Are Indian Motorcycles Reliable?

Apr 24, 2024


indian motorcycle old dealership advertising enamel plate logo sign are indian motorcycles reliable

Here at Riders Share, we obviously deal with motorcycles and motorcycle-related issues on a frequent basis. As a motorcycle rental company, we wanted to share the data. When it comes to if Indian motorcycles are reliable, there’s a few different factors to consider. But first, let’s start with what we know for sure. 

Riders Share’s Analysis of Indian Motorcycle Reliability

Indian sharing the top spot as most reliable brand came as a welcome surprise, reflecting Polaris' brand growth. Their success, alongside BMW and Harley Davidson, may stem from appealing to more seasoned riders. However, it's worth considering that these riders might also be more diligent about maintenance, a factor that can influence the condition of used bikes but is beyond the manufacturer's control.

Proper maintenance also has a lot to do with it. The more you care for your motorcycle, the more reliable it will be. In fact, most calls we get for roadside assistance at Riders Share are for dead batteries. 

Keep reading for more in-depth information about Indian Motorcycle’s reliability, including an Indian vs. Harley-Davidson comparison and how Polaris’ acquisition of Indian in 2011 led to improvements. 

What Specifically Makes Indian Motorcycles Reliable? 

Indian motorcycles have developed a reputation for reliability that aligns with their iconic status in the motorcycle world. Their reliability stems from various factors, including advanced engine designs, superior braking systems, and high-quality manufacturing standards. The brand's motorcycles, such as the Indian Scout and Indian Chieftain, have been tested under real-world conditions, demonstrating their durability and performance over time. 

With features like a shaft-driven transmission, triple overhead cam setup, and engines that don't overheat or rattle as hard as competitors, Indian motorcycles are built to last. Maintenance plays a crucial role in the longevity of these bikes, with proper care extending their lifespans significantly. It's reported that with regular service and adherence to break-in procedures, Indian motorcycles can achieve high mileage without major issues. However, there are always outliers based on use and maintenance​.

Indian’s reputation for quality and reliability has been a significant part of its appeal. Modern Indians are considered among the most reliable in the western hemisphere, benefiting from Polaris's engineering expertise. Integrating innovative technologies with the classic Indian aesthetic has allowed the brand to maintain a high standard of motorcycle production​.

Choosing an Indian motorcycle involves considering the type of riding you plan to do, your budget, and your preferences for motorcycle style and features. With various models catering to different riding experiences, from cruisers to street bikes, there's likely an Indian motorcycle that suits your needs.

Indian Motorcycles vs. Harley-Davidson

However, comparing Indian motorcycles to brands like Harley-Davidson reveals some interesting distinctions. For example, Indian motorcycles often feature more advanced powertrains and technology, lighter clutch action, and a more efficient gearbox, contributing to their overall reliability. While both brands offer high-quality bikes, their choice may be a personal preference for style, performance, and technological features​.

Powertrains and Technology

Indian Motorcycles, under the Polaris Industries banner, have made significant investments in modernizing the powertrain and onboard technology of their bikes. They often feature engines that are not only powerful but also incorporate advanced engineering solutions like overhead cam setups and liquid cooling in certain models, which enhance performance and reliability. In contrast, Harley-Davidson maintains a more traditional approach with air-cooled engines and a focus on the legacy of their V-Twin powerplants. However, Harley-Davidson has also been modernizing its lineup by introducing models like the LiveWire, an all-electric motorcycle, showcasing its innovation capability.

Clutch Action and Gearbox Efficiency

Riders have noted that Indian motorcycles tend to have lighter clutch action, making for a more comfortable ride, especially in stop-and-go traffic. The efficient gearbox, particularly using a shaft-driven transmission system in many Indian models, contrasts with the chain drive systems traditionally used by Harley-Davidson. However, Harley has also adopted belt drives for their modern bikes for better efficiency and lower maintenance.

Style and Aesthetics

Regarding style, both brands have deeply rooted heritages that appeal to different segments of riders. Indian Motorcycles often draw on their history with models that have a classic and timeless appeal. At the same time, Harley-Davidson's designs have defined the look of American motorcycles for generations with their iconic cruiser and touring models. The choice between the brands' styles can be deeply personal, as both offer a sense of identity and belonging through their distinctive aesthetics.

Performance and Handling

Performance-wise, both brands have models designed to cater to a range of riding styles, from cruisers to baggers to touring bikes. However, Indian's newer models are often praised for their handling and performance, which is attributed to their modern chassis designs and suspension systems. Harley-Davidson, on the other hand, has a loyal following for the unique riding experience their bikes offer, with improvements in handling and performance in their newer models as well.

Let’s be honest, though- both manufacturers have been around since the early 1900s (Indian - 1901, HD - 1903). These models have stood the test of time, and the brands continuously work to improve their motorcycles, reliability, and quality, with a pretty high baseline to begin with. Of course, how well you take care of your bike will make a huge difference, but overall, I’m not sure we can confidently say that one is better than the other. What’s your opinion?

picture of indian motorcycle up close detail are indian motorcycles reliable

How Polaris’ Acquisition of Indian Motorcycles in 2011 Improved Its Reliability

Polaris Industries' acquisition and management of Indian Motorcycle have notably enhanced the brand's reliability, merging modern technological advancements with Indian's storied heritage to produce motorcycles that are not only powerful and aesthetically pleasing but also more dependable than ever before.

One significant aspect of this reliability boost comes from Polaris integrating engineering innovations from Victory Motorcycles, another brand it owned until 2017. This strategic move brought sophisticated engineering, including advanced V-Twin engine concepts and transmission improvements, to the Indian lineup. By refining Victory's gearbox action and incorporating its engine successes, Indian Motorcycles now benefit from smoother transmission shifts and more robust engine performance, contributing to overall reliability. The adoption of gear-driven or shaft-driven primary drives over Victory's belt drives is a case in point, offering Indian motorcycles enhanced durability and reduced maintenance.

Further emphasizing reliability, Polaris has focused on the continuous improvement of Indian's gross profit margin, which indicates a commitment not only to financial health but also to product quality and customer satisfaction. The fact that Indian Motorcycle turned a profit for the first time in 2023 under Polaris's ownership is a testament to the brand's growing stability and reliability in the eyes of consumers and investors alike​.

Moreover, the Indian Motorcycle lineup under Polaris has seen the introduction of models equipped with cutting-edge features aimed at improving ride quality and reliability. For example, the Indian Challenger Elite, with its electronically adjustable rear suspension preload and Smart Lean Technology, exemplifies Indian's push towards incorporating advanced technologies that enhance rider safety and motorcycle performance. Such features not only elevate the riding experience but also ensure that Indian motorcycles are dependable on various terrains and in different riding conditions.

Polaris's investment in Indian Motorcycle has repositioned the brand as a leader in reliability within the motorcycle industry. By leveraging Polaris's engineering expertise and resources, Indian has successfully integrated modern performance-focused engineering with its classic legacy, creating motorcycles that are as reliable as they are iconic. The blend of Polaris's innovation with Indian's rich history has thus forged a path for Indian Motorcycles that promises greater reliability and customer satisfaction in the years to come.

Rent an Indian Motorcycle with Riders Share and Experience the Legacy and Reliability of America’s First Motorcycle Company

Riders Share offers a vast network of Indian Motorcycle rentals across major US cities. Popular models include the sporty Indian Scout, the classic Indian Chief, the luxurious Roadmaster, and the powerful Chieftain. Each model brings its unique blend of style, power, and technology, echoing Indian Motorcycle's rich heritage as America’s first motorcycle company. Whether you're drawn to the legacy, the performance, or the cutting-edge features of Indian Motorcycles, renting through Riders Share provides a flexible way to experience these iconic bikes firsthand.