Motorcycle Sport & Leisure Magazine Editor Dave Manning feeds back on his five months with the Indian
he intercontinental ballistic cruise missile that is the Challenger has now returned to Indian. There are a few things that I’ll not miss, as I slide my weary behind on to any one of a number of significantly smaller motorcycles, but there are also a hell of a lot of things that I’ll really miss about the Indian.
Let’s get the obvious thing out of the way first, as it’s something that shows even in the pictures. The Challenger is big, really big, and also really heavy. Okay, so it’s not as heavy as it’s big brother, the Pursuit, an example of which I had earlier in the year, and it’s also not as cumbersome as bikes such as the Harley-Davidson Road Glide (a bike harder
to lift off the sidestand I’ve yet to encounter). And, to be open and frank, the mass of the Challenger hasn’t really been an issue for me, barring the one time that I had to reverse it off a gravel drive. But once we got properly into autumn, and I went for a bimble down some remote lanes in Lincolnshire, covered in a carpet of freshly fallen leaves from the previous night’s rain, I did become instantly paranoid about the potential of having to turn the bike round.
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As I have mentioned before, unlike some other bikes of similar heft, the Indian does not have a reverse gear, and any kind of unpowered manoeuvring is a delicate procedure needing a combination of balance, brute strength and hope… made all the more difficult by narrow, cambered lanes, a wet surface and a slick of freshly-fallen leaves. Knowing that, if you happen to slip, and the bike topples over on to its crash bars, there is absolutely zero chance of you lifting it
back vertical on your own does not help the situation. I suppose the trick here would be to not ride the Indian down those narrow, slippery lanes or, when I did, not bother with turning round and ride them to the end. Which is all well and good if those lanes aren’t dead-ends…
Of course, I was the one who chose to ride those roads in those conditions, and you could argue that most riders would
be a little tentative, regardless of the bike they were riding, so it’s not necessarily the Challenger that is at fault, more the nut on the handlebars. And it was still as effortless at covering miles on reasonably-sized roads as it has ever been.
In fact, you could argue that, as the weather becomes wetter and colder, the Challenger
is better than so many other bikes. I’ve mentioned the amazing weather protection afforded by the big fairing before, and the electrically-adjustable screen not only keeps rain and spray off your fizzog, but also gives a brilliant reduction in wind noise when raised to its highest position. Providing you’ve not filled them with the weekly shopping, the panniers give the option of carrying plenty of extra clothing if you get cold, or when your lower extremities do get wet – the fairing lowers on the Pursuit to keep you dry below the knees; their absence is noticed on the Challenger. And I’d argue that the only thing missing for poor weather riding is heated grips.
Now it’s gone, I’m left with a considerable amount of spare space in the garage, so it’s time to move a bike or two out of the house I suppose…