Summer of the Police Dark Horse 2017
By Steve Tritt
June 30th, 2017 was a normal hot Florida Summer day, or so I thought. I rode down to the Indian of Fort Lauderdale Dealership to see history in the making. Indian Motorcycle Company has made the first police motorcycle in 64 years. As I glided along, I thought about the history of Indian.
From 1901 many police departments used Indian motorcycles along with Henderson, Thor and other brands. It was in 1908 that Harley-Davidson launched its first Police model motorcycles. Indian was also pushing into law enforcement as well. Indian and Harley-Davidson had a healthy rivalry through this time and well into the 50s. This rivalry divided the nation into two groups of American Motorcycle owners. Indian and Harley-Davidson.
Then in 1953 Indian Motorcycle Manufacturing Company ceased operations and discontinued production of all models. Many police departments used Indian until the late 50s and early 60s. After that the company was bought and sold several times making small motorcycles, most of which were produced in Taiwan and had displacements between 50cc and 175cc. The company went bankrupt and was sold again. It was in 2003 that the last buyer went bankrupt and shut down Indian Motorcycle company. In 2008 Stellican Ltd., a London-based private equity firm, purchased the Indian Motorcycle assets and established an Indian Motorcycle Company manufacturing facility in Kings Mountain, N.C. It was a modest number of Indian Chief units with 105-ci V-twin engines which were produced between 2008-2011, when Stellican sold Indian Motorcycle to Polaris Industries Inc.
As I pulled into the dealership on my Harley-Davidson, I was excited to see the new Indian Police Motorcycle. I walked into the dealership and met with Alan Cole. Alan Cole helped start the police Indian side of the house again. He then walked me over to the Police Motorcycle. The 2017 Indian Chieftain Dark Horse was parked in front of the Indian Motorcycle desk with the classic Indian fenders behind it.
The Dark Horse is a sleek high tech motorcycle. It is a Chieftain with a Thunder Stoke 11 engine which is 111 cubic inches or 1811ccs. The Ground Clearance is 5.6 inches and the tank size is 5.5 gallons. Standard equipment are ABS braking, Cast Aluminum Frame with Integrated Air Box; Cruise Control; Driving Lights; Keyless Start; Remote Locking Hard Saddle Bags; Power Windshield; Tire Pressure Monitoring; Blue Tooth and Smart Phone Compatible Input.
Alan wheeled the Dark Horse out of the showroom and then surprised me. I would be riding the Dark Horse! As I put my helmet on, we went over the pre-flight check list, I threw my leg over the sleek dark motorcycle. I seemed to fit into it perfectly. The seat was a low seat so my feet were planted flat on the road. I turned the engine to run and pressed the start button on the top of the tank console. The Dark Horse thundered to life. I was surprised by the sound and the smooth idle with no vibration. I pulled in the clutch, put it in gear, let the clutch out and off I went. The ride was smooth, the instrument panel glowed red and the gages told me the speed and rpm of the motorcycle. The bike was comfortable and everything flowed. It felt great in the turns and you could feel the power in the throttle. It was a perfect ride. After returning I was astounded to know that I was the first one to ride the Black Horse Police Motorcycle outside of Indian in 64 years!
I asked about the performance of the Dark Horse in the law enforcement work. Police motorcycle are put through a hard day more than a civilian motorcycle. The start and stops of traffic stops, the tight maneuvering to catch a violator and the hard force on the throttle to run down a speeder. There is also off road riding and sometimes hopping curbs. I was told that no one knows that the motorcycle had not been tested yet. For testing, it will be going to Fort Lauderdale, FL Police Department. They will be the first police department to use an Indian in 64 years. FLPD used Indians in the 1930s and now they will make history to be the first law enforcement agency to use an Indian since the late 1950s.
John Brogno owner of Indian of Fort Lauderdale is writing the check for Fort Lauderdale Police Department to use the Chieftain Dark Horse. The ceremony will be the week of July 4th.
On the ride home, I was thinking about the Indian and Harley-Davidson. Can Indian make a police motorcycle that can revival Harley-Davidson? I think the Dark Horse can do it if Indian can put together a Police Fleet Sales side that is modeled after Harley-Davidson.
Harley-Davidson has a whole side of the Motorcycle Company devoted to Police Fleet Sales. Their lease programs with their training divisions makes Harley-Davidson the leader in Police Sales. The way the lease programs works for example is that a department can lease a motorcycle for $100.00 per bike per month, and at the end of a year or two, Harley-Davidson takes the old motorcycles back and gives them new ones. This part is left up to the dealerships as each has a different lease program.
If Polaris can learn from its mistakes with the Victory Motorcycle. Victory was too expensive and very large motorcycle. It had a hard time breaking into the law enforcement area. Today there are a few departments that use the Victory Motorcycle.
If Indian can keep maintenance cost down with a training division it could out-do BMW. BMW has a good lease program but maintenance is expensive. If the Indian can handle riding in a wide range of environments it will give Harley-Davidson a good run for its money. Again, this goes back to its performance in the Law Enforcement area and after riding it, I believe it can do just that.
I look forward to see if the Chieftain Dark Horse can deliver putting Indian motorcycles back with Harley-Davidson as a house-hold name again. Let’s see if a 115-year rival can be brought back to life. To Be Continued!!
Part 2 of
Summer of the Police Dark Horse 2017
By Steve Tritt
On August 4, 2017 Indian of Fort Lauderdale made history by presenting the Fort Lauderdale Police Department with a 2017 Indian Chieftain Dark Horse. The first Indian on the force in 64 years. With the staff of Indian of Fort Lauderdale, Daniel Wolf District Retail Manager of Indian, Command staff of the Fort Lauderdale Police Department Motor Unit and the Motor Unit. Indian of Fort Lauderdale looks like it has its war paint on to try and rekindle a rivalry between Harley-Davidson and Indian in the Law Enforcement side. This healthy rivalry between the two oldest motorcycle companies would be a good thing. Rivalry pushes the companies toward innovation and new technology, which helps both companies to grow.
August 22, 2017 the Fort Lauderdale Police Department took the Indian through its paces at the Fort Lauderdale Motor Training Pad.
As I talked with the Officers of the Motor Unit I could see Indian if fanning the flame of that old long-lasting rivalry with a new generation. Listening to the officers talk about the Indian. Some were saying that the smooth ride and fast acceleration was great and that they were looking to buy one as a personal motorcycle. Others were talking about the turning ability was not like the Harley-Davidson. I had to laugh a little bit, Indian has already started a division of two types of motorcycle guys, Indian or Harley-Davidson.
The Indian was put through the 180-Decel. The Indian had to get up to 37 to 42 Miles per hour in the chute, brake hard then go into a 90-degree right hand turn, then a left 90- degree turn and then a 180-degree right hand turn.
The purpose of the 180-decel is for the motor officer to avoid a possible vehicle or person and then maneuvering the motorcycle is a confined area without hitting a person or other vehicle or hazards on the road. Below is a lay out of the 180-Decel.
The quick acceleration was no problem, the problem came at the second hard left turn. You could not lean it enough to fit without hitting the cone with the saddlebag and it cannot turn tight enough to miss the cones with the front tire. The 180-degree right turn could not be done without hitting the wall of cones.
Next was the Brake and Escape. The Brake and Escape is for Motor Officers and the motorcycle to react to a possible danger. Such as a car pulling out in front of them or a vehicle changing lanes or a person running out into the road.
In this exercise, the Instructor stands in front of a taped off area. As the officer is in the chute the Instructor will show the officer which way to go or to stop from a speed ranging from 37 to 45mph. The Instructor will extend a right arm out for a right swerve, a left arm for a left swerve and both arms crossed above the head for a stop.
During this the Indian performed very well. Sgt, Fitzgerald got to 52 mph and was given a left swerve signal. The Indian dipped hard and performed it well in wet conditions. Afterwards Sgt. Fitzgerald said it felt like the rear-end slide out a little bit. Another officer run it through the Brake and Escape. At 39 mph was giving a stop signal and stopped before the tape. During hard braking you can see the compression of the front forks.
Earlier Fort Lauderdale Police took the Indian to the Miami Speedway and got it up to 125mph around the track. Sgt. Fitzgerald said it performed great. The smooth ride and speed was awesome.
The downfall to the Indian is its turning radius. It cannot turn as tight as other police motorcycles. Harley-Davidson as a turning radius of 18 feet. Honda, BMW and Kawasaki have a turning radius of 16 to 17 feet.
From talking with the officers Indian needs to upgrade the brakes, the constant use of the brakes is too much for the current braking system. Also, the handle bars and seat was an issue for some of the officers. Motor Officers ride high on the tank to be more over the engine and the center of gravity. Handle bar height up or down depending on the rider.
One thing for a police motorcycle it has to be universal. Anyone should be able to get on it and ride it with little or no adjustments.
The engine kill switch for the side stand deployment is located on the bottom of the frame so hoping curbs or obstacles will disable the engine.
The turning ratios is larger then the Honda, Kawasaki, BMW, and Harley-Davidson. It has the same turning ratios as the Victory. Large and cumbersome it has a hard time with the tight courses that it was put through. However, it has a quick acceleration and a smooth ride it is great for a long distance ride. The lack of vibration at the lights or stopped behind a car adds to the comfort of the motorcycle.
It will be interesting to see if Indian can make it back into Law Enforcement. Let the Games Begin!!