I am not going to review the 2020 Indian Challenger with any sort of regards to the H-D Road Glide. First of all it’s not fair to either company to compare apples to oranges. Secondly, the two bikes, in all truth, are going to be living their lives in two separate pigeon holes altogether.
Yes, in all honesty the 2020 Indian Challenger is artistically and technologically in a class by itself. That fact has equal parts bad and good for some, but except for only a handful of editors like myself, most haven’t thrown a leg over this machine to even figure out any sort of real facts about it. That is where I step in.
Let’s start with the front of the 2020 Indian Challenger. The 19-inch wheel wrapped in Metzeler meat is connected to a real-deal inverted non-externally adjustable frontend. A set of Brembo radial calipers complete with ABS adorns each side of the forks. This is usually the first thing performance V-twin freaks have been asking for on any brand of bagger. And now this combination is a reality. The single headlight frame-fixed front fairing looks blocky and angular until you see it in person. When viewed in real life along with the new aluminum frame, gas tank and newly stylized rear bags, it all starts looking so right. Or I just got used to how it looks. Either way I personally like the stylization of this here motorcycle.
The motor is (gasp!) water cooled. Many bitch about this, but I’m sorry to say with the stringent air compliance laws the air-cooled motors we all love and adore simply can’tbe leaned out so much to pass smog and actually make real power. An H20-cooled engine can and will do that in spades.
Electronically the Challenger is leaps and bounds above any American bagger ever made. The infotainment center is more than just a TV screen at the front of the bike. When I first turned on the Challenger with the power button on the right side of the inner fairing the screen lit up quickly and gave me my exact location on the GPS almost immediately. The GPS has the availability to layer both traffic and weather at the same time making it a very useful tool. The infotainment has various info displays, three separate riding modes, and ease of mobile phone hookup via cable or Bluetooth. The speaker quality is the best that I have seen/heard on any stock bagger and that is just in the fairing. Indian also has saddlebag top speaker options coming as well.
Enough on the design aspects and looks of the bike. Ride quality and uniqueness are the key factors in this motorcycle’s existence. And I could tell you that immediately I felt a whole new level of V-Twin performance when first riding this bike. The sporty suspension is stiff, but not in a jarring way. Around town at 25-45 miles an hour you do feel the bumps, but this level of firm suspension is more than worth it when highway speeds are met. The Challenger’s inverted frontend and single FOX rear shock seem to work better the faster you ride. I can tell you personally that from 80 to 120 mph is where this motorcycle felt at its best.
The PowerPlus motor is really nice in the looks department, but the power coming out of it is really what shines. The horsepower and torque come on as soon as you twist the throttle and keep going without dipping all the way to the bike’s redline. For you folks wanting real numbers the PowerPlus mill made 104hp to the rear wheel on our Dynojet 250i dyno.
The elephant in the room and the point of the most internet and social media contention is the Challenger’s handlebar shape and position. Yes, the layout looks weird. And no I don’t personally like the way it is, but once you leave the parking lot it all those personal feelings go away. Though they look awful they were actually comfortable even on all-day rides. I do feel that if the stock handlebars where a bit higher and had just a bit better bend, the overall feel of the bike would be even better. And that is saying something. Also, for those of you who are asking about T-bars on this bike, I hate to tell you that it’s not possible without a massive slice-and-dice to the inner fairing as well as the the removal of the infotainment system and factory gauges.
So that is the quick and dirty info I have. Lucky for me I have a lot more riding of this bike to do and, of course, a bunch more reporting to do down the line. But for the first 1600 miles I can tell offer you this bit of advice. Stop looking at it on the inter webs and making rash judgements. Search one out to see it for yourself and actually ride it in the real world. I am sure you will see that my initial findings are solid and will be mostly in tune with your own personal feelings of this bike once you’ve ridden it.
I will have much more in-depth details on all aspects of this bike in the coming weeks, so stay tuned.