From Harley Chick to Indian Motorcycle Chieftain Rider

Starting a love affair with motorcycling on a Harley, then trading to an Indian

By Marilyn DeMartini, Fort Lauderdale, Florida

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From Harley Chick to Indian Motorcycle Chieftain Rider
Indian Motorcycles’ Chieftain is big, but quick, nimble, responsive, and worthy of Marylin DeMartini’s ear-to-ear smile.

As a “Harley Biker Chick,” I rode the bike, wore the clothes, belonged to HOG (Harley-Davidson Owner’s Group) and bought into the brand. I loved black leather, the rumble of pipes, and the chortle of a carbureted engine. After a black 1969 Shovelhead named Norma Jean as my first bike, I wanted more of the same—a big bagger.

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“Pearl” and I put on a lot of miles. After 111,000 I started to worry about breakdowns and expensive repairs, then started to experience them. It was time for a new bike. Though it felt like giving up my kid for adoption, after 10 years and more than 100,000 miles, I had to be practical.

From Harley Chick to Indian Motorcycle Chieftain Rider heritage softail
I liked the feel of my Pearl white 2000 Harley-Davidson Heritage Softail. It was comfortable, tough, and made in the USA.

I had a brief dalliance with a Ducati Diavel. Feeling the power of technology that was so far beyond Harley-Davidson I fell in love with the bike, but it was really an infatuation. It would not sustain my kind of riding—no bags or saddle seat. The Diavel was built to entice and perform, not to travel.

My introduction to Indian Motorcycles came when a client loaned me a Chief Vintage for the Sturgis rally. I was overwhelmed by its beauty and nimble feel. Though it’s a big bike, it felt lighter and easy to ride. At every stop on our rides, surrounded by high-priced, big name choppers, everyone was drawn to the Indian—they wanted to know how it rode and admired its lines and profile.

The Indian lurked in the back of my mind while I racked up miles on my Heritage. When it broke down on a charity ride, I was loaned a brand new bright yellow Street Glide. The advances of 15 years of technology blew me away! The sound system, great breaking, and fluid feel was unlike anything I had ridden in my black and white Harley career. After 200 miles on the Street Glide, it was like having an affair with a younger man. I was refreshed and enthralled—I was hell on wheels!

Thinking seriously about my replacement bike, I recalled the thrill of the Street Glide, but was intrigued by the Road Glide’s faring and handling. I thought about the Indian Vintage but didn’t think the beige leather bags would last in Florida sun. I wanted hard bags—and tunes! I was tired of singing to myself, and don’t like wearing earbuds.

From Harley Chick to Indian Motorcycle Chieftain Rider touring
With locking saddlebags and speakers built into the Chieftain’s fairing, Marylin can tour happily and comfortably.

While attending Daytona Biketoberfest, I went to test ride more Indian Motorcycles at the Speedway. I chose the Chieftain, and as the only woman in the test-riding group, I took off, a little nervous at the bike’s size. The Chieftain is big, but quick and responsive. “Nimble” best describes all Indian Motorcycles—and I’ve ridden each. I became Pocahontas in search of my Indian Chieftain.

At the South Florida dealer, I found my Chieftain. But it was red. I wanted a black bike—reverting back to my original concept that a motorcycle should be black. I only went to white because Pearl was so beautiful and I had to have her in all her luminescent glory.

From Harley Chick to Indian Motorcycle Chieftain Rider attention
This woman in red gets more attention than a snowman in Florida!

But red? Indian Red is more of a deep burgundy, reminding me of Chianti wine. I couldn’t resist the deal on my trade-in and I left my allegiance to Harley in my exhaust as I pulled out of the dealership.

At a light, an old one-percenter pulled up beside me on a Road King and asked, “How do you like that thing?”

I replied, “I just traded one of those and love it!” He started telling old bike stories, but the light changed and I let him ride ahead—respecting my elder.

At the next light, a couple guys in a pickup truck pulled alongside and asked, “What do you know about that bike?” Rather than enlighten them about its Thunder Stroke 111 inch, air-cooled engine and split dual crossover exhaust, I kept it simple. “Enough to ride it like the wind!” I called over my shoulder, leaving the truck in the dust.

Having ridden my Chieftain for more than a year, the bike continues to be a conversation piece and I’m happy to share my elation with it. My bikes have always had female nicknames such as “Norma Jean” and “Pearl.” As I toyed with “Chianti,” for the Chieftain, it seemed almost irreverent. I’m thinking Cha’Tima, a Hopi Indian name that means “the caller.”

This Chieftain called my name, and we are now one. I am a romantic, but still a bagger chick—call me Meoquanee – Cheyenne and Chippewa for “wears red.” I can now officially be the Woman on Red.

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12 thoughts on From Harley Chick to Indian Motorcycle Chieftain Rider

  1. We had a ride yesterday. There were seven of us on Indians and three Harley-Davidsons. I think that tells you Indian is going to win this time.

  2. Love it! I, too, sold my Street Glide and worried I would have regrets when I got my Chieftain. Nope! Keep on riding sister!

  3. Love this story—mine is similar. I had a black 1976 Sportster then had a nine year lull, then bought a brand new 1990 FXR Superglide. Then in 2006 I bought a 2006 Road King Classic with 118 miles on it. I rode that for 11 years. Then I was searching and dreaming about my next Harley-Davidson motorcycle—a 2016 Road Glide. Well, that never happened because I stumbled into an Indian Motorcycle dealership and started wondering about them. About a year later I found a 2014 Indian Chieftain with 2,600 miles in my favorite color—Springfield Blue. I purchased that bike for the same amount I paid for my Harley-Davidson 11 years earlier! So I sold the Harley and my primary iron horse is my Chieftain.

  4. I love this! I love my Honda VTX 1300, but my hubby wants me to have a newer bike as we love to travel. My beloved ’04 VTX 1300 is for sale now and I have moved to a 2017 Indian Roadmaster. I LOVE IT!

  5. Harley, Indian, Ducati…..I’m just glad to see more women riding! It’s enough enough to get some women to get on the back, much less ride their own, and then “touring.” You’re an inspiration!

  6. It’s fun for me to read these stories now as a regular visitor of WRN, instead being the owner and editor that I was all those many years. Thank you to Janice, Tricia, and the team for carrying on the work while I take a much-needed sabbatical from the workplace.I met Marilyn many years ago when I was visiting South Florida. How fun to see her still at it, and trading up to a big beautiful motorcycle, the Indian. Marilyn: your story has a lot of good information for women thinking about what bike to choose next and what brand to go with. Indian is definitely pushing through getting the attention of a lot of Harley riders. I appreciate you sharing the process you went through that helped you make the decision to leave Harley and dive into Indian. It’s important as many of us deal with a lot of the same “emotions” on our motorcycles.You look beautiful! Blessings for many miles of smiles!

  7. …it was like having an affair with a younger man, “biker chick,” “nervous because she was the only woman at the test drive…”Too many excuses about being a woman here. Let the beautiful, gutsy, ballsy bike do the talking.

    1. I’m not really sure why you think these phrases are “excuses” for being a woman. The way I read it, she feels empowered and totally comfortable as a woman—calling oneself a biker-chick isn’t a put down. Having an affair with a younger man is exciting and different, and she wrote about being nervous about the bike’s size on the test ride, not about being nervous because she was the only woman.In fact, I love this story because this woman rider is so comfortable being who she is and riding what she wants to!

  8. Welcome to the Indian family! I have been in love with my 2014 Indian Chief Classic since the day I brought it home—50,000+ miles later, we’re a pack of two!

  9. Awesome to see another woman on the Chieftain bagger! I just bought the 2018 Chieftain Dark Horse about a month ago and I’m in love! I personally went from a bobber to this and it rides like a dark dream. I loved reading your story and how wonderfully you describe differences in bikes with an open appreciation. There really is nothing quite like an Indian though. Stay safe sister and keep leaving the rest in your dust.

  10. I love Marilyn’s Chieftain. I was a convert from riding Honda motorcycles for 14 years (two different bikes) to a 2018 Indian Chieftain Limited in Brilliant Blue. It is a fabulous bike and it is so responsive and nimble like Marilyn said. Yes, it is heavier than my former bikes but as far as riding it, there is no comparison…the Chieftain is tops! I turn 65 years old in a few weeks and have no regrets getting this great bike at this time in my life. My bike is named EVROSE (Evie Rose, named in memory of my Mom). My former bike was also the same name—my guardian angel. Don’t let the weight and cc’s scare you, the Chieftain is a masterpiece!

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