Indian Motorcycle is the oldest motorcycle manufacturer in America, launching its first design in 1901.
That said, Indian Motorcyels has sold to multiple hands, some of whom failed to honor the legacy of performance-based race-bikes initiated by its founders.
In 2013, the sport-and-utility-vehicle-guru Polaris Industries acquired the Indian Motorcycle brand with a vision to produce industry-leading machines fit with modern technology that also honor the original aesthetic of the bikes.
Polaris Indian Motorcycles are still in production, but are Indian Motorcycles still considered high-quality?
Here’s the Answer to Are Indian Motorcycles Still Considered High-Quality:
Modern Indian Motorcycles are still deemed high-quality due to the performance-oriented focus of Polaris’s design team. Indian motorcycles combine inventive Polaris technology while bearing the classic aesthetic of the first American moto brand.
How Well Do New Indian Motorcycles Perform Today?
Indian Motorcycles are high-performance machines. Modern Indians employ triple-overhead cams, industry-leading sensor diagnostic systems, and Polaris’s industry-leading Ride Command system.
The modern Indian Motorcycle Company has consistently updated and upgraded its technology, electronics, and mechanical engineering since its launch in 2013.
Furthermore, the current Indian Motorcycle lineup includes a broader range of quality motorcycle builds than ever before, suited for riders of all experience levels and riding styles.
- The modern response to the popular entry level-cruiser category is the Indian Scout, which outperforms anything in its class.
- The Scout stocks a sealed, liquid-cooled V-Twin engine unlike anything else in the brand’s lineage, although based on the classic Scout concept.
- The Scout lines 6-speed gearbox also packs more gears than most medium cruisers, ensuring overheating and stalling while delivering over 100 HP and an intense level of torque.
- In 2020, Indian revealed the Challenger, one of the market’s most impressive and reliable touring motorcycles. The Challenger is a high-performance, American-styled touring bagger unlike anything else.
- It stocks a 108 Cubic Inch, PowerPlus—a liquid-cooled engine with 122 HP and 128 ft-lbs. of torque which hardly works, even at highway speeds, ensuring dependable performance for the long haul.
Other Indian models
- Finally, the Springfield, Vintage, Chief, Chieftain, and Roadmaster lines all share the Thunderstroke 111, a performance-oriented engine offering more power and dependable performance than the competition.
- The unique 111CI air-cooled big-twin engine with a triple overhead cam and an integrated shaft-driven transmission is now available in the 116CI package with enough power to reportedly lift up the front end in third gear.
How Many Miles Do Indian Motorcycles Last?
Polaris claims their Indian Motorcycle engine designs have all passed the “million-mile test”.
Consumer reports, however, have shown that modern Indian motorcycles can last between 100,000 and 200,000 miles, provided they’re ridden, stored, and serviced correctly.
That said, four variables affect your Indian motorcycle’s longevity more than how many miles are on the odometer.
- Model and Engine CCs: are you riding your Indian Motorcycle per its intended use?
- Service Intervals: are you maintaining your motorcycle per the guidelines outlined by Indian in the owner’s manual at the suggested frequency?
- Riding and Storage Conditions: how often is your Indian motorcycle exposed to harsh UV rays, damaging road surfaces, heavy rain, or corrosion moisture?
- Basic Upkeep: in addition to regular oil services, how often are you inspecting, maintaining, and replacing things like tires, clutch cables, and belts?
The frequency of engine servicing is a significant factor in how many miles your Indian motorcycle will last.
Polaris’s motorcycles are innovative in design. I’ve taken my Indian bike to some talented mechanics who couldn’t figure out how to take its firing off to change the fork seals and oil.
The fork oil service is a detailed service I’m not equipped to do at home with the tools and space I have.
While the friendly motorcycle mechanic is a great help with minor services, I take the bike to an Indian technician for the more detailed stuff because I know it will get done efficiently by a familiar technician who works exclusively on Indian bikes.
It also means that Indian is responsible for fixing mistakes the mechanic cause.
Whether you conduct your routine oil, filter, and service inspections at home, using the manual as a guide, or get it done at a capable shop familiar with Indian bikes, frequent oil, air, and fuel services have a critical impact on the longevity of an Indian motorcycle.
If you’re in the market for a used Indian Motorcycle, there are more important factors to how long the bike will last than the mileage on its odometer:
- Inquire into the bike’s maintenance history, ensuring the seller kept up with recalls and the routine service maintenance mentioned above.
- Inquire into what type of riding the seller did. Safe and leisurely-ridden Indian will last longer than one that was redlined on a race track or used for stunts.
- Inquire into how many owners the motorcycle had and ask what the seller knew about their upkeep and riding habits.
- Inquire into the motorcycle service history, and crash reports, and ask about any modifications or upgrades and whether or not they were installed by an Indian technician.
Are Indian Motorcycles Reliable for Long Trips?
Indian motorcycles are reliable and comfortable for long trips because of innovative techs like triple-overhead cams, sensor diagnostic systems, and Polaris’s industry-leading Ride Command system. Indian bikes are consistently updated and upgraded.
The remarkable design that goes into Indian Motorcycles makes them as reliable as most other bikes on the market. Consumer reports show Polaris-designed motorcycles to have lower failure rates than Ducati, BMW, Harley-Davidson, and even Triumph.
- Polaris made it clear from day one that their interpretation of the Indian Moto would be concentrated on sharp engine and performance specifications.
- Polaris has been a recreational vehicle guru and has already developed touring technologies.
- The amenities Polaris developed for other adventure vehicles in their lineup make Indian Motorcycles perfect for long trips.
Polaris’s philosophy was that reliable performance is the first step to making their bikes outperform the competition for commuting and long trips.
Indian motorcycles come stock with travel-improving features like electronically adjustable windshields and locking hard bags for added security.
An impressive suite of GPS maps and Bluetooth connectivity features ensure you get where you’re going, and an industry-leading sound system ensures you arrive in style.
- At the time of writing, I have personally clocked over 65,000 miles of long-distance touring on a 2018 Indian Chieftain.
- I’ve done some hard riding, 11-12 hours a day, with minimal breaks from riding at highway speeds.
- I’ve also ridden technical scenic mountain roads for hours on end, and I’ve never had a single reliability failure while traveling on my Indian motorcycle.
For more in-depth information on this question, take a look at our article, where we tested the reliability of Indian motorcycles.
Is the Indian Motorcycle Brand still Respected?
The modern, Polaris-designed Indian motorcycle brand is respected as a valid part of the brand’s historical American cannon. Modern Indian motorcycles are the finest machines to wear the iconic branding since the original brand collapsed in 1953.
Indian wasn’t Polaris’s first venture into motorcycle manufacturing. The brand launched its Victory Motorcycle concept years before.
Although the distinct Victory aesthetic was criticized as overly futuristic looking by some of the more superficial bikers crowd, their high-powered engine specs and authentic American heritage made Victory bikes well-respected and even permitted into American Motorcycle Clubs.
When it was announced that the manufacturing and design team behind Victory was developing a new version of the Indian legacy, most of the biker community agreed they were among the most qualified to do it, a theory that proved to be correct.
The modern Polaris-owned Indian Motorcycle brand is well-respected by motorcycle enthusiasts worldwide. This is due to its high-powered engine specifications, fine finish, high-quality frames, and the true-to-legacy attention to detail of its iconic aesthetic.
That said, there are Harley enthusiasts who will trash talk anything that’s not a Harley, especially another American brand that’s liable to outrun a Harley, foot-pound for foot-pound.
At the same time, Harley’s grip on the American Cruiser motorcycle market meant that Victory and Indian were competing against each other to compete against Harley. This decision led their singular parent company to pull the plug on Victory and put those resources into Indian.
The animosity has since died as more and more Victory owners embrace and even switch to Indian.
Adversely, there are still some feelings of disrespect towards the Polaris Indian bikes from a small number of Victory Motryclce enthusiasts who resent that parts for their bikes are no longer in production.
Do Indian Motorcycles Break Down more or less than Similar Brands?
The impressive engineering behind Indian Motorcycles helps them break down less than other bike brands. Consumer reports have found Polaris-built motorcycles to have lower breakdown percentages than Harley-Davidson, Ducati, BMW, and even Triumph.
From their announcement that they’d acquired the Indian motorcycle legacy, Polaris made it clear that the vision of Indian would be focused on performance.
Even since the days of Victory Motorcycles, Polaris bikes had a reputation for staying on the road more often than some of the competitors.
To be fair, Polaris has issued a few recalls on Indian bikes since their introductions, and the company’s history of consumer-reported breakdowns is much lower than that of other bikes.
And they didn’t place first, either; four moto manufacturers had fewer consumer reports of breakdowns than Polaris’s Victory bikes:
- Polaris-designed Victory bikes were the precursor to Indian, which weren’t out at the time of the study.
- That said, Polaris’s Victory line performed higher than Ducati in both satisfaction and reliability. Ducati had an average failure rate of 33%
- Due to exclusivity, BMW motorcycles are more expensive to purchase and own, but that makes servicing more specialized. BMW’s failure rate has been reported to be as high as 50%.
- Yamaha motorcycles are technically more reliable than Polaris bikes, with a failure rate as low as 11%
- Suzuki, Honda, and Kawasaki ranked above the Polaris Victory bikes engineered by the Indian motorcycle team, with break-down rates of 12%, 12%, 15%, and 17%, respectively.
But what’s Polaris’s secret? Why do Indian Motorcyels Break Down less than Harley-Davidsons?
Polaris big twin Indian bikes come stock with a fully integrated shaft-driven gearbox. The chain-free shaft-driven transmission modern Indian motorcycles use last significantly longer than chain drives and can break down way less frequently.
Still, that’s not to say that the Indian Motorcycle Company hasn’t encountered its share of letdowns:
- In 2019, Indian notified their ownership and dealership base of a potential oxidation issue with the gear position switch hand control.
- The issue affected all Indian Motorcycles with a Thunderstroke motor manufactured between 2014 and 2019.
- There have been other recall-resulting failures with Indian motorcycles over the years, but they’re generally slight, so no situations have resulted in a severe engine failure.
What are the Best and Worst Years for Indian Motorcycles?
The best-year Indian motorcycles are the modern Polaris Indian models manufactured since 2013. Anything made between 1901 and 1953 is also one of the best vintage bikes. Between 1953 and 2013, Indian Motorcycles changed owners and were the worst in quality.
The quality, performance, and innovation that initially went into Indian motorcycles weren’t considered a priority between 1960 and 1977. The new owners, at this time, were simply buying the British-Manufactured Royal Enfields in bulk and rebranding them as Indian motos in the U.S.
In 1997 a cooperate merger of 9 companies bought the Indian Motorcycle name and began producing their version of Indian motorcycles in Gilroy, CA. Gilroy Indians are little more than custom-fabricated bike frames fit with S&S Engines.
The quality wasn’t up to the public standards of what Indian motorcycles should be, and the Gilroy Indian company went bankrupt. A London company bought the Indian motorcycle brand in 2003 and launched an Indian Motorcycle Manufacturing facility in King’s Mountain.
The King’s Mountain era of Indian motorcycles spanned between 2004-2011 but chose to limit the production of their motorcycles, making them collector’s items. While King’s Mountain era machines looked like beautiful sculptures of the classic concepts, the moto market didn’t see the value in a motorcycle that couldn’t dish out the record-breaking performance the brand was known for.
[Source: How Reliable Are Indian Motorcycles? (We Tested Them) (motorandwheels.com)]
Indian motorcycles manufactured since 2017 are the highest quality machines.
They were designed and produced 4 years after Polaris resurrected the Indian brand, restoring its legacy by prioritizing engineering and performance quality that meets modern standards and appeases the pre-53 heritage.
While Polaris started manufacturing the bikes in 2013, they dialed in their spec and really figured out where they wanted to take things performance and production-wise right around 2017.
Who Owns the Indian Motorcycle Brand Today?
The Indian Motorcycle Company has been owned by Polaris industries since 2011, with their first line of motorcycles being the 2014s that launched in 2013.
The Polaris-manufactured motorcycles became the most reliable bike in over a century.
As we mentioned in an earlier section, Polaris’s motorcycle design team was responsible for Victory motorcycles; some of the longest-lasting, most reliable, and fastest, highest-performing American bikes ever made.
Polaris bought Indian and coupled the iconic Indian aesthetic that initially manifested the whole American cruiser culture year with the legendary Victory specs and reliable performance.
Did the Polaris Company make Changes Concerning the Quality?
Polaris Indian motorcycles maintain the iconic aesthetic of the first American moto brand while integrating their innovative technology. Polaris’s design team has always been performance-focused, an approach that gave the Indian Motorcycle brand a significant upgrade in quality.
Here it is, straight from the iron horse’s mouth:
The 2010’s have been a decade full of exciting development and growth for Indian Motorcycle. Revitalized by the company’s acquisition by Polaris Industries in 2011, Indian Motorcycle has since rejoined the trail blazed by the company’s early pioneers in the first half of the 20th century. The present-day Indian Motorcycle Company combines high-performing technological innovation, rewarding partnerships, and an ever-expanding lineup of authentic, iconic bikes.
[Source: Indian Motorcycle Returns – 2011 and beyond]
Indian Motorcycle Returns – 2011 and Beyond