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Motorcycle News, Editorials, Product Reviews and Bike Reviews

2014 Indian Chief Classic, Vintage and Chieftain: MD First Ride (Part 2)


Chief Classic

My reaction was largely disappointment when I saw the first ground-up redesign of the Indian Chief by new owner Polaris as it rolled onto the stage for its debut at Sturgis, South Dakota last week. The history of this brand, before it stagnated, and occasionally went into cardiac arrest, had so much cutting-edge design and race-winning performance, I had hoped that the new custodian would pay homage to both the aesthetic and the performance past of the marque by morphing the heir into something light, nimble and classic all at once. Incorporating at least something akin to the spare, elemental profile of the earlier Indians that found success on board tracks and the Isle of Man.

This image is taken directly from an Indian slide presentation, and doesn’t necessarily reflect the opinion of the author.

Fortunately for Polaris shareholders, nobody consulted me when the new Chief was designed. As I stood in the sea of Harley faithful at the unveiling, there was no sense of disappointment surrounding me. Instead, there was fascination … even the slightest hint of aspiration. This massive family, with the collective purchasing power of a small nation, had witnessed the birth of a blood relative for a change, not a foreign pretender … or so it seemed.

Another slide from an Indian presentation.

Riding the new Indians at the historic rally (which was founded by an Indian Motorcycle club in 1936, according to Polaris) over the next several days revealed not only the open arms of the Harley-Davidson clan, but their warm embrace. Every time I parked a Chief, I was approached by excited Harley riders, many of whom asked permission to take a picture of the Chief, with or without me in the frame, or to have their picture taken with the bike. These were both blue-collar enthusiasts and “RUBs”. This told me that, so long as the new Chief, in all its iterations, offered a riding experience familiar to the H-D faithful, Polaris had the best chance yet to take significant market share from H-D.

Of course, “familiar” is one thing, while an enhanced riding experienced was Indian’s goal, and part of its somewhat softly spoken ambition to make Indian not only a comfortable alternative to Harley, but an aspirational brand. Did it succeed?




Underlying the classic exterior of the new Chief platform is a thoroughly modern engineering exercise. At least, as thoroughly modern as it can be without violating the single technical requirement of the target market … air cooling. The frame feels like the stiffest available in the segment. It is a unique modular design incorporating aluminum castings, forgings and steel elements (the rear fender is even used as a structural member). Near the steering head the frame triangulates and serves double duty as part of the air box.

This stiff foundation holds the gorgeous Thunder Stroke 111 engine, which we devoted a separate story to months ago. A classic two-valve push-rod design with the trademark downward firing exhaust, the top end is cooled exclusively by air drawing heat away from the massive fining surrounding the cylinders and heads. A separate oil cooler sits as inconspicuously as possible, aiding reliability and lengthening oil change intervals. Counterbalanced, fuel injected and driven-by-wire, the unit delivers a maximum of 119 ft/lbs at 3,000 rpm through a six-speed transmission via a massive, overbuilt clutch. Power reaches the rear wheel by a toothed belt.

Suspension includes a progressive linkage for the single rear shock, for greater travel and a smoother ride. The Chiefton hard-bagger shock incorporates pneumatic preload adjustment. Front brakes are dual rotors and four-piston calipers, with a single two-piston arrangement in the rear. Curb weight hovers just over 800 pounds for all three models.

You may have seen photos of me riding all three Chiefs in Part 1 of this report, including the Classic, the Vintage (with its striking tan leather), and the hard bag Chieftain. Interestingly, Indian gave the Chieftain more aggressive steering geometry and a shorter wheelbase than its siblings. Each of the three Chiefs features a well-crafted genuine leather seat and tank strap, as well as cruise control, anti-lock brakes, auxiliary driving lights and a split dual exhaust. Not to mention more chrome than you will find on any stock cruiser.

The Classic and the Vintage feature laced wheels and whitewall tires, while the Chieftain has cast wheels and blackwalls. The Vintage has its leather saddlebags and quick-release removable windshield, while the Chieftain gets a power windshield (the only one we know of on a fork-mounted fairing), 100 watt audio system, bluetooth and tire pressure monitor. All three bikes feature a key fob with proximity sensor that allows you to start the bike without a key.


Chief Vintage

The hard luggage on the Chieftain can be locked and unlocked remotely, as well as removed relatively easily.

All three bikes are certainly heavy, but they carry their weight relatively low and lift off their side stands easily. Low speed handling (parking lot speeds) can be cumbersome, particularly for the long wheelbase models, the Classic and Vintage. Once moving at moderate speeds, however, all three bikes handle with stability and predictability.

Suspension action on all three models was surprisingly good. Combining supple small bump absorption with a firmness that inspired confidence at higher speeds. There is no question that the suspension tuning on these bikes benefited greatly from the extremely stiff frame which does not flex and rebound like many (probably, most) steel framed cruisers. There is a general sense of precision and predictability to the chassis as a whole. Very good stuff.

Indian chose relatively conservative steering geometry. As stated, the Chieftain has a shorter wheelbase and steeper steering head angle, but even it favors stability over flickability. The other two bikes are among the most stable motorcycles I have ever ridden, but they still roll relatively easily into sweeping corners and hold their line well (neither under-steering nor over-steering).

At 5’11” tall, the ergonomics felt comfortable and not too stretched out. Taller riders might feel slightly cramped in fact, as each Chief places the rider closer to the cockpit than some of the competition. Another important ergonomic element on any cruiser, the heft and shape of the brake and clutch lever is hard to fault. They are both beefy and pleasingly curved to fit your fingers.


The brakes offer plenty of power, but not a lot of initial bite. Given the target customer, they properly come on more gradually and predictably. We never experienced brake fade, although the crowded roads of Sturgis frequently prevented us from pushing the pace on twisty roads.

We experienced a remarkable, and pleasant, lack of wind buffeting behind the shields on both the Vintage and Chieftain. The Chieftain has the electrically adjustable windshield height with enough range to satisfy most riders. Like the Vintage, the Chieftain allows some air to enter below the screen to balance any back pressure on the rider.

We liked the seat shape of the Chieftain best, and understand that production units of the Classic and the Vintage will share the same design. The seat seemed firm enough to allow longer rides without too much discomfort setting in.

Despite some minor vibration through the floorboards, the engine overall is very smooth. It is also deceptively fast. Power comes on strong just above idle, and with nearly 120 foot/pounds of torque at 3,000 rpm, Indian claims a broad plateau of more than 100 foot/pounds torque.


With very little perceptible engine noise aside from the air intake and exhaust, the Indian makes some very beautiful music. I particularly liked opening the throttle aggressively down around 2,000 rpm, where the distinct power pulses coursed through my body as I heard the corresponding, pleasant thumps emitted by the intake/exhaust combo. A wonderful sensation, and a very important part of the cruiser experience that has been handled superbly by Indian.

Transmissions on big twins like these always seem to emit a relatively loud clunk as you change gears, and the Indian is no different. Despite this, gear changes were as easy and seamless as I could hope to expect from a box transferring this kind of torque. I didn’t miss a single shift in three days of riding.

The rear view mirrors vibrated enough to blur the image at higher rpm levels, and they were placed too close to my hands on the bars. Wearing gloves with knuckle protection, my throttle hand hit the rear view mirror on two of the bikes I rode before I spent considerable effort adjusting those mirrors further away.

Engine heat is generally well-controlled, and no worse than most big twins emit near the rider’s legs. Nevertheless, the rear cylinder head sticks out enough on the right side of the bike that you can rest your right knee against it and burn yourself. This only happened to me once (while at a stop with only my left foot down, and my right leg pressed against the bike), and the natural position of my right knee was some distance from the cylinder head while riding. This wasn’t an issue that would prevent me from owning a Chief.

All three bikes are so stable that I think Indian could have been a bit more aggressive when designing the steering geometry. Even the Chieftain with its shorter wheelbase and steeper steering head, never felt quite as engaging as some competing models I have ridden on twisty roads. That ultra-stiff frame may contribute to a more muted feedback from the road.

Cruise control worked well on all of the bikes and in my limited time listening to the stereo on the Chieftain, its speakers seemed powerful and clear, and radio reception was good.


Overall, the new Chiefs have a very refined, quality feel to them. The power they put out is outstanding for stock tuning, and reminded me of the 110 cubic inch engines in the expensive Harley-Davidson CVO models I rode not too long ago.  The fact that the stock Indian motor is 111 cubic inches seems to be more than a coincidence.

The new Indians are attractively priced given their quality, performance and stock features.  The Classic is priced at $18,999, the Vintage at $20,999 and the Chieftan at $22,999. Comparably equipped Harley-Davidson models are several thousand dollars more expensive.

So Indian has come to the table with all the goods. The right brand for the market, and a product that should be more than satisfactory to most Harley-Davidson converts. The fit, finish and detailing of each component is near flawless.  What’s left is the marketing effort of parent company Polaris to launch the all new Indian Chief models.  If the effort at Sturgis itself (where Indian had roughly 120 demo units, along with all of the units used by the assembled press) is any indication, Indian has come out swinging hard.  We could be witnessing the beginnings of the first significant erosion of Harley-Davidson’s dominant market share by any competitor in recent memory.

Oh … and the styling has grown on me quite well. For additional details and specifications, visit Indian’s web site.



  1. Mike says:

    currantly own a ness jackpot and have been considering a bagger, looked at the streetglides and cross country. The Harley is just too much of the same old for me, i love their quality and the way i am treated at the dealerships; victory could learn from them, and their accessories and clothing are the best, but the bike is just to much like it was 25 years ago for me. i am going to test drive both the victory and indian and make my decision from there. i do hope that both get on the wagon and copy harley when it comes to both accessories and clothing, walk into a harley dealer and there are 30 different jackets and 50 shirts in your size in stock to choose from, victory doesn’t even have half that in total choices of everything, lets face it,after the purchase of your ride, these things count too.

  2. Jelly Bean says:

    The Chief only has a chance if overcoming HD if they attack HD’s service department. Dealing with HD’s service department and prices is the main reason people decide to not buy Harley’s. If Chief dealers off normal oil change prices and a free 1000 mile check up/adjustment, Harley will be in serious trouble.

  3. Malcolm says:

    OK I rode demo’d one in Lancaster PA and I have some different observations, as far as the Harley crowd that I am in goes.
    First of all, it’s a SLUG when you kick it in gear, first gear is a whiner pile of crap… when you hit second gear… WEEEE it’s neato!
    I thought the engine was a LOT hotter than they boasted. The ergos were cramped and the extra covers on both sides of the bike were hideous and seemed to be an after thought.
    The gear box was stiff and clunky and if we’re comparing bikes, my Road Glide runs circles around this pig at any speed in the twisties.

    Yeah they can keep their Indian, I’ll be staying with my Road Glide Ultra.

    • Von says:

      Atb what event/dealer did you Demo this at?

    • Asphanaut says:

      I wonder if you were demoing the Polaris Indian or one of the prior versions since your review differs dramatically from every other review I’ve read; or perhaps you might be a bit biased by brand loyalty. Pretty funny to hear a Road Glide owner place so much emphasis on motorcycle weight and handling characterstics “in the twisties” too. Glad you like your Road Glide – I’m sure it’s a great bike. Any bike that makes its owner happy is fulfilling its purpose.

  4. time2switch says:

    Test rode all three new Indian models. Love the Chieftain. This bike is gorgeous, excellent handling for a large bike, great sound in audio, tons of power, wind protection, lots of chrome, eletronics and so much more for 22K 80% of the riders who attended the test drive were all Harley owners. Every single guy I spoke to after the demo was amazed at the bike’s performance and quality that was put into it. Several Harley owners placed deposits on the bikes that day. Harley is like the Neantheralls were to Homo sapiens. In time they will be extincted if they do not start offering their buyers a bang for the buck versus ala carte! I’ll be purchasing soon. Time to switch!

  5. mickey says:

    Well, Motorcyclist Magazine just came in with the first road test I’ve read on the new Indians. It was actually quite complimentary ( not something I would expect from the Ducati freaks at Motorcyclist). Their only complaint was the wooden feeling brakes.

  6. bart says:

    The more I look at and especially read about the engineering/design etc. the more I really like these bikes and believe H-D is going to lose a lot of customers. I’m pretty sure a lot of previous Japanese Big Three riders will also buy this bike. This comes from a H-D fancier. I really like that they kept to understated graphics/paint choices…very classy.

  7. todd says:

    I just hope they bring back the mini bikes. Those are what I remember as a kid. I’ve certainly seen more of those than the earlier big twins. I also remember the cool Velocette “Indian.” Now that was a nice, sporty little bike.

    • Boris says:

      Troll much?

      Let’s bring back the POS Kawasaki two-stroke triple while we’re at it. ‘Cause THAT’S what I remember.

  8. Bruce Bryant says:

    This is going to be a great motorcycle once again. Great design & a wonderful name. They need to keep this “American Motorcycle” out of dealers carrying the the Japanese logo’s. Harley’s success came through marketing American heavyweights to American’s . The HD
    dealers have one brand to sell & stock parts for the complete line. There is no mistaking who has the best & complete dealer network. If Polaris / Indian does the dealer network properly it will be a great success. Single line dealers will win the battle in the long run.

    • BlackCayman says:

      I haven’t seen this talked about yet…but just assumed that most Polaris Dealers would have first crack at taking Indian on…

      • mickey says:

        Talked to a Polaris dealer yesterday. He said the requirements for taking on Indian are so stringent there is no way he can do it. 6000 Sq FT dedicate to Indian alone with Indians hardwood flooring and decorating plus such a huge investment in parts, tools, merchandise and motorcycles. Love to have them. He can’t afford it.

  9. Gronde says:

    This bike was made to please the Harley crowd, not the Victory dudes that want to space themselves as far apart from the Harley guys as possible. If comments I’m getting from the Victory riders at Sturgis is any indication, they don’t care for the bike very much. Harley riders will LOVE it!

    • Tom K. says:

      Based solely on your comment, somewhere at Polaris a marketing exec is sporting a Sequoia right about now. The whole idea of putting a long straw into Harley’s glass and drinking its milkshake, while not cannibalizing Victory sales, is Indian’s wet dream. But since this is a family site, no more metaphors of a carnal nature will be tolerated…

  10. todd says:

    I wonder how this compares to the original; Kawasaki Drifter…

    • LabRat says:

      Drifter…the original? Seriously?

    • David P says:

      It cannot compare
      The kwacks were Japanese bikes so that’s strike one.
      The steel frames the boing shocks the wooden brakes.
      I took one for a test ride when they first appeared
      Shockingly bad.
      The drifter like most of the jap cruisers miss the point and actually post evo hd too
      Too much plastic, too many covers, pressings where castings should be. Too much screaming chicken
      Basically no soul.
      I am a uk resident and I have had Brit jap German over the years.
      I have ordered a 2014 vintage coming in October £20k or 30k $
      It’s not a 1948 bike but it yank and its like the new mini beetles
      Meet the new boss
      Same as the old boss
      Much changes and much remains the same
      It’s a indian where a drifter is ?

      If it sucks when it arrives then I will return to my search for a original chief 2014 is simply the new sherif in town

      • Tom K. says:

        I’ve got a buddy with a restored ’53 that’s currently asleep in the garage. He offered me a a chance to ride it once, but all the “backwards” controls intimidated me, it took him a while to get enough confidence to take it on the road. No denying it is quite the piece of history, but I’d take a 2014 over it any day if the week if the goal was to use it as a daily driver (cruiser).

        On a related note, I wonder what effect Indian’s latest resurrection, if any, will have on the prices of the originals (53’s and earllier)? My guess is the value of the bastages created during the last two (failed) revivals will go down faster than a Thai ladyman during Songkran.

        • Boris says:

          The ’40s and early ’50s Chiefs seem to sell for $25,000 to $35,000 in excellent original or restored condition, comparable to what Harleys of that era sell for, maybe a little higher. I would agree that the value is going to drop drastically on the Gilroy (1999-2004) and the Kings Mountain (2009-2013) platform Indians, especially the lesser Gilroy models like the Scout and Spirit.

  11. Jamo says:

    They’re beautiful motorcycles. WHo would buy a VIctory when these are on the floor?

    • Jamo says:

      The thing is, they could have been building this design all along, and called it something else. But they got sidetracked with the Nessies. Who made that decision?

    • paul A says:

      Victory would have to do something like offer 0% financing for 60 months. These Indians are going to bring a lot of people into the showrooms.

  12. traveler says:

    sorry Indian, I won’t be ordering a new model anytime soon…’no shiny object attraction’ emotions taking hold of my senses!

  13. Philip says:

    Is this what happened to Harley? Indian goes under, and Harley, having no real American competition freezes in time, and no longer is forced to evolve? So if a Harley guy says to his buddy, “this Indian stops better, turns better, and moves faster than my old Harley”, will Harley have to respond and start competing? Will Indian some day go racing, forcing Harley to do the same and then maybe we might, just might, see a “real” sport model introduced? Probably not, but my dreamer side likes the thought of it.

    • raivkka says:

      Why on earth would Harley or Polaris want to waste huge amounts of money producing a sport bike? There is no way to build a sportbike competitive with a Honda CBR1000RR (just an example) without billions of dollars in investment. And then you have to keep investing to keep current. Maybe an interesting standard but not a sportbike.

      As for the Moto Guzzi V-twins, they are just ugly and present an inefficient aerodynamic profile. BMW’s V-twin is equally ugly (IMO). If those two styles where so desired by the buying public we would see more of them.

      And to the person who suggested the longitudinal four, you sir are in a world of you own.

      The bikes have to sell for the company to stay in business.

      • Todder says:

        But I think maybe developing a clasic cafe/standard that would compete with the bonneville and even norton is a great dream. Probably never happen due to what was seen with the Kawasaki w650. Forget the sportbike, go for the vintage racer.

        • Scotty says:

          I think I’ll stick with my ugly innefieceint Guzzi for another 10 years thanks all the same. Some get it – some don’t. Thats OK, a company founded by 2 pilots and an engineer was never going to be super popular with the masses.

        • Jamo says:

          I agree. I’m sure that Polaris has a Sportster like entry level in mind. That’s probably what Id wait for.

      • HalfBaked says:

        Where can I get a look at one of these BMW v-twins?

  14. JR says:

    Regarding people who still want bigger and heavier motorcycles, why don’t you just cut to the chase and either purchase a Triumph Rocket or Boss Hoss and end the need.. period.

  15. Al says:

    They (Indian) should change the right side engine cover to a SQUARE shape to mimic the oil pump housing/cover of the original dry sump engines. To me this is an integral part of the LOOK of the Indian engine.

  16. Todder says:

    Coming back from Sturgis, I ran into a JackPine Gypsy member who noticed my Victory. Somehow he got to do a test ride and praised how well the bike handled some bad roads he purposely took it on.

  17. Stocaz says:

    An overweight chrome-farkled nostalgia barge. It is only marginally different from the other chromed-farkled nostalgia barges from the other companies, except that it doesn’t look as good as the Kawasaki Drifter used to. I guess for people who like that sort of thing, that’s the sort of thing they like. Me, for $20K I could easily find 2 other bikes, each of which I liked better.

  18. Anon says:

    Still say they missed a real opportunity to build something different with a longitudinal four. But I’m not the target audience in either case. A new Scout however would kick the Sportster in the nards and walk away with its’ woman.

    • Norm G. says:

      re: “Still say they missed a real opportunity to build something different with a longitudinal four.”

      curious, how did they miss it…? why is that not a future option there waiting for them…?

    • paul A says:

      I’d rather see another transverse v-twin like the 841. You wouldn’t have the rear cylinder heat problem.

      • Boris says:

        Ugh. Transverse V-twins make for unattractive, lumpy styling. The engine cylinders jut out too wide from the bike on such a design. Look at Moto Guzzi or that thing that Honda used to make, the CX500. Not good.

        • paul A says:

          The Indian transverse engine bikes look really cool, nothing like a Guzzi or Honda.

        • Jeremy in TX says:

          Guzzis look sweet in my opinion. Love the transverse V!

          • Selecter says:

            Ugh… a Guzzi or a Honda CX is a *Longitudinal* configuration, NOT a transverse configuration! The orientation of the driveshaft is what determines this, NOT the orientation of the cylinders!

          • Selecter says:

            Crankshaft, not driveshaft. Derp!

          • kjazz says:

            I agree Jeremy. I’m not a Guzzi owner, but somday…..!!!! Those jugs sticking out make for a very solid looking bike. I love my Beemer, but the Guzzi motor is the best looking motorcycle engine ever in my humble, but solid gold, opinion.

        • MGNorge says:

          Believe it or not, there are many people, myself included, that like the visuals of cylinders out in the breeze, aka Moto Guzzi and “that thing that Honda used to make”. To each their own.

      • GuyLR says:

        As much as I love transverse Vees it doesn’t really go head to head with Harley which is what Indian have to do first. I actually like that layout best too but it doesn’t figure that much in Indian history even though they made some test 841s for the military.

        Hey Boris, eye of the beholder man. I love the look of Guzzis and the CX500 too. My favorite tranverse vees are the ’53 Vitoria Bergmiester and the Lilac 125s and 250s.

        • Boris says:

          Right, Guy, “eye of the beholder,” that’s true… everyone has their preferences and that’s what makes motorcycling interesting. I took a look at the Victoria Bergmeister and I guess that could grow on me. It has a classic European look. The old Indian 841 too… not that bad, but I prefer the inline V-twin layout. I still don’t like the looks of the Guzzi at all.

          • Scotty says:

            Thats alright Boris, few are called to be faithful to the Eagle of Mandello. 🙂 Those of us who are……are mostly happy.

    • Starmag says:

      I helped my father restore a ’40 Indian 4 cylinder and a ’47 Chief when i was in my early 20’s (1980 or so ) and rode both when ever I liked. While the long. 4 cylinder was certainly a cool oddity and ran great and was smooth, neither my father or I thought it was as charming to ride as the V-twin in the Chief. He also had a new dresser Harley and I had a XS1100E at the time and I liked 4 cylinder bikes but I had to agree with him. Polaris made the wise choice to go with the V twin Chief first.

      Even if you hate cruisers with a fiery passion, this is still good news, From the things the principals are saying, Indian seems like it will be bolder than H-D as far as sporting street bikes (shouldn’t be too hard to do that!).Keep in mind that there’s high margin in high dollar cruisers and let them get it off the ground.

  19. Peanut says:

    I wonder…Any issues with light reflecting off all the chrome surrounding the headlight on the Classic and Vintage? Hopefully it is angled to where the “flash” misses the rider’s face.

    • MGNorge says:

      Can’t do much about the great bright light in the sky. I wouldn’t think it to be an issue and if it were occasionally you just deal with it. Just like riding into a very bright low sun in the sky.

  20. Dale says:

    As always, Dirck puts together another great ride review. This site is the best.

    • Hot Dog says:

      Don’t blow smoke up his dress, he thinks Stoner and him will hand out Oreos at the next Indian’s appreciation event promoting the next Moto GP.

  21. Ken says:

    Thanks for the even-handed, articulate review, Dirck (with the usual, great-looking photos!).

    • Starmag says:

      + 1 Also, others have said it before, but the side view still shots, the side-view riding shots, ( and side-view standing riding shots for ADV bikes ), are great, especially since we know Dirck is 5’11”.

  22. kjazz says:

    I think one of those huge seats that sits up above the bike on springs would look really “period” and very cool.

  23. Jay says:

    Who is going to want a VIctory now that this one is available? There are going to be a lot of unsold Crackpots and Crapshots on dealers’ floors.

    • bikerrandy says:

      Gawd, you made me laugh !!! 8^ )

    • Gary says:

      Maybe. Victory is definitely more modern in it’s styling, while I assume they will go more retro with the Indian- at least in the short term.

    • Auphliam says:

      Vic is a completely different animal. If they (Polaris) would dare to stray away from the cliche models (Jackpots and Vegas) mold and focus on the CORE chassis bikes that compliment the outstanding powerplant, they’ll be (more) years ahead of HD than they already are. I’m hopeful that, now that Polaris has it’s “Heritage” brand, that is exactly the path Victory takes.

  24. Norm G. says:

    re: “The frame feels like the stiffest available in the segment. It is a unique modular design incorporating aluminum castings, forgings and steel elements (the rear fender is even used as a structural member)”

    ask and I receive.

  25. Crim says:

    Polaris needs to find a new guy to design their front fairings. The Victory looks like Bozo the Clown. This one is pretty gaudy. Best of luck though from a satisfied stock holder.

  26. takehikes says:

    If I owned the Indian name and I needed to make a profit and I knew the market….well I’d have probably built exactly this so Polaris scores!

  27. Peanut says:

    Hmmm, frame similar to the Stratoliner, engine similar to the Stratoliner, two to the models look similar but have more metal, expect the weight is similar or more, thousands of dollars more and its a good thing? I like that Indian is undergoing another resurrection but with all of the gushing comments of a bike whose attributes were on the market 7 years ago for ~$5000 less?

    • FAST2WIN says:

      The Stratoliner is a very nice bike but has a lot of plastic chrome pieces. I think the fenders are plastic too. At the price of the Star bike, most customers went to H.D. The Stratoliner was not a good seller here in Michigan. Too bad because it was a nice bike

    • Auphliam says:

      The Stratoliner chassis is not even close to what Polaris builds (both here and for the Victory bikes). Not even in the same ballpark. Not even in the same neighborhood.

      Also, a base model ’14 Strat will run you at least $17K…figure about $2K more for the Deluxe. Neither of which include ABS, Cruise, Power windshield or Ride By Wire.

  28. NORKA says:

    Let’s face it, most Americans like and buy BIG. That why they buy SUV/Crossovers, not Mustangs or Miatas. They buy Harleys because most people want to be part of a group. When you see a group riding together, what are they on? Harleys.

    • ApriliaRST says:

      A valid observation. (Mustangs, though, in my book are BIG. Miatas are not.)

    • LowandSlow says:

      “When you see a group riding together, what are they on?”

      Ummmm. my answer would be sport bikes, cause I ride out on the twisty roads away from town, not trolling main street to hop between bars.

      • NORKA says:

        I wish that were true here in Arkansas. Typical story, I have a friend who with her husband had nice Yamaha Stars. The others in the group they rode with all had Harleys. Next thing I knew they both traded in and now they are on Harleys, also. She admitted they went Harley, because of the other’s comments regarding their Stars.

  29. Gentleman Rook says:

    It’s still a yawner to me, both in terms of visual and ‘heritage’ reactions, and selling them for the price of a new low to mid-level sedan? No thanks, Polaris, though I wish you the very best of luck in knocking the pins out from under Harley Ferguson. Someone sure needs to. I’ve bought and ridden the wheels off two Yamaha Roadliners since they first were introduced, both of which I picked up for less than $12k brand new, and when this one under me now hits 100K miles or so I’ll go back to my Yamaha dealer and buy myself a third one.

  30. Tom R says:

    Does know if the Indian face on the front fender lights up like in the old days? I always thought that was a cool signature of the brand.

  31. Bones says:

    Probably not a bike for my garage but I like them all. The bodywork aft of the rider serves to focus your eye on that gorgeous engine.

    Interesting that the only reference to the original Indian I can find is the color Springfield Blue. The original Indian factory was in Springfield MA, where they built “Motocycles” as well as the Springfield Rolls-Royce. (Like many New England factories of that era, it’s been converted into apartments.)

  32. Austin ZZR 1200 says:

    Its probably their first phase of a marketing/ product development campaign. Attract the base with high-margin big bikes while developing a smaller, light (retro) line for younger riders. Looking at their heritage, I think they could pull off some cafe competitors (something HD does not have the creativity or risk-taking appetite for). Go Indian (F HD)

    • goose says:

      From what I’ve read Indian is going to be the older rider brand, Victory will move to being more youth oriented. I have no doubt there will be more Indians models but something cafe-ish, along with “dark customs”, is more likely be to badged as a Victory.


  33. stinkywheels says:

    Just got back from Sturgis. They nailed the geezerglide crowd. These cruisers are comfortable and to me, boring, but they do their intended thing well. Riding in Sturgis or a lot of places is like riding in a parade and riding a sportbike/adventure there is like following a school bus in your Corvette. These glides are actually best at that, FWIW.

    • Jim says:

      “and riding a sportbike/adventure there is like following a school bus in your Corvette. ”
      That’s funny right there!

  34. mechanicus says:

    I’m they’re target demographic. I’m getting older, and would have preferred a lighter full-faired touring bike, and it’s styling is too garish… Oh well, maybe someday….

    • Stoopy says:

      As would I, but coincidentally there was recently an article on the Motus MST here if you want an American-made ST with power and, apparently, comfort. Yes it’s not available yet, yes it doessn’t have a large dealer network, and yes its not cheap, pricey, but so is this and well, heck its only money, right? As someone said in a comment below, “We do live in the best time in motorcycle history”…indeed!

  35. Scotty says:

    Not my kind of bike but I wish them all the best!! Looks like they have put in the background work to make it a success in the US market.

    As a Guzzi nut, I wonder how they compare to the 1400 California? As cruisers go, the new Cali is a pretty “dynamic” bike with distintive looks and style.

    • sliphorn says:

      Yup, the 1400 Cali is one heck of a machine. I had a chance to take the 1400 Custom for a lengthy test ride and found it to be nothing short of amazing. I’m not a cruiser guy, but I enjoyed my test ride on the Cali a whole heck of a lot.

      • Scotty says:

        I tend to think Cali riders are motorcyclists first and cruiser riders second…or not at all. My introduction to Guzzi people was meeting a 65 year old guy at the club meeting place who said he felt like going for a ride this weekend – to Italy (from London). I asked when he would be back and he said “well I have to be at work on Monday so up on Saturday home on Sunday! Mandello madness strikes.

  36. Krisd says:

    I got a question; why do they call it a “war bonnet”?

  37. JR says:

    I believe the saying.. a day late and a dollar short.. applies here in this sick economy as to if these big heavy expensive motorcycles will ever sell enough, to even pay for the machining involved. Then again I assume much smarter people then me already figured all this stuff out……. right?

    • goose says:

      In spike of what you hear on Fox news the American economy is improving, we are not there yet but is is getting better. I think Indian timed things very well.


  38. Norm G. says:

    i’m sorry, did I say i’d take a chief classic in red with the vintage brown seating…? scratch that, gimme that blue classic as shown in the first pic. holy shit did they nail that color.

    • Jeremy in TX says:

      They nailed it alright. That blue is gorgeous. I’d buy it, and I don’t even want a cruiser!

  39. Slack says:

    What’s up with that pie chart? Does BMW even make 1400+ cc bikes other than the K1600? I can’t imagine that the K1600 would take that large of a slice. Methinks your chart is flawed.

    • Dirck Edge says:

      Not my chart. Read the caption.

      • Slack says:

        Sorry. Methinks their pie chart is flawed.

        • mkv says:

          Ill break it down to you. The chart says that Harley leads the market with bikes over 1400cc’s They sell more bike over 1400cc than any other manufacturer around.

          • Slack says:

            I understand that. I’m just saying that I don’t believe the chart accurately represents BMW’s slice of the pie.

    • Boris says:

      I’d like to see what that pie chart would look like if the threshold was 1100 or 1200 cc instead of 1400. H-D sells a lot of 1200 Sportsters but the imports have many more models in the 1100-1400 cc range too. I would guess that the future Scout from Indian will come in at 1200-1300 cc.

  40. Slack says:

    What’s up with that pie chart? Does BMW even make 1400+ cc bikes?

  41. skybullet says:

    Finally a bike that may give Harley some competition. Assuming it’s about the bike. I’m afraid (they will like that) Harley riders are mostly about image not about how the bike performs. When a cruiser starts to make sense to me, my wife has orders to have an intervention.

  42. Randy says:

    Peak torque is at 3000, peak power is further on for sure, wonder what it is?

    So much damning by faint praise, but I can’t even muster the effort for that. 800 pounds, gawd.

  43. Tom K. says:

    Nice review, I’ve been checking back more often than I otherwise would have just to read it – I thought you were holding out on us, or maybe dumped one and couldn’t face the readers.

    A few questions:
    1) How easy is it to srart grinding those beautiful hard parts away in turns? I understand it is a cruiser, but relative to its nearest competitors, is it meant to be ridden more or less agressively?
    2) Forgive me if I didn’t retain this, but are they equipped with tachometers? If so, what is the engine redline? (I promise not to combine that piece with the “100 ft. lb. plateau” you mentioned in an attempt to calculate peak HP).
    3) You commented on the engine making very pretty sounds – but did not comment on the magnitude – how loud at idle? Enough to tick off my 08:00 lawn-mowing next door neighbor? Can I get that 2000 rpm roll-on music you described as a ring-tone app? (Hey, Indian, I want royalties on that idea if you do it!)
    4) How come all of the nitwits that have caused sports teams to abandon their native american mascots, and even names, aren’t going after Indian Motorcycle?

    The option list (on Indian’s website) is a good start – it even includes a mirror upgrade to fix one of your exceptions. I wonder if the pipe upgrades are legally streetable (I didn’t see any “for closed course only” fine print). Gotta save some lives, ya know.

    One feature you neglected to mention is the warranty – one year valence-to-valence, with an included four year, (unlimited mileage?) extended warranty ($50 deductible). I find that impressive.

    Did you have occasion to sound the horn? Can I purchase an aftermarket unit that makes some stereotypical Hollywood native american sound? At least, maybe, the orchestral finale of “Last of the Mohicans?”

    Heck, maybe I AM part of their target audience afterall. I sure would like to sit on one before rejecting the idea. Would I HAVE to wear a doo-rag?

    • Dirck Edge says:

      1) Excellent ground clearance for the class. Not many riders will ask for more from this style of bike.
      2) The tach says 5K is OK, but start looking for another gear. The bike will rev out to redline while continuing to pull.
      3) The bike is not unacceptably loud in stock condition, IMO. RYOR = record your own ringtone.
      4) You can consult the PC police on that one.

      I believe the “Stage 1” pipe and reflash is street legal. I was told it yields more sound, but not much in the way of more performance. Never used the horn … just rode around slower riders as politely as I could.Dirck

      P.S. I shot a video from the cockpit of the Chieftain, but the audio turned out poorly. I may post it anyway with a voice-over recording. Haven’t decided yet.

      • Boris says:

        You said: “low speed handling (parking lot speeds) can be cumbersome, particularly for the long wheelbase models, the Classic and Vintage.” How would you compare low-speed maneuvering for a 2014 Classic/Vintage to a comparable H-D model like a Softail Deluxe or Heritage Softail? Better? Worse? About the same? What about backing the bike up or angling backwards into a parking spot? How is the balance in those situations? I know the Indian has a longer wheelbase and is heavier than the H-Ds.

      • EL says:

        I have a 2003 Honda VTX 1800C. How would you compare the two bikes in terms of handling and engine performance?

  44. Dan says:

    OK, great, an air-cooled 2-valve push-rod 800lb $20K cruiser that burns your leg for the boomer market, what could be better than that for those rebels still listening to Lynrd Skynrd. They’d better hurry and sell a lot of them before their market dies off.

    • ApriliaRST says:

      Really? That’s your BEST?

    • Tom K. says:

      Maybe twenty years ago, I remember reading some Centerfold’s preferences, I think one of her “turn-ons” was “Young Rod Stewart”, and one of her “turn-offs” was “Old Rod Stewart”. As she is probably older now than Rod Stewart was then, I sure would love to hear her current opinion on the subject.

      We all get old, Sir, and you will too (if you’re lucky). And, it happens much more quickly than you expect it to or want it to. Don’t be so hard on folks that made it through life, which can at times be quite “challenging”. One of my favorite epitaphs goes something like, “As you are now, I once was. As I am now, you shall one day be”. Ride safe, and don’t forget to turn up the volume on “Sweet Home Alabama”.

      • Mr. Z says:


        Great comment to the “kid” posting about us rebels. More so about life. I’m 59 and have and still finding challenges with health, finances, and personal life. Maybe the “rebels” like old looking bikes because it reminds us of what is now “Old America”, you know when there was something called accountability for everyone. As far as the poster who said the economy is slowly getting better, I haven’t seen it like that way personally, and if it is getting better, it’s because government has given away all of OUR net worth to support the layabouts. I live in Mass, which is home to any degenerate that wants everything for free and doesn’t want to work. Most politicians here included, and NO I didn’t vote for any of them or the guy in the WH.

    • Provologna says:

      One of the editors of City Bike newspaper in the SF Bay Area has predicted for the last twenty years the demise of H-D for the exact reasons you listed.

      I thought he was right. Let’s just say that up to now, the three of us have been batting exactly .000.

      Remind me to bet on anything except your picks.

      • mickey says:

        In 1968 I said the CB 750 would not sell because it was too big and too complicated. Said the same thing in 1975 when the Gold Wing came out. Can I join your group of lousy prognosticators?

  45. G-String says:

    If you think Harley has a market share in the big v-twins….you should check out these big twins (*)(*). Just kidding, read on Harley’s site regarding their revenue in the first 6 months on this year $3.3B, thats billion!

  46. jimmihaffa says:

    Great effort and outstanding execution by Polaris! Harley may have written the book on style, but it’s good to see such an attractive mating of traditional styling with modern engineering.

    As an aside, I used to be a sports bike guy, but currently own a Vulcan 2000 Classic. I never understood why people continue to bash Harleys and cruisers when they don’t even ride them. If there’s enough of you out there with sufficient disposable income to purchase the style of bike you want, some manufacturer will build it…and frankly, they probably already do.

    While I like some things about my Vulcan, I’ll humbly admit that I bought it based on price and that it really doesn’t compare with a Harley for style, not to mention the mechanical noise something I see that Polaris has addressed in the new Indian models.

  47. andy1300 says:

    Great job , Now build a small V- twin and a single cylinder bike for us people that
    don,t need a 111 ci…

  48. Asphanaut says:

    Gawd those things look sweet. Sounds like they might even be fun to ride.

  49. TheMurf says:

    Great first effort on the new Indian. I have an 012 Ultra and i’m looking forward to a test ride on the new Indian. Would love to have both. Polaris needs to get a dealer network if they plan on competing with H.D. The nearest dealer to me is 72 miles away ! My Harley dealer is 15. My Ultra lacks good suspension. I put new shocks on the back and plan on doing the front end soon. After three Harley and two wings, the Goldwing spoil you with comfort and power. I think Harley will answer the Indian this week with the 2014 bikes. They didn’t get to that market share being dumb. They own it and I don’t think they plan on giving it anyone..

    • Jeremy in TX says:

      I am very interested if HD will get the biggest black eye, or if Victory or even perhaps the Japanese mfgs will suffer most from Indian’s offering.

      I am willing to bet that Harley will offer virtually no improvements to their bikes for 2014. They won their market share by having something very uniquely American and knowing how to leverage it. They have never had a competitor that offers anything similar until now. I suspect HD will be slow to react, if they react at all.

      Indian will need several more models of varying displacements to give HD a real run for their money, and they don’t exactly have a “badas$$” aura about their brand yet to attract a lot of the outlaw wannabe buyers. But they may take a pretty respectable bite out of the large displacement cruiser market before HD realizes what happened.

    • Dom G. says:

      72 miles away you say??

      I’ll be riding my thumper from Colorado Springs, CO to Lincoln, NE for a demo ride :/ . Better be worth it!

      • Colors says:

        As a native of eastern nebraska, all I can say is there isn’t much I would make that trip on a single for. Give I80 in August my worst regards when you see it.

  50. Ed says:

    After working in the HD dealer network for many years I say Awesome Job Indian. HD has simply splashed chrome and paint on the sos for some time. This is a great priced product that gives consumers a choice other than the arrogant HD network. I wish Polaris the best of luck, with a dedicated dealer network it should be no problem gobbling up a lot of HD’s piece of the pie.

  51. Jay says:

    It reminds me of a Road King. Does it have self cancelling turn signals?

  52. paul A says:

    Nice job Polaris. Enrico Piaggio would be very proud.

  53. ApriliaRST says:

    I really, really LIKE the way they chose to close off the area aft of the motor with body-color sheet metal.

    The view from the front is simply awesome.

  54. Dan says:

    Always nice to see choices, but what really does this bring to the motorcycle market? Another cruiser with a different brand name and colors, no new technology or concepts, nothing fresh here at all.

    • ApriliaRST says:

      Please give us examples of qualifyingly fresh technology that made you choose your last motorcycle. Thanks.

      • John says:

        traction control, variable valve timing, 170 hp are a few technologies that made me buy a brand new Kawasaki Concours

        • HalfBaked says:

          If these bikes had 170 hp they would have to come with a body bag. I don’t really see how TC or VVT would be of any advantage on these machines just added complexity with little benefit in return.

          • SmokinRZ says:

            I love my Concours but did you see the pie chart and Kawasaki share? Not many others out there feel the same way.

          • todd says:

            The chart is a strategic marketing tool. At 1352cc the Concours is not represented.

      • HalfBaked says:

        I’ll go even further and ask for examples of qualifying fresh technology that is available on any other mass produced motorcycle that he would like to have seen on these machines.

    • Jeremy in TX says:

      I am not a cruiser fan and probably never will be. However, I think the design is fresh. I’ll definitely notice one of these Indians in the sea of Harleys and their clones I see each day.

      There is no point in designing “new” technology or cutting-edge concepts into a product when your target market places no value on – and in some cases DE-values – such things. Gosta gives ’em what they want.

      • Ken says:

        Exactly! With the exception of anti-lock brakes, there is no technology, personally-speaking, that interests me, and only presents the inevitable, often-untraceable, “intermittent glitches.”

      • david says:

        I agree. My friendly group of Harley riders knows nothing about the technology. They only talk about cost and look. They even talk me into buying a Harley so to be American? I ride a sport touring Yamaha FJR and can’t see myself riding a cruiser again (owned one before). Nevertheless the new Indians look fresh and great. Hopefully they sell a bunch.

  55. mickey says:

    I like the looks of the 26 model in the poster the best.

    I know you have to do the kindest write up you can but holy cow..cumbersome slow speed handling, vibrating mirrors that your hands hit, vibrating floorboards, rear cylinder head burns your leg, clunky transmission, not a lot of initial bite on the brakes ( because their target audience likes them that way ? ) Gee, they sound great!

    • Ken says:

      Check the pie chart again to see what kind of bike most people vastly- prefer. You’re pissing in the wind.

      • mickey says:

        Yea, what ” most people prefer” doesn’t mean squat to me. I’m not a sheep.

      • todd says:

        That’s for bikes 1400cc and bigger. Go look at a chart that includes ALL sizes of bikes and it’s a vastly different picture.

  56. stratkat says:

    i dont think anyone has mentioned it yet, so…
    are the fenders and the body work around and under the seat steel?

    • todd says:

      looking at how thin the edges are they look steel. If they were aluminum or fiberglass the edges would be rolled or thicker.

    • BlackCayman says:

      *******”The frame feels like the stiffest available in the segment. It is a unique modular design incorporating aluminum castings, forgings and steel elements (the rear fender is even used as a structural member).”

      Since the rear fender is used as a structural member, I’m guessing its not plastic. The piece under the seat would probabaly be plastic though.

    • ApriliaRST says:

      I expect there is no plastic in the body panels. They sure don’t LOOK like plastic in the photos.

  57. todd says:

    So I think the reasons people buy Harleys is because; A) Dealer availability, B) It’s “American” and , C) it’s a Harley. In order for Polaris to succeed in selling a number of these they need to target the “B” group and improve the “A” exposure – not much can be done about “C”.

    Let’s not also be mislead by the comment “It is also deceptively fast.” 119 ft-lb @ 3,000 RPM is 68 HP and it’s pushing 800 lbs of bike (and 200 rider). Basically the Indian accelerates deceptively 50% slower than a 650.

    • HalfBaked says:

      The reason people buy The Motor Co’s products are A.) They’re Harley-Davidson’s B.) They’re Harley-Davidson’s and C.) They’re Harley-Davidson’s. Also are you really surprised that these Indians don’t accelerate very fast. I would bet my XR600 would out accelerate any of them. Low 1/4 mile ET’s aren’t exactly what heavy weight cruisers are designed for.

    • goose says:


      First, and how many HP does your bike make at 3K RPM? Continuing the torque curve to 100 FP at 5K RPM give us ~95 HP. No, that isn’t superbike power on an 800 pound bike but it is plenty for me. YMMV

      Second, do you really think the 280,000 people who bought Harleys last year are all idiots? Yes, it is a big plus to me my bikes are made in the USA but I owned 24 motorcycles before my Harleys, all made outside the USA. I’ve owned Hondas, Yamahas, a Kawasaki (no Suzuki, yet) Ducatis, a Moto Guzzi, 12 BMWs and even a BSA. The guy I ride with most often has his Harley, an Aprilia Mille, a Honda XR650R plated and converted to a super moto, at Bandit 1200 “street fighter” and others. Care to guess what bike he rides most often? Yup, he has rolled over 50K miles on his FLH-X.

      This seems to be more they you can comprehend but not everyone values what you value, that doesn’t make them stupid. I took my first long ride (I rented one for a day) on a modern Harley seven years ago, I bought my FLT a few weeks later.


      • todd says:

        Why would I care how much power my bike has at 3k rpm? I like to run an engine where it makes peak torque. I see 3k for nearly 1 millisecond on my way up through first gear, not much at all after that.

      • raivkka says:

        You are stating reasons to ride a Harley (or the new Indian/Victory) that posters on MD cannot comprehend.

        I lusted after a Harley when I was 12 years old. I wanted one not because I thought riding in groups and posing was cool, I wanted one because I WANTED one. After riding several other models and manufacturers I got my first Harley when I was 45. Once I purchased my Harley Xbones, I rode my Honda CBR1000RR exactly once (not including track days) in the following 3 years before I finally sold it.

        Posting anything American Cruiser on MD and receiving positive or constructive comments is as effective as charging hell with a bucket of water.

        • goose says:

          Sad but probably true. FWIW, I got my first Harley at 50, not far off your first. Too bad we probably will not be around when the know it alls like Todd figure out they don’t know it all. It would be fun to gloat.

          The guy I refer to about is clearly learning faster than us, he was 25 or 26 when he got his FLH-X.


          • todd says:

            So if it’s more about the riding experience, then it doesn’t necessarily need to be a Harley. Correct? I know there are plenty of other bikes out there that ride nicer than a Harley. Would you consider riding one of those – a Yamaha, Kawasaki even?

            It still sounds like my original premise holds true. You guys have your Harley because of “C”.

          • raivkka says:

            @todd, you just aren’t getting it.

            I bought Harley because I wanted it. I like the style of the Xbones and Harleys last a lifetime. The speed limit is 65mph and I no longer need a bike that does a 162mph. At my age (49), I tend to ride AT the speed limit and not 20+mph over.

            If I was going to buy a tourer it would probably be a gold wing,
            a sportbike a triumph datona (another triumph for me) or another honda cbr( that would be my 4th honda),
            a fun get around bike an aprilia durasodura 750 or KTM (another KTM for me).

            You need to think a little out of the box when assigning stereotypes, not everyone is the same.

          • todd says:

            I think you are misunderstanding me. I’m suggesting that, if a Yamaha (OK, Star) Stratoliner or Raider, or a Kawasaki Vulcan performed better, was smoother and more comfortable, more reliable, better finished and lower cost would you trade in your Harley?

            I guess I just don’t “get it” since people use that as their way to explain why they chose a Harley over another brand; “Why? You just won’t get it.”

          • Tom K. says:

            Todd, one factor not mentioned yet is that some people (myself included), would prefer to purchase a product “Made in America” over a product that is not. Obviously, many Harley parts are foreign-sourced, but comparatively speaking, Harely (and Victory, and now, Indian) are probably about as “American Made” as you can get. This is definitely a factor for me when I purchase an automobile. And, foreign manufacturers building out of a U.S. plant definitely get points for that, and American manufacturers building out of a non-U.S. plant definitely lose points. Obviously, this is only one factor, I’m not going to ride a style of bike I don’t like even if it was built in my home town. But, “all things being equal”… I prefer to give the work to people I live with (and would otherwise have to pay unemployment to). Helping my brother helps me.

          • Tom K. says:

            Edit – Todd initially did say “Because it is American”, -3 for reading comprehension on my part. Valid, however, especially for HD’s core riders. The HD fans I work with are blue collar, union tradespeople who still believe in buying American. Me? I’ve owned 4 Yamahas, 3 Kawasaki’s, 2 Suzuki’s and a Honda. Not a big fan of low seat heights, legs out in front of me, and big weight – like Dirck, I was hoping for something more standard-ish from Indian. Darned nice execution for a cruiser, though, gotta give them credit.

  58. goose says:

    I find this report and the V-Strom report being next to each other really interesting. Others (many) will disagree but a WeStrom and a Chieftain in my garage would make a great pair. I’m very happy with my current Road Glide and XR1200 but I could see a future with a different pair. We do live in the best time in motorcycle history.


    • Stoopy says:

      Actually I think you make a very good point and as a Wee-Strom owner I’m reading these reviews with the same thought in mind. Although I thought I was done with cruisers and my spine hurts just looking at most of them now, this is enough to make me reconsider owning just one more before I’m completely too decrepit to ride anymore.

  59. BlackCayman says:

    I have to say the bodywork under the seast area is growing on me…from “I hate it” – to “I don’t hate it as bad as I did the other day”. Maybe in time, I’ll get to “It’s not my favorite part of the bike”.

    Tne Black Calssic is growing on me… With the majority of my riding friends on HDs, the desire to ride some American Iron is there…but I’m much more likely to push the purchase of a cruiser to my late 50’s rather than early 50’s. This definitely pushes me closer to that day.

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