Most riders will say that there’s no place for a bagger cruiser on Philippines roads. Our roads are too congested, turns are too tight, and there’s simply not a long enough a stretch of highway to ride these long-distance cruisers the way they were meant to.
That may have been true some years back, yet with the improvements to our road infrastructure, the growing number of destinations, and the technological improvements in motorcycles, it may be high time to take another look at this kind a bike.
Easily one of the most perfect examples of this is the Indian Chieftain Classic. Cruiser fans will naturally compare this to the Harley-Davidson’s Touring line, the Street Glide specifically. That’s to be expected.
The Chieftain is a low-slung, hot-rod look, air-cooled bagger. Designed for long rides, it’s got a low and comfy seat, wide front fairings, and extensive entertainment options. I’m not exactly a seasoned cruiser rider either, so taking it up to the usual destinations like MaRiLaQue was out of the question.
I’ll admit, I first hopped on to this bike hoping to prove a lot of my cruiser biases right. Yet over the course of a few days, the Chieftain shattered them one by one.
The low seat height makes it really easy to swing a leg over, thankfully. It may have a low seat height, but you’ll need some really long legs to reach the brake and shift levers. I recommend this for riders standing at least 5’7” or taller.
It’s a heavy bike, yes. It takes quite some effort to maneuver it around a parking space, turning a typical 3-point turn into something more like 9-points. The wide handlebars will really stretch your reach, particularly around tight turns.
Yet the real trick to maneuvering is to get the engine helping you as soon as possible. Start it up and the light clutch is easy to modulate. There’s lots of torque at very low revs, making it easy to roll it along. Once even crawling, you can already put your feet up thanks to the low center of gravity. Once rolling, there’s very little need to worry as just letting it idle along is enough to cope with daily traffic. Of course, this bike is too wide to weave in between cars, so you’ll just have to contend yourself with waiting like every other four-wheeled vehicle. It’s really best enjoyed on the open road, and in my case, no more appropriate joyride than to Clark in Pampanga.
With the traffic easing up, I had more chances to open up the throttle and really get a feel of that Thunderstroke V-Twin. Powering this Chieftain is a 1.8-liter SOHC V-Twin. Sport bike fans may scoff at its two-valves per cylinder setup and redline at just about 5,000 rpm. Yet the mounds of torque early on make that argument a moot point. There’s simply so much power lower in the rev range that climbing to that 5,000 rpm is downright scary.
Helping the rider modulate it are three ride modes: Tour, Standard, and Sport. Standard is best used for the city, delivering adequate power instantly to close gaps in traffic. Tour is for highways, smoothening out the power delivery even if you’re rough on the throttle. Sport gives you that power the quickest, leaving it up to you to handle that surprising surge.
Best of all, you’ll be encouraged to pour on that throttle thanks to the brakes that bite well, are precise, and very reassuring as opposed to the reputably spongy brakes of its competitor.
At these higher speeds, it’s even more enjoyable to lean the bike, whether around gentle curves or simply changing lanes. Despite the laid-back stance, it’s very responsive to counter-steering, and is far more agile than many would think when making lane changes.
On those long, winding off-ramps, you’ll have to lean a bit farther though. Thankfully, the Chieftain will let you lean quite a bit without scratching up those beautiful exhausts. Because of the long wheelbase, you’ll have to put in more effort than your used to. That long wheelbase pays dividends over bumps, though. Even the roughest portions of NLEx were muted out by the supple suspension.
There’s a lot storage space on the bike. The large lockable saddle bags are more than enough to store some clothes for an overnight trip. There’s also a small glove compartment on the dashboard.
The best part of the ride was the tech toys. Despite its classic styling and air-cooled engine, Indian made sure to put in a lot of gadgets. First off is the power assisted windscreen. Just a press of a button on the handlebar can raise or lower it to your desire. We recommend low for the city and high for the highway.
It’s also got fantastic connectivity to the phone. You can connect via Bluetooth and play your tunes and even answer calls on the fly. There’s also a USB connection hidden in the front dashboard pocket. Despite the wind noise, sound from the onboard speakers was excellent with volume automatically increasing as you go faster. Best of all, the large center screen can be configured to display whatever you like thank to handlebar mounted controls.
Finally, there's also cruise control which makes the many miles this bike is designed to soak up much more manageable. Simply set it with the controls on the handlebar and let off the throttle. It will maintain speed on its own but can still be canceled by pulling on the brake.
My short ride was quickly spoiled by some heavy traffic near the toll gate on the way back. I was expecting my man parts to fry very quickly in the crawling traffic. Yet because the engine is farther forward than most cruisers, that wasn’t the case. Plus, the heat was quickly blown away the moment I got moving again.
Over the course of our ride, the bike returned 14 km/liter. It’s certainly thirsty, but with a 20-liter tank, you should be able to get pretty far.
I’ve never seriously considered owning a large cruiser until I felt just how comfortable, fast, and enjoyable it can be with an Indian Chieftain. The first couple of lucky buyers will even enjoy a free Stage 1 exhaust pipe upgrade from Indian Philippines.
Large cruisers like the Indian Chieftain are definitely not for everybody, but they offer a truly relaxed and comfortable ride that’s unmatched even by adventure bikes. It will be difficult to ride often if it’s your only bike. It’s something we recommend to a rider that already has a stable of motorcycles and is looking for something different.
For more pictures, check out the gallery below.