Indian Motorcycle Chief Bobber Dark Horse in Sunset Red
Indian Motorcycle Chief Bobber Dark Horse in Sunset Red
Image: Indian Motorcycle SA / @michalsbikes

Sometime in the 1930s and 1940s in the US, some motorcycle riders started customising their motorcycles by stripping away anything that was considered excess, such as the front fender and other body work, as well as modifications including shortening the rear fender. This was called a bob-job and resulted in a stripped-down, simpler motorcycle.

In some quarters, it is said that they drew inspiration from motorcycles that raced in the country’s Class C category, which was to encourage independent, amateur racers as opposed to manufacturer-supported riders. To make their motorcycles lighter, they got rid of anything that wasn’t functional, creating a lighter, better-performing motorcycle.

Eventually called a bobber, the distinct minimalist styling of the motorcycle has been taken up by motorcycle manufacturers, especially Indian Motorcycle, which is considered the US’s first motorcycle company. It was initially established as the Hendee Manufacturing Company in 1901 and changed name to Indian Motorcycle in 1923.

And, in a way, that bobber spirit comes together wonderfully in the Indian Chief Bobber Dark Horse while carrying the legacy of the Chief, first introduced in 1922. The 2024 model comes in Black Smoke, Storm Gray and Sunset Red Smoke. The one I picked up from Indian’s dealership at World of Yamaha was Storm Gray, across the tank and the front and back fenders.

 It is a stunning, aggressive-looking motorcycle, with an air-cooled Thunderstroke 116 1890cc engine that pushes out 162Nm torque. In Sport mode, the torque is insane. I found myself switching to standard mode in traffic. Turning the accelerator threw me back a couple of times and, while I got a general handle on it, it still surprised me every now and then.

At 315kg, it is a heavier motorcycle than I am accustomed to, considering my 2015 BMW R1200R has a wet weight of 231kg, but it was easy to handle in traffic. Where it comes to its own was on the highway. Mid-Saturday afternoon, I headed out onto the highways that circumvent Joburg, cruising in the middle lane with distinct yet pleasant growl of the dual exhaust with crossover as the soundtrack.

The air cooled Thunderstroke 116 produces 162Nm of raw torque for passing power in all six gears
The air cooled Thunderstroke 116 produces 162Nm of raw torque for passing power in all six gears

The saddle is wide and comfortable (the one I rode had a pillion seat with backrest) and the clutch and brake, while forward, weren’t set too far for me to make it uncomfortable. For taller riders, they can be moved even further forward.

 Standard features on the Chief Bobber Dark Horse include ABS, three ride modes (Tour, Standard and Sport), 12C charge port, USB charge port and keyless ignition. Fuel capacity is listed as 15.1 litres. Both the front and rear brakes are decent in terms of stopping power for the size and weight of the Chief.

Riding out on the Sunday morning, with the intention of spending an hour on the road, I ended up over 100km away on the outskirts of Rustenburg. The ride was relatively smooth, though the suspension was a tad unforgiving on the rough parts of the road, and the landscape was, at times, breathtaking. I switched between the three riding modes depending on the road.

The saddle is wide and comfortable
The saddle is wide and comfortable
Image: Supplied

Heading back home through Hartbeespoort, I was able to navigate my way using the 4” touchscreen which is powered by Indian’s Ride Command. The touchscreen is housed in a retro-type circular casing but is anything but retro when it comes to what can be displayed, including speedometer, tachometer, fuel gauge, current ride data, ride mode selection, ambient air temperature and the aforementioned map/navigation. It is also straightforward to connect a smartphone and headset via Bluetooth and there’s capacity to manage both calls and music.

Three and a half hours later, I pulled back into my complex sated and with enough energy to go again. I then spent another hour on the Indian SA website playing around with the “Build Yours” facility. With the number of accessories available, one can truly personalise the Indian Chief Bobber Dark Horse, including the Chief Quarter Fairing with a wind deflector (low, mid or tall), floorboards for the foot controls, Pathfinder S LED driving lights on the sides of the LED headlight, various seats from single to pillion, heated grips and different handlebars, like the mini ape which elevates your hands (and is the standard handlebar).

Though for some the Indian Chief Bobber Dark Horse might not feel like the best motorcycle for a road trip, I thoroughly enjoyed the extended leisurely Sunday run on it.

© Wanted 2024 - If you would like to reproduce this article please email us.