V-Twin
Introduction

The Indian Challenger intrigues me, yet the styling detracts me. The sharp creases on the fairing to the curved fuel tank profile, it screams Victory, more than Indian to me. The family resemblance to the cousins aside, figures are impressive. The water-cooled, 4-valves-per-cylinder, PowerPlus 108ci engine producing 121 horsepower and 128 lb-ft (174Nm) of torque - who wouldn't want to take one for a spin? In the past, test riding an Indian Motorcycle meant a weekend away, including a complimentary motel voucher. That's all for the history books. Test rides are now limited to one hour - which is in line with other brands. But if you can talk fast and distract them as I did, you might be able to stretch that out a little.

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Walking up to the Challenger Darkhorse in the showroom, it's hard to ignore the styling. If Harley-Davidson Road Glide has a shark-nose fairing, the Darkhorse has a flathead fairing. Maybe I just have an overly imaginative mind. Despite looking like an ugly fish, the Challenger looks better in person. Somehow, more in proportion and better balanced than I have seen in photographs. A closer inspection reveals nice touches like a premium-look, textured material around the fairing.

Unfortunately, the fit and finish are questionable. Inconsistent panel gaps in a few places, rough edges, but it is especially troubling to see big gaps between the hard saddlebags and the stone chip covers protecting the lower surfaces. The gaps are big enough to stick the tip of my pinky finger. Perhaps it was a Friday-built bike. The fact that it passed the quality assurance (QA) worries me more. Even the black paint is chipping on the brand new factory exhaust. 😟

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First Impression

Sitting on the Challenger for the first time, the fairing appears larger than I expected. I like the placement of speedo and tacho above the Ride Command screen. As is common amongst the fixed fairing bikes, the Challenger's dash is further away than on say a Chieftain, so it feels roomier.

The seat is noticeably firm, even though it has soft-to-touch gel padding. The built-in backrest is supportive (and soon to discover, necessary). The handlebar grips feel like every other Thunder Stroke Indians I have ridden, which is a good thing. The feel of the pull-back to the angle of grips are the same as my 2016 Indian Chief Vintage. Also, the saddle height remains about the same as Chief and Chieftain as well.

After signing a test ride agreement, the Challenger is rolled out onto the street. I put my helmet on and mount the bike. I squeeze the clutch lever. Wow! It is very light. The Darkhorse has the lightest clutch out of all the heavyweight Indians.

I lift the Challenger off the side stand and toss it side-to-side to familiarise myself with the weight and balance. It seems to weigh about the same as my Vintage, with a similar centre of gravity. The Indian Motorcycle website confirms my observation. Only 4kgs separate the lightest Chieftain (375kgs) and the heaviest Vintage (379kgs) with the Challenger in the middle (377kgs). Just in case you are wondering, the LardMaster, I mean the RoadMaster weighs in at 420kgs.

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The deep rumble of a v-twin stirs my soul and connects me to my ride at a spiritual level. Like a well-tuned V8, there is something special about the exhaust note of big twins. With excitement and anticipation, I fire up the engine.  &$%#!  My demo has stock pipes. 😟  Bugger!

I expected the top-end sound of a water-cooled, modern 108ci engine to be quieter than the air-cooled, Thunder Stroke engine, and it is. But it is not a sewing machine quiet or smooth, but certainly an improvement over the raucous rattle of Thunder Stroke engine. If you are a Scout rider, you will probably notice additional noise on the PowerPlus engine.


Let's Roll

I kick it into the 1st gear and slowly release the clutch. The engagement point is right towards the end of the travel. As the bike starts to roll, I lean over and the engine nearly stalls. This Darkhorse doesn't come with engine guards so it will be a costly mistake. I panic twist the throttle in the nick of time, and the engine revs back up. After shifting into the 2nd gear, my credit card lets out a sigh of relief. When compared with the 116ci Thunder Stroke engine, the PowerPlus engine doesn't have the same level of torque down low - it needs extra 300rpm to 500rpm to launch effortlessly. I learn quickly to rev out to 1,800rpm before letting out the clutch.

I indicate to turn at the first intersection. The turn signal switch feels vague, especially when I go to cancel it. The switches lack tactile feedback. If it were my bike, I would probably get used to it, but on this test ride, I curse it every time. The reason I have to cancel the turn signal is because the auto cancelling algorithm doesn't work very well. Without my intervention, the indicators remain active well after straightening the bike up and heading down the road, passing two side streets and confused onlookers. I counted 10 to 12 extra flashes after the turn before auto-cancelling on this demo bike. Less, if I upshift as that is one of the trigger.  By comparison, Harley-Davidson's self-cancelling system works remarkably well.

The Friday afternoon traffic congestion started early today. The primary route out of town is banked up, bumper-to-bumper. So, I take the back streets, negotiating a lot of turns, stop-start, speed humps, potholes and other fun stuff! Throughout this unremarkable ride, the gearbox stands out.


Gearbox

The PowerPlus gearbox feels light and positive to shift, and with less effort and more consistency than on the Thunder Stroke gearbox. This demo bike only has 400kms on the clock, yet I can shift into neutral every time. Mated to a lighter clutch, it is a joy to change gears on this motorcycle.


Brakes

The brakes on the Challenger are another highlight. It has a positive bite early on, which inspires confidence. Despite the rotor size increasing from 300mm (Chieftain) to 320mm (Challenger), the brakes aren't touchy. Even a fistful of brakes doesn't lock them up (credit to tyres as well). Instead, they just go about doing their business. I have not tried multiple high-speed decelerations so I cannot comment on the brake fade - just in case you want to track the bike! 😆


Handling

The Challenger is a fix fairing motorcycle, and as such, the weight of the fairing doesn't impact the steering. Despite the apparent weight savings, around town, it is difficult to feel the difference between the Chieftain and the Challenger. Unsurprisingly, they both have 25-degrees rake angle (although the trail length differs) so they tip into corners with similar ease.

As expected of the latest touring Indian, the ride is comfortable and surefooted. Something Harley-Davidson touring range of motorcycles is yet to achieve from the factory. The Challenger takes it up a notch from the Chieftain with its 43mm inverted forks with 130mm travel (up from 120mm travel on Chieftain). The rear shock is revised as well. It is now Fox Racing Gas-Charged 46mm Monotube with 115mm travel (same travel as the Chieftain). The preload adjustment now requires a 10mm socket, rather than a tinny air pump. The side cover still needs to be removed for adjustment. I wouldn't be surprised if an electric motor is incorporated at a later date to enable push-button adjustment.

In the name of this review, I run over every bit of rough surfaces that I could find. I am playing the Toxic Avenger on speed humps and potholes. The Challenger is soaking them up with ease, particularly the front end.

When compared with a Chieftain's air shocker, this Darkhorse is an improvement in both comfort and control. I experienced no mid-corner bumps that upset the trajectory during my test ride. Still, if you run over speed humps at 50kph, you will fly. And then your butt will crash land on the saddle. The lesson here is that Challenger copes with road imperfections better than us.


Ride Command

I pull over to test the GPS. The new side stand extends with ease. My Vintage side stand gets stiff as dirt accumulates between services. I don't like that the Challenger sits more upright on the side stand than my Vintage. I noticed this trend in the Harley touring bikes as well. It now requires less effort to lift the bike off the side stand, but it also makes it less stable on uneven surfaces.

For the 2020 models, the Ride Command was updated (RC2.0) on all GPS equipped models. But the Challenger received a quad-core processor as well (RC2.5) for faster response. When I try and set the destination, it reminds me of a ten-year-old Tom Tom. Especially with gloves on, it can only recognise some of my finger gestures. It has a noticeable lag when inputting a destination or pinch-zooming the map. Most people would be happy with Ride Command 2.5, or even 2.0. But the Ride Command is still not as intuitive or responsive as a modern-day smartphone.

My first destination search was 'Daylesford'. The only result I got was a shop in Thornbury. Type in 'Williamstown' and I get a few options, including the correct destination, but it is challenging to choose from the list of similarly named options as the font is too big to display sufficient information. Am I choosing Williamstown beach or Williamstown Primary School?

Overall, I rate the responsiveness and user interface of the RC2.5 as 'average', maybe 'above average' if I'm generous, but far from 'Good' or 'Excellent'. Another glaring deficiency, in my opinion, is the lack of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. I thought it was a gimmick until I used it. Search the destination by voice on Google Maps and be directed on the built-in screen. Not having to pay for map updates is a bonus.


The Donk

I play with the GPS for about 10 minutes with the PowerPlus idling. As the ambient temperature is only 25 degrees C, the engine and the headers don't get hot enough to bother me - it is barely warm. The next moment, the idle characteristic changes. Initially, the engine idles at about 950 - 1,000rpm. Then the rpm drops after about 4 to 8 seconds. The cylinder deactivation must be kicking in, I thought. I blip the throttle, and it idles fine for a few seconds, and the rev drops again. I look through the Ride Command settings and locate the cylinder deactivation - it is already disabled. It is as if the Engine Control Module (ECM) has two idle profiles, and switching from one to the other. I speculate that ECM might be preventing the engine from stalling after disengaging the clutch and the rpm falling from the operational revs. Whatever it is, I don't like it.

With lower idle, the Challenger hesitates ever so slightly when I twist the throttle in 1st gear to take off. Not every time but often enough to annoy me. I compensate by manually maintaining a slightly higher rpm before the lights change. I'm a human launch control, minus the aggressively high rpm.

But the most annoying characteristics of PowerPlus is its inability to blip the throttle. If you enjoy rev-matching when downshifting, you will notice this as well. When you blip the throttle in any riding mode, the engine will not rev up fast enough. Sure, if you twist the throttle hard enough, the rev will rise eventually, but that is not blipping. It lacks the immediate response from the engine. The bike behaves as if a backyard mechanic touched it, lacking the refinement expected of a factory-tuned motorcycle. I am confident the Indian will continue to improve their ECM tune over the next year or so to address these issues.

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I find a quiet street lined with empty warehouses. Still in Sports mode, I twist the throttle. The engine revs out, eagerly delivering fat torque. This motorcycle may mark the end of performance modifications on American iron. In the past, both Harley and Indian released heavily detuned engines and expected buyers to upgrade them for thousands of dollars. No other touring motorcycles require engine modifications as they come out of the factories, fully baked.

Unlike the choked up Thunder Stroke engines, owners of Challenger might be satisfied with the stock performance of the PowerPlus 108ci. Aside from louder exhaust pipes to unleash the sound, that is. Speaking of sound, the Stage 1 pipes for Challenger are slightly cheaper as pipes and end-caps are one piece (not sold separately). Despite riding on the stock exhaust, from about 2,200rpm, I can hear the suppressed rumble waiting to be freed. I can't wait to ride it again with free flowing exhaust.

As impressed as I am with the PowerPlus engine, I expected a little more. Of course, this is subjective. If I drive a Mustang after driving a Corolla, I would be impressed. But if I drive a Ferrari first, not so much.

When Polaris made the announcement, I was excited to learn that Indian's latest engine is water-cooled and has quad-valves-per-cylinder. We know two smaller valves offer a greater surface area than one larger valve occupying the same space. So, all else being equal, the 4-valves-per-cylinder engine will have higher flowing heads - meaning, they will rev eagerly. A few years ago, I test rode a Milwaukee Eight 107ci. The first time I opened up the throttle on an onramp, it revved out so quickly, I bounced off the rev limiter in both 1st and 2nd gear. Of course, the camshaft played a significant role, but this has set my expectation of big quad-valve v-twins.

By comparison, the Thunder Stroke 111ci engine runs out of puff at about 4,000rpm. I don't recall bouncing off the rev limiter. You feel the acceleration tapering off well before that point. The 116ci Stage 3 engine revs out to higher rpm, but I wouldn't call that eager to rev. Although I need a little more rpm to get the Challenger moving, it revs strongly and quickly to 5,000rpm (redline is 6,500rpm). The dyno illustrates similarities between the 116ci and 108ci. They both have a relatively flat torque curve between 3,000rpm and 5,000rpm. The peak torque on 108ci is 3,500rpm and on 116ci is 3,200rpm. Whereas, the peak torque on 111ci is low 2,700rpm and drops off from there like a downhill skier.

With the amount of torque available on PowerPlus, the 'Rain' mode will be necessary on wet days. My test ride commenced in 'Standard' mode, and I switched to 'Sports' mode after about 20 minutes. Although the throttle became twitchy, I was comfortable riding around town and on the highway in the 'Sports' mode. The best part is, the ride mode is remembered, even after restarting the engine.

As I reflect on the characteristics of the PowerPlus engine after the test ride, I suspect Polaris is up to the usual trick of fitting a detuned ECM calibration. Once the engine has been run-in, and a stage 1 performance tune fitted, I wouldn't be surprised if the Challenger bounces off the rev limiter with ease as well.


The Devil is in the Detail

I am sorry to spring this sentence on you, but my delicate rear-end is getting sore. Wait a minute, that didn't come out right. 😄  It might be a good time to stop and take some photos. I pull over and examine the stock saddle. It doesn't suit me as the sides of the seat fall off sharply and causing discomfort. Much the same way, Indian once offered saddles with stitching running down the centre of the seating area, that use to dig-in. It is another example of form-over-function. 😟

I noticed it earlier in the showroom, but the PowerPlus engine is not a beauty queen. It looks cheap! Especially with prominent head bolts clearly visible. Certainly not worthy of the price tag this bike commands. Someone described the appearance of PowerPlus 108ci engine as the big brother of Scout engine. That is about right. The styling was acceptable on a $20K motorcycle, but not on a $40K Challenger.

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And what is it with the mohawk lighting on the new headdress? At night, all you see is a white line on the fender. How does that say, Indian? 🙄

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Another thing that makes me scratch my head is the fuel cap on the Challenger. Firstly, to unlock it, you have to press a button located below the right cubbyhole. Secondly, like the suicide doors on London taxi cabs, it is hinged backwards. Therefore the filler cap blocks the view of the opening. Then there is an ugly hex screw that sits behind the fuel cap. Will it have been that difficult to hide it under a pop-off cover? What's that, Polaris? Blame your cost-cutting accountants? 😏

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My little pet peeve is the polished levers for brake and clutch on a blacked-out motorcycle. Harley's Darkhorse equivalent models all come with black levers. Just saying...

Indian could have improved the headlights on Challenger, as they have done with the FTR range. The FTR-1200 came out with a projector-style LED headlight, but the Challenger is sticking with the original reflector-style LED headlight from Chieftains. If touring, I would replace them before anything else.

Perhaps the Australian implementation of LED rear turn signals could have been better. When lit, the turn signals are split into two halves - one half is the indicator, and the other half is the brake light. Surely with multi-coloured LEDs available these days, the whole light could have been red or amber? Much the same way the bracket-shaped daylight running lights on the front fairing changing colour from white to amber.


Wind Protection

Despite these issues, the Challenger got more things right than wrong. We already know the engine offers class-leading performance, out of the box. The suspension and the brakes are spot on too. The massive fairing does a good job of blocking the wind. I have never ridden a bike that had zero buffetings in all conditions. I don't think such a motorcycle exists without a bubble - I guess that's a car. Although my test ride was short, the wind protection was 'good', even with 40kph headwind. Seeing the transparent wind deflectors on the fairing suggest Challenger was wind-tunnel tested. Only the lower half of my shin copped some wind all afternoon. No doubt, a variation of Challenger with lower fairings and a trunk to rival the Roadmaster will be released in due course.

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Like on Chieftains, the adjustable windshield balances the visibility and the wind protection well. Being 6'2", I did feel some wind on my face with the screen at the lowest setting. With it raised, only the top of my helmet felt slight turbulence. If six-foot plus owners are planning to tour, they might want to experiment with curled-lip windshield or taller screen on their Challenger.


Vertically Unchanged

If you are tall and felt squashed on a Chieftain, the Challenger might suit you better. It has more legroom than any other Indian on offer. The design of the saddle pushes the rider back as if fitted with an extended reach saddle (so it seems). I estimate the legroom increase of about 15cm from Thunder Stroke Indians. But it doesn't mean that I had to lean forward to reach the handlebar.  Thanks to the pulled-back handlebars, I was able to sit upright and remained comfortable the whole time. The opposite might be true for vertically challenged riders. You may need to replace the saddle with reduced reach variety.


Cubbyholes

The cubbyholes on either side of the inner fairing are deeper than one might expect. They will fit the biggest smartphone on the market, and still have room for more. I estimate the depth of the storage compartment to be about 22cm. I could probably roll up my wet weather over pants in one of these compartments. That will be handy!

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Conclusion

The 2020 Indian Challenger has all the modern features today's touring riders demand. However, based on the track record of Indian Motorcycle, I would be hesitant to buy one for a few years. Indian's Thunder Stroke engines had piston slapping issues commonly known as 'clacking' for the first five years. A small number of Scout engines experienced 'throttle surging' issues when they got heat soaked for the first two or three years.

Having said that, if anyone was planning to tour on a motorcycle for an extended period and wanted a feet-forward riding position, the Challenger is a worthy contender.

After test riding the Challenger, will I buy one? That's the acid test, isn't it?

I wouldn't buy it now, as it is the first year bike, and certainly not for $40,000. I will wait 2 or 3 years for the production quality to improve and has proven itself to be reliable. Then I may pick up a superseded model year bike on clearance sale for around $30K.

Also, I can't ignore the future of our brand in Australia. The uncertainty of the dealer network, for example.  I understand that new multi-branded dealerships will open in a few months.  How much would they invest in our low volume brand? Would they train their technicians to an expert level to diagnose tricky issues, or only know how to change the oil and filters?  Will they stock a range of accessories in store? Would Polaris Australia HQ start to stock a full range of parts so that the smash repairs wouldn't take several months? I think the ownership experience matters to many, and I have no idea how the brand will evolve in Australia. If that wasn't enough, the economy isn't looking crash hot either - a lot to ponder in these uncertain times. 

But most importantly, will I get used to the Victory-style, modern-look fairing as my beloved bike? Call me shallow, but I find it hard to take a bike home if I don't find it attractive. Maybe, it will grow on me. 😜

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Let's be kind to one another.
Melbourne, Victoria
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woknwal
Thanks interesting read
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David
Thanks for your impressions - good read with good photos interspersed
2017 Indian Springfield
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V-Twin
Glad you guys liked it.  👍😀
Let's be kind to one another.
Melbourne, Victoria
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Croc
Yep, good write-up.  Thanks V!  ðŸ‘
I'm Not Completely Useless . .
I Can Be Used As A Bad Example!

Kwinana W.A.

Ulysses   #48275
IMRG      #100932
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Numbat
yes good review - but like you I think the styling screams victory and does nothing for me.
Brad - SoR, Perth WA

2018 Indian Chief Vintage (Willow Green & Ivory)
Stage 3 116 Big Bore Kit, Stage 1 Pipes, fishtails & air cleaner
Beach Bars
IMRG: AU102531
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JuanPoop
Terrific review, as usual, V-Twin.

Great detail and a very interesting read. 

aka - John
2017 Springfield - grey / burgundy
Northern Beaches - Sydney
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BigTone
nice one V.  Good work!
Cheers,
Tony
St. Kilda  Victoria
IMRG: 20380071
Current Ride: 2020 Dark Horse Challenger 
Previous Ride: 2015 Roadmaster
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Joker
Thanks for taking the time to write that up mate, it's extremely helpful for those of us who might have been considering a trade! 
Chris
2019 Springfield
Perth, WA
IMRG #102278
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rusty
Excellent balanced write up . I wonder if seat will soften with more klms . 

Russell
No one makes it out alive .
Brisbane Qld
Red Bobber only two in Brisbane hope it stays that way .ha

 

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V-Twin
Thanks for your thanks!  Good to know it was helpful guys.

rusty wrote:
I wonder if seat will soften with more klms . 
Although the seat was firm to sit, it has a gel layer, so it is actually soft to touch.  The main reason I found the seat uncomfortable was due to the sides of the seat being sharply folded, rather than tapered, as is the case on pre-2019 Thunder Stroke Indians.  But of course, everyones' butts are different so some might find it comfortable.
Let's be kind to one another.
Melbourne, Victoria
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Darkhorse
Nice review mate.

I am at a loss with the brand at the moment. Your comments and insight have added to my lack of desire to invest a lot of money towards another purchase of a new Indian. I cannot see a time when I would buy what is currently on offer with the styling ect of the last two bikes they have released. As distressing as it is to type, I am seriously considering changing brands and seeing what happens with Indian over the next few years. 
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DAVO
V when I rode a demo Challenger DH from the Sydney dealership fitted with stg1 pipes a few weeks ago I found that the top end sounded like bucket of bolt at idle, maybe it was clutch rattle, it serged a little in gear at idle, no rattles when riding off, it went really well, I can see it would not be hard to lift the front wheel with it’s power, I thought the gear box was a bit rough changing gears sometimes, the bike only had 250km on it so maybe some more breaking time is needed, I would buy, but I would wait til they sort out the misfire and throttle body issues they seem to be having with some bike in the States.
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V-Twin
Darkhorse wrote:
I cannot see a time when I would buy what is currently on offer with the styling ect of the last two bikes they have released.
If you believe the whisper in the wind, the FTR-1200 wasn't a sellout success that Polaris had hoped.  The delay between the official announcement and the delivery was blamed.  I can't say I got excited about the FTR either. I understand and appreciate that motorcycle companies need to offer a range of products to appeal to a broader market.  Great that they tried, but I'm not attracted to the FTR.  With the talk of track racing, I got confused about their target audience.  Is it a road bike or an off-road bike?  Is it just another naked street bike or something else?  Is it a commuter bike or weekend race bike?  Who is it aimed at?

Darkhorse wrote:
As distressing as it is to type, I am seriously considering changing brands and seeing what happens with Indian over the next few years. 
Unlike the other American brand, many of us here ride multiple brands.  No one will think any less of you for trying another brand.  All of our rides are open to any brand so we can still ride together.

A few years ago, when an Indian dealer was quoting a ridiculous change over price for my Vintage, I admit to looking at other brands.  I only want feet-forward riding position and I appreciate the exhaust sound of a v-twin engine.  That meant an Indian or a Harley-Davidson.  The Road Glide Special appeals to me as it is a fixed fairing motorcycle.  However, it is well over due for a complete makeover.  When compared to the Challenger, the Road Glide Special needs: mono-shock rear suspension (better travel and comfort), inverted forks (performance), electronically adjustable windshield, more torque on the stock Milwaukee Eight engine, remote locking hardbags and louder stock stereo speakers.  In turn, HD has an edge on Indian in these areas: many more dealerships, fair pricing on parts & accessories in Australia (compared with the US pricing), HD Australia carries a comprehensive inventory of parts (smashed bike repaired in 2 - 3 weeks), HOG is active (IMRG is not).

So for me to buy a new motorcycle, one of these things has to happen: (1) a brand new Road Glide is announced with all the features I mentioned above; or (2) The Challenger proves it's reliability and I get use to the modern styling; or (3) Another brand comes out with a feet-forward touring motorcycle with all the modern features.
Let's be kind to one another.
Melbourne, Victoria
Quote 1 0
V-Twin
DAVO wrote:
V when I rode a demo Challenger DH from the Sydney dealership fitted with stg1 pipes a few weeks ago I found that the top end sounded like bucket of bolt at idle, maybe it was clutch rattle, it serged a little in gear at idle, no rattles when riding off, it went really well, I can see it would not be hard to lift the front wheel with it’s power, I thought the gear box was a bit rough changing gears sometimes, the bike only had 250km on it so maybe some more breaking time is needed,
This feels like the 'clacking' issue on Thunder Stroke engines all over again.  If my experience of the top-end of PowerPlus is 'quiet-ish' and your experience is a 'bucket of bolts', I can only assume the engines have tolerance issues or assembly issues.  If that is the case, some Challenger buyers will end up with good examples of PowerPlus engines, and others with bad examples.  That is not acceptable to me on a $40K motorcycle, not even on $20K bikes.  If I was buying a Challenger, I will research the inconsistent engine noise further, but if that exists, I wouldn't buy the Challenger until all the engines sound the same.

DAVO wrote:
I would wait til they sort out the misfire and throttle body issues they seem to be having with some bike in the States.
There is a reason why many folks stay away from the first year production motorcycles.  If I was not convinced before, I am now.
Let's be kind to one another.
Melbourne, Victoria
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Joey60
Thanks for the write up v-twin. I enjoyed the read.

Got to see one in person after reading your review and I was disappointed by the build quality as well. I think what you said about the brands future is relevant also.
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Bluey2
Hey V-twin, good write up bloke! You are way better than I at also better at accessing a bike. 

We all have different likes and dislikes it would be a boring world if we were all the same. Like you I was pleasantly surprised at the look of the bike compared to photos and videos I had seen. I wouldn't let looks decide whether or not I buy a bike but it's nice when it is pleasing to look at. Townsville Indian looked after me very well and if you are in the north and interested in a Indian go see Trent!

I have not been on the puter for a while as we left 2nd Feb. for a ride to Brighter Days in Vic. and been busy catching up on things since getting home. A friend and I rode down and joined 2 other friends that had gone 2 weeks earlier to ride Tassie.

I have 6400Kls. on the Challenger and am more impressed with it's capabilities than any other bagger I have ridden or owned. We did a 1000kl. first day and the seat is the only problem I experienced. I took an air hawk but refused to use it as was told the seat will ride into shape in 4500Kls. I did a 1030Kl day on my own coming home and had to put the air hawk on and that was close to the 5000kl. mark. It,s still not comfortable enough for my bony old arse. It improved but not enough to do back to back 1000Kl. days like the Vic. XC seat. The Vic stock seat is much firmer but perfect for this rider and my passenger. The VXC is the only bike seat I have not had to modified. I may modify this Challenger seat, others would be happy with it, it's just not right for me yet.  On Saturday she who must be obeyed had her first pillion ride on the challenger and said it's as comfortable for her as the VXC and the wind control is way better also the stereo is clear unlike any other bike she has been on. She also likes it and its her new favorite bike, sorry Victory.

I can relate to some of your findings as with the rattly engine at idle (the Victory has the same rattly idle), also the throttle delay at take off. I don't have the problems as you and others have suggested mine is fairly minor. Apparently Indian have a ecm mapping update coming. Vic bikes, some HD'd and this bike has decel cut, one of my pet hates and as soon as Dynojet or others have a tuner module available I will remap and tune decel cut out of this bike as I have with my other bikes and many friends bikes I have tuned. I'm 5'7'' and the Challenger is a bit of a challenge H/bar wise.  It's a little large for me as is the VXC but the VXC has 2" adjustable  foot controls and I extended the Handlebars some to fit me. I have sent for a set of 2" adjustable handlebar extenders so I can move the grip position up/down and rearward, hope they work out. I won't have to rewire new bars just fit and adjust to my existing bars.

I looked at your pics and compared to my bike and mine must be a midweek bike, no such problems not perfect but way better than your pics show. My standards for fit and finish are more than likely lower than yours. My main interests are comfort and overall performance of all things bike.

I did purchase the Indian flip screen that I thought would be better than the small stock screen but was sadly mistaken. When I got home I reinstalled the stock screen, the flip screen looks cool but i'm at the age where comfort beats cool. The stock screen has absolutely no buffeting set at the height just under nose level to above eye level, that's something I have never experienced on any other windscreen. I hate buffeting and have possibly spent more time trying to eliminate than any other modification. My CVO has had 4 screens, the Victory 4 screens to find a tolerable level of buffeting and being able to see over, I hate looking through a screen.

One day on this trip we rode all day in the cold and rain so I closed the two faring vents and switched to rain mode and no problems. This faring is the best at cutting wind to zero adjusted correctly. I wasn't real cold apart from legs until having to stop because the CVO Road Glide was missing bad from sucking too much rain into the engine, then I shivered until we got moving again. The rain mode is great, I didn't think I would ever say that but it really works. The HD out front had a few sphincter tightening moments on the slippery tar but I kept straight with no problems, we possibly shouldn't have been riding in those conditions.

I couldn't follow the HD RG's with cruise control on because on hills the Indian wasn't bogging like the 117" and 114" HD's. When I was following on cruise I had to constantly click down then back up on the down slope. This bike makes it power effortlessly throughout the rev and speed range hence the fuel economy is impressive for it's size and weight. On longer sections it was up to 2 litres less fuel than the HD on fuel ups. It got 20kl to Litre or 5 litres per 100kls. for a couple of tanks on the way to Vic. Coming back on a quiet western road riding a little spirited it managed 370kls to 19.3 litres. that's over 19 Kl. to Litre. I was on my own hence the better economy.

My three friends (sadly all brand blind) all on 2019 HD Road Glides spent a lot of time out of the saddle on the rough roads that I was reasonably comfortable on. The HD RG's have 2.1" rear suspension travel compared to 4.5" on the Indian. The Challenger front and rear suspension is the best available on a bagger. As V stated the front suspension is good, it's the same to look at as the VXC but seems to work better.

I needed a sissybar and rack for the trip so I modified my Victory XC unit. The Vic has the trunk and I didn't need this sissybar sitting round taking up space. I love the Vic unit as it's strong, large and looks better in my opinion. She who must be obeyed also loves the backrest wrap around shape and comfort. I modified the pad to suit her back a long time back.

The dealer gave me a spare set of take off mufflers that I modified when I got home as it was way too quiet. I cut and removed the innards and installed 2" perforated tube bound with exhaust mat. It now has a nice deep note without the wind fluffing sound of the stock units. The Challenger has a massive cat, resonator box slung under the bike, I believe no matter what you do with the exhaust it will never be overly loud unless you remove it. I started it with the exhaust off and it was not as loud as my softail with 2into1 RB Racing exhaust. I have no intention of removing the cat as in my opinion this bike has more power than any other stock bagger, also the cat doesn't cause heat issues for rider, pillion or engine. That is great when you live in the tropics or for that matter anywhere in Aus. in summer.

I test rode quite a few Indian Chieftains from when they first hit Australia but they never ticked enough boxes for me. I wanted a measurable improvement on my existing touring bike but they just weren't there. The looks of the engine was a problem for me with the false fin covers and heat issues of those large jugs so close to the crown jewels, the smaller fuel tank and other things kept me from pulling the trigger. I was in the market for an Indian for years and when I saw the challenger and the specifications I dropped the deposit long before they hit our shores, that could have been a bad decision but I certainly don't regret the decision at this point. I don't believe they are worth the $'s either. If the Aus dollar was at parity we would only have to pay around $28K. We went to the states in 2012 and the Aus. dollar was worth more than the US, that was a cheap trip.

I had reservations weather it would measure up to the Cross Country as a long distance touring bike and apart from the seat it's a worthy opponent and quite an improvement in many aspects.  I would like the heated grips and not so much the heated seat like the VXC, also some lower farings might be nice on those long cool wet rides.

I have had quite a few different bikes in 48 years but have only had cruiser/ bagger bikes for 12 years. I rode a friends Moto guzzi Griso V8 at the black dog last Sunday so he could try the Challenger, i was glad to get off it. Once upon a time I would have loved it but now give me a two wheel arm chair tractor and i'm in heaven😋

In my opinion this is a great bike all round and have no problem recommending it.

Below pics of the Victory backrest rack. Took quite a lot of fan-dangling and a days work but the dealer quoted $1209 for the bar, pad and rack.

IVBR.jpg 
    IVBkRest.jpg 
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Bluey2
BTW I missed this item about bliping the throttle. I find the gearbox on this bike doesn't need that habit and am trying to wean myself from doing it. I don't know how they managed to make the dogs so quiet changing gears especially on change down but it sweet.
The ecm's on bikes get confused with the blip habit. The transmission on the Challenger is the best I have had, mostly smooth and quiet.
I have developed a habit of holding the clutch in when starting then blip to break the clutch loose then into gear. This works sometimes on my HD's mostly all the time on the Victory and on the indian I don't blip the throttle on startup but just hold the clutch in and it doesn't clunk at all into gear. Maybe it's the 15W60 full synthetic oil, dunno.
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V-Twin
Bluey2 wrote:
Hey V-twin, good write up bloke! You are way better than I
Thanks Bluey2.  I am sure everyone appreciates different perspectives.

Bluey2 wrote:
I have 6400Kls. on the Challenger and am more impressed with it's capabilities than any other bagger I have ridden or owned.
You may have done more kilometres in Australia on a Challenger than anyone else - legend!!

Bluey2 wrote:
On Saturday she who must be obeyed had her first pillion ride on the challenger and said it's as comfortable for her as the VXC and the wind control is way better also the stereo is clear unlike any other bike she has been on. She also likes it and its her new favorite bike, sorry Victory.
Great to hear the wind protection for the passenger is good too. 👍

Bluey2 wrote:
I looked at your pics and compared to my bike and mine must be a midweek bike, no such problems not perfect but way better than your pics show. My standards for fit and finish are more than likely lower than yours.
Good to hear that your bike was better built than the demo.

Bluey2 wrote:
I did purchase the Indian flip screen that I thought would be better than the small stock screen but was sadly mistaken. When I got home I reinstalled the stock screen, the flip screen looks cool but i'm at the age where comfort beats cool.
Wind management can be difficult sometimes.  Speaking of 'comfort beats cool', I resisted putting on the windscreen on my Vintage because it made the bike look like the 80s California Highway Patrol (CHIP) TV show!  😆

Bluey2 wrote:
I couldn't follow the HD RG's with cruise control on because on hills the Indian wasn't bogging like the 117" and 114" HD's. When I was following on cruise I had to constantly click down then back up on the down slope. This bike makes it power effortlessly throughout the rev and speed range hence the fuel economy is impressive for it's size and weight. On longer sections it was up to 2 litres less fuel than the HD on fuel ups. It got 20kl to Litre or 5 litres per 100kls. for a couple of tanks on the way to Vic. Coming back on a quiet western road riding a little spirited it managed 370kls to 19.3 litres. that's over 19 Kl. to Litre. I was on my own hence the better economy.
So we need a cruise control with radar feature to maintain the distance if we want to ride with Harley mates??? 😜. Nice to hear that mileage on the Challenger is better as well.

Bluey2 wrote:
In my opinion this is a great bike all round and have no problem recommending it.
Enjoy your Challenger Bluey!  Thanks for sharing your ride review with us too.  👍
Let's be kind to one another.
Melbourne, Victoria
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Bluey2
Sorry V, I just logged in after a long while and saw your post. Thanks for the comments. Sadly with this cockhead virus no riding is being had.
It sure is a great ride!
Quote 2 0
Joey60
I came across this comparison vid.

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