The Indian Chief Road Racer

Sep 28th 2021

The crew at RSD exists to explore the outer reaches of the two wheeled world. Primarily turning crazy ideas into reality. The Indian Chief racer is proof positive that an abnormal thought process is not only interesting, but also productive and pretty damn cool at the same time.

The Chief started life as a relaxed, mile eating, 640lb chill level cruise with attitude. It did not begin life as a bike built to go fast around corners or to do more than a parade lap at the local road race circuit. The stock bike was built for bar hopping and Sunday rips. With Indian setting out to do battle in the middle weight cruiser segment it was up against years of performance upgrades to the competitions bikes. And as things swing full circle, heavy bikes have found their way back to road race tracks. So perhaps the most unnatural thing to happen has become natural. Put the Chief on a road race track.

Since we spent enough time getting Challenger road race ready it was a natural fit to do the same with Chief. We started by removing everything we didn’t’ need which was about 100 lbs of excess weight. While you might not notice the weight ripping down the highway you were certainly going to feel it hucking the bike down the corkscrew at Laguna Seca or into turn one at Miller Motorsports Park. We used a set of FTR forks with reversed S and S triple clamps off our Indian Challenger bagger racer and replaced the stock wheels with RSD 17 x 3.5 and 17 x 6 assault road race wheels and Sticky Dunlop slicks. Coupled with mega long Fox shocks the stage was set for a full attitude change. The crew at Lloyds performance supplied a big bore kit along with a tune for the new exhaust system built in house by Aaron Boss. We pulled the back of the bike off and replaced it with a Saddlemans seat and flat track tail mated to an adjustable sub frame. Saddleman also fashioned a tank hump for knee contact which aided in keeping the rider attached to the bike. Brembo rotors and brake calipers take care of the stopping duties and a 530 chain and sprocket replaced the pulley so we could gear the bike. Handlebars were fashioned in house along with Spiegler brake lines. The end result was a track ready ripper, which Rennie Scaysbrook piloted to the inaugural BRL big twin class win at Miller Motorsports park. Check the video for full details on build up and race!

Next up - RSD wheels, big Brembo radial calipers, Z04 race pads, and T-slot Superbike rotors with racing master cylinders. Foot control brackets, subframe and tail section mounting, Indian production Stage 1 intake and Stage 2 engine upgrades (oversized throttlebody & injectors and camshafts) + Lloydz Garage ECU tuning are the plan to get us some big power gains all while keeping the reliability. Without even cracking open the combustion chambers, we expect to be more than competitive against the grid of other bikes. A full custom stainless steel exhaust build will get her breathing while also removing a bunch more weight!

The bike starts out at a portly 647 lbs. dry!! 28.5 degrees of lean angle, 29 degrees of rake, 131mm trail with a 26” seat height and a 64” wheel base.

Stay tuned to see where we end up but our hopes are high and things are already looking good for this thing becoming a good improper race bike.

SPECS:

2022 Indian Chief                  Specs: 2022 Indian Chief Dark Horse Motorcycle (indianmotorcycle.com)

Chieftain                                  Specs: 2020 Indian Chieftain Thunder Black Motorcycle (indianmotorcycle.com)

Challenger race bike             King Of The Baggers Round 1 - Roland Sands Design

S&S                                           Welcome to S&S Cycle! Proven Performance For The Powersports Industry (sscycle.com)

FOX                                             Motorcycle - RSD Series | FOX (ridefox.com)

Superlite                                 Drive Systems USA

Saddlemen                              Saddlemen® Motorcycle Seats and Components

Brembo                                     Race Technologies | Brembo Official Partner

Stage 1 intake                         Thunderstroke® Forward Stage 1 Air Intake | Indian Motorcycle

Stage 2 engine upgrades    Thunderstroke® Stage 2 Performance Kit | Indian Motorcycle

Lloydz Garage                         Lloyd'z Garage (lloydzgarage.com)

 

We started off by stripping off all of the street cruiser parts that we didn’t need or that we knew we were going to replace. The immediate ads were a longer FTR1200 front fork and some spare S&S triple clamps from our Indian Challenger race bike. Baggers have negative offset triples for extra fairing and handlebar clearance but, we actually reversed them on this Chief to be a standard forward offset and they bolted right on with an FTR-spec front wheel. The Challenger 17” rear race wheel with S&S race hubs bolted right on, which was a bit of a stroke of luck but we’ll take it. 15’ long FOX shocks were next to lift the bike for additional ground clearance and de-rake the chassis to improve the handling for racing. RSD risers and a soon-to-come gauge mount with aluminum Pro Taper bars helped get the cockpit dialed in. We reworked a set of S&S rearset foot controls from the Challenger race bike and got them mocked up to figure out our foot control locations. Chain drive conversion has been bolted on with an S&S Challenger countershaft sprocket (same trans spline there so we got lucky again) and a 530 rear sprocket from Superlite. Gearing choice is always a tough calculation since we are changing from belt to chain, as well as adjusting tire diameters from stock to slicks – plus sort of guessing at how much extra gearing we think we will be able to pull with some motor upgrades. We also mocked up a Saddlemen tail section location and that led us to lean angle and figuring out where to put an exhaust system which is where we are currently. Big bikes drag and if you don’t get them up in the air and get absolutely every piece inboard as far as possible, you will drag shit all over the race and it won’t be fun to ride (and/or completely unsafe!). Number one is always to make your rider comfortable. Ground clearance so he has the confidence to “chuck it in” to a corner and the ergonomics need to be on-point so body position and controls are right where he naturally wants them is key.

The new, steel-framed 2022 Indian Chief is the bike that rounds out the current selection from Indian motorcycles. It’s slotted in the mid-size cruiser category and utilizes an upgraded powertrain straight out of Indian Motorcycles big Chieftain bagger. They ditched the aluminum frame, fairing, stereo system, floorboards, saddlebags, and all the other bells and whistles of a touring bike, and built a whole different animal with the same proven powerplant. With the engine and frame updates, you get a lot more power, less weight, and insane amounts of curb appeal from Indian’s new “Dyna Killer”.

Indian opted to go with an all-steel chassis and the 116 cubic inch air-cooled motor with a 120 ft-lbs of torque in the Dark Horse version, which is the bike we are starting with for our roadracer build. From the get-go, the new Chief loses the lazy throttle that seems to be consistent across Indian’s big air-cooled baggers. It rocks off the bottom and is lively and fun straight off the showroom floor. Stock it’s a damn good cruiser, but if you follow the crew here at RSD you know this bike wasn’t going to stay stock for long.

So yeah… we decided to build a race bike out of it. With all of the track days and asphalt racing series concepts popping up it was time to build a non-bagger big twin racer and see how far we could take another bike that was absolutely not meant to do what we are intending to do with it. There’s just something so damn fun about de-engineering a refined production platform like this. And with all the guys ripping around on Dynas and FXRs, it just seemed the logical next step to take for Indian to push into the same middle-weight V-twin category, and there’s no better way to prove a bike’s worth than on a racetrack.

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