Bigger Engine, New Chassis Among Changes for Indian’s 2020 Big Twin Line-up

Most Thunder Stroke bikes equipped with an even more massive powerplant, Chief Dark Horse becomes a very interesting cruiser

Another Tuesday, another model announcement from Indian Motorcycle. Though, it’s still not the announcement we’re really waiting for.

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Off the back of last week’s tweaks and additions to the Scout Line-up, Indian announced Tuesday that the capacity of most of its big twin machines will be boosted to 116 cubic inches, up from the 111 that’s been standard since the brand was relaunched under Polaris ownership roughly five years ago. A number of other changes were announced for the Minnesota-based company’s Thunder Stroke-powered bikes, but the size boost is perhaps the most notable. For those of you playing along outside Not America, 116 cubic inches is 1900.9 cubic centimeters. Round up and you get 1901 – the year in which the very first Indian bike was produced. That Indian’s PR team isn’t spinning that fact makes me sad. They clearly need to hire me.*

The new Roadmaster Dark Horse is pretty sexy. With a starting price of US $29,000, it is also beyond my financial grasp

Anyhoo, the Thunder Stroke 116 is now standard on the Springfield Dark Horse, Chieftain, Chieftain Dark Horse, Chieftain Limited, Chieftain Elite, Roadmaster and Roadmaster Dark Horse. And, oh, yeah, there’s now such a thing as a Roadmaster Dark Horse. Indian doesn’t offer any horsepower figures but does say the upgraded engine produces 126 lb-ft of torque; compare that to the roughly 112 lb-ft claimed for the Thunder Stroke 111 powerplant.

“Today’s rider wants more power and expects cutting-edge technology,” said Reid Wilson, vice president of Indian Motorcycle and my actual friend (on Facebook). “That’s exactly what we’re delivering in 2020.”

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Meanwhile, the models keeping the tried and true 1811cc Thunder Stroke 111 engine will be the Chief Dark Horse, Chief Vintage, Springfield, and Chieftain Classic. But there are fascinating changes afoot for the Chief Dark Horse and Chief Vintage: both models will now have the same chassis as the Springfield/Springfield Dark Horse. That is tremendously awesome news in my book, because the Springfield moves with far more agility than you would expect from such a big machine. In the Chief Dark Horse you now have a stripped-down cruiser that can genuinely hustle. Especially because Indian says the Chief Dark Horse and Springfield will now also come equipped with a 17-inch front wheel.

It’s an interesting move overall, though, suggesting Indian may not see a need to compete against Harley-Davidson’s Softail line-up. You can now argue that the Chief Dark Horse is a step up from that platform (keep in mind that one of my favorite bikes ever is a Softail, so I’m giving high praise here), leaving an empty space where Softail competitors should be. Or, perhaps Indian sees the Scout line-up as being capable of covering the territory and we can look forward to even more variations on that theme in the future.

The new Chief Dark Horse looks almost exactly like the previous Chief Dark Horse but is, in fact, quite different

Indian on Tuesday also announced a bunch of other stuff that I can’t be bothered to regurgitate in full. Instead, here are some of the descriptive words and phrases in the media release, I’m sure you can fill in the blanks in your mind: “modern and aggressive attitude,” “slammed,” “rogue,” ”mean touring machine,” “50 percent louder,” “stage 1,” “stage 2,” “stage 3,” and “premium blacked-out finishes.” Accessories and model tweaks, in other words. Though, I think it is worth noting that Indian says it has made improvements to its already excellent Ride Command infotainment system, found in all its faired touring machines.

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The system “now features a new quad-core processor to provide the fastest infotainment experience available. New connected features include traffic and weather overlays, so riders can plan their ride to avoid traffic and poor weather conditions. Additionally, Ride Command features intuitive destination search capabilities and improved customizable ride screens.”

All very impressive (and expensive), but come on, Indian: when do we get to see the Challenger?


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* Though, why should they when I spend so much of my time singing Indian’s praises for free?