her if Indian ever wants to test that theory let me know because this chick would be hands down 100% up for that Iron Butt Challenge!!! What an amazing adventure that would be!
Next, I met Wiley from the parts department, he came out to meet me and explain some break-in instructions to me for my ride home. Very helpful and answered my questions about exhaust options and other accessories. I’ll be back to see him for some things soon!
Alright, it was time to meet the woman behind the curtains here where I sign my life away and then run away with my Indian. This woman had her ducks in a row she was chatting away keeping me entertained while putting forms together to have me sign and gathering info from me all at the same time! I was confused just trying to watch what she had happening let alone keep up! Another spectacular employee that was still smiling and happy after a long rally week.
Finally, it was time to meet my new companion. Abby walked me outside around the building and there it was! I fell in love all over again. Abby went over all the basic controls and functions of things with me. I discovered that not only does the new toy have air shocks like my Street Glide but this one comes with its own gauge and pump! Also next to the USB port was a carrying case for my phone to slide into!
It was time to say goodbye and take my bike down the road but I wanted a picture of me on it first. Again there was Abby going above and beyond, my phone was dead so she took my photo with hers and texted it over to me! Love her!
What a crazy wonderful day! All because of a large group of awesome people who know how to do their job right!
Everything fit perfectly on my new steed!
It wasn’t until I was loaded up and on the road home that I noticed some cool features that set my Chieftain out from the crowd. I have Sturgis badges on the horn and fender, and the Indian head up front lights up! Just more things to add to the lengthy list of awesomeness here.
Thanks for letting me share my bike buying experience with you! Stay tuned for more Sturgis and Indian stories coming up soon!!!