Revving your engine and feeling the power of your motorcycle is a feeling unlike any other. As you're flying down the highway with the wind in your face, you don’t have a care in the world. While this ride can happen on any type of motorcycle, we all have our preferred brand. Whether you’re talking about Harley-Davidson, Honda, or Indian Motorcycle, these manufacturers all have their own set of pros and cons. While both are considered household names in the American motorcycle industry, Harley-Davidson is the brand that has spread overseas with international sales.
In this post, we’ll compare two of the leading motorcycle brands in the United States — Harley-Davidson and Indian Motorcycle. We’ll look at their history, reliability, performance, price difference, and much more.
History of Harley-Davidson
Wondering how this massive American motorcycle brand got started? Well, the story began in a small shed in Milwaukee back in 1903. William S. Harley and Walter and Arthur Davidson were busy designing a small engine for a regular bike frame, called a “motor-bicycle.” After the first model was completed in 1903, the bike needed some modifications to help climb up hills. Just a year later, the team finished the upgraded model, which featured a bigger engine and loop-frame design. And their motorcycle sales took off!
Production ramped up after Harley-Davidson engines were listed in the January 1905 Automobile and Cycle Trade Journal. Five bikes were made in the first year, and there were plans to increase production even further. In 1906, Harley and the Davidson brothers left their small shed to move into their first factory, which is actually located at the current headquarters of Harley-Davidson.
The team produced 50 bikes in their first year at the factory, and a whopping 150 motorcycles the year after. Today, the brand sells close to 200,000 bikes annually, making Harley-Davidson one of the world's largest motorcycle manufacturers.
Indian Motorcycle History
Indian Motorcycle is another leading bike manufacturer that people love and one of the direct competitors to Harley-Davidson. With their unique style and reliable products, Indian motorcycles are very popular today. And just like Harley, they also have a long history of top-notch motorcycle production.
Indian's story started in 1897 when George M. Hendee founded a bicycle production business called Hendee Manufacturing Company. After designing a model called the American Indian, the Indian name stuck and eventually became the face of the brand. This was when Indian Motorcycle was born. Just a few years later in 1901, the company took a giant step forward when it built its very first gasoline-engine bicycle, which was designed to be the pace vehicle at bicycle races. After completion of this project, Indian was known for building a robust and dependable engine. While the company grew in popularity, 1901 was also the year when its first factory was built.
Over the decades, Indian Motorcycle continued to innovate and build some of the best bikes in the industry and quickly became well-known as a racing brand. After the company built their first V-twin factory race bike in 1906, these motorcycles were winning race after race.
While Indian Motorcycle Manufacturing Company ceased operations in 1953, they have recently made a comeback. Polaris Industries acquired the company in 2011, allowing Indian to release new models and increase its lineup of top-notch motorcycles.
Reliability is one reason why many people choose a Harley or Indian motorcycle. When comparing the two brands, both are extremely reliable. In fact, you still see models on the road today that were manufactured decades ago. This is actually one reason why Harley is struggling with new motorcycle sales. If a motorcycle works great for years, people don't necessarily need to purchase a new one.
Indian Motorcycle is also known for selling very reliable bikes. Here are several features that make these motorcycles extremely reliable:
- Overhead cams
- Ride command navigation
- Integrated shaft transmissions
- Advanced diagnostic systems
Indian has some of the most dependable, trusted bikes in the industry.
Performance is another benefit that you’ll find with both motorcycle brands. That said, choosing one brand over the other typically depends on brand loyalty, preferred style, and even color options. No matter what brand you choose, you’ll be gifted with a powerful motorcycle.
One important factor to consider: Indian seems to offer greater performance for the price. While Indian has affordable motorcycles, these bikes still provide high performance and the latest technology. In the end, it’s a toss-up when trying to decide which brand is more powerful. You’ll just have to hop on a bike and try it for yourself!
Both Harley and Indian keep up with the latest technological advancements. However, Indian may get a slight edge over its counterpart. Indian Motorcycle builds technologically advanced mechanics, while providing all the bells and whistles. And while the brand makes some vintage bikes, they’re built with advanced, modern technology.
Some of Indian's technology features include:
- Keyless ignition
- Cruise control
- Multiple ride modes
- Rear cylinder deactivation
- Premium speakers
- Advanced infotainment systems
While Indian seems to have a leg up in this regard, Harley still knows a thing or two about technology. Some new Harley tech advancements include Cornering-Enhanced Linked Brakes and Cornering-Enhanced Traction Control.
Also, if you ever want to make DIY upgrades or changes to your bike, both Harley and Indian make it easy.
The price of Indian motorcycles ranges from around $10,000 to $40,000. These costs are higher than most brands out there, especially Honda. The most affordable bike from Indian will run about $9,000. While the company does offer a few lower-priced models, they simply don’t offer the same variety of bikes compared to Harley, which is one of the reasons why Harley dominates market share. If you’re worried about price, you may consider stopping by your local Harley dealership. With so many different styles and engine options, you can typically find lower prices. Currently, Harley’s most affordable bike is the Street 500, listed at just under $7,000.
Variety of Bikes for Riders
Indian and Harley-Davidson are known for building some of the best motorcycles on the planet. However, when it comes to variety, Harley takes the cake. The company offers a deeper range of models to choose from, all with different price points and features. Harley also sells a variety of engine options, helping shoppers find the bike of their dreams.
Here are the various types of bikes currently listed on the Harley-Davidson website:
- Grand American Touring
- Adventure Touring
- Electric Motorcycle
With all of these options, Harley makes it easy to find your perfect ride from entry-level bikes to tourers. However, you can still get a great bike from Indian. Check out the different varieties Indian Motorcycle currently offers:
As you can see, Harley offers a bit more variety. No matter what brand you prefer, you can always find the bike of your dreams.
Top 5 Harley-Davidson Bikes
Harley-Davidson has built some of the best motorcycles in existence. Here are five of the top Harley models:
1. 1915 11F
This is the bike that took Harley to new heights. This motorcycle was Harley's first bike to feature an automatic oiler, a three-speed transmission, and massive intake valves. This allowed the 11F to reach a whopping 11hp, which was remarkable at the time.
This flat-track racing bike took the world by storm. In fact, the XR model won 29 of 37 AMA Grand National Championships from 1972 to 2008. This motorcycle wasn’t only used for racing—Evel Knievel rode this bike during his record-breaking stunts.
3. 1936 EL Knucklehead
This ride is known as one of the best Harley-Davidson motorcycles of all time. One reason is that it was the last bike designed by William S. Harley and the Davidson brothers. This beast could reach an incredible 40hp, which was astonishing. And with its foot clutch, hand shift, and brake lever on the left handlebar, the 1936 EL Knucklehead rode just like the classics.
4. Sportster Forty-Eight
The Harley-Davidson Sportster Forty-Eight is a sleek, stylish motorcycle. It has beefy tires, low handlebars, and a peanut tank, making the bike look incredibly badass. And with a 1200cc Evo engine, its power nearly outweighs its looks.
5. 2008 FXDWG Dyna Wide Glide
This Harley motorcycle was a unique ride when first introduced in 1993. It was longer than most models, and it had some huge differences compared to its counterparts. The bike also featured Tommy Gun 2-1-2 exhausts and a chopped rear fender, giving the motorcycle a one-of-a-kind look.
Top 5 Indian Motorcycles
Indian Motorcycle also has a long history of providing exceptional bikes. Here are the best Indian motorcycles throughout the decades:
1. Scout Bobber
The bike’s 1,133 cc liquid-cooled V-Twin engine and sweet style make this ride one of Indian’s best. In addition, the seat height couldn't be better.
2. Scout Sixty
This motorcycle is the perfect middleweight cruiser. It features a low-slung design and amazing looks. If you want to gain more confidence on the road, the Scout Sixty is an excellent choice.
3. Indian Chief
This Indian brand bike was introduced in the 1920s, featuring a 61 cu in V-Twin with dual cams. The Indian Chief was also very sleek for its time, and the low-slung design was loved by many.
4. Indian Four
This model goes down in the history books. Its more notable features include the prominent skirted fenders and 16-inch wheels. These wheels even came fitted with balloon tires!
5. Indian Scout
A vintage Indian Scout looks like it came out of a movie. This legendary bike, built by Charles B. Franklin was first introduced in the early 20s.
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