Harley vs. Indian: A Guide to Choosing Your Perfect Ride

Harley vs. Indian: A Guide to Choosing Your Perfect Ride

Written by Pierce Bryant
May 3, 2024

When considering a motorcycle purchase, two iconic American brands may come to mind: Harley-Davidson and Indian Motorcycle. Both manufacturers boast a rich history and a loyal following, each with their own unique appeal. Choosing the right motorcycle from these legendary brands can be a challenge, but understanding the differences between them will help you find the perfect ride.

Harley-Davidson has long dominated the North American motorcycle market, with Indian Motorcycle gaining ground in recent years. While both companies have undergone major shifts in branding and market focus, their roots trace back to the early 1900s. These two brands are often seen as rivals, but the truth is, they each offer distinct experiences catering to different preferences.

In this guide, we'll explore key factors such as performance, aesthetics, and rideability, to help you determine whether a Harley or an Indian motorcycle is the right choice for you. Buckle up and let's embark on this journey of discovery, enabling you to make an informed decision for your future ride.

History and Legacy

As you embark on your journey to choose between Harley-Davidson and Indian Motorcycle, it's essential to understand their history and the legacy each brand carries in the motorcycle community.

Harley-Davidson was founded in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in 1903 by William S. Harley and Arthur Davidson. Over the years, Harley-Davidson has become synonymous with the American spirit and freedom. They have continuously introduced innovative designs, while maintaining the classic American cruiser look. With their patented V-Twin engine, powerful sound, and distinctive styling, Harleys have carved a niche for themselves across generations of motorcyclists.

Some key milestones in Harley-Davidson's history include:

  • 1914: Entered first competitive motorcycle race.
  • 1941-1945: Produced military motorcycles during WWII.
  • 1957: Introduced Sportster, an iconic model that continues today.
  • 1984: Launched Softail motorcycle line.
  • 2001: Introduced V-Rod, featuring a newly designed liquid-cooled engine.

Indian Motorcycle started in Springfield, Massachusetts, in 1901 by George Hendee and Oscar Hedstrom. As America's first motorcycle company, Indian pioneered innovations in both engineering and design. Unfortunately, the company faced hardship and ceased production in 1953. However, in 2011, Polaris Industries acquired the brand and relaunched it, staying true to Indian's heritage while incorporating modern technology.

Some notable moments in Indian Motorcycle history are:

  • 1907: Introduced V-Twin engine, an industry first.
  • 1911: Swept top three podium positions at the Isle of Man TT.
  • 1923: Launched iconic Chief model, which remains as a flagship model today.
  • 1953: Original Indian Motorcycle Company went bankrupt.
  • 2014: Relaunched with new Indian Chief Classic, Vintage, and Chieftain models.

Both Harley-Davidson and Indian Motorcycle have had their share of ups and downs, but these iconic American brands have ingrained themselves in the hearts of motorcyclists worldwide. Understanding their rich history and enduring legacy will help you appreciate the importance of your decision and how these motorcycles became symbols of freedom, adventure, and the open road.

Design and Aesthetics

When choosing between Harley-Davidson and Indian Motorcycle, understanding their differing design aesthetics will help you decide which brand aligns with your personal style. Both Harley-Davidson and Indian Motorcycle are known for their signature styles, but they each have their unique characteristics.

Harley-Davidson is synonymous with classic cruiser styling. The brand values comfort, style, and its tried-and-true minimalist tradition. You can expect to find generous amounts of chrome and traditional American cruiser design elements infused in their products. With models like the Street Glide, Fat Boy, and Sportster, Harley-Davidson caters to riders who admire the heritage of the brand and enjoy the classic and timeless American aesthetic.

Indian Motorcycle, on the other hand, combines classic and modern design elements. While still rooted in vintage styling, the brand tends to lean towards more refined and contemporary elements in its designs. Take, for example, the Indian Chief Vintage and the FTR 1200. Indian's chief line exudes nostalgic old-school charm, while the FTR 1200 represents the next generation, targeting riders inclined towards modern design mixed with a hint of classic styling.

When it comes to customization options and personalization opportunities, both brands offer a variety of choices to make your motorcycle truly your own. Here are some key differences:

  • Harley-Davidson: The brand provides many accessory options tailored to each bike model, allowing you to personalize your motorcycle in various ways. Harley-Davidson's an extensive aftermarket community, so you'll have a wide range of aftermarket parts and accessories to choose from.
  • Indian Motorcycle: The brand offers customization options as well but is not as extensive as Harley-Davidson. Nevertheless, Indian Motorcycle accessories, like saddlebags, handlebars, and exhaust systems, ensure your motorcycle suits your taste and style while staying true to the brand's core values.

In summary, if you appreciate the classic cruiser look and style with abundant chrome and a time-tested American aesthetic, Harley-Davidson might be your perfect match. However, if you prefer a blend of traditional and modern design elements with diverse options, Indian Motorcycle may be the brand for you. Ultimately, your choice depends on what resonates with your personal preferences and riding style.

Performance and Power

When comparing Harley-Davidson and Indian Motorcycles, it's essential to evaluate the performance and power of each brand's key models. This will help you, the rider, find what suits your style and riding preference.

Harley-Davidson, known for its air-cooled V-twin engine, provides a unique riding experience with an emphasis on comfort, style, and the brand's iconic minimalist heritage. A popular entry-level Harley model is the Street 750 (XG750), which has a liquid-cooled, 750 cc engine offering a modern approach to Harley's engine technology. This smaller engine is a perfect option if you are looking for an affordable and accessible bike.

On the other hand, Indian Motorcycles focus on speed, rideability, and overall performance. The brand offers the Scout Bobber Sixty, a more powerful liquid-cooled, 1,000 cc V-twin engine producing almost 80 hp and 65 ft-lbs of torque. This bike offers a balance of style and performance, making it a strong contender in the entry-level segment.

Here is a comparison of key specs for these two models:

Specification Harley-Davidson Street 750 Indian Scout Bobber Sixty
Engine 750 cc, liquid-cooled 1,000 cc, liquid-cooled
Torque 46 ft-lbs 65 ft-lbs
Horsepower N/A ~80 hp
Price $7,599 $8,999

In terms of performance, both bikes cater to different preferences. The Street 750 provides the quintessential Harley riding experience, prioritizing style and ease of use. The Scout Bobber Sixty from Indian Motorcycle, however, gives more emphasis on power and versatility with a larger engine size and higher horsepower output.

It is also important to consider higher-end models, such as the Indian Challenger and the Harley-Davidson Road Glide, which showcase additional features, accessories, and performance metrics. Keep in mind your riding preferences and needs while making a decision. Ultimately, the choice between Harley-Davidson and Indian Motorcycles boils down to personal taste, priorities, and the kind of riding experience you seek.

Community and Culture

When deciding between a Harley-Davidson and an Indian Motorcycle, it's essential to consider the community and culture that come with owning one of these iconic American brands.

Harley-Davidson Community The Harley-Davidson community is known for its strong sense of brotherhood and camaraderie among riders. Owning a Harley often means joining a large, tight-knit group of fellow enthusiasts who share your passion for the open road. This sense of belonging extends to numerous events and rallies held throughout the year, such as the famous Sturgis Motorcycle Rally and Daytona Bike Week. Harley riders also have a range of local and international clubs available to join, fostering a strong support network, and opportunities for group rides and socializing.

Indian Motorcycle Community The Indian Motorcycle community, while not as widespread as Harley-Davidson, is rapidly growing and providing a solid foundation for riders to connect and share their experiences. Indian Motorcycle owners take pride in the long history and unique design elements that set their bikes apart. With an emphasis on refined riding experiences, you can expect to engage with fellow Indian riders at events like the Indian Motorcycle Riders Group (IMRG) national rallies, and numerous local meetups and rides.

In addition to community events and rallies, both Harley-Davidson and Indian Motorcycle have cultivated their own distinct lifestyles, further enhancing brand loyalty among their riders:

  • Harley-Davidson: Known for embracing a "freedom & rebellion" culture, Harley-Davidson is often associated with the classic image of the all-American biker. The brand represents a strong sense of individualism and independence, marked by elements of rock 'n' roll and outlaw motifs in their clothing and accessories line.

  • Indian Motorcycle: Offering a blend of classic and modern design, Indian Motorcycle appeals to those riders who appreciate a more refined and polished experience. Catering to a demographic that values history, craftsmanship, and sophistication, Indian Motorcycle's lifestyle moves away from rebellious tropes, focusing more on heritage and elegance.

Whichever brand you choose, it's essential to recognize that owning a Harley-Davidson or an Indian Motorcycle goes beyond merely riding a bike. You will become an active member of a community that shares your passion for the road and the engaging lifestyle surrounding that.

Pricing and Value

When considering a new motorcycle purchase, it's important to compare the initial investment, ongoing costs, and value of owning a Harley-Davidson versus an Indian Motorcycle. In this section, we'll break down these factors to help you make an informed decision.

Initial Investment: Both Harley-Davidson and Indian offer entry-level models that provide a lower cost of entry into the world of American V-Twin motorcycles. Harley-Davidson's Street 750 (XG750) starts at $7,599, while Indian's entry-level Scout Sixty costs around $8,999. When comparing these two bikes, you'll find that the Scout Sixty boasts a more powerful engine with 80hp and 65ft-lbs of torque.

Ownership Costs: Beyond the initial investment, it's essential to consider the ongoing costs of owning and maintaining your motorcycle. Generally, both brands have comparable costs in terms of maintenance and parts. However, depending on your location and preferred dealership, you may find slight differences in service fees. It’s recommended to research and compare prices in your area for routine maintenance and repairs to get a better understanding of ownership costs for both brands.

Value Proposition: Each brand offers unique value propositions for their riders. Indian Motorcycles tend to focus on speed, rideability, and performance, while Harley-Davidson emphasizes comfort, style, and their iconic American heritage. When choosing your perfect ride, consider your personal preferences and the type of riding experience you're seeking.

Here's a brief comparison of the two brands to help you make your choice:

Factor Harley-Davidson Indian Motorcycle
Initial Investment Street 750: $7,599 Scout Sixty: $8,999
Ownership Costs Comparable to Indian, may vary slightly depending on location/dealer Comparable to Harley, may vary slightly depending on location/dealer
Value Proposition Emphasis on comfort, style, and American heritage Focus on speed, rideability, and performance

In conclusion, when choosing between a Harley-Davidson and an Indian Motorcycle, carefully consider the pricing and value factors that are most important to you. By doing so, you'll be better equipped to select the perfect motorcycle for your needs and preferences.

Riding Experience and Fit

When it comes to choosing between a Harley-Davidson and Indian Motorcycle, the riding experience and fit are essential factors to consider. Each brand offers distinctive ergonomics and rider comfort, so it's crucial for you to test ride both to find the perfect fit for your riding style.

Harley-Davidson is known for its relaxed riding position, with feet forward and low seat height, which is ideal for cruising. The Street 750 model is an excellent entry-level bike that offers a modern liquid-cooled engine and an accessible price point starting at $7,599.

Indian Motorcycle also provides a comfortable ride experience, with the Bobber Sixty-spec Scout being its entry-level model at $8,999. It comes with a liquid-cooled 1,000cc V-Twin engine that produces nearly 80hp and 65ft-lbs of torque. Like its Harley counterpart, this model is highly customizable and provides ample power.

Some factors to consider while choosing the right fit include:

  • Ergonomics: Pay attention to the seating position, handlebar reach, and footpeg placement. The right ergonomics can significantly impact your riding comfort and fatigue levels.
  • Seat Height: Ensure that you can comfortably place both feet flat on the ground while seated. This is particularly important for lower-speed maneuvers and at stoplights.
  • Suspension: Check the suspension settings and adjust them based on your weight and riding preferences, as this can greatly affect your comfort on longer rides.

In conclusion, riding experience and fit are deeply personal, and it's essential to test ride both Harley-Davidson and Indian Motorcycle models before making a decision. By considering factors such as ergonomics, seat height, and suspension settings, you can ensure your chosen motorcycle is the perfect match for your riding style.

Personal Testimonials

In this section, we share a few interviews with Harley-Davidson and Indian Motorcycle owners, providing insights into their experiences, preferences, and reasons for choosing their ride.

  • Jim, Harley-Davidson owner:
    Jim, a passionate Harley-Davidson rider, shared his thoughts on his Street 750. He said it is his favorite entry-level bike due to its modern engine, liquid-cooled design, and affordability (starting at $7,599). The bike's size and power are perfect for his needs, and he appreciates the iconic brand heritage of Harley-Davidson.

  • Karen, Indian Motorcycle owner:
    Karen, an avid Indian Motorcycle enthusiast, fell in love with her Scout model. With its impressive power-to-weight ratio and agile handling, she's found it perfect for her daily commute. The sleek design and attractive price point (starting at $11,499) sealed the deal for her, making the Scout her ideal choice.

Rider Brand Preference Model Reasons for Choosing
Jim Harley-Davidson Street 750 Modern engine, liquid-cooled design, affordability, brand heritage
Karen Indian Motorcycle Scout Power-to-weight ratio, agility, design, price point

Both riders agreed that their bikes are reliable and comfortable for long trips. Each brand's unique features and designs appealed to the riders' preferences, playing a part in their decisions. While they expressed great satisfaction with their tailor-made choices, they also acknowledged that other riders might have different priorities when selecting a motorcycle.

It is essential to consider various factors when choosing between Harley-Davidson and Indian Motorcycles, such as your unique preferences, budget, and riding style. The personal testimonials from Jim and Karen demonstrate the distinct characteristics and points of attraction that both brands offer, allowing you to better understand what appeals most to riders and what factors can influence your decision.


When deciding between a Harley-Davidson and an Indian Motorcycle, it's essential to keep in mind the key factors that set them apart. Indian Motorcycles are known for their focus on speed, rideability, and performance, while Harley-Davidson prioritizes comfort, style, and heritage. Let's take a brief look at them:

  • Speed & Performance: Indian bikes generally have higher top speeds and better overall performance than their Harley counterparts, setting them apart for riders seeking a thrilling experience.
  • Comfort & Style: Harley-Davidson bikes excel in providing an ideal riding experience with comfort, and their minimalistic, American aesthetic is often appreciated by riders who value tradition and classic looks.

Here's a comparison table to help visualize the distinctions:

Factors Harley-Davidson Indian Motorcycle
Speed & Performance Lower Top Speeds Higher Top Speeds
Comfort & Style High Comfort, Aesthetic Focused more on Speed

At the end of the day, the best motorcycle for you depends on your preferences and priorities. Harley-Davidson and Indian Motorcycle both offer an array of models catering to different tastes and needs. Your perfect ride is out there, waiting for you to discover it.

Take the time to explore the various models and features each brand has to offer. We encourage you to visit dealerships, request test rides, and engage with fellow riders to gather insights. By immersing yourself in the world of these two iconic American motorcycle brands, you'll be better equipped to make an informed choice and find the motorcycle that's right for you.