There have been so many famous rivalries throughout history that there are just too many to count. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart vs Antonio Salieri. Nikola Tesla vs. Thomas Edison. Muhammad Ali vs. Joe Frazier. Boston Red Sox vs New York Yankees. iPhone vs Android. So it is not uncommon for rivalries to exist in the motorcycling world. This fact is not lost on anyone that rides a motorcycle, especially if they ride either a Harley-Davidson or an Indian. Two all-American motorcycle manufacturers that have existed for well over a century that have been delivering millions of miles and memories across multiple generations. Both of these companies have seen two world wars, 21 US presidents, nearly every economic catastrophe known to man, and 31 MTV Movie Awards. In that time both Harley-Davidson and Indian have made great strides in the motorcycling industry by developing all kinds of models, attracting millions of die-hard fans, and even having a few major appearances in popular culture.

So it is natural when you have two alpha motorcycle companies based in the same space, there is going to be some headbutting from the institutions, as well as from their fans. If you ask either enthusiast which is the better motorcycle, the amount of bias in their voices will be ripe. If an Indian shows up at a Harley-Davidson dealership, the number of dirty looks one would receive will be heavy, and vice versa. In the event where a Harley and an Indian are both passing each other on the same road, chances are neither will be exhibiting the "motorcycle wave." If anything, a different hand gesture may be on display. Objectively, both Indian and Harley-Davidson are solid institutions that specialize in sportsters, laid-back cruisers, high-performance cruisers, and touring motorcycles with a very loyal fan bases. So there must be a clear difference between the two companies, and why this staunch rivalry exists to this day. But, which company makes the better motorcycle?

Related: Why Indian Will Never Overtake Harley

Indian vs Harley-Davidson: Naked Bikes

2023 Indian FTR vs 2023 Harley-Davidson Sportster S
2023 Indian FTR vs 2023 Harley-Davidson Sportster S
Press photos of the 2023 Indian FTR vs 2023 Harley-Davidson Sportster S

Let's start by looking at each brand's answer to a naked bike option. For Indian, we have the FTR 1200. This motorcycle packs a lot of power into a small package. There is zero excessive fat on this bike while producing 120 horsepower and 87 lb-ft of torque, adjustable front suspension and a piggyback rear shock, and Brembo 4-piston mono block calipers with dual 320 mm rotors make the performance of this bike ideal for the track and the street. Not to mention the impressive amount of riding tech that comes with this bike, like the 4-inch touchscreen console with Bluetooth connectivity, turn-by-turn navigation, bike settings, and multiple ride modes (Sport, Standard, and Rain).

But then again, it wouldn't be stiff competition if Harley-Davidson had something to say about it with the Sportster S. On looks alone, the Sportster S is Harley-Davidson's rendition of a naked bike, but on its own terms. Its low-profile seat, forward controls, and giant tires places its rider in an aggressive riding stance that most naked bike riders will be familiar with. Of course, there is the option to move the controls to a mid-position. This reimagined sportster comes equipped with the liquid-cooled 1250cc Revolution Max engine, which makes this one of the brand's most throttle-hungry bikes with a top speed of 143 mph. Not to mention that it too has its own digital console with the latest in advanced riding technology like turn-by-turn navigation, preset ride modes and two additional customizable modes, Bluetooth, gauges, and instrumentation. Just like the FTR, this bike isn't kidding around in terms of performance and speed.

Indian vs Harley-Davidson: Sportsters

2023 Indian Scout vs 2021 Harley-Davidson Iron 1200
2023 Indian Scout vs 2021 Harley-Davidson Iron 1200
Press photos of the 2023 Indian Scout vs 2021 Harley-Davidson Iron 1200

The next category to examine is the sportster class. Harley-Davidson comes out swinging with its very popular Iron line. Though discontinued as of 2022, the Irons were particularly big with both novice and veteran riders, with the Iron 1200 leading the charge with its 1200cc (73 cubic inches) air-cooled engine that produces 60 horsepower and 73 lb-ft of torque. This modernized sportster boasted very responsive handling that made it easy to learn on but still had enough power to keep more experienced riders satisfied.

Its rival is the Indian Scout, whose engine falls a few cubic inches short with a total of 69 ci. However, this shouldn't suggest a lack of power, as it is able to produce 100 horsepower and 72 lb-ft of torque. While the Indian Scout pulls ahead of the Iron 1200 in terms of power with an additional 27 horses, Harley-Davidson wins in the price category with an MSRP of $10,249, and the Indian Scout's MSRP starts at $12,749. Whether those 27 horses is worth the additional $2,500 boils down to the customer.

Related: 2023 Indian Scout Bobber: Performance, Price, And Photos

Indian vs Harley-Davidson: Classic Cruisers

2023 Indian Chief Bobber vs 2023 Harley-Davidson Street Bob 114
2023 Indian Chief Bobber vs 2023 Harley-Davidson Street Bob 114
Press photos of the 2023 Indian Chief Bobber vs 2023 Harley-Davidson Street Bob 114

Certainly a very popular category, this is where the battle of the brands starts to get tense. Indian's Chief Bobber is the brand's all-purpose cruiser that is made for every laid-back weekend ride. With its mini-ape handlebars, chopped fenders, chrome-heavy aesthetics, and LED headlight, the Chief Bobber is a present-day take on the brand's old-school bobbers of yesteryear. Its ABS, keyless ignition, cruise control, and Pirelli Night-Dragon tires give this a nice contemporary touch for today's modern riders. Let's also not forget the Thunderstroke 111 engine that generates 74 horsepower and 108 lb-ft of torque. An appropriate-sized engine for a medium-sized bike.

While Harley-Davidson offers a wider selection of cruisers, each with its own styling and character, to make things fair we will be comparing the Indian Chief Bobber to Harley's Street Bob 114. This bike, much like the Chief Bobber, is objectively the most well-rounded cruiser in the lineup. After going through quite the evolution, the Street Bob 114 brings more lean muscle and punch with its simplified design that fans have grown so fond of. Packing Harley's signature Milwaukee-Eight 114 engine, the Street Bob generates 112 horsepower and 119 lb-ft of torque, making it able to hang with its high-performance brethren like the Fat Bob and Lowrider S. While the Street Bob 114 wins in the performance category, both bikes are nearly matched in price. The Indian Chief has a starting MSRP of $16,499, and the Harley-Davidson Street Bob 114 is just an additional $100 more with an MSRP of $16,599.

Indian vs Harley-Davidson: Touring

2023 Indian Chieftain vs 2023 Harley-Davidson Street Glide
Indian Motorcycles and Harley-Davidson
Press photos of the 2023 Indian Chieftain vs 2023 Harley-Davidson Street Glide

The final category up for debate is the other very popular class of motorcycles, touring bikes. Let's start with the Harley-Davidson Street Glide Special. Designed with comfort in mind, the Street Glide Special is one of Harley's top touring bikes for cross-country road trips, laid-back cruises, and extensive trips down the highway. Its batwing fairing is this bike's signature feature that provides additional wind protection while housing the touchscreen Boom!Box Infotainment system with turn-by-turn navigation, AM/FM radio, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, points of interest, voice-commands, and even the ability to take calls via a Bluetooth helmet/microphone system. This bike also comes with a Milwaukee-Eight 114 engine with the potential to be powered-up to the new Milwaukee-Eight 135 cubic-inch upgrade.

Related: Here's Why Harley-Davidson's Screamin' Eagle 135 Stage 4 Crate Engine Is A Big Deal

In contrast to the Street Glide Special, Indian's Chieftain adopts a similar design with its own version of a touring bike with a batwing fairing. While it too prides itself on being able to handle those big rides in comfort, style, and high-tech features, it differs from its counterpart on two fronts. The first being a very limited color palette with only three hues to choose from, while the Street Glide Special boasts ten different color combinations with corresponding chrome and blacked-out finishes. The other being its Thunderstroke 116 engine that is able to produce 79 horsepower and 126 lb-ft of torque, while the Street Glide Special's Milwaukee-Eight 114 is tuned to generate 100.5 horsepower and 119 lb-ft of torque. The two bikes have exactly the same starting MSRP of $27,999.

Both Harley-Davidson and Indian have been producing some of the finest motorcycles in the world. While some models might edge out the competition in terms of power, features, and price, at the end of the day it really boils down to the individual customer. Because at the end of the day, there really is no clear answer for which brand is better. It's what your motorcycle ultimately means to you that makes it "the best."