Indian Chief Bobber Dark Horse 2022 review: Rebel with a 401(k)

The Chief Bobber Dark Horse offers the look and feel of American motorcycles from the 1940s and 50s, but offers riders modern reliability and safety.


Motorcyclists – and American motorcyclists in particular – have a deep sense of nostalgia for motorcycles built from the 1920s through the 1950s. But when you look at these motorcycles, it’s easy to see why. They have a simplicity and purity of design that modern motorcycles don’t offer, plus they hark back to a time that many believe today was better.

This nostalgia not only skyrocketed the price of vintage motorcycles from that era, but also led manufacturers like Harley-Davidson and Indian to look for ways to bring that look and feel to the bikes they sell now. One of the best executed is the 2022 Indian Chief Bobber Dark Horse, which combines presumably authentic vintage styling with plenty of modern safety and convenience features.

The heart of the Chief Bobber Dark Horse is its air- and oil-cooled 116 cubic inch Thunderstroke V-Twin engine. Not only does the engine dominate the bike visually – seriously, this thing looks 90% like its engine – but it also dominates the riding experience with its thundering soundtrack and effortless, almost electric torque (120 lb-ft at just 2900 rpm). A feature I know and love from other Indian models – rear cylinder deactivation – makes a return here and the reduction in perceived rider heat, when stationary, is noticeable.


That’s 1.9 liters of two-cylinder displacement, my friends.


The chassis features twin non-adjustable telescopic forks up front and twin shock absorbers in the rear. The ride isn’t what I would call supple, but it isn’t brutal either, thanks to the Dark Horse’s big tires. The geometry of the bike tends to mean that big jolts beyond the suspension’s capability go straight to the rider’s tailbone, which isn’t much fun. It’s the same with this style of bike, so it’s not really something I would hold against the Chief Bobber in general. This is a bike designed to look good and put on miles on the highway, and it excels at both.

Braking is provided by a single 300-millimeter rotor and four-piston caliper up front and a 300-millimeter rotor and two-piston caliper in the rear. Having the same size front and rear brake rotors is a bit odd for a motorcycle, but the braking system is adequate considering the bike’s intended use (read: no canyon carving or track days). Anti-lock brakes are standard equipment.

Another classic feature of this style of motorcycle is weight – and a lot of weight. The bike is beautifully built and finished from quality materials like steel and aluminum, but that comes with a big increase in weight. Having a big four-gallon fuel tank also adds to those issues, but it’s a necessary evil due to the big twin’s thirstiness. The Chief Bobber Dark Horse wet weight is 694 pounds, but again, that fits the class.


The Bobber has no provisions for a passenger, and that’s fine because you’re a loner, Dottie, a rebel.


Cruisers are generally light on modern technology, but here Indian has decided to break with tradition and that’s a good thing. The unique electronic gauge features a 4-inch color TFT display that has multiple pages of information and can even display information from your phone and directions from the Indian RideCommand app. Also on board are a USB-A charging port, 12-volt outlet, keyless start and all-LED lighting.

The Chief Bobber also offers user-selectable riding modes, but they’re sort of mixed up. The Sport is nearly unusable around town thanks to an overly sensitive throttle, which isn’t something I’ve had issues with in other Indian products. The more relaxed Tour and Standard modes are great, however, that’s where I spend the most time.

American V-twin cruisers are all about style and the Chief Bobber Dark Horse has more than its fair share, thanks to its matte Sagebrush Smoke green paint job, lack of chrome, chunky balloon-shaped tires, stance super low, its single -passenger seat and high handlebars. It’s a love letter to the post-war cruisers that frightened parents and fascinated youngsters in films like Rebel Without A Cause and The Wild One.

For me, the essence of the motorcycling experience is about how a motorcycle makes you feel, whether exhilarating as with the Yamaha MT-09 or ready to cross a continent as with the Ducati Multistrada V4. The Chief Bobber Dark Horse makes me feel a bit like James Dean or Marlon Brando as I chirp through downtown LA. It costs $19,499, which is not insignificant, but it delivers on the promises that American motorcycles have made for the past 100 years and does so with minimal sacrifice on the part of the rider, and for that, l ‘Indian Chief Bobber Dark Horse 2022 is my favorite American. cruiser from afar – so far.

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