Nearly four years ago, just a few months into my tenure at Gear Patrol, I wrote a little news story called “Indian’s New Bike May Be the Most Feature-Loaded Motorcycle Ever.” Reporting on the brand’s ambitious new bagger, I was nearly out of breath by the fifth sentence: “Along with all the amenities we’ve come to expect from a top-line touring bike — think electronic cruise control, full LED lighting, ABS, keyless ignition and spacious weatherproof saddlebags — the new Challenger is jammed with outstanding features that have us stoked to give it a test ride.”
The most exciting one was, of course, the all-new Power Plus engine, a 1,768cc, 60-degree V-twin delivering 122 horsepower and 128 ft-lbs of torque. Alas, the pandemic hit shortly thereafter and that test ride dream was deferred. In the years since, I’ve gotten to try out a bunch of other compelling Indian bikes — including the Chieftain Limited, Chief Dark Horse, Scout Bobber Sixty and Sport Chief. Yet somehow, save for one half-day cruise in Tennessee, the Challenger had eluded me.
But I guess good bikes come to those who wait, because I finally got to scratch the itch earlier this summer, loading up on seat time around New York City and on a 528-mile round trip to the D.C. area. With a few years for the designers and engineers to fine-tune it, could the latest edition of this ride live up to my breathless initial expectations? Let’s find out.
2023 Indian Challenger: What We Think
The new Challenger builds on the promise of its predecessors by pairing the aforementioned Power Plus engine with an impressive array of technical attributes and friendly amenities. Standout features include full LED lighting, race-spec Brembo brakes, fairing-mounted 100-watt speakers, loads of storage (two “glove compartments” and two saddlebags) and a 7.0-inch touchscreen powered by Ride Command, Indian’s proprietary infotainment system.
Of course, all these features mean little if they don’t play well together on a bike that is rugged and reliable, fast and fun. Over hundreds of miles, I was glad to find that for the most part, this bevy of elements adds up to a pretty rad ride. Of course, one bike can’t do everything, and this one is no exception, but especially on the highway, the Challenger shines. Here are the major takeaways after a few largely satisfying weeks in the saddle.
The Challenger totally rules the highway
With its sheer size and strength, the Challenger is clearly intended to dominate the big roads, and in that regard it does not disappoint. With an 831-pound running order weight, it is indeed Indian’s biggest bagger (just edging out the