Harley-Davidson Low Rider S Vs. Indian Chief Dark Horse: What's The Difference?

Few names carry the weight of Harley-Davidson or Indian Motorcycle in the biking world. Both brands have storied histories, each deep in American culture, and offer a whole legacy of performance and design. There are many little-known facts about Harley-Davidson motorcycles, but since its founding in 1903, the brand has become synonymous with the rebellious spirit of the open road. Indian Motorcycle, the older of the two, established in 1901, has a heritage and reputation for making high-performance and beautifully crafted motorcycles. These sentiments are represented in the Low Rider S and Chief Dark Horse.

When good motorcycles like these go head to head, enthusiasts and potential buyers inevitably need to know the differences between them. Both models represent the best of what their respective brands have to offer, but they cater to slightly different segments of the market, and riding preferences. In this article, we will take a look at what makes each unique.

Harley-Davidson Low Rider S

The Low Rider is a motorcycle that has gained a large following since its launch, and is undoubtedly a special bike for Harley-Davidson — in fact, the company's insurance arm even go as far as calling it one of the top six bikes that changed Harley-Davison's history. The Low Rider series dates back to 1977, and has since become one of the brand's best-selling models.

As a more recent addition to this series, the Low Rider S made its introduction in 2016 as part of Harley-Davidson's Dark Custom lineup. You can really spot this bike in a crowd given its blacked-out style and aggressive stance. However, it's more than just a good-looking motorcycle, it also provides a powerful riding experience, although some people can find the riding position a little awkward, with a low seat and mid-mounted pegs.

The 2024 version of the Low Rider S certainly lives up to its reputation. This model is priced at $19,999 and is designed for both urban and open road conditions, with tech such as cruise and traction control. OneByte even gave it a spot on the five Harley-Davidson motorcycles perfectly suited for city cruising list.

Indian Chief Dark Horse

Indian Motorcycle first introduced the Chief series all the way back in 1922, and it has been a flagship motorcycle for the company ever since. Fast-forwarding to 2009, and we have the first Indian Chief Dark Horse, which has received several updates over the years including a touchscreen display with live weather and traffic updates on the 2023 model.

The first thing you will notice about the model of today is just how pleasing this bike is on the eyes — OneByte's own Cody Campbell described it best as having a "certain rugged timelessness to the Dark Horse's design that harkens back to black-and-white photos of old cruisers, while somehow simultaneously managing to feel modern and industrial." Even visually you can tell that this is not a light bike, it weighs almost 700 pounds, but if you want even more heft, the bike also has a bobber version with thicker tires and shocks.

The Chief Dark Horse is available in 2024 at a starting price of $18,499– over $1,000 cheaper than the Low Rider S. Most bike enthusiasts will tell you that the Indian Chief Dark Horse is one of the best cruisers for motorcycle riders, but in what ways is it different from the almost equally acclaimed Low Rider S?

Engine and Performance

There's a lot to compare in terms of tech specs and performance figures between the two bikes over the years, but we'll try to keep it simple looking at the most recent production models. 

The 2024 Low Rider S is powered by the brand's largest engine, the Milwaukee-Eight 117. It comes with 105 horsepower at 5,020 rpm and 125 lb-ft of torque at 3,500 rpm. On the other hand, the 2024 Chief Dark Horse is powered by the Thunderstroke 116 which produces 120 lb-ft of torque at a lower 2,900 rpm. Both bikes feature six-speed transmissions, and ABS, with the Low Rider S also offering cruise and traction control while the Chief Dark Horse only appears to include cruise control.

All that being said, claiming that one is better than the other is a difficult task because the answer really depends on the kind of riding you would like to do. 

Design and Style

The available designs and features are a big part of any buying decision. So, in that spirit, here's what you can expect from these motorcycles. The Chief Dark Horse, as the name implies, has a blacked-out finish from fender to fender and maintains the classic mechanical cruiser look. The Low Rider S has a bolder, more muscular design that's typical for Harley-Davidson. 

The personalities of these bikes are enhanced by the unique colors available. The Low Rider S is offered in Billiard Gray, Vivid Black, Red Rock, and Sharkskin Blue while the Chief Dark Horse, with its bagger styling, comes in Black Smoke, Springfield Blue Smoke, Sunset Red Metallic, and Sandstone Smoke — and they all look exactly as cool as they sound.

The Low Rider S has an aggressive riding position, with mid-mounted foot controls and a moto handlebar mounted on risers. Although you wouldn't expect it, given the names of the bikes, but the Chief actually has a lower seat than the Low Rider S, at 26 inches compared to the Harley's 28 inches.

You will also notice that the Low Rider S has a more analog feel, with fewer electronics — just a digital dash. The Chief, however, is loaded with tech. It comes equipped with a four-inch display with Bluetooth connectivity, keyless ignition, GPS, and a 12V charging port.