RSD Custom Titanium Indian

Perhaps we're old fashioned, but in our minds a proper Indian is a racer. Purpose built competition machines utilizing only the barest of necessities were how the most beautiful bikes we're created. The board trackers, hill climbers and flat track racers of the 20's, 30s and. 40s are stunning. And there lies the challenge. How to deconstruct a superbly engineered modern day two wheeled car down to only its necessary guts. We've spent time on all three of modern Indians and the full body Chieftain is a supreme choice for those who want to ride from California to NY and pack the kids. It's nimble for an 800lb bike and if you’re looking for a modern full-fendered Chief of yesteryear, this bike is your Huckleberry. Bluetooth, cruise control, USB, navigation, etc. To say the stocker feels like a “metric cruiser” is both a compliment and a concern. But that motor.. Yeah, It's a good looking lump.


Photo credit: Adam Fedderly, Barry Hathaway and Joseph Hitzelberger

Modern bikes aside, we all miss a bit of the rawness that draws us back to vintage machines. The Track Chief was an attempt to answer the what if's the factory doesn't have the option to manufacture. Being a one off builder has it’s advantages, primarily we get to do what we want. No committee outside our small internal group. With that in mind we set the engine on a frame table and began to create an early era driven concept utilizing modern components.

Since the bike has a springer fork on it, the steel top triple tree bolts completely down to the front fork. Very solid and very safe. Welding the bars straight to the top triple allowed us to make very narrow bars and eliminated the use of risers. They are basically clip-ons… without relying on a pinch bolt.

Riding the Track Chief is an era-bending experience. On paper, the machine should be a handful. It should steer lazy and twist and buck from front to back. Single sided leaf fork rigid just sounds painful. With those fears in mind the ride was to be the real proof of concept. Thanks to a little luck and preparation the Track Chief eats smooth pavement and corners with a mile-hungry attitude. In the twisties you tend to forget about time until you realize there's a stop sign and the track-spec braking pulls you out of a 1924 meets 2014 dream world. Throttle response is meaty and a bit lazy but the motor pulls well past your comfort zone. In slow to mid-speed corners, it begs you to be aggressive and makes you feel as If there's room to push harder. Full pulls of throttle, wind up the torquey engine and easily rocket you through faster corners. In rolling bumps you begin to feel some flex in the frame and error on the side of caution but the machine lets you know it's limits. Surprisingly there's no sudden change of attitude. With sportbike-spec lean angle the bike speaks to you, coaching you through your bravery… or lack thereof. It's a rigid after all, so you pray for smooth pavement.

The new Indians are well built bikes and have a lot of soul. It would be cool to see people want to build and customize them. We like using our custom builds as a place to show off new product concepts and get an idea of how many people might be interested, based on response.

At the limit, it can be frightening. Upon overtaking and entering a 100+ MPH left hander, with rolling bumps, the limit was reached. Lacking rear suspension the machine started a slow dance with a twist from front to back that resulted in a bucking feeling. This unsettling, wind up, prompted a stab of the rear brake while standing it up, and a quick prayer before recommitting to the corner. After scrubbing off some speed, and a soiling of the trousers, the bike settled and made its way through the corner without further hesitation. Limit met.
In a world where our minds are critical of the future in respect for the past we feel we've met a middle ground with the Track Chief. The end result is a massive shit eating grin as we approach the next set of twisties. The remaining question seems to be, full leathers or a leather helmet and a button-up shirt?

PM Radial brakes, Brembo radial masters, FOX DHX mountain bike shock used for dampening control of the Paughco springer fork, Gregg's Customs single sided rear hub, RSD-built titanium pipes, one-off machined RSD Clarity cam and primary covers with Zodiac sportster clutch slave cylinder, and billet RSD Del Mar wheels and rotors wrapped in Dunlop Elite 3 tires, billet RSD Sportster rearsets with custom adapters, and the RSD Blunt Air Cleaner with K&N filter all add to the forward thinking performance aspect of the bike.

The geometry and proportions, gas cap by Crafty B, stainless steel tank strap buckles by Hot Rod Leather and the hand built, bull leather seat and gas tank strap by Rich at Bitchin Seat Co., the Hot Match kickstand, the spring-mounted PIAA bulb in a custom billet housing, and RSD Tracker Tag Bracket all add to the vintage Indian racer flavor. Hiding the computer, battery and all the electrics in a tidy belly pan, was no easy task and couldn’t have been accomplished without some wiring harness help from Indian “skunkworks” (you know who you are) and a custom made, 16 cell Antigravity lithium battery. The electronic throttle potentiometer was hidden behind the front # plate and is actuated by a cable-operated, internal throttle mechanism. Mixing new technology with old school styling can be quite a challenge and takes lots of patience, craftsmanship, thought and some help from other, talented, industry partners.

We started with a drag bike rendering from Holographic Hammer which inspired a boardtracker concept. Next we engineered the machines skeletal geometry resulting in 3.1" of trail which we hoped would be the magic number. Having never built a leaf spring forked bike there was some guessing but a proper number was agreed upon and we crossed our fingers.

Simplicity is a complicated thing. Deconstruction of a fully engineered machine down to its absolute simplest form takes determination, perseverance, connections and lots of hours. The wiring system has been pulled apart and rebuilt with 90% of the connectors removed for a thin, purpose-built loom. We’ve deconstructed the throttle to utilize an internal twist throttle and remotely located fly-by-wire throttle housing behind the front number plate.

Exhaust has been fashioned from carefully mandrel bent titanium tubing and pieced together to keep the tubing as close to the chassis as possible providing as much leg clearance as possible. The handmade titanium gas tank awaits a gas cap, but is nearly completed and will remain unfinished with exposed welds. The front fork has received a dampened shock and radial mount brake caliper to bring things into the MOTOGP age. The running bike will make its way to Sturgis at the end of the month so it’s crunch time. Time to get back to work.

Now that we have all the mild steel templates mocked up for the tank, number plate and seat we can start planning ahead for the final titanium bodywork. The titanium tank tunnel was the first step in making the tank and figuring out the fuel pump and mounting brackets. Keepin her light.

It was decided to fashion a single sided, chromoly 4130, rigid frame as we'd never seen a similar frame style. This was the source of hours of conversation, a pile of tubes and probably 10 different layouts. We finally decided to keep it tubular and retain classic lines rather than plating the whole thing in. The raw titanium gas tank and number plate were another first and required an insane amount of prep to complete.

The bikes ready to come out of the fixture and we're pretty much all done with the major welding at this point. Our next step is to start mocking up templates with the mild steel tank before the final titanium version.

Through our friendship with Holographic Hammer who sent us a transformative rendering of an Indian dragster we were inspired to search out a customer who would fall in love with such a beast. After a few tweaks and twists a collaborative design was born and we’ve now set out to build our version of the Indian.

Part Board Tracker, part Dragster and part cafe racer this single sided rigid mash up is as much about the art of the machine as the function. It’s been a long time since we built a rigid so it is with an aesthetic importance we move forward forgoing the normal suspended rear tire for one that shall not suspend. We’ve also gone back in time with a Leaf spring fork throwing caution to the wind and letting it ride rough, rigid and beautiful. This is a throwback to the 20’s and the hardened souls who would approach such machines with a lust for speed, minimal weight and high horsepower. With half the weight of the stock bike and a few extra ponies thrown in for sheer terror we’re looking forward to running this beast down the strip, balls in hand and bound for Glory.

The Indian Cheiftan is a comfortable, long distance, road worthy motorcycle with a good looking powerful engine as well as tons of technology and engineering. If I had to ride from LA to New York the Cheiftan is a bike I would consider riding. While it may not be everyone’s cup of tea it’s hard to ignore the beauty of that motor. She’s a looker and there’s more than one customizer who’s dreamed about cutting one of those beasts up and stealing her heart.