I rolled away from the Sturgis Indian Dealership with a gigantic grin on my face and a brand new Indian between my legs. Life is good!
I was having an internal struggle though. I, and most other people I’ve ever met, refer to their motorcycles as female. How can I possibly call an Indian Dark Horse Chieftain a female?! I mean, yeah I’m a chick and have bigger balls than a lot of men just like my motorcycle here has more balls than a lot of other bikes…but…I think this one has to be a boy. Now if the bike were called an Indian Dark Horse Princess or something crazy like that I could see calling it a lady. Dark Horse Chieftain, however, just screams, “I am man hear me roar!”
It was around 7:30 P.M. and I just wanted to pack up camp and hit the road with my new boy-toy!!! Common sense took over and told me that given the time of day that was probably not the wisest idea. I decided to head out of town and hit some back roads to start getting this horse broke in.
I had ridden 4 models of bikes already today and this one was every bit as impressive as they had been. Speed, torque, looks, handling, comfort, and a spectacular stereo….what more could a girl ask for?! Think about twisting the throttle and this trusty steed was already out of the gate and running, see a curve up ahead and he was already leaning into it, gliding through the air smooth as silk in the wind. I was only 10 minutes in and knew without a doubt this machine and I were meant to live happily ever after. I also knew that it had been a long time since lunch and I needed to find some food before everything closed up shop for the night.
After a stroll down Main St in Sturgis with my head held a little higher on this brand new Indian, I found myself back at The Knuckle Saloon for steak tips and fries. Never a disappointment! I contemplated having a few beers to celebrate buying my 17th motorcycle in 2017 on the 20th anniversary of my 1st trip to Sturgis, buuuut decided tomorrow was going to be a long enough day riding 7-800 miles home possibly in the rain so I didn’t need a headache or hangover on top of that. Look at me here adulting and stuff!
I wheeled into the campground and tested out the Chieftains off-road capabilities getting over to my campsite, he took to the terrain like a champ! I checked 5 or 6 times to make sure he was stable and at no risk of tipping over then stood and stared at my magnificent new companion smiling and thinking about how many adventures we were going to have together. Finally I decided it was bed time and crawled off into my tent.
Sun is up and birds are chirping lets do this!!!
First thing is First, wonder down to the shower house for my coffee. This was a heart stopping experience. It was 6:40 A.M. and there in front of the shower house was no sign of coffee and across the lot was no sign of breakfast being served! I wasn’t sure if I was mad, sad, or just plain confused but this situation needed to be remedied quickly!
One of my friendly camp neighbors informed me that the convenience store at the entrance was serving coffee and the other restaurant down there was serving breakfast…weeew, ok, catastrophe avoided! I also discovered that a 16oz cup of coffee rides perfectly at the back of my saddle bags up a hill and through the field back to my campsite. #WINNING
I had packed my Street Glide countless times and had it down to a science but now it was time to get acquainted with my Chieftain and find all of its tie-down points. I began to tear down camp and gather everything into a pile when I realized for not bringing a lot of stuff I sure seemed to have a lot of stuff! Granted I did make a few shopping trips around town this week…
It was about 9:15 sun was shining and I was rolling, extremely excited to get out and ride my new toy but disappointed as always that I was leaving the Black Hills behind once again. Heading back to reality after a Sturgis rally is never something to look forward to.
I had to be nice to my boy here for the first several miles East, roll on and off the throttle changing speeds and RPM’s often, and no cruise control. None of this bothered me a bit, I was having the time of my life getting to know this bike. Passers by may have wondered what in the hell I was up to out here on the interstate swerving side to side in my lane, slowing down only to speed right back up again, and singing to this loud and proud new stereo. The first tank of gas was gone before I knew it and it was time to find a pit stop.
When traveling I often run into a lack of fuel options. Out west and in higher elevations it’s more common to find less fuel options at the pumps than in the mid-west. DON’T PANIC PEOPLE! YES your motorcycle recommends higher octane fuels, NO 1 tank of lower octane fuel is not going to ruin your engine in any way, shape, or form. Newer machines are specially programmed to adjust spark and combustion times according to whatever octane level is put in them so they will for sure have less or no pre-ignition pinging/knocking with lower octane.
ALL fuel grades are complete with additives and detergents to help clean your engine, so NO you are not accomplishing anything by using high-octane to keep your engine cleaner.
Ethanol, YES it can be a destructive, corrosive, asshole of a substance when it comes to your fuel system. Unfortunately for us riders we sometimes do not have the option of zero ethanol fuel at every pump. Here’s the thing, Ethanol is destructive over time being left in the fuel system to erode and rot gaskets and hoses. It is not going to be the death of your machine if you are forced to run 1 tank of 10% ethanol fuel through it. If you happen to be someone who does not ride often or for any amount of miles at 1 time well then yes try your damnedest to avoid Ethanol fuel, out here on I-90 you are simply going to burn through it and move on.
All that being said, to the four groups of bikes I watched roll through the pumps in South Dakota stare at the 3 options of 87 octane fuel then decide amongst your group to try to make it to the next town and hope for better options. Calm down! First of all there was a zero Ethanol 87 octane here for you and I have had 2 Harleys with tens of thousands of miles on them that run great on nothing but 85-89 octane fuels their entire lives. Secondly, would you rather deal with the chance of a occassional pre-ignition ping that will in no way damage your engine and let you make it farther down the road today, or try to make the next town and hope they have 90+ octane and that you don’t run out of fuel before getting there to find these things out?! At this rate your trip home may take an extra day.
While I’m ranting I may as well address the lack of performance and fuel mileage issue everyone brings up when talking about lower octane fuel. We are all headed down the interstate for the next who knows how many hours and you are going to get up to 75-85 MPH and set the cruise control, why is peak performance out here even a thought in your mind, you aren’t going to use it or need it. Especially the group with the Ultra Classic, Street Glide, Victory, and Shadow, you guys aren’t anywhere near the same category of performance or fuel mileage in any situation regardless of octane levels.
ANYWAYS, sorry I blew up! Not trying to offend anyone here, hell odds are you may not even know why you are recommended to use high-octane fuel but your manual says so so you just do it. Certain subjects get me a tad riled up, senseless uproar over limited fuel choices is right up there with calling chaps “ass-less” …well no shit! If they weren’t ass-less they’d be pants.
Alright fueled up with non-ethanol 87 octane and back out on the road. I had enough miles on now that it was ok to use cruise control and ride the bike how it was meant to be ridden. I turned onto the on ramp for interstate 90 and twisted the throttle like I was preparing for lift off, this bike flew forward like a rocket! Torque. Torque. aaaaand more torque, WOW! I shifted through each gear like a hot knife through butter the transmission smooth and quiet, I think I may have been flying. I sailed down the highway at above recommended rates of speed yet there was no vibration, no pull to one side or the other,(did you know they liquid balance their tires?!) and there was that magnificent stereo loud and clear! It was official I could ride this horse straight off into the sunset and never ever need to leave the saddle.
I wasn’t too far down the road and the sky just kept getting darker and darker, I was pretty sure at some point it was going to open up and pour down buckets of rain. As all of us who do any amount of riding know, one surefire way to prevent it from raining is to put on your rain gear. I passed a few exits and pretty soon the wind started picking up so I figured I better pull over and put my gear on. I pulled off on the next exit and discovered that I was not alone, there were five or six other motorcycles pulled over here doing exactly the same thing. Great minds think a like!
Just as I had suspected, the sky continued to be darker and darker and I was in full gear so not more than a few sprinkles ever fell on me.
The next few hundred miles disappeared before I knew it and I was pulling in for another pit stop. I fueled up and wheeled over to park next to a Street Glide and 2 Can-am’s. There was a man standing there so I shut off my bike, stood up, and said, “Man I wish I knew if it was actually going to rain or not.” To which he simply stared at me and did not reply. I noticed he was wearing a set of colors but didn’t catch the name on the back. I proceeded to organize myself to head inside and use the restroom and grab something to snack on when all of the sudden he pipes up and says, “I Russian.” Now I know why he stared at me blankly, whatever I said probably made absolutely no sense and whatever organization he was affiliated with I will never be able to pronounce! Turns out he and two of his friends road from New Jersey to Sturgis and were now on their way home looking for things to do along the way. Through the language barrier we did manage to exchange compliments on each other’s motorcycles. We all had our picture taken together at their request and I informed them that at this point on highway 90 all the way across South Dakota and Minnesota there really was not a whole lot to stop at, see, or do. That was definitely one of the more interesting conversations I had this week simply due to the lack of knowing each other’s languages. They were heading out and I was headed into the store. I found myself in the bathroom rain suit, leather jacket , vest, long sleeve shirt, jeans, chaps and underwear… I honestly stood there contemplating how long I could hold it before this would become emergency situation.
The struggle is real boys and girls!
Once I was back out to the bike I decided that even though it wasn’t raining yet it still might so I was gonna go ahead and leave all the gear on and head down the road. I was very happy about this decision when about 10 miles later it did indeed rain, some may have called it a freak monsoon! This was the kind of rain where you were very happy to be wearing a helmet and full gear because at highway speed it was going to hurt. And of course traffic slowed down to around 45 miles an hour everyone including myself turn their flashers on because you just plain and simply couldn’t see far enough in front of you to be traveling safely which means everyone behind you could potentially run you over. I don’t mind riding in the rain and actually I was curious to see how this new toy would handle in such conditions. This amount of water was a tad extreme. Good news is the new bike with its brand new liquid balanced tires did fantastically just like I knew it would.
After a tank of gas in the rain the sky eased up and things started drying off so I shredded some gear at my next fuel stop. I realized as I took the rain pants off that I really should have invested in the new Indian motorcycle rain gear I had looked at when buying my new bike. My HD rain gear has been with me for 10 years now through many bikes, states, and miles. It has definitely served it’s time and has developed a leak somewhere in the oh so convenient crotch area leaving me looking very much like I have bladder control issues. Well shit.
It was while I stood there assessing my water situation that I looked down and noticed a very awesome chrome badge on the back of my front fender that says STURGIS. That is really cool I couldn’t believe I hadn’t noticed this before, then I realized I had one on the horn that says THE SPIRIT OF STURGIS! Aaaaaaand the tiny Indian head on the front of the front fender has a light up face! Those tiny details just made my entire day.
3 gas stops down and 1 left to go I had not found a thing I’d change about my Chieftain. I rolled the rest of the way home into Wisconsin dry and happy. After a 777 miles day I had no desire to dismount my new steed but my 5 days of playtime were over and I had a 4:30 A.M. alarm waiting to call my name in about 5 hours.
Another eventful and successful Sturgis trip in the books! My 17th motorcycle sitting in my garage and my 37th state now under my belt via 2 wheels!
Until next time friends, Thanks for riding along!