IF WE MEASURED badassery of motorcycles like the pH of the pool, we held their sunflower stripes against a grayscale ranging from chrome to black. In the visual code of street bikes, less chrome reads like younger, cooler, more outlawed and – here’s the highlight – less like Harley-Davidson..
In the years since 2008, Harley’s traditionally too-splendid glossy workmanship was associated with the brand’s high prices and grizzled clientele.
Our Indian Chief Bobber Dark Horse pushes the assassinated style to its monochrome limit. New for 2022, the “Dark Horse” specification includes powder coated exhaust pipes and handlebars as well as gloss black cylinder heads, tubular frame and telescoping shocks. The tank and fenders can be ordered in three colors – Black Smoke, Sagebrush Smoke, Titanium Smoke – with matte finishes and graphics. This thing is so dark it has an event horizon.
Motorcycles inevitably make a strong personal statement. This emits a vibration which is recorded on the seismographs.
It is quite dense. Weighing 694 pounds at full throttle and measuring 90 inches long, the Chief Bobber actually counts as one of the company’s midsize bikes, between Scout streeters and bagger / touring dreadnoughts such as the Springfield and Roadmaster. . The Bobber models, however, feature the company’s largest and most powerful engine: an air-cooled, pushrod-actuated 1890cc V-twin, producing a maximum of 91bhp at 5,000rpm, all flying like a pirate flag in a hurricane. Meet the Thunderstroke 116.
The term “bobber” may also require unboxing. As a transitive verb, “bob” is to cut something shorter. The Bobbers are reduced to the essentials: simple saddle, minimal lighting, instrumentation and mudguards. No windshield, running boards, saddlebags or fairings. Beyond naked.
Bobber styling also invokes mid-century cues like wire wheels and big tires. And, because bobbers were often “hardtails” – with the rear springs / shocks cut out and the rear wheel rigidly attached to the frame – a strongly diagonal position is standard for the breed: high handlebars, low saddle.
To tell the truth, I didn’t have much interest in the New Indian before that. Traditional American-style motorcycles, heavy, slow, overpriced, and sticky, generally annoyed me. And it bothers me that all the trends in the folk art of motorcycle customization are instantly co-opted by major manufacturers and packaged in such a cool box.
But when I saw the BDH at rest – parked in front of my house, draped over its crutch, silent as a hammer – my attitude began to soften. Oh fuck. It’s witchcraft. The bold tires (3 inches wide at the front, 5 inches wide at the rear), mounted on 16 inch black spoke wheels, look great. Can I get an order for white walls for this table?
And, while it’s not a hardtail, the Bobber looks like the one across the street, thanks to the cylindrical rear shocks aligned with the diagonal top bar. It is a beautiful science in the service of nostalgia.
Quick? Oh no. Despite its nearly two-liter engine, the Bobber is nobody’s sports bike. At maximum engine speed (5,400 rpm), it looks like he’s about to pull a groin muscle. The shifting linkage is awkward; single brake discs on the front and rear wheels are undersized and oversized. When you roll on the throttle in first and second gear, yes the fat bobber goes into a sniffling gallop. But compared to the average touring bike, the acceleration-to-noise ratio is comical.
Still, I was surprised that the Bobber could be actually, really fun to ride, in a specific way because of its ergonomics and setup. For non-riders this can get a little bad, but stick with me: the Bobber has a 29-degree front fork rake and 5.2-inch drag. This geometry gives the steering of the bike a reassuring self-centering quality in a straight line; but that tends to make any bike less eager to change direction.
I’ve found that the Bobber’s low-rise mini-ape suspension handlebars – the type I always thought were only for looks – actually puts more weight on the steering than regular handlebars. While corner-to-corner transitions have to be done more deliberately – because it’s such a big bike and you have to push the handlebars – the Bobber can certainly move, until the moment you start to move. dragging stuff on the sidewalk (28.5 degree tilt angle).
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The Bobber package also includes forward mounted foot controls. These too take some getting used to compared to sport touring bikes. The advanced foot controls require riders to raise and extend their legs to find the footrests. Combined with the bike’s low saddle height (26 inches), the forward controls force riders to sit like on a bobsleigh.
This is far from the most natural driving position. And yet, after feeling the bike for a few days, I discovered that I could literally pivot my hips to initiate a turn or maneuver. For example, on your way out to avoid slower traffic, just give it the gas and stir your… well, you know.
Bob-ness’s condition is questionable. The bike is fitted with substantial fenders, front and rear, as well as a large headlight nacelle and covered shocks. The smallest thing about Bob is the 4-inch LCD touchscreen instrument display, with built-in navigation, phone connectivity, and bike functions accessed through individual menus. The left handle of the bike has a trigger-type selector to switch between menu pages. But some entries must be made with the touch screen. It works with gloves.
Motorcycles inevitably make a strong personal statement, and this thing gives off a vibe that registers on seismographs. What exactly does Chief Dark Horse Bobber say about the man or woman riding him? Is it rock’n’roll black, bad-boy black, fetish black, tactical black?
Or is it just shade?
2022 Indian Chief Bobber Dark Horse
Base price: $ 18,999
Price, as tested: $ 19,499
Powertrain : Air-cooled, naturally aspirated, fuel injected, V-twin 1890 cc; six-speed manual gearbox with wet clutch; rear belt drive
Power / torque: 91 hp @ 5,000 rpm / 120 lb-ft @ 2,900 rpm
Length / width / height / wheelbase: 90.0 / 36.0 / 53.1 / 64.0 inch
Rake / trail: 29.5 degree / 5.2 inch
Unloaded weight : 694 pounds (full of fuel)
Seat height : 26.0 inch
Fuel Capacity: 4 gallons
Estimated range: 175 miles
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