5 Custom Indian Motorcycles We'd Take Over A New Harley-Davidson Any Day

It's hard not to compare Harley Davidson and Indian Motorcycles. Harley has an incredibly powerful reputation when it comes to American-made bikes. The brand is what Levi Straus is to denim, what Coca-Cola is to soda, and what Louisville Slugger is to baseball bats. It's so synonymous with the sportster and cruiser-style form factors that it's common for those who don't know the difference to mistakenly refer to all cruiser bikes as 'Harleys.' They're so prolific that the brand is often thought of as a symbol of American culture. Something that Harley has leaned into heavily with its eagle and American flag-focused branding.

That said, Harley-Davidson is far from the only American motorcycle company. In fact, it isn't even the oldest. That honor belongs to Indian Motorcycle.

Indian has been making American motorbikes since 1901. The brand might not be quite as prolific as Harley-Davidson, but it's every bit as beloved in certain circles of riders. One of the many reasons that enthusiasts love these bikes is because it's pretty easy to tinker with them. Some creative mechanics have even gone so far as to use Indian motorcycles as a starting line from which they can make their own custom bikes. There are some pretty impressive ones too. A few of these custom designs are so amazing that they blow Harley's newest and most expensive cruisers out of the water. Here are five of the best.

Carey Hart's King Killer Build

Motocross fans are probably already familiar with Carey Hart. He has been a professional motorcyclist for 30 years, having competed in the Gravity Games, X-Games, and numerous other moto-sport competitions. He was big in the reality TV scene in the early 2000s, but he also founded the H&H/Rockstar moto team in 2007 and collaborated with Premiere MotorSports Group to launch the Hart and Huntington Off-Road team in 2009. He owns and operates several businesses, but also spends a lot of his time building custom bikes.

He is responsible for several award-winning motorcycles, but one of the more impressive designs is the King Killer Build. Hart showcased this uniquely designed 2018 Indian Springfield at The One Show in Portland, Oregon where it ended up winning the Blue, White, and Red Awards for 'Best American Build.' According to Cruiser, "Hart said the light bulb first went off when he was stripping down another Springfield for a different project only to realize that, under all the tins and bodywork was a bike with surprisingly aggressive geometry and a solid frame and foundation. It seemed ripe for a race-inspired makeover." The result was a red, black, and white cruiser that looked like it might spend its weekdays on the streets and its weekends on the race tracks.

In order to achieve his vision, Hart worked with custom mechanics to strip the Springfield of its full-fendered baggers and give it a more streamlined, race-inspired look. This lean and polished design makes Hart's King Killer a truly one-of-a-kind ride.

Powerplant Custom Sport Chief

Powerplant Motorcycles is based in Hollywood, California, and is widely regarded as one of the best custom shops in the L.A. area. So it probably shouldn't come as much of a surprise that a lot of celebrities like to get their bikes customized there.

In fact, Norman Reedus, who plays Daryl Dixon in "The Walking Dead," commissioned a custom Indian Sport Chief from the shop. Powerplant's mechanic, Yaniv Evan, worked closely with Reedus to make sure that the bike was custom fitted to be comfortable with his height and weight. Redus commented in a docu-series created by Indian Motorcycle that he was very impressed with Evan's work. "Everybody knows Yaniv," he said. He's, like, one of those artists that–he knows what you're going to like. He's very specific about what he wants to do for certain people [...] There's little tweaks on it that are very him. Like the way he, like, chops and slim-lines everything." Carey Hart, who served as the host in the docu-series, also complimented Evan's ability to implement his artistic vision without sacrificing the bike's performance.

Evan explained many of his alterations in the video. "The louvers are a big part of it," he said. "The dual-disc–I had to narrow the calipers on the ribs. I had to use narrower wheels–as narrow as I could go. [...] But the swing arm, the shocks, the fender. That's kind of what was leading me to this bike."

The final product blends Indian's original design, with a more streamlined, modern chopper look. A perfect fit for Reedus.

Barnstorm Custom Sport Chief

Norman Reedus isn't the only celebrity riding a custom Indian Sport Chief though. Another of the Indian Motorcycle docu-series videos focused on two-time UFC Bantamweight Champion TJ Dillashaw who commissioned Barnstorm Cycles to modify one of these midsize cruisers.

The mechanic, Jake Culter, made some heavy modifications to the bike's design. He seemed pleased with how it came out, stating, "The end result of the bike is pretty much how I mapped it out. The colors were where I wanted them to be. The design was where I was hoping it would be."

The paint job was certainly a major focus in the customization. The palette is a combination of copper and brown that gives the bike a gorgeous, classic feel. That doesn't mean that there weren't any physical modifications though. Culter narrowed the tank, allowing the knee-cuts to be deeper so that the rider feels more 'locked in.' He also raised the handlebars and extended the forks so the front end would be a little higher than the original design.

Hart was very complimentary of this bike as well. "What he did with the sheet metal, narrowing the tank, tying in the rear end with the subframe–the whole bike looks like it was planned from tire to tire," he said. Dillashaw commented that it was his dream bike, and stated he "couldn't ask for anything more."

Max's Mod by Moore Speed Racing

Custom jobs don't always have to be flashy though. Sometimes a minimalistic design can be every bit as attractive. That's what Max of Shed Regular did to further refine the already streamlined Indian Scout. He commissioned the assistance of Moore Speed Racing in Dorset, England to customize his Scout in order to get the exact look and feel he wanted.

They made quite a few modifications. They replaced the tires with the ones designed for the thinner 2018 Scout's wheels and put new spoked rims on them. Then they added a custom headlight to give it more of a cafe racer feel, added drag bars, and replaced the grips, levers, speedometer, radiator grill, and rear lighting. Finally, Max had them add a custom brown leather bucket seat and Freedom Flow exhaust pipes that accentuate the natural curvature of the bike nicely. They also repainted it to turn the matt black into a gloss black and added a wrap to the top of the tank to give it some more detail.

It doesn't seem like there was an abundance of custom machining that needed to be done for this particular job, but it's an impressive transformation nonetheless.

Road Runner from MotoShed

Another incredible Scout mod is the Road Runner from MotoShed: a fellow UK-based garage that does everything from basic maintenance to full rebuilds. Most mods involve a lot of flashy custom paint and extra flair, but one of the reasons people like the Indian Scout Sixty is for its stripped-back minimalism and raw, functional, aesthetic. MotoShed made drastic alterations to the bike's form while simultaneously leaning heavily into the bike's rugged, lightweight, and minimalist design in order to accentuate its strengths and improve its performance.

The Road Runner is the first of its kind to utilize under-seat exhausts. According to Indian Motorcycle's official media page, "the team had decided on some basic guiding principles for the build; a more aggressive riding position with improved suspension and greater ground clearance." Nearly everything you can see on the outside of the bike was replaced with custom machined parts, and a fair amount of the insides had to be moved around as well. The team had to remove the ABS pump in order to make room for a custom battery fixture so they could, in turn, make room for the exhaust system under the seat. They had to get pretty creative with the cooling solutions as well. The more aggressive seating position also meant they had to make custom plates to attach rear set Rizoma foot controls further back on the bike.

Hundreds of hours of work went into this bike, but the team still managed to make considerable changes while still retaining the overall feel of the original. The end result is an all-black beast of a bike that corners better, looks better, and is fully deserving of its namesake.