No, we aren’t talking about a presidential candidate – there is enough talk of that nature elsewhere so we won’t put you through it here. The challenger we are referring to is the 2020 Indian Motorcycle Challenger, the company’s new bagger. The most significant of aspect of the bike’s is the engine. A new 1769cc, 122hp, 128 ft-lbs torque liquid-cooled twin that brings into Indian’s stable a modern, large displacement engine – which will likely represent the future of big v-twins in addition to the 999cc engine in the Scout and the 1203cc in the FTR. The remaining two air-cooled motors are the ThunderStroke 111 and 116 in the Chief and Chieftain. With the additional power, the Challenger should be a formidable force.
But, and there is often a but ….. large displacement v-twin cruisers, some with bags, some without, with liquid-cooled motor flooded the market in the late 1990s and the early 2000s. Honda, Yamaha, Kawasaki and Suzuki were all building big liquid cooled v-twins – and expensive ones at that. All those offerings, with only a few exceptions, are gone. The market has been stating quite definitively that it is moving on if for no other reason than a large portion of the potential market can’t afford it. You have to look around and ask yourself – at this point in motorcycling, does the world need a new $26,999 CDN bagger? Or $33,999 CDN bagger if you opt for the blacked out Dark Horse version, only $500 cheaper than Indian’s other offering, the Chieftain Dark Horse. The bike is unlikely to grow the market but only cannibalize the market that is already shrinking. There isn’t a large pool of new customers that were holding out on purchasing a domestic v-twin bagger because there were a lack of liquid cooled offerings or that they felt the power of existing domestic v-twins was too anemic.
Indian Motorcycle seems so intent on chasing down Harley-Davidson customers, which to be fair, they have been succeeding in doing, that they have disregarded the fact that Harley-Davidson is itself trying to chase down new customers outside of the cruiser segment. The LiveWire, the upcoming street fighter and adventure touring bike are all aimed at finding that new market that is so desperately needed to build the industry. A new bagger, given Indian parent company’s Polaris expertise in so many other other segments, is surprising. There is some indication that Indian will again follow Harley-Davidson’s lead and send an electric bike to market eventually – but Polaris bought Brammo years ago, there should already be an electric motorcycle from the company for no other reason than to bring new eyes to the company. But electric motorcycles, unless they are relatively inexpensive and utilitarian, are never going to be the company’s roadmap to mass success. Success is going to be a bike that people did not expect not one they did.
Indian has the Scout model which starts in Canada a $10,999 – an attractive, modern engineered v-twin cruiser and the company’s the most inexpensive model. The stroke of genius, if there is one, is going to come somewhere around or below this price point. It is where the market needs the flash and excitement, the jaw dropping appeal of something new. The 2020 Indian Motorcycle Challenger is undoubtable a well engineered and well thought out machine, but is it what the motorcycle world need right now?