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The 2020 Indian Challenger is the company's highest-tech bagger ever

With a new water-cooled engine, a six-speed transmission and sportbike-like suspension and brakes, it promises to be serious fun to ride fast.

The American motorcycle industry is in trouble, and Indian seems to have noticed the writing on the wall. It's made significant strides in creating a product lineup that will not only appeal to younger buyers, but they're also bikes that people can afford like the FTR 1200.

Now, that isn't to say that Indian doesn't still want to satisfy its historical demographic, and that's why it still makes big, comfy chromed-out baggers and cruisers with ultratorquey air-cooled V-twin engines. What it hasn't done is create a middle ground between those big Boomer barges and the flat-track inspired FTR.

Oh, wait. It has actually, and it announced that bike this week. That bike is called the Challenger, and it represents a pretty wild departure from Indian's usual bagger formula.

The changes start with the Challenger's engine. It's still big at 108 cubic inches (or 1,770 cubic centimeters), but unlike the Thunder Stroke twins of Indian's other bikes, this thing is water-cooled. It's actually Indian's first large-displacement water-cooled engine ever, and it makes a gnarly-for-the-class 122 horsepower and 128 pound-feet of torque. 

The Challenger starts at  $21,999 but packs the tech to back up that lofty price tag.

Indian Motorcycles

That big lump of an engine is mated to a six-speed transmission with an assisted clutch. The sixth gear functions as a true overdrive to help improve cruise distance, and considering that that's what bikes in this class are meant to do, that's a good thing.

The Challenger differs from traditional baggers in a few other notable ways, specifically with its suspension and brakes. Since 122 hp is kind of a lot for such a heavy bike, being able to stop quickly and without drama is a good thing. To that end, Indian equipped the Challenger with big, radially-mounted Brembo brakes -- similar to the excellent stoppers on our long-term FTR 1200 S. Also making an appearance is the lean-sensitive traction control and ABS that we have on the FTR.

The suspension is unique because the Challenger's front fork tubes are inverted. This is a design most commonly seen on smaller, sportier bikes than baggers. There are several advantages to going with this kind of setup. Notably, it reduces unsprung weight and can offer improved front-end rigidity. The rear shock is packing a very-weird-for-the-class monoshock courtesy of Fox.

When you add the engine, suspension and brakes to the stiff and lightweight cast aluminum frame of the bike, you get a bagger that's actually got a damned good chance of being more than just comfy. It might end up being super fun to ride fast.

Aside from performance stuff, the Challenger offers all the creature comforts that someone shopping in this category would want. You get big fairings to reduce wind blast, lockable luggage that provides a combined 18 gallons of storage and tech like Bluetooth and USB connections for use with the RideCommand infotainment system.

Make no mistake about this bike though, it's not cheap, with a starting price of $21,999. Buyers can add to that with Indian's PowerBand Plus audio system, factory-sanctioned performance parts and all sorts of other farkles and doodads.

We're already chomping at the bit for a chance to throw a leg over this thing, so keep an eye on Roadshow for our first ride review in the coming months.

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