Indian Motorcycle announced its 2021 model-year lineup on September 15.
It’s been nearly a decade since Polaris Industries bought Indian Motorcycle, rescuing the pioneering American motorcycle nameplate from over 50 years of tumultuous ownership changes. Indian had a legitimate claim to the title “America’s First Motorcycle Company” based on its founding in 1901 as “The Hendee Manufacturing Company” (three years before eventual archrival Harley-Davidson). It ceased operations in 1953, never really recovering in the consumer market after devoting itself to military production during World War II. Multiple attempts to revive the brand — some legitimate, some scurrilous — followed over the years, but one after another failed to take hold.
The Polaris years (2011 to present) have seen the rebirth of the Indian brand, and the creation of an all-new lineup of motorcycles built in Spirit Lake, Iowa. While Harley-Davidson’s sales and production may dwarf Indian’s in pure numerical terms, Indian’s output is highly competitive in terms of technology, performance, styling and build quality, and even leads its big competitor in some categories.
New to the lineup is the 2021 Indian Vintage Dark Horse (starting at $19,499). Expanding the popular Dark Horse selection, the Vintage Dark Horse is a cruiser, a variant on the Indian Vintage with a blacked-out style, a Thunder Black Smoke matte paint scheme, an air-cooled Thunderstroke 111 V-Twin engine (119 lb-ft of torque), and soft black leather bags. It joins the Indian Vintage (starting at $20,499) to complete the cruiser lineup. Vintage matches up well with the Harley-Davidson Heritage Classic.
The popular bagger category is more crowded, with the Springfield (starting at $21,999) and Springfield Dark Horse (starting at $22,499); the Chieftain (starting at $21,999), Chieftain Limited (starting at $27,999), Chieftain Dark Horse (starting at $27,999), and Chieftain Elite (starting at $34,999); and the Challenger (starting at $22,999), Challenger Limited ($27,999), and Challenger Dark Horse (starting at $27,999).
The Springfield bikes are simple, stripped-down baggers that come without a fairing but with lockable hard saddlebags, and use Indian’s proven air-cooled Thunderstroke 111 V-Twin engine. Springfield is a good competitor for Harley-Davidson’s Road King lineup, a similarly configured model line.
Chieftain was Indian’s first new model under Polaris in 2013, and has developed into quite a technological marvel since then. The Chieftain bikes use a fairing that is loaded with tech, including premium audio with 100 watts of amplification, keyless ignition, locking saddlebags, cruise control, a push-button power-adjustable windshield, and a USB charging port. Step up to the Chieftain Limited, Dark Horse or Elite, and you add Ride Command, a customizable infotainment system with a touchscreen interface, Apple CarPlay integration (new this year), turn-by-turn navigation, Bluetooth connectivity, vehicle information, and more. The base Chieftain comes with the Thunderstroke 111, while the Limited, Dark Horse and Elite use the bigger, more powerful Thunderstroke 116 with 126 lb-ft of torque. Chieftain matches up with the Harley-Davidson Electra Glide lineup.
Challenger was all-new for 2020, and returns for 2021 as a carryover model, running with the liquid-cooled PowerPlus 108-cubic inch V-twin engine (122 hp/128 lb-ft of torque). It also uses a fairing, equipped similarly to the Chieftain Limited. Compare the Challenger to the Harley-Davidson Road Glide Limited.
The Touring lineup is made up of four Roadmaster models: Roadmaster (starting at $29,999), Roadmaster Dark Horse (starting at $29,999), Roadmaster Elite (starting at $38,995), and, new to the lineup for 2021, the Roadmaster Limited (starting at $30,749).
Roadmaster is a full-dress touring bike, with remote-locking hard saddlebags and a trunk and roomy seating for rider and passenger with floorboards. It comes with a full fairing with seven-inch Ride Command touchscreen display with navigation, Bluetooth and Apple CarPlay, a power windshield, cruise control, selectable ride modes, ABS, keyless ignition, LED headlights, and more. Each Roadmaster uses the Thunderstroke 116 engine with a six-speed manual transmission. Compare it to the Harley-Davidson Ultra Limited.
The Scout lineup continues as the entry-level Indian, a lighter, sportier cruiser for everyday riding. There are four Scout models: Scout (starting at $11,499), Scout Bobber (starting at $10,999), Scout Bobber Twenty (starting at $11,999), and Scout Bobber Sixty (starting at $8,999).
The Scout engine is a fuel-injected, liquid-cooled V-twin with the cylinders at a 60-degree angle. Scout Sixty comes with a 61-cubic-inch version, tuned to produce 78 hp and 65 lb-ft of torque, sending power via a five-speed manual transmission and belt final drive. Scout, Scout Bobber and Scout Bobber Twenty get a 69-cubic inch version tuned to produce 100 hp and 72 lb-ft of torque with a six-speed manual transmission. Consider the Scout lineup as competition for the popular Harley-Davidson Sportster models.
Finally, there are the Indian FTR models, street-legal motorcycles styled in homage to the highly successful flat-track racing bikes the company has been running in the American Flat Track and Hooligan Racing series. There are three models of FTR: FTR 1200 (starting at $11,499), FTR 1200 S (starting at $13,999), and FTR Rally (starting at $13,499).
FTR uses a 73 cubic-inch V-twin that puts out 123 hp and 87 lb-ft of torque with a six-speed manual transmission and chain final drive. Harley-Davidson doesn’t have a stock answer for the FTR since the demise of the V-Rod – you’ll have to go to the aftermarket.
From startup to full lineup in just a decade, the 2021 Indian Motorcycle lineup is extensive and formidable.