WRIST: Art Friedman
MSRP (2014): $23,499
MODS: Aeromach heel shifter, Metzeler tires
It's been almost six months coming, but I've finally been able to make the two modifications to the Chieftain that I wished for since the first time I rode it.
Before I ever got it out of the parking lot, I wanted a heel-shift lever. Part of that desire was habit; I have become accustomed to heel levers on bikes with footboards. There was a time when I had no use for heel shifters, but after riding cruisers pretty much exclusively for five years, it became second nature and preferable to upshifting by lifting my toe. A traditional rationale for heel shift levers is preventing scuffs on the top of your boot or shoe, but on cruisers, which often have heavy gearboxes and require comparatively high-effort shifts, stepping down with your heel to upshift is also more comfortable.
That applies doubly to the Indian gearbox, which is stiff when cold. Using my toe, I frequently failed to make that first shift of the day on cold mornings. I'd requested the accessory heel shifter from Indian, but before one arrived I learned that Aeromach (aeromachmfg.com) had a line of accessories for the new Indians, including a $170 chromed heel-shift lever. My first wish was answered.
Installation, which involves moving the footboard slightly outboard with spacers, took about 20 minutes and required just an 8mm hex wrench, a 10mm wrench and socket (yes, Indian uses metric fasteners), and a torque wrench. I used Permatex Blue Threadlocker for reassembly. Aeromach provides some adjustability, but in my case none was needed. I'm ridiculously pleased with this simple addition.
Changing the tires was not nearly as simple, and I was glad to hand the Chieftain off to the Motorcyclist shop for that chore. Those deeply valanced fenders make it difficult to remove the wheels. You can remove the front fender, but getting the rear wheel off requires the bike to be raised up high enough that the wheel assembly can drop completely below the fender. You might be able to do it with one of those lift-type jacks under the center of the frame, but the better way is to use a lift with a removable panel under the rear wheel. Even with practice, it is likely to require a couple of hours to change tires.
My desire for new tires stemmed from a notchiness and uneven steering response when leaned over close to the point where things drag. I don't know if it was the original profile or wear from straight-lining or even burnouts during intro rides, but the switch to Metzeler ME888 Marathon Ultras (metzeler.com; $524), which just became available for the Indians, eliminated it. I also noticed a couple of other benefits from the ME888s. The bike rides more smoothly across very small pavement irregularities and seems to be ever so slightly smoother generally over bumps. One of my regular turns is across a painted line. The stock rear tire virtually always slipped; the ME888 doesn't. The Metzelers may wiggle ever so slightly more on rain grooves, though I'm not certain. They require slightly more effort to lean over hard, but the more even response certainly offsets that. Overall, I'd choose the ME888s over the stock tires when it was time to change. We'll see how long they last.