Riding the Indian Chief Vintage “Elnora” Edition

A Brute of a Bike with the Name of a Lady

Elnora Indian Chief Vintage
Associate Editor Julia LaPalme and her new friend Elnora.©Motorcyclist

"Hey, why don't you give Elnora a go?" The seemingly omnipresent Indian PR guy Robert Pandya urges, with an eager twinkle in his eye. He points over to a very large, bombed out Indian Chief Vintage, a prototype bike saved (temporarily) from the crusher. Pandya got ahold of it from Indian's engineering team to participate in a commemorative cross-country ride in honor of Cannon Ball Baker. The bike is named after Baker's wife, Elnora.

After some hesitation, I allow myself to be persuaded to take Robert up on his offer, and throw a leg over the 111ci beast. I laugh in awe as I stretch forward to reach the handlebars. This is a very large beast, indeed. I look down ahead of me for a place to rest my feet, and find the floorboards are not in their original position. I look down directly under my thigh to find a set of Loaded Gun Customs rearsets. Check out the video below for a short clip from a recent track day at Chuckwalla Valley Raceway:

Since the last time we saw Robert's Elnora (click here to see the Me & My Bike story from the November 2014 issue of Motorcyclist) , Robert ran the Vintage at El Mirage where he clocked a land speed run at 130.227 mph. After that, he swapped over to a Springfield chassis, installed a café fairing and MX handlebar, and added custom 17-inch RC Components rims. The Stock Indian fork legs were modified to include fully adjustable internals, and the shock is custom: more aggressively tuned by its maker, Fox suspension. Brakes are taken care of by AMS by Conquest Customs, with ceramic rotors. The Chief Vintage engine was modded with Indian performance cams, and tuned by Lloydz. Also, Pandya switched to full fenders, and cut the back portion of the front fender to improve aerodynamics.

After I sort out my riding position, I look for the key to turn the bike on. Right. Keyless start. Push the button on the tank, and the Chief roars to life. What have I gotten myself into? I lean onto my right foot to reach for the kickstand with my left, and, again, laughing, realize I can’t reach it; it’s too far forward. Robert kicks it back for me, until I can grab it with my foot and tuck it under the bike. Balancing the Chief’s heft isn’t too bad, thanks to a low seat height. Now for takeoff.

Oof, this thing is heavy. Cumbersome, even, at low speeds. But as I pull out onto the track and start to pick up speed, its grunty torque assures me we’ll manage a respectable pace. Nevermind we’re being passed by sport bikes on the twisties of Chuckwalla Valley Raceway; the Indian Chief Vintage is holding its own. The tight S-bend at the back end of the track proved a little tricky, but only slowed me down a little. Leaning off the bike felt odd, as I’ve never ridden a bike that big on track. Those Loaded Gun Customs rearsets helped improve ground clearance, as I wasn’t dragging any parts, meaning I could have leaned further. The bowl (a banked, almost 180-degree turn at Chuckwalla) on the other hand, was a fantastic and fun experience on the Vintage, making me want to twist that throttle even further, and really let the engine howl.

Robert Pandya and his Indian Chief Vintage Elnora
Robert Pandya and his Indian Chief Vintage Elnora at Chuckwalla Valley Raceway.©Motorcyclist

And howl it did. Roaring through the bowl, Elnora’s sound is amplified by custom exhaust. Lloydz Motorworkz kept the twin stock headers, merging them to a single open endcap Supertrapp. To continue the bombed out theme, the headers are finished with exhaust wrap.

Grabbing a handful of front brake did little to stop the Indian, but the rear brake felt strong and very reassuring. Later, Robert tells me the front brake master cylinder proved to be too small, and is next on the list to be fixed. Fair enough. The custom suspension did a fantastic job. Firm, but not jarring by any means, no doubt with springs weighted such that I barely registered as a load compared to the bike’s 800-ish pound weight. Pandya hasn’t weighed it recently, but argues some of his mods should lighten it a little, and he plans to shave even more weight off the bike.

Aside from Elnora’s 3,400-mile Cannon Ball ride, and El Mirage land speed runs, Robert plans to mod the Indian Chief Vintage further, this time to a more street fighter tune. It will be interesting to see how many more lives Elnora lives before she is sent back home to the crusher. No doubt, she’ll have lived fully, if Robert Pandya has anything to do with it.