I think Dennis Chung should be the best-paid member of staff at Motorcycle.com. After all, he’s the guy consistently scooping the rest of the moto universe with discoveries of various bikes in the works. For example: last week, when his latest sleuthing managed to uncover details about a forthcoming Indian Motorcycle model – or possibly even platform.
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It seems pretty likely all this relates to another bit of digging Chung did several months ago, in which he discovered Indian had trademarked the names Challenger, Renegade, and Raven, to be used in relation to new models.
Now the interwebs has turned up a single spy-shot photo of a very grubby, test-mule-esque big twin Indian driven by a heretofore unseen liquid-cooled powerplant. The photo, frustratingly shot in portrait, only shows the front end of the bike – encompassing the engine, front fairing and front wheel. The fairing and tank are hidden by covers that clearly weren’t designed to fit either item, which you’d expect from a bike that isn’t yet in production. Even so, there’s no hiding the fact it’s an Indian. The poorly hidden Indian headdress on the front fender is a dead giveaway, someone simply having covered it with a metallic-looking putty. The putty is also to be seen on the bike’s engine, placed over all the spots where Indian traditionally places logos.
RELATED: What is the Indian Raven?
I’m not using the photo, because it doesn’t belong to me, but there are plenty of people willing to risk copyright infringement over on TheVOG.net. Be careful, though; that forum is polluted with psychotically bitter former Victory owners. Nothing wrong with dissenting opinion, of course, but the vitriol there is weird and sad.
The Spirit of Victory Lives On
Anywho, much of the engine looks like a large version of the stylish V-twin that powers the Scout, Scout Sixty and Scout Bobber, but with modern, squarish cooling fins toward the top of the cylinders. A large radiator runs down the front of the frame. Those squared cooling fins remind me of styling on the Freedom 106 that powered Victory’s bikes before the brand was dropped a few years ago. Victory, of course, was owned by Polaris – Indian’s parent company.
To that end, let’s jump back to January, when we first learned about the Raven/Renegade/Challenger trademarks, and take a look at what I thought might come as a result: “I can’t help but wonder if Indian would go so far as to revive plans for whatever was supposed to have replaced the Victory Freedom 106 powerplant.“
It appears I was on the right track. According to Motorcycle.com, the engine driving this new Indian is a 1770cc (108 cubic inch) lump capable of 120 horsepower – one that was probably originally intended for a Victory model. That’s a fact that will inevitably provide ammunition for the haters, but, uhm, so what? If Polaris had a good idea why abandon it just because the brand for which it was intended didn’t make sense?
KEEP READING: Indian Motorcycle: Europe’s Newest Brand
Indeed, the further we get from Polaris’ shuttering of its original motorcycle brand in favor of the Indian name the more I support the action. The Victory brand was a broadly good idea that never fully reached its potential because it lacked what Indian has: a strong name and identity that resonates with consumers.
Personally, I’m all in with this, in part because it meshes the best part of the Victory ethos with Indian in a way that makes sense. My hope is that this new engine will be a little more free-revving, a little more thuggish, and different enough from the current Thunderstroke 111 platform that Indian will hold on to both (because the Thunderstroke 111 is too much fun to get rid of after only five years of production). I also hope the new engine will be paired with a chassis that allows riders to get the most out of those 120 ponies.
The presence of Brembo brakes on the spy shot bike provides reason to be optimistic. Riding modes and Indian’s excellent Ride Command system will obviously be a part of the package but I’d also expect to see traction control. The FTR 1200‘s technowhizzbangery shows Indian is realistic in its pursuit of the European market, and although big touring rigs don’t traditionally do well on this side of the ocean I do see a fair few. If this new Indian is closer in size to, say, a BMW R 1250 RT it could garner a fair amount of attention. And I’m convinced that American riders don’t actually want the decades-behind-the-curve bikes they claim to want in internet forums.
When Can I Ride It?
Again taking a look at the spy shot, the shittiness of the cars in the background suggest this vehicle was spotted near Indian’s test facility in South Dakota (the Mount Rushmore State is the place to be if you have a thing for salt-damaged economy cars from 30 years ago). Combined with the fact the bike is actually out on the road, it makes me think we’ll see this revealed within the next six months months, then hitting dealerships in spring 2020.
Exactly when it’s revealed will probably depend on the intended audience. It may have the ability to sell reasonably well in Europe, but odds are this is primarily a moto for the home crowd. As such, look for it to break cover at a US event in July/August. Something in my gut says it won’t be unveiled at Sturgis, if not simply because I feel Indian’s team – from engineering through to marketing and PR – is a little hipper than that. Especially PR. I mean, Sean MacDonald works for the company that handles Indian’s PR. I wouldn’t describe him as a Sturgis guy. Could he have an awesome time there? Yes. Would he choose to go there of his own accord? No.
Meanwhile, I note the X Games are again in Minneapolis this year (1-4 August). Indian used the same event in the same city (which it loosely refers to as its hometown*) to launch the Scout Bobber a few summers ago. I still class it as one of my favorite press events. That said, Indian would probably want to use X Games to showcase the FTR 1200. But, you know, maybe.
Or, perhaps Indian will want to focus its efforts this summer on making the FTR 1200 a success and we’ll have to wait until EICMA to see the new Raven/Renegade/Challenger (I’m guessing one of those names is for the new powerplant, and the others will be used for new models). That would be kind of cool for me; last week I booked my hotel in Milan for my annual trip to the November show. That should be a good one, as I suspect its where we’ll see the first glimpse of Harley’s Pan America.
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* Claiming Minneapolis as a hometown is a little bit of stretch. Indian was founded in Springfield, Massachusetts. Its bikes are manufactured/assembled in Spirit Lake, Iowa, and painted in Spearfish, South Dakota. And the headquarters of its parent company, Polaris, are stretched across a number of Minnesota locations – primarily Medina and Wyoming. However, with the exception of Springfield, all those towns are within the Minnesota Twins blackout territory, and the Twins play in Minneapolis, so… ah… I suppose Indian can claim Minneapolis as its hometown. Personally, I’d prefer it claim St. Paul because St. Paul is cooler (its nickname is Pig’s Eye, which is way better than Minneapolis’ “City of Lakes”), and Wyoming – where Polaris powerplants are developed – is at least in St. Paul’s 651 area code.