In the red corner, the new 2014 Harley-Davidson Street Glide
benefits from a series of upgrades that will take riders farther on the open road. While styling remains essentially unchanged, the Street Glide enters the modern era through Project Rushmore, which involved thousands of road tests and feedback from actual riders to build the next iteration of the legendary Harley-Davidson.
In the blue corner, the 2014 Indian Chieftain
is the product of an iconic American brand now owned by the maker of Polaris snowmobiles, ATVs, and side-by-side vehicles, not to mention Victory motorcycles. The Chieftain beautifully comes back to life by pairing legendary Indian styling and heritage with contemporary solutions and innovations.
On paper, these two bikes appear to target the same type of customer; in reality, though, they are very different in terms of riding dynamics and seduction skills. Read on.
A modern bagger
The 2014 Indian Chieftain pays tribute to classic Indian motorcycles from the 1930s. The curvaceous profile, generously valenced fenders, chrome galore, massive instrument panel, and prominent War Bonnet (a tridimensional Indian face sculpture) will definitely appeal to nostalgic enthusiasts.
Meanwhile, the updated 2014 Harley-Davidson Street Glide convincingly steps into the 21st century. With a slammed tail, swooping passenger seat, new and improved saddlebags, sleek fairings and fenders, as well as new-look alloy wheels, it now attracts younger riders without disappointing or overwhelming traditional bagger fans.
Vintage lines and character
The ultra-classic, yet timeless, 2014 Indian Chieftain is an elegant, majestic steed with a smooth and competent engine. It arouses people's curiosity with exuberant, retro-looking attire. Different from most Japanese competitors, and a copy of the Harley, the Chieftain's main fairing endows the big Indian with a distinctive personality. Overall, it's a smartly crafted, high-quality package that manages to eclipse the Victory Cross Country
, Kawasaki 1700 Voyager, Honda Gold Wing F6B
, and Harley-Davidson Street Glide.
Same recipe, but…
|The 2014 Indian Chieftain pays tribute to classic Indian motorcycles from the 1930s. The updated 2014 Harley-Davidson Street Glide convincingly steps into the 21st century. (Photo: Philippe Champoux)
Indian also went back to its roots to develop a new twin-cylinder engine. The Thunder Stroke 111 (1,811cc) boasts giant chrome cylinder heads and pushrod-activated valves that perfectly recreate the thrills of classic Indian motorcycles. At the same time, it uses the same modern technologies as the Harley engine, including electronic fuel injection and ignition, keyless start with anti-theft protection, cruise control, a 6-speed transmission, and a belt final drive.
The 2014 Harley-Davidson Street Glide relies on the time-tested Twin Cam 103 (1,690cc). Featuring a new camshaft and revised engine maps, it now produces 5% more torque for increased performance in two-up riding and stronger acceleration at higher speeds.
From a mechanical and auditory standpoint, the Thunder Stroke 111 proves a little more velvety than the Twin Cam 103, which is slightly better at producing the syncopated feel that big twin-cylinder enthusiasts crave. While the Chieftain has superior torque (119.2 lb-ft vs. 104.7), the Street Glide is 20kg lighter and benefits from shorter gear ratios. As a result, both deliver similar performance regardless of your riding style and cargo.
|The Thunder Stroke 111 (1,811cc) boasts giant chrome cylinder heads and pushrod-activated valves that perfectly recreate the thrills of classic Indian motorcycles. (Photo: Philippe Champoux)
The 2014 Indian Chieftain is built on the same frame as the Chief Classic, namely a modern, cast aluminum structure with integrated air box derived from Victory. It remains solid and stable at all times -- a must when planning long trips.
On the other hand, the 2014 Harley-Davidson Street Glide banks on a touring chassis that's been optimized this year with rider feedback from Project Rushmore. Most notable are the new Reflex linked brakes with ABS and the new stiffer triple clamp with beefier front forks.
A matter of comfort and sound
As the more comfortable bike, the 2014 Indian Chieftain comes with a large fairing and power-adjustable windshield. It effectively protects your knees from the cold rush of wind and most rain splashes. Both the rider and passenger enjoy the royal treatment thanks to wide and plush leather seats, tons of room to stretch, and a very ergonomic riding position.
The Chieftain's instrument panel includes an analog speedometer and tachometer, plus a digital display. There's a 4-speaker, 100W audio system, Bluetooth connectivity, and a power outlet. A control on the left handlebar -- which I found complicated and hard to reach with my thumb -- allows you to browse through the various functions. The hard saddlebags can be remotely locked at the same time as the security system activates.
Not quite as cosseting as its rival, the 2014 Harley-Davidson Street Glide is still very comfortable and much more dynamic. Additionally, it receives a newly improved fairing and a windshield that significantly reduces head buffeting (most of it thanks to a pressure-equalizing duct on the front, which opens and closes at the touch of a button). However, the passenger will feel somewhat uneasy on the slippery and sloping pillion.
For sure, music lovers will get a kick out of the new Boom! Box 4.3 radio -- one of the best audio systems ever fitted to a Harley -- featuring a colour touchscreen (which still works with gloves on), 25W per channel, Bluetooth connectivity, and a USB port which accepts your iPhone, iPod Touch, and other compatible devices. The audio buttons are a full five times larger than before, and the left-hand controls offer exemplary ergonomics.
|The 2014 Harley-Davidson Street Glide banks on a touring chassis that's been optimized this year with rider feedback from Project Rushmore. (Photo: Philippe Champoux)
An exceptional motorcycle that's full of prestige and definitely geared for light touring, the 2014 Indian Chieftain has a price that befits its premium status. At $25,599, the Chieftain is more expensive than its Victory cousin and way above every Japanese competitor. You get a uniquely styled machine with an equally unique riding experience highlighted by supreme comfort -- a 60/40 mix of tradition and technology that connects with the brand's glorious past and simultaneously meets the requirements of today's riders.
Though not a revolution, the 2014 Harley-Davidson Street Glide ($23,289) marks a clear evolution aimed at a wider audience. Fear not, this bike retains all of its legendary appeal and charisma; Project Rushmore only improved upon a successful product, making it more sophisticated and more rider-friendly than ever.
For comfort and cachet, go with the Chieftain. If you prefer trendy looks and bigger thrills, the Street Glide is your best bet.