The 2023 Indian Chief Bobber Dark Horse is a way to display plenty of attitude while getting around town. With your fists in the air, the big air-cooled Thunderstroke 116 V-twin motor, fat tires, and bobbed fenders, the Indian Chief Bobber Dark Horse is a no-holds-barred attention-grabbing device, both aurally and visually. Of course, from the rider’s perspective, it’s also an undeniably fun motorcycle.
Indian makes plenty of mile-gobbling motorcycles—the Chief Bobber Dark Horse is not one of them. The seating position is purely urban, with the mini-apes making the requisite statement. Moderately forward-mount footpegs keep things comfortable and give the rider a good sense of control over the mount, with the 26-inch seat height making the Chief Bobber fully manageable at low speeds and when at a stop.
True to bobber tradition, the 2023 Indian Chief Bobber Dark Horse is no shrinking violet when it comes to performance. When the light turns green, be prepared if you decide to twist the throttle to establish your authority—especially if you’re in the Sport mode.
In the Standard mode, the Thunderstroke 116 is not abrupt, yet it hauls. Standard mode will feel potent until you select the Sport mode. When you do, good things happen in a hurry. With 120 ft-lbs of torque at just 2900 rpm, nothing prevents the 49-degree V-twin from spinning up until you roll off the throttle or try to click up from 6th gear on the reliably shifting gearbox. If you decide to get frisky, keep an eye out for black-and-white vehicles, as you’ll undoubtedly be on the radar of the occupants.
Indian designers went solidly with a tough-guy retro persona for the Chief Bobber Dark Horse—chrome has been banished in favor of flat black paint, though the engine has some machined highlights for contrast. The 16-inch black rims are shod with chunky Pirelli Night Dragon tires, with unadorned spokes laced to black hubs. The round headlight and shrouded fork tubes add to the evocation of post-WWII America, and the twin shocks have their springs covered. The solo seat presents the rider as an unencumbered soul.
Engineers at Indian did their homework on the 2023 Indian Chief Bobber Dark Horse. The 46mm fork has over five inches of well-damped travel on hand, while the shocks are gas-charged and adjustable spring-preload to accommodate a broad range of rider weights; suspension damping is fixed, as you would expect. The high-profile tires help smooth out some of the city road irregularities.
The chassis and ergonomics are pure urban. You’re comfortable for day-long rides on streets, though the clutch could use the assist function. However, venture into the canyons, and you’ll be dragging your bootheels or peg feelers soon enough—it even happens on common left-hand turns at intersections.
Out on the open road, the mini-apes still look good, but the barebones 2023 Indian Chief Bobber turns you into a wind-catching sail. Again, Indian has motorcycles for open roads and strafing canyons—look into them if that’s your goal on two wheels. Stick to surface streets, and you’ll find little to complain about.
The braking on the Chief Bobber Dark Horse also encourages restraint in the twisties. While the 300mm front disc and meaty front tire offer enough braking power around town, if you dive into a corner at the speeds the Thunderstroke 116 can deliver, you’ll quickly find the limits of the design. Fortunately, the 300mm rear disc is there to help slow things down, with the 180mm tire helping put the braking force to the pavement.
While the 2023 Indian Chief Bobber Dark Horse presents as a retro motorcycle, scratch the surface, and you’ll discover an abundance of technology. The retro-looking lighting houses LEDs. The three rider modes are shown on the four-inch round TFT touchscreen dash, along with the gear position indicator, time, and ambient temperature. There are two primary display options—one resembling a chronograph, and the other nicely spare. Keep scrolling, and you’ll discover a handy GPS mode. Bluetooth connectivity is via the Indian app.
If you were wondering what the differences between the Chief Bobber and the Dark Horse iteration are, the standard Chief Bobber’s Thunderstroke 111 is replaced by the 116 version, and ABS is standard on the Dark Horse. Oh, and you have a choice of four Dark Horse colors, compared to two for the plain Dark Horse. Finally, the Dark Horse’s base price is $3k higher than the standard Chief Bobber.
Indian has done an impressive job of getting the most out of its various platforms, and the 2023 Indian Chief Bobber Dark Horse continues that tradition. The Chief Bobber Dark Horse is an outstanding big-inch representative of the genre. It produces no-nonsense performance, with the Thunderstroke 116 absolutely ripping in the Sport mode. Its appearance elicits knowing nods and approving gazes. You’ll hear “nice bike” pretty much anywhere you stop it, and people will think “fast bike” every time the green light appears.
Photography by Kelly Callan
2023 Indian Chief Bobber Dark Horse Specs
- Engine type: Thunderstroke 116 49-degree V-twin
- Bore x stroke: 4.063″ x 4.449″ (103.2 x 113mm)
- Displacement: 116ci (1890cc)
- Maximum torque: 120 ft-lbs @ 2900 rpm
- Compression ratio: 11.0:1
- Fueling: Closed-loop w/ 54mm throttle body
- Exhaust: Dual exhaust w/ crossover
- Lubrication: Semi-dry sump
- Transmission: 6-speed
- Clutch: Wet multiplate
- Final drive: Belt
- Frame: Steel tube w/ cast aluminum rear subframe
- Front suspension; travel: Non-adjustable 46mm fork; 5.2 inches
- Rear suspension; travel: Spring-preload adjustable gas-charged shocks; 3.0 inches
- Wheels: Black Wire
- Front wheel: 16 x 3
- Rear wheel: 16 x 5
- Tires: Pirelli Night Dragon
- Front: 130/90 x 16
- Rear: 180/65 x 16
- Front brake: 300mm semi-floating disc w/ 4-piston caliper
- Rear brake: 300mm floating disc w/ 2-piston caliper
- ABS: Standard
DIMENSIONS and CAPACITIES
- Wheelbase: 64 inches
- Rake: 29 degrees
- Trail: 5.2 inches
- Seat height: 26 inches
- Fuel capacity: 4 gallons
- Curb weight: N/A
- Black Smoke
- Titanium Smoke (+$500)
- Silver Quartz Smoke (+$500)
- Copper Smoke ($1000)
2023 Indian Chief Bobber Dark Horse Price: $19,499 MSRP ($20,499 as tested)
2023 Indian Chief Bobber Dark Horse Review Photo Gallery