2014 Indian Chieftain | Doin’ Time

Mods: Indian quick-release backrest, Chase Harper tank bag

By Art Friedman, Photography by Miya Friedman

WRIST: Art Friedman
MSRP (2014): $23,499
Miles: 8,353
MPG: 36
Mods: Indian backrest, Chase Harper tank bag

Four months after we got it, accessories have finally started arriving for our long-term Indian Chieftain. Part of the delay was the fact that it's a completely new motorcycle. Accessory companies and Indian itself are understandably reluctant to give a new product to the press when it's back-ordered and customers are clamoring for it.

My favorite passenger has been impatiently awaiting a backrest, so she was pleased when the Chieftain Quick-Release Backrest (indianmotorcycle.com; $625) was the first accessory to arrive. It's a pricey piece, but it's well engineered, easy to install, and makes the passenger happy. The kit includes the main backrest and a cushioned pad that matches the studded saddle. Installation took about 10 minutes. Simply remove the saddlebags using their quick-release fasteners, pull two screws on each side to remove the spool-type spacers that mount the bags, press a plastic flange over each spool, and reinstall the spools. Then the backrest slides over the front spools and drops down over the rear spools. Locking levers rotate down around the rear spools to secure the backrest. To remove the backrest, just lift the levers. If you want to make it harder to remove, the kit includes a couple screws to lock the levers in place.

Indian offers a taller model, but my 5-foot-4 co-rider says this one is the perfect height. It allows her to relax a bit and securely lean back, which gives her a bit more room. We haven't done a long ride yet, but I suspect she will be a bit less stiff afterward. When she isn't with me, I can simply remove it.

Anticipating an upcoming trip, I visited local motorcycle luggage maker Chase Harper to see if I could find a tank bag for the Chieftain. After trying several, the No. 650M magnetic bag seemed to be an excellent fit for the Indian (chaseharper.com; $113). This tough, 14-liter Cordura bag with stiffeners in the sides is narrow enough to clear the handlebar at full lock and short enough front-to-rear not to block the dash and so leaves the tank-top shut-off button accessible. If I want to use the tank-top saddlebag locking controls (also on the key fob), I just lift a corner of the bag. I selected the 650 rather than the similar upward-expanding 950M because I felt making it taller would block the Chieftain's instruments. Both accommodate CH's 35-ounce hydration system in an insulated pocket in the top.

After 8,000 miles, the Chieftain has developed two minor issues. There is a slight mist of oil at the front of the right engine cover, perhaps from around the gasket. It's not enough to drip, but it leaves a dirty smear there if I don't wipe it for a couple hundred miles. The front brake also groans occasionally at low speeds. I suspect I use it harder than most cruiser riders, but it's still annoying.

I gave the bike its first oil and filter change. Except for struggling to remove the fluted oil filler cap (owners will want to buy the special tool), it was straightforward and easy. The filter itself is easy to access.

Plans include different tires—I'm told there's a set of Metzeler's ME880s waiting for me at the Motorcyclist HQ, along with a willing young man to mount them—because the stock Dunlops are just about done. Plus I'll do some experimenting with seats. I'm hoping to have examples from Corbin and Mustang in my hands soon and am hopeful these replacements will give me a little more room; the original saddle places me farther forward than I'd like.

By Art Friedman
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