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indian motorcycles and harley davidson AP Photo/Altaf Qadri ; AP Photo/Morry Gash

When your passion for two wheels crosses paths with the desire to support American manufacturers, your allegiance will eventually go towards one of two companies: Harley-Davidson or Indian Motorcycles.

Both of these motorcycle manufacturers have a rich history in the United States, and their rivalry has been going on since before World War I. The Indian brand took a break in the 1950s, but after Polaris Industries purchased Indian and started producing new models in 2013, the competition continued.

I won’t say one is greater than the other, but there are many differences between the two companies that may better suit a rider’s needs based on what they’re personally looking for out of a bike. Below, we’ll discuss a few comparative talking points, and you may find your decision to dive into the American motorcycle market to be a bit easier to navigate.

The Rich Histories

Both Indian and Harley first started around the 1900s. On one hand, you’ve got Harley-Davidson Motorcycles, which practically never stopped production of bikes throughout the next century. As a result, the motorcycle brand developed quite a serious following. Practically everyone has heard of Harley-Davidson.

On the flip side, you’ve got Indian. While they did a great job at capturing a 20th century and current market, they also took a 60-year break. Some may consider that to be a blemish on their reputation, but that’s not to say they don’t have a respectable following as well. If joining in on a strong and consistent heritage is important enough to you, Harley-Davidson may be better pick for that reasoning.

Abundance of Models

When considering entry-level bikes, H-D delivers with a few of them. You can never go wrong with an XG750 or the classic Harley-Davidson Sportster. It’s got an American V-twin engine, and it’s a manageable amount of power that’s enjoyable for both newer and experienced riders.

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Indian’s entry-level model is the Indian Scout Sixty. Not only does it share the same $8,999 MSRP, but it comes with a more powerful modern engine, longer length, lower seat height, and improved suspension. Who doesn’t love something that’s bigger and more powerful?

Moving into the best-selling bagger style, Harley-Davidson has the Street Glide. They sell ridiculous amounts of these bikes, and that’s because they’re easy to fall in love with. With usable saddlebags, big fairing styling with wind protection, and a good amount of horsepower from its Milwaukee-eight V-twin, it checks practically all the boxes. On top of that, you get loads of modern technology included.

The Indian Challenger is the main competitor to the Street Glide, and it’s unsurprisingly set at the same $21,999 MSRP. However, it offers even greater performance from its liquid-cooled overhead cam engine. It also grants better rideability and handling, and it’s just sportier overall for the same price.

Lastly, we’ll talk about the more unique models each company offers. Harley-Davidson has the Livewire, a fully electric motorcycle holding a $30,000 price tag. Indian did things different, and not in the EV market. They have the FTR series. Racers have used these flat track bikes and absolutely dominated over the years. It’s really the closest you’ll get to an American-made sport bike, loosely resembling the look of a Ducati Monster.

If the main importance to a biker is having top-of-the line performance, the Indian models may be a bit more intriguing to purchase. You’ll get some more lean angle and a slightly sportier bike.

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Aftermarket Support at Dealerships

You can’t have a customized hog without some personalized modification. No matter if you’re talking entry-level, touring bikes, bobbers, or sport touring models, it’s always more beneficial when aftermarket parts and support are easily available.

With the large number of Harley-Davidson dealers spread around the country, you’ll find infinite support with this manufacturer. There’s a certain environment that revolves around the H-D dealerships that is hard to match.

Indian has a great motorcycling community as well, but you won’t find near as many dealers, and the customization has a long way to go in order to catch up with Harley-Davidson.

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Harley-Davidson vs. Indian: Which Side Are You On?

When it comes down to it, only you can decide what’s important to you in a bike. If you’re looking to join a rich heritage with a massive community, then Harley-Davidson should look pretty good. If you’ve got the need for speed and prefer something peppier than the competition, Indian provides that very well.

Both companies manufacture some badass American bikes, and you can’t go wrong either way. Weigh the benefits before choosing which bike is right for you, but make sure to see them in person. Sometimes, the ideal bike just feels right.

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