2020 Indian Motorcycle Upgrades

Text: Florian Neuhauser • Photography: Barry Hathaway

With the arrival of the Milwaukee-Eight motor from Harley-Davidson two years ago, boasting 107 and 114 cubic inches of displacement, Indian’s Thunder Stroke 111 suddenly wasn’t the baddest cruiser engine on the market. The balance of power shifts back to Indian with the arrival of the Thunder Stroke 116, now standard equipment in seven of Indian’s 2020 models. Additionally, Indian’s Ride Command infotainment system has been redesigned with a quad-core processor for quicker reactions and the new ability to overlay traffic and weather info.

Indian has offered a 116 kit as an accessory for the 1833cc Thunder Stroke 111, but now the 1890cc TS116 is standard equipment in all but four models in the Thunder Stroke lineup. The accessory 116 kit was priced at $ 2,749.99, not including installation fees, so having it included from the factory is a gratifying bonus. 

Indian claims 126 lb-ft of torque, which is more than any other American V-twin currently in production. It even out-twists the sweet Milwaukee-Eight 117 in Harley-Davidson’s pricey CVO models, though it’s by just a single lb-ft. The Thunder Stroke 111 is rated at a still-impressive 119 lb-ft. 

The added 79cc of displacement comes from 2.2mm larger bores, while new cylinder heads more efficiently inhale the intake charge and squeeze the mixture at a higher compression ratio. Also updated are the fuel injectors, camshafts, crankshaft, connecting rods, and balance shaft. 

It all adds up to a motor that readily chugs out power to motivate bikes weighing as much as 900 pounds. Throttle response is nicely predictable, pulling steadily from just above idle and through its 2,900-rpm torque peak. The beautiful motor’s one flaw is that it throws off a fair bit of heat, despite the rear-cylinder deactivation program introduced last year. 

Indian’s Thunder Stroke lineup features additional updates for 2020. The Springfield models loan their chassis and adjustable rear suspension to the Chief Vintage and Chief Dark Horse (Dark Horse is Indian code for blacked-out finishes and matte paint) to offer better handling. 

Also, the Springfield and Chief Dark Horse are now fitted with a 17-inch front wheel for additional stability. The Springfield Dark Horse receives styling updates and mini-ape handlebars. Finally, a Chieftain Elite is reintroduced with two-tone paint, premium finishes, machined wheels, red engine accents, and a four-speaker PowerBand audio system said to be 50% louder than Indian’s standard audio system. It retails for a CVO-like $ 34,999. 

The Roadmaster is Indian’s “premium touring motorcycle,” featuring a capacious topbox, a power-adjustable windscreen, lower fairings, and heated grips. The new Dark Horse version (starting at $ 28,899) takes its less-shiny inspiration from other successful Dark Horse models with blacked-out engines and matte paint. It features a 19-inch front wheel with an open fender (instead of a 16-incher and valanced fender), “slammed” saddlebags, and an extended-reach gunfighter seat. 

Like the rest of the Thunder Stroke line, the Roadmaster Dark Horse has a surprising appetite for curves for a bike weighing 900 pounds with its 5.5-gallon fuel tank full. The aluminum chassis is solid and delivers sure-footed handling, while standard ABS braking supplies security in low-traction situations. The ride-by-wire throttle offers three ride modes and standard cruise control. The glove-friendly 7-inch touchscreen for the Ride Command system finally receives predictive destination searches. Keyless ignition is standard across the lineup, as is a two-year warranty. 

So, Indian hasn’t exactly reinvented the wheel with its updates to the Thunder Stroke lineup, but it has delivered a welcome increase in power, upgraded infotainment, and several pleasing styles to appeal to riders who love touring on big-inch American V-twins. Entry to the line starts at $ 18,499 for the Chief Dark Horse.