The Harley-Davidson Street Glide Special and Indian Chieftain Roadmaster Classic are two of the beefiest bikes you’ll ever lay your eyes on. But which is the true king of the road?
For a long time now, the Indian two-wheeler space hasn’t witnessed the entry of a new touring motorcycle. It seems like the focus has shifted elsewhere – big ADVs and mid-segment naked bikes appear to be generating storms of hype nowadays. However, touring is still one of the most popular, if not the most popular, forms of recreational riding. True, you can tour on any motorcycle, but if you can afford an ultra-luxurious touring motorcycle, then there’s no better way to travel cross-country.
Indian Motorcycle, no doubt, is the most niche motorcycle maker in the touring segment. The Chieftain line-up is full of big beautiful motorcycles that allow you to travel in style and comfort. However, Harley-Davidson continues to be the most popular big-cruiser motorcycle maker in India, and they’ve sold thousands of bikes since they entered the Indian market 10 years ago. And H-D has just added a new model to its touring line-up – the Street Glide Special. So, how does it stack up against the mighty Indian Roadmaster? Well, we found a nice open stretch of highway and set out to discover just that.
Devil is in the details
In terms of design, both these motorcycles, more or less, have the same layout – big wheels, massive front fairings and fenders, wide leather seats, high handlebars and saddle bags (hence the term baggers). However, as they say, ‘the devil is in the details.’ Only, in this case, it’s the difference and not the devil!
The Indian appears to have paid a lot more attention to detail, making the overall design of the bike simply incredible. The Roadmaster is basically a heavily customised Chief, with a host of features and accessories and immaculate detailing. The bike relies heavily on its retro style. The front-wheel fender and saddlebags really stand out. It’s a long motorcycle at 2,656mm, and a heavy one too, at 410kgs. The entire design is absolutely stunning, but the highlight, of course, is the massive 1,811cc engine decked out in chrome.
While the Indian is distinctly retro, the Harley-Davidson Street Glide Special is discernibly modern, owing to its dark colour scheme and blacked-out look. Also, it’s the more recent of the two. The forks, handlebar, tank console and exhaust are all in black. Its take on the modern luxury cruiser is beguilingly refreshing. However, the Street Glide is much smaller than the Indian. At 2,425mm, it’s shorter, and, at 362kgs, it’s much lighter. Which one looks better? To my eyes, the Street Glide Special is more captivating, but the Indian definitely gets a lot more stares on the road.
Everything, and the kitchen sink
Even though the Indian Roadmaster is a little older, it still comes with state-of-the-art technology and features. Aside from the usual ABS, cruise control and LED headlights, the Roadmaster gets a wonderful Ride Command System. The touchscreen allows you to toggle through different information with ease. The bike also has navigation and Bluetooth. You can also read your messages on the screen and play music while cruising down the open highway. The speakers are wonderful, and the volume is automatically adjusted based on the noise and speed. The Roadmaster also features heated grips and an electrically adjustable windscreen.
Now, coming to the Street Glide Special, it too gets all the standard features, such as ABS and cruise control, but it shockingly misses out on LED headlights. However, H-D has updated the infotainment system on the bike, and it’s now equipped with the new Boom Box GTS system. The touchscreen is much sleeker in terms of design, and the overall look is a lot more contemporary. It also allows you to toggle through different information and features navigation and Bluetooth. The speakers are good, but the speakers on the Indian seem a lot more effective, at least to me.
What about speed?
Both bikes feature the same size engine. The Roadmaster gets a 1,811cc V-Twin developed by Polaris – a true masterpiece. The engine is incredibly smooth and refined, and it pumps out 151Nm of torque at 3,000rpm. The throttle response is on point, and you’ll be amazed at how quickly the bike picks up speed. However, if you’re looking for a speed demon, you will be disappointed – for the engine is tuned for relaxed cruising speeds.
The Street Glide Special comes equipped with the new Milwaukee-Eight 114 engine – an example of brilliant engineering. H-D developed these new engines to be refined and powerful, and they do the job extremely well. The 1,868cc V-Twin pumps out even more torque – 163Nm at 3,000rpm. The throttle response is more aggressive, and the bike accelerates much quicker. The exhaust note is also much more noticeable. Overall, the Street Glide feels a bit sportier than the Roadmaster.
The Indian Roadmaster offers a more laid-back riding experience. It’s all about cruising at relaxed speeds and touring through the countryside. You can cruise down the open road in the utmost comfort, feeling relaxed and calm. The bike doesn’t feel heavy at all, unless you’re in traffic – and there it can take some getting used to. Out on the open road, however, is where this bike belongs. The ergonomics are practical, and you really feel like you’re riding a sofa on wheels. Even the pillion rider can enjoy the ride in the lap of luxury.
The Street Glide offers you a comfortable cruising experience as well. The bike is extremely comfortable, and it also has the added benefit of being lighter, making it easier to handle and a lot more fun at the throttle. This bike really puts a smile on your face, and never feels lacking in power.
The suspension of both these machines is tuned for smooth surfaces, so don’t expect much on bad roads. However, the Street Glide allows you to easily adjust the rear suspension. The overall ride quality is also more or less the same on both bikes, but the newer and more powerful Milwaukee-Eight engine feels just a tad bit smoother. The clutch is not heavy on either machine, and they both get a 6-speed gearbox that’s wonderfully smooth.
Which one then?
For me, the winner here is the H-D Street Glide Special. I just like the way it looks and the way it rides. Then again, the Indian caters to older riders who have a preference for comfort and a desire to enjoy some easy and relaxed riding. Let’s also not forget that the Roadmaster carries a price tag that starts at Rs. 42 lakh – Rs. 10 lakh more than the Street Glide Special.
The H-D simply has a lot more character in the way it rides – something that’s more to my liking. Both bikes come with the best features that you could possibly ask for on a touring machine, and both have the ability to make you feel like you’re the king of the road. In the end, it all comes down to what kind of a rider you are and what piques your interests more. The Indian caters to a different kind of rider than the Harley. But they both serve their purpose as true touring luxury motorcycles.
- Harley-Davidson Street Glide Special
- Indian Chieftain Roadmaster Classic
Engine: 1,868cc / V-Twin / Air-Cooled
Torque: 163Nm @ 3,000rpm
Price: ₹30.53 lakh (Ex-showroom, Delhi)
X-factor: A great mix of power and comfort that’ll allow you to have fun on any road.
Engine: 1,811cc / V-Twin / Air-cooled
Torque: 151Nm @ 3,000rpm
Price: ₹42 lakh (Ex-showroom, Delhi)
X-factor: There’s nothing like it on Indian roads, in terms of comfort and glamour.
• Big & beautiful
• Immaculate quality & design
• Very heavy
• Very expensive