Indian vs. Harley: Which Motorcycle Is Right For You?

Jan 6, 2021

Category: Rides

The North American motorcycle market has long been dominated by Harley-Davidson, though in recent years Indian has managed to gain ground on the Bar and Shield brand, slowly accounting for a larger and larger percentage of the cruiser market. And while both companies boast incredibly long and rich histories, Harley and Indian are both experiencing something of a major shift in branding and identity, reshaping public perception through the introduction of a growing number of novel models, while simultaneously overhauling their respective cruiser and bagger lineups.

It was already admittedly somewhat difficult to fully grasp the intricacies of these two iconic American brands and how they differ from one and other, though the ongoing rebranding has complicated the matter several times over. With this in mind, we’ve taken the time to delve into the history, identity, and two-wheeled offerings from these two manufacturers, how they differ, and what characterize and define Harley-Davidson and Indian Motorcycle to help determine which brand is right for you.

Photo: Harley-Davidson WLA

Rolling Back The Clock

The History Of Harley-Davidson & Indian Motorcycle

Both the Harley and the Indian brands came into being at the beginning of the 20th century, with the former founded in 1903 and the latter originally being conceived as a bicycle manufacturer known as the Hendee Manufacturing Company in 1897 before later changing its name to the Indian Motocycle Company (spelled without the “r”) in 1923. Both companies got their start in the moto realm producing small displacement, air-cooled single-cylinder models—which at this point could be better described as traditional bicycles with engines strapped to them rather than entirely purpose-built motorcycles—though in 1906 Indian would introduce its first V-Twin model in the form of a 39ci (633cc) 42° twin-powered factory race bike, with Harley following suit three years later with its own 45° 49.5ci (811cc) V-Twin model in 1909.

Despite only having been in operation for a little over a decade when World War One broke out, Harley and Indian were both called on by the U.S. Military, as well as a myriad of allied forces, to produce motorcycles for the war effort. Both companies would play even bigger roles in the Second World War, which not only brought with it lucrative government contracts and ample opportunity for research and development that would later benefit civilian production models but also introduced a generation of Americans to either of both of these now-iconic manufacturers.

After WW2, droves of young American soldiers came home with money in their pockets and a newfound desire for thrills and excitement that could be captured through speed on two wheels. An absolutely enormous surplus of military motorcycles following the global conflict also meant Harley and Indian models were widely available and could be had for a cheap price.

Photo: Indian FTR1200 S

Many of these returning soldiers forked over some petty cash for one of these surplus bikes, before then chopping off radio mounts, blackout lighting covers, rifle scabbards, and other superfluous parts not needed for civilian riding duties, and often further modifying or customizing the bikes. This phenomenon would ultimately play a pivotal role in ushering in what became the chopper movement and subculture.

More than just about riding, these early chopper enthusiasts appreciated motorcycling for the profound sense of freedom and adventure it afforded, along with the camaraderie experienced amongst fellow bikers. In time, riding clubs would form, both of the recreational and 1%er (aka allegedly criminal) varieties. Many of these moto mavericks would live out exceedingly independent lives, spending their time on the open road, traveling around the country and living in the moment. Realizing the allure behind this lifestyle, Harley leaned into it and made it an integral part of its branding and image. Even if you have a wife, kids, and a full-time nine-to-five, you could still buy a piece of this freedom and independence to ride on weekends.

Racing has pretty much always been used as a go-to method of marketing for Indian and Harley, with each company demonstrating the capabilities of their respective latest machines through whatever race medium(s) or discipline(s) happened to be popular at the time, from board track racing to road race competitions to hill climbs to hare scramblers to flat track, with both outfits achieving more than their fair share of race wins, championships, and overall success along the way. Throughout the expansive history of Harley and Indian, both manufacturers have also experienced a slew of buyouts and acquisitions, purchasing stakes in other brands or being bought out themselves. Indian has even closed up shop entirely but was obviously relaunched at a later date.

Photo: Indian FTR750

With the chopper scene coming into being shortly after WW2, Harley has had three-quarters of a century to build its brand and identity, giving it a rich unbroken lineage of bikes and a fiercely loyal customer base. Indian, on the other hand, went out of business within a decade of the Second World War’s conclusion, ceasing all production operations in 1953 and then spending the next 58 years dormant, aside from the “Indian” name being licensed by other brands here and there. In 2011, Polaris Industries acquired the Indian Motorcycle Company and restarted production, taking lessons learned from the mistakes made with its now-defunct Victory Motorcycles brand.

For decades, Harley’s distinctive branding was extremely successful, enabling the MoCo to be America’s biggest motorcycle manufacturer year after year by a fairly astronomical margin. Developed over the course of almost 120 years, Harley’s branding is deeply cemented in the company’s image. While this method of marketing worked beautifully for numerous generations of riders, it’s largely failed to resonate with millennial motorcyclists. Since the 2008 recession, Harley has consistently seen sales take a dive, quarter after quarter and year after year, only broken up by a few upticks in the last dozen or so years.

For this reason, Harley is facing an immensely uphill battle, attempting to undo years of advertising that conveyed a certain image or lifestyle that’s since fallen out of favor—ultimately prompting the Milwaukee marque to make an astronomical effort to tap into new genres and product spaces. With Indian having reemerged within the last decade, it was able to come back to the market with a much more calculated plan for targeting younger riders, and it’s seemingly for that reason that Indian’s been nipping at Harley’s heels—and market share.

Indian’s more recent reentry, however, has also been something of a double-edged sword, being scoffed at and at times looked down upon by traditionalists in the H-D camp. The Polaris-owned outfit’s use of phrases like “America’s Oldest Motorcycle Company” and “Since 1901” haven’t helped in this regard.

Photo: Harley-Davidson Road Glide

Down The Road

The Future Of America’s Two Great Motorcycles Companies

While cruisers have traditionally comprised the lion’s share of sales in the American moto market—and seen satisfactory sales in markets outside the US–a handful of other segments such as the sport naked, adventure, and EV sectors have steadily been chipping away at cruiser’s long-held majority market share. Like it or not, the motorcycling landscape is experiencing some fundamental changes and it’s become increasingly clear to both outfits that trying to do more of the same simply isn’t going to work. Recognizing this reality, Indian and Harley have recently been making enormous efforts to tap into these increasingly popular segments without alienating their existing customer bases, albeit both moto marques have taken radically different approaches.

Striding to alter the public’s perception of both brands, Indian and Harley have increasingly been tapping into hipper, more popular aspects of the greater motorcycling community, aiming to attract a younger demographic and straying from being viewed as “your dad’s” motorcycle company. As the custom motorcycle world’s influence on the production realm has continued to grow, both brands have tried to get in on the action, with Indian sponsoring a variety of high-profile custom motorcycle shows, commissioning a myriad of builds from elite shops, and debuting its custom-inspired Scout Bobber, while Harley has expanded its already enormous catalog of parts and accessories to give customers an easy pathway to customization, and released “pre-customized” models like the Iron 1200 and Forty-Eight Special.

American Flat Track Racing is another aspect of motorcycling that both brands have poured a massive amount of resources into. After retiring its legendary XR750, the Black and Orange has unleashed its fairly new XG750R onto the dirt oval, with some seriously talented riders at the helm. Meanwhile, after an extended hiatus, Indian returned to AFT racing in 2017 with its mighty FTR750, which has been ridden to a championship title each year since its debut. Piggybacking off of the success of the three-quarter-liter FTR, Indian has also used its flat track racer to inspire its FTR1200 production model, taking things in a decidedly sportier and more performance-oriented direction than ever before in the Spirit Lake company’s expansive 120-year history.

Photo: Indian Roadmaster Elite

Harley-Davidson’s efforts to tap into the more high-performance motorcycle market is currently comprised of a two-pronged approach, first with the release of the MoCo’s long-awaited fully-electric LiveWire model, and then with the forthcoming release of the gas-fed Revolution Max engine-powered sport-naked, the Harley Bronx. And while Indian has released an off-road flavored Rally bolt-on kit for its FTR1200, its Milwaukee-based rival has opted to dive headfirst into the dirt sector with the debut of its soon-to-be-released Harley-Davidson Pan America adventure bike.

And though Harley wants to be viewed as a more progressive motorcycle manufacturer with a more diverse lineup of models, the company is nonetheless making a substantial effort to retain some of the more positive aspects associated with the long-held image, namely the brand’s premium nature, independent and free-spirited attitude, and focus on American roots and identity. This is not only evident through Harley’s novel models’ design language, but also through the continued use of the brand’s iconic big-bore V-Twin powertrains, which remain “the crown jewel” of each of H-D’s motorcycles.

Above all else, more than just selling a motorcycle or a means of transportation, the Harley Davidson Motor Company is selling an incredibly curated feeling and experience. Everything from the raw materials to the riding position, to the exhaust note, is calculated to a ridiculous degree in order for everything to come together to create a visceral, unique, and freeing riding sensation and experience. It can be difficult to convey through words, but anyone that’s tossed a leg over a Harley to go for a spin should be readily aware of what we’re talking about here. This philosophy was summed up nicely by Willie G Davidson, who stated that “form follows function, but both report to emotion.”

Photo: Harley-Davidson

Food For Thought

Secondary Considerations Before Buying

While similar, in that both in objectively premium, (mostly) classically-styled, American-made, V-Twin-powered cruisers, baggers, and tourers, Harley-Davidson and Indian ultimately offer different and distinct products. With Harley, you’re not just purchasing a high-end motorcycle or status symbol, you’re buying into a piece of classic Americana, a sense of freedom, and a rich history, dating back almost 12 decades. Indian sells equally premium cruisers, though its MSRPs stem more from modern technology and features than they do paying a premium for a particular cult brand.

Harley’s prolonged and continued existence has allowed it to get a leg up on Indian in numerous areas. Harley’s dealer and support network trump Indian’s. Likewise, there’s much greater availability for new and used parts, as well as new and used motorcycles themselves. What’s more, there’s also a much more abundant market for custom and aftermarket parts for Harley-Davidson motorcycles.

Photo: (right to left) Indian Scout Bobber Twenty, Scout Bobber, & Scout

In general, Indian motorcycles tend to be a bit more technologically advanced, both in terms of mechanics and bells and whistles. In terms of raw performance, Indian often has the advantage over Harley, but typically by what are negligible amounts, though H-D does produce models with spec sheets that best their Indian-made direct competitor. On top of regularly being superior to Harley’s bikes—at least on paper—Indian’s scoots also have a few additional strong points such as often exhibiting a lighter clutch pull, better, more efficient braking systems, and more advanced powertrains, employing liquid cooling and double overhead cam setups.

And while a great many of the parts that ultimately constitute completed Harley and Indian production models are manufactured overseas, both brands perform their construction, final assembly, and quality control inspections at factories in America—both of which offer tours to the public. Harley-Davidson makes its bikes (at least those destined for the US market) at a handful of facilities, each tasked with manufacturing different model rangers, components, or powertrains, including factories in Menomonee Falls and Tomahawk, Wisconsin, York, Pennsylvania, and Kansas City, Missouri. Since its relaunch, Indian has produced all of its bikes at its state-of-the-art facility in Spirit Lake, Iowa.

Photo: Harley-Davidson

Battle Of The V-Twins

Harley-Davidson Vs. Indian Motorcycle Lineup

Now that you’ve wrapped your head around the core identity of both brands, their histories, and their future plans, let’s take a look at some of the most popular offerings from Harley-Davidson and Indian to see how they stack up.

Photo: Indian Scout Bobber Sixty

Entry-Level

Cruiser Starter Bikes

Though technically cruiser bikes, these entry-level motorcycle models are aimed at riders looking to get into the quintessentially American motorcycle genre. While representing some of, if not the smallest engine size offered by each company, these bikes are only small by American V-Twin standards. Nonetheless, these models have long offered an ideal gateway to the world of Harley’s and Indian’s, with the former first introducing its Sportster in 1957 while the latter first unveiled its iconic Scout all the way back in 1920.

Harley-Davidson Iron 883

While the Iron 883 isn’t Harley’s cheapest entry-level model, it’s an incredibly popular bike, boasting an old-school minimalistic, no-frills design with a tight rider’s triangle and a bobber-style single-seat saddle. First introduced in 2010, the air-cooled Evolution-engined two-wheeler is also a stellar candidate for customization—a fact furthered by Harley’s absolutely enormous catalog of aftermarket parts and accessories.

Engine: Air-cooled 883cc V-Twin
Torque: 53.8ft-lbs
Weight: 564lbs

Purchase: $8,999

Indian Scout Bobber Sixty

Clearly priced to compete with the Iron 883, Indian’s Scout Bobber Sixty is a low-slung lightweight cruiser (relatively speaking) with a potent liter-sized, liquid-cooled American V-Twin engine. Like it’s $8,999 H-D counterpart, the Bobber Sixty-spec Scout is extremely conducive to customization, though, in addition to its added displacement, the entry-level Indian is also equipped with markedly more power, cranking out nearly 80hp and 65ft-lbs of torque.

Engine: Liquid-cooled 1,000cc V-Twin
Torque: 65ft-lbs
Weight: 549lbs

Purchase: $8,999

Photo: Harley-Davidson FXDR 114

Cruiser

Classic American Sleds

This is the segment that both companies are undoubtedly best known for and consist of heavy, big-bore V-Twins with a distinctive bark and power band, a comfortable, leaned back riding position, and aesthetics that are unmistakably styled after both marque’s models of yesteryear. Whether trying to join the Iron Butt Association or simply zipping around town, H-D and Indian’s models are a fantastic choice for anyone interested in a cruiser, not to mention a more authentic option than foreign-made cruiser sleds.

Harley-Davidson Low Rider

Since its debut in the 1970s, the Low Rider has consistently been a fan favorite amongst riders, with the 1.7L V-Twin widely touted as an extraordinary do-it-all cruiser model. While no longer a Dyna model, the bike—as its name suggests—offers a decidedly low-slung stance, and features an aesthetic design that draws heavily from the MoCo’s models of half-a-century-ago.

Engine: Air-cooled 1,753cc V-Twin
Torque: 110ft-lbs
Weight: 661lbs

Purchase: $14,899

Harley-Davidson FXDR 114

One of the latest additions to Harley’s lineup and a stark departure from its retro-flavored fare, the FXDR 114 is a bonafide hyper-cruiser engineered with an immense focus on performance, with an inverted front-end, mono-shocked swing-arm, dual-disc front brake setup. Heavily inspired by drag race bikes, the FXDR 114’s unique aesthetic design also enables it to achieve nearly 33-degrees of lean angle.

Engine: Air-cooled 1,868cc V-Twin
Torque: 119ft-lbs
Weight: 668lbs

Purchase: $18,999

Indian Vintage

The Indian Vintage is a thoroughly retro-inspired model that combines classic Indian Motorcycle aesthetics with modern technology, with this old-school chrome and leather-clad cruiser boasting contemporary amenities like keyless ignition, multiple ride modes, cruise control, and rear cylinder deactivation for when the bike is stopped or in slow-moving traffic. And, while the Vintage’s crown jewel is its American-made 1,811cc V-Twin, the model is packed with a slew of nods to Indian’s models of decade’s past, with swooping fenders front and aft, a horizontal triple beam headlight configuration, and the brand’s signature Indian Chief fender ornament.

Engine: Liquid-cooled 1,811cc V-Twin
Torque: 119ft-lbs
Weight: 836lbs

Purchase: $20,499

Photo: Harley-Davidson Road Glide

Baggers

Dressers On Wheels

Baggers are a style of touring-focused cruiser motorcycles that feature large and pronounced hard luggage, and equally robust front fairings—the latter of which often houses cutting-edge infotainment systems with premium speaker setups and GPS guidance that can rival that of late-model car interiors. The wind protection and storage space afforded by a bagger’s hard luggage and fairing not only makes for an ideal long-distance mount but also gives this style of motorcycle an incredibly distinctive and usually somewhat menacing and aggressive outward appearance.

Harley-Davidson Road Glide

Year after year, the Road Glide sits at the top of Harley’s sales as an incredibly capable long-range touring model. The bike’s boxy bodywork provides plenty of protection from the wind and elements, its hard luggage affords a cool 132-liters of storage space, and the passenger pillow gets its own amply-sized saddle and arm-rests. On paper, it might not be the highest-performing touring model, though the Road Glide nonetheless captures the vast majority of the qualities that draw riders to the Black and Orange in the first place.

Engine: Liquid-cooled 17,53cc V-Twin
Torque: 111ft-lbs
Weight: 855lbs

Purchase: $21,699

Indian Challenger

Taking aim squarely at the Harley-Davidson Road Glide, Indian’s new Challenger model sports aggressive-looking angular bodywork, a plush pillion, and ample storage space, though a sportier upside-down fork, Fox-supplied mono-shock, dual-disc front brake setup, allow it to offer a much more performance-oriented riding experience. What’s more, Indian’s answer to the Road Glide also manages to generate more power while tipping the scales at 24lbs less than the Harley.

Engine: Liquid-cooled 1,768cc V-Twin
Torque: 128ft-lbs
Weight: 831lbs

Purchase: $22,999

Indian Chieftain

Revamped for 2019, the Indian Chieftain is another staple in the Spirit Lake company’s product range, putting a slightly contemporary twist on classic bagger aesthetics with a streamlined fork-mounted front fairing and slammed saddlebags, and bestowing the long-range cruiser with a host of modern technology and bells and whistles such as USB charging ports, remote-locking luggage, keyless ignition, an electronically-adjusted windshield, and a premium 100-watt speaker-equipped audio system.

Engine: Liquid-cooled 1,811cc V-Twin
Torque: 119ft-lbs
Weight: 821lbs

Purchase: $21,999

Photo: Indian Roadmaster

Touring Models

Long-Range Rides

Like baggers, touring motorcycle models are large-displacement cruiser bikes primarily intended for long-range use and freeway travel. As such, these touring motorcycles feature extremely comfortable and relaxed riding positions, along with what is usually a decent amount of protection from the wind. Touring models aren’t the most agile or “flickable” of motorcycles, but their long wheelbase and hefty weight enables them to offer a very stable and planted riding experience.

Harley-Davidson Heritage Classic

Part of Harley-Davidson’s overhauling of its entire Softtail lineup in 2018, the current Heritage Classic aims to marry the Milwaukee brand’s aesthetic designs of half-a-century-ago with modern-day performance. This somewhat spartan and minimalistic model is entirely touring ready, though lacks some of the more tech-related bells and whistles found on other big-bore long-range rides. That said, you’d be hard-pressed to find a more genuine recreation of a vintage American motorcycle than the oh-so-aptly-named Heritage Classic.

Engine: Air/oil-cooled 1,753cc V-Twin
Torque: 109ft-lbs
Weight: 728lbs

Purchase: $18,999

Indian Roadmaster

On the flip side of the coin to Harley’s stripped-down no-frills Heritage Classic tourer is Indian’s fully-loaded Roadmaster. Taking obvious and ample visual inspiration from Indian’s WW2-era rides, this 900lb behemoth boasts Indian’s state-of-the-art touchscreen RIDE COMMAND display complete with a 200-watt audio system, Apple CarPlay integration, and turn-by-turn navigation. Your $30K also gets you ultra-plush heated seats (and grips), over 36-gallons of storage space in remote-locking luggage, and LED lighting throughout, just to name a few of the model’s many bells and whistles.

Engine: Liquid-cooled 1,890cc V-Twin
Torque: 126ft-lbs
Weight: 909lbs

Purchase: $29,999

Photo: Harley-Davidson CVO Limited

Top-Shelf

Spare-No-Expense Cycles

In addition to their regular motorcycles, both Harley-Davidson and Indian also produce ultra-premium top-of-the-line variants of some of their bikes, with bagger and touring models being treated to a slew of upgrades including top-shelf amenities, a myriad of high-performance components, and custom liveries. Indian brands these models under the “Elite” name, while Harley’s high-end division is known as “CVO,” short for “Custom Vehicle Operations.”

Harley-Davidson CVO Limited

Unquestionably the MoCo’s most exclusive offering, the CVO-spec Limited represents the ultimate in two-wheeled luxury, boasting just about every feature and amenity one could ask for. Squeezing out a tremendous 125ft-lbs of stump-pulling torque (from the 3,500rpm mark) from its Twin-Cooled Milwaukee-Eight 117 the CVO Limited was designed for its pilot to gobble up miles without having to sacrifice on style or comfort. On top of an expertly hand-applied “custom” paint job, the CVO Lim’s exorbitant MSRP also includes a Showa 49mm Dual Bending Valve fork and Harley’s top-shelf Boom! GTS infotainment system.

Engine: Liquid-cooled 1,917cc V-Twin
Torque: 125ft-lbs
Weight: 944lbs

Purchase: $44,039

Indian Roadmaster Elite

If one were to take Indian’s flagship touring model and treat it to an open-checkbook, spare-no-expense transformation, the result would look a whole helluva lot like the Roadmaster Elite. Boasting an astonishing level of attention to detail, the Elite-spec Roadmaster gets all the regular bits found on the base model, as well as precision-machined wheels, aluminum select floorboards, genuine leather accents throughout, heated pillion and seat, Pathfinder LED lighting, and an infotainment center and an ultra-premium 600-watt integrated Powerband Plus speakers, Even the bike’s hand-applied black over gunmetal flake livery is born out of a 30-hour process.

Engine: Liquid-cooled 1,890cc V-Twin
Torque: 126ft-lbs
Weight: 951lbs

Purchase: $38,999

Photo: Indian FTR1200 S

Outliers

High-Performance Departures From The Norm

When you hear the Harley or Indian names, cruisers or baggers are almost certainly what will come to mind, however as both companies attempt to attract a younger riding demo, they’ve branched out into novel spaces, venturing into new, much more sporty and performance-oriented territory than ever before.

Harley-Davidson LiveWire

The LiveWire is unequivocally the most unique Harley motorcycle ever produced, replacing the brand’s iconic rumbling V-Twin powertrain with a fully-electric PMAC unit. In addition to its novel powertrain, the Livewire is also a much sportier and performance-focused model compared to Harley’s standard fare, though H-D’s designers and engineers went to great lengths to ensure the LiveWire would still retain a number of features and elements rooted in traditional Harley DNA with the aluminum battery case’s cooling fins being a nod to classic air-cooled H-D’s, a tear-dropper peanut-inspired faux tank, and a chassis with a backbone running from the top triple to the rear axle, a la Harley’s 1936 Knuckleheads

Engine: 78kW Permanent magnet electric motor
Torque: 86ft-lbs
Weight: 549lbs

Purchase: $29,799

Indian FTR1200 S

After churning out one of the most celebrated concept bikes in the last decade, Indian began work on a flat track-inspired production model that would become the FTR1200. Aside from the V-Twin at the heart of the machine, practically every element on the FTR screams sportbike, though the top-shelf S-spec takes this one step further with even more premium suspension, and a 4.3” RIDE COMMAND LCD touchscreen. Indian also offers several bolt-on accessory packages for the FTR1200, along with a (UK-only) Carbon-spec.

Engine: Liquid-cooled 1,203cc V-Twin
Torque: 87ft-lbs
Weight: 518lbs

Purchase: $13,999

Photo: Harley-Davidson Brushless IRONe16 Balance Bike

Next-Gen

Scoots For The Kids

The motorcycle industry is well aware of the importance of brand loyalty, and as such has made efforts to hook riders while they’re still young in hopes of forming a lifelong customer. Harley and Indian have taken different approaches in this area, though the companies are both producing fully-electric models built for kids.

Harley-Davidson Brushless IRONe16 Balance Bike

Seeking to usher in the next generation of H-D riders, the Black and Orange have produced a range of children’s balance bikes that are equipped with one of several electric motors. Built around an aluminum TIG-welded frame, the IRONe16 is equipped with an adjustable seat height (of up to 17”), a steel BMX-style front fork, and a swappable Lithium-ion battery pack that affords up to 60 minutes of ride time. The IRONe16 also gets a trio of power modes, capped out at 5mph, 7.5mph, and 13mph, respectively.

Engine: High output brushless motor
Top speed: 13mph
Weight: 20lbs

Purchase: $849

Indian eFTR Jr.

Born out of a partnership with noted go-kart and scooter brand Razor, Indian’s eFTR Jr. is an ultra-lightweight kid’s bike modeled directly after the factory FTR750 race bike. The pint-sized eFTR Jr. features a steel chassis and swing-arm, a twist-and-go throttle on a set of adjustable tracker-style bars, an adjustable mono-shock, spoked wheels, an inverted fork, lever-controlled disc brakes, a faux-carbon FTR750 replica tank, toothed metal foot-pegs, and a fake S&S-style exhaust, all dressed up in a Wrecking Crew replica race livery with AMA number-boards.

Engine: Razor electric motor
Top speed: 15mph
Weight: 110lbs

Purchase: $750

Photo: Indian FTR750

Flat Track

Factory-Built Dirt Oval Racers

Harley-Davidson and Indian Motorcycle both have factory-backed teams competing in the American Flat Track series, with the Black and Orange boasting an incredibly successful history of going fast and left with one of the winningest race motorcycles ever, and Indian proving to be a ridiculously dominant force on the dirt oval since its return to the league. In addition to producing purpose-engineered works flat track racers, Harley and Indian also sell their respective factory dirt oval racers to privateers.

Harley-Davidson XG750R

After spending decades dominating the competition with its mighty XR750, Harley eventually replaced its long-running factory racer with the XG750R in 2016. Prepped by noted tuning shop, Vance & Hines, the so-called “G Bike” is a state-of-the-art race bike, with a steel tube cradle frame mated to Showa suspension fore and aft and powered by a liquid-cooled 60-degree V-twin with Carrillo rods and CP pistons. Available to privateers for purchase, the XG750R also sports a smattering of CNC-machined billet and carbon fiber bits.

Engine: Liquid-cooled 750cc V-Twin
Torque: N/A
Weight: Approximately 300lbs

Purchase: $36,000

Indian FTR750

After bowing out of the sport decades ago, Indian returned to American Flat Track racing in 2017 with its then brand-new FTR750 factory race bike, which has utterly dominated the series, winning dozens of races and taking home the championship title each year since its debut. Weighing only 106lbs, the FTR750’s liquid-cooled, 748cc, 53-degree V-Twin is good for 110hp and a top speed of 130mph. As of early 2018, America’s oldest motorcycle marque is giving privateer efforts the chance to get a leg up on the competition by selling its factory racer to the public, and while it comes at a steep price of nearly $50,000, the FTR750 is unquestionably the finest flat track machine that money can buy.

Engine: Liquid-cooled 750cc V-Twin
Torque: N/A
Weight: Approximately 300lbs

Purchase: $49,900

Photo: Harley-Davidson Freewheeler

Trikes

Three-Wheeled Freedom Machines

Harley and Indian both have fairly comparable model lineups, though one area that the Black and Orange trades in that Indian doesn’t is the trike sector. Often utilized by older riders, these machines offer riding thrills in an easier-to-control package that loses the single-track nature and the leaning element of traditional motorcycle riding.

Harley-Davidson Freewheeler

Offered in four color options, the Freewheeler is Harley’s “entry-level” (aka least expensive) trike, first launched in 2015. Providing ample stability via its third wheel, the Freewheeler is kicked along by Harley’s eight-valve Milwaukee-Eight 114 engine and generates a cool 122ft-lbs of torque. It’s hefty 1,118lb wet weight is brought to a stop via top-shelf Brembo Reflex brakes. There are outfits that convert existing motorcycles into trikes, though this model is factory-made and is protected by a warranty.

Engine: Air-cooled 1,868cc V-Twin
Torque: 122ft-lbs
Weight: 1,118lbs

Purchase: $27,999

The Complete Buyer’s Guide To Ducati Motorcycles

If cruiser bikes aren’t quite your thing, then you very well may be interested in checking out our expansive buyer’s guide to Ducati’s complete lineup for an in-depth look at the Italian marque’s history, as well as an examination and break down of every single model currently produced by the Bologna brand.

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