The 2021 Chieftain Elite Is Indian’s Limited-Edition 120th Birthday Present

Out on the racetrack, the King of the Baggers crown belongs to Indian. But Indian competes with its main rival Harley-Davidson on the street, too. And it’s been that way ever since the original company was founded 120 years ago. In celebration of this anniversary, Indian is releasing a new limited-edition bike: the 2021 Chieftain Elite.

The 2021 Chieftain Elite is the range-topping Indian bagger

As in years prior, the 2021 Chieftain Elite is the highest trim in the Indian Chieftain lineup. And again, as before, one of its main draw-points is its paint.

The Elite trim first appeared in 2017 on, you guessed it, a limited-edition Indian Chieftain, Cycle World reports. Indian only made 350 examples, each with a hand-painted ‘Candy Red Metallic’ paint job. The trim appeared again on the 2018 Chieftain, only instead of red, the 350 examples were hand-painted a metallic-silver shade, RideApart reports. This hand-painting tradition carried onto the not-limited 2020 Chieftain Elite, Ultimate Motorcycling reports, and returns for the 2021 bike.

The rear 3/4 view of the metallic-black-and-gray 2021 Indian Chieftain Elite by a riverfront bridge
2021 Indian Chieftain Elite rear 3/4 | Indian

The shade for the 2021 Indian Chieftain Elite is two-tone, “Thunder Black Vivid Crystal over Carbon Crystal,” RevZilla reports. And it reportedly takes over 24 hours to paint one bike, Cycle World reports. Plus, unlike in years past, the 2021 Elite’s engine also has a unique ‘Slate Smoke’ finish.

Speaking of the engine, the 2021 Indian Chieftain Elite has the same 1890cc air-cooled V-twin as the other Chieftains, RideApart reports. It’s rated at 126 lb-ft and, like the 2022 FTR, has rear-cylinder deactivation to improve fuel economy and heat throw. But if you want some extra output, Indian offers optional performance exhaust, intake, and cam accessories, Motorcyclist reports.

A close-up side view of the 2021 Indian Chieftain Elite's V-twin engine
2021 Indian Chieftain Elite engine | Indian

Being the range-topping trim in the 2021 Indian Chieftain lineup, the Elite comes well-equipped. The bagger has keyless ignition, cruise control, an adjustable rear air shock, ABS, LED lighting, a power-adjustable tinted windscreen, TPMS, three riding modes, aluminum floorboards, and remote-locking saddlebags, Rider reports. Plus, a 400-watt audio system with saddlebag-integrated speakers and Indian’s Ride Command infotainment system with Apple CarPlay, navigation, and a 7” screen.

How much will the 2021 Indian Chieftain Elite cost?

Naturally, all these features don’t come cheap. The 2021 Indian Chieftain Elite starts at $34,999 before destination. And that’s before the optional accessories like different handlebars, a locking trunk, larger fairings, and the previously-mentioned performance mods.

If you want one of these baggers, though, you’ll have to act quickly. Because the bike celebrates 120 years of Indian, it’s only making 120 2021 Chieftain Elites. And they’re hitting dealerships now, Rider reports.

Is the limited-edition bagger worth pursuing?

Admittedly, the 2021 Indian Chieftain Elite is noticeably cheaper than Harley-Davidson’s CVO models. Still, $35k isn’t exactly cheap. But is it worth that price?

A blue 2021 Indian Chieftain Limited with accessory saddlebag speakers by a tan building
2021 Indian Chieftain Limited with accessory saddlebag speakers | Indian

Your Motorcycle Might Need a Steering Damper

Mechanically, the Chieftain Elite is essentially identical to the $27,999 2021 Chieftain Limited. The latter bagger has the same engine and almost all of the same features. However, it only comes standard with a 100-watt audio system, doesn’t have saddlebag-integrated speakers, and lacks the hand-painted color scheme and engine finish. Though admittedly, giving the Limited trim a similar audio system only requires about $1500 in Indian parts.

Essentially, what you’re paying for on the Elite over the Limited are the rarity and paint. And, to be fair, paint can be expensive, especially hand-applied paint. So, if you like the look, go right ahead. But if you just want the Chieftain riding experience, don’t fret if you can’t score an Elite.

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