Images by: Garth Milan
Video by: Troy Siahaan, edited by Ray Gauger
Indian pulled no punches and left little doubt when it got here to the bike it had in its crosshairs when creating its newest mannequin. Often at press intros, everyone knows what different mannequin(s) may very well be thought-about competitors, however it’s very uncommon to have the host producer come out and say it. They normally resist the urge to speak about their opponents by identify – and particularly gained’t point out a particular competitor mannequin – when hyping up their new product.
Indian’s bulked up the Chief with higher suspension, higher brakes, and 1 / 4 fairing because it units its sights on the Harley Low Rider S.
Editor Rating: 89.5%
Not Indian. As an alternative of beating across the bush, Indian reps made it completely clear which producer and which mannequin they had been going after – the Harley-Davidson Low Rider S. Growth. Pictures fired. Clearly, the Harley vs. Indian rivalry is displaying no indicators of slowing down.
2020 Harley-Davidson Low Rider S Review – First Ride
The weapon of selection? Indian’s new Sport Chief. A spinoff of Indian’s widespread Chief platform, the Sport Chief will look immediately acquainted to followers of each the Chief and even the Low Rider S. Lengthy, slim, and athletic, the silhouette is distinctive, and the quarter fairing on the entrance is an apparent nod in direction of the Harley. However there’s extra to it than that.
What Makes A Sport Chief
The recipe for a Sport Chief is fairly easy: make it deal with and cease higher than the usual Chief. To see how Indian achieved this, we truly begin behind the motorbike and work our method ahead. Particularly, the suspension. Indian partnered with Fox to supply a set of dual remote-reservoir shocks with 4(!) inches of journey – that’s an inch greater than the usual Chief. It solely has spring preload adjustability, however it’s price taking a minute to understand the truth that a cruiser has prioritized suspension journey over low seat heights and really given the again tire an opportunity to maneuver up and down over bumps as a substitute of blowing by means of the shock journey instantly and jolting the backbone. If compression and rebound changes are necessary to you, the Indian catalog has a set of upgraded Fox shocks that offer you that skill.
Other than giving the rear finish extra compliance by means of extra suspension stroke, the longer shocks additionally elevate the rear of the motorbike, pitching extra weight over the entrance finish. This accomplishes just a few issues: first, it helps the bike flip faster, which is aided additional by totally different triple clamps, giving the bike a 28º rake angle and 4.4 inches of path. This in comparison with the 29º rake and 5.2 inches of path on the usual Chief. The brand new triples even have 14mm extra offset to assist clear the gasoline tank. Additional, elevating the rear offers the bike extra cornering clearance. Total, the Sport Chief’s 64.6-inch wheelbase makes it two inches longer than the usual Chief.
Transferring to the entrance of the bike, the Sport Chief advantages from a KYB inverted fork, however with none skill for adjustment. Bringing the social gathering to a cease are a pair of 320mm semi-floating discs paired with radial-mount Brembo four-piston calipers. It’s truly the identical braking system used on the Challenger, however with totally different brake pads for the Sport Chief software. Within the again are a 300mm rotor and a two-piston caliper.
Placing the rider in a primary place to floor down some pegs, the rider triangle contains mid-mount foot controls, a solo gunfighter seat, and most significantly, six-inch risers (the usual Chief has the bars mounted straight to the triple clamp) for the bars. Relying in your physique kind or private fashion, 10-inch or 4-inch risers are additionally accessible, as is a shorter seat and even an prolonged seat for a passenger (you’ll must get the passenger pegs, too). So, there is no such thing as a scarcity of choices to get the seating place to your liking. As for the quarter fairing itself, it comes commonplace with a 6-inch windscreen, however taller or shorter variations can be found, with or with no flare.
On the coronary heart of all of it is Indian’s signature Thunderstroke air-cooled 49º V-Twin engine and six-speed transmission. With the Sport Chief, you have got the choice of getting the 111ci model, or you may step it as much as 116ci. With a bore of 103.2mm, stroke of 113mm, and an 11.0:1 compression ratio, Indian says the undersquare engine pumps out 120 lb-ft of torque. A powerful quantity, but when we’re enjoying tit for tat, Harley says its Milwaukee-Eight 117 makes 125 lb-ft. Petty variations apart, the T-Stroke options rear cylinder deactivation when at a cease to assist scale back how a lot scorching air wafts your method when you’re ready for the purple mild to show inexperienced.
From a mechanical standpoint, these are the Sport Chief’s large speaking factors, however hidden inside the sporty persona of the bike are some spectacular tech like cruise management, three totally different trip modes (Touring, Normal, and Sport), and the 4-inch spherical TFT show with Indian’s Journey Command tech. Operable with the contact of a finger or by means of buttons on the left bar, the spherical dial retains the aesthetic that befits a motorcycle just like the Sport Chief, however it’s full of fashionable capabilities. The speedo and tach dials look analog, however you even have the power to swipe together with your finger to entry totally different menu screens, together with the navigation display screen that may present turn-by-turn instructions.
The 2023 Indian Sport Chief is available in 4 colours: Black Smoke ($18,999), Ruby Smoke ($19,499), Stealth Grey ($19,499), and Spirit Blue Smoke ($19,999).
The time period sport cruiser is a bit of oxymoronic if you happen to ask me, however to its credit score, the Sport Chief appears to be like the half. Then once more, so does the Low Rider S. So far as cruisers go, I’ve lengthy had a mushy spot for those that try to have some sport chops (however don’t inform anybody that).
A keyless ignition means the fob can keep in your pocket. All you must do is push the button on the bar to activate the ignition. Doing so awakens the TFT show with Indian’s flashy intro and disclaimer about motorbike using being harmful. Thumb the starter and the Thunderstroke 116 (in our case) gargles to life. You’ll be able to inform a hearty and wholesome V-Twin rumble desires to come back out, however it’s clearly muffled by the Uncle Sam-mandated inventory exhaust.
Choosing it up off the sidestand isn’t terribly difficult, indicating its 685-pound curb weight is unfold out evenly. Earlier than leaving, our trip chief recommended we begin our trip within the Normal trip mode, particularly as the primary part could be by means of city and quite a few cease lights. It was simple to do with solely three presses of the touchscreen, and after clunking the trans into first, we had been on our method. The Sport Chief pulled away cleanly, albeit with much less eagerness than I anticipated. Curious, after solely two cease lights I gave the Sport using mode a strive. It was clear to see why Normal was the recommended mode. In Sport acceleration is fast, which is good and what I needed, however as we had been using at regular speeds and at impartial throttle, the bike had a bent to surge, making it arduous to maintain it calm and regular. It seems placing it in Normal mode and sacrificing fast torque for a easy trip is the optimum tradeoff.
Cruisers usually, and cruisers with sporting chops specifically, usually get criticized (and rightly so, for my part) for sacrificing shock journey in trade for low seat heights. The Indian crew made an enormous deal in regards to the suspension on the Sport Chief, so the primary order of enterprise was to see how properly it might deal with some bumps. Fortunately Austin, Texas, the vacation spot for our trip, is filled with uneven roads and manhole covers.
Three manhole covers in and I can verify the 4 inches of shock journey make an enormous distinction. Whereas different cruisers could include rear shocks however are mainly nonetheless hardtails that ship jolts up the backbone over any bump, the Sport Chief truly takes most of that hit. As suspension is meant to do. To this point, so good for the Sport Chief.
Rolling alongside by means of the highways and again roads, I discovered the Sport Chief’s cockpit to be a reasonably snug place to be. The mid controls are located completely for this sort of bike, the seat is properly padded and bolstered, and the usual six-inch bar risers are a very good top. If it had been me, I’d go for the optionally available seat to maneuver nearer to the bars, however my 5-foot, 8-inch body is scrawny with quick arms. Clearly, your mileage could range.
It ought to come as no shock, however cruising is what this Thunderstroke engine does properly. It’ll lope alongside in sixth gear at freeway speeds, and with all that torque, there’s no have to downshift to make a go. However right here’s the catch: peak torque comes at 2,900 rpm, however a particular engine vibration begins at 3,000 rpm and continues for a minimum of one other thousand revs. Redline hits at 5,000 rpm, so mainly, you employ the torque if/whenever you want it however are at all times aware of clicking the following gear as quickly as you may to maintain issues easy. Others within the group who experimented with the 10-inch risers stated the vibrations had been exacerbated by the taller bars.
Greater than only a fashion piece, the Sport Chief’s quarter fairing does an admirable job deflecting the wind contemplating its dimension. I hardly felt any helmet buffeting or gusts coming towards my chest. Completely different physique varieties and private preferences will seemingly attraction to the taller or shorter choices from Indian, however for me, the inventory display screen rapidly turned an afterthought.
Because the trip transitioned from boring slab to extra thrilling again roads, it turned time to essentially discover the Sport within the Sport Chief’s identify. Clearly, no person’s going to be mistaking considered one of these for a sportbike, however it does really feel like a sporty cruiser. Even with a 19-inch entrance wheel and 28º rake, it turns comparatively simply. You’ll contact the peg feeler (and ultimately the remainder of the peg) down pretty rapidly, however it folds up and offers you just a few extra levels of lean angle earlier than extra inflexible arduous components begin touching down. Not that you ought to be exploring these limits, however if you happen to do end up there, you’ll see the Sport Chief is fairly succesful in that regard.
Clearly, that is nonetheless a cruiser in any case, and with such an extended wheelbase, the Sport Chief desires to be guided easily from nook to nook, not manhandled and whipped into submission. You need to use the 2 entrance brakes to regulate your pace, and the Brembos will provide you with loads of stopping energy and first rate really feel to do it, however use all three brakes and the Sport Chief actually slows down. For those who really feel so inclined, some mild path braking helps the lengthy bike into the corners. I discovered myself utilizing way more of the rear brake to pivot the bike within the course I needed. Both methodology works.
Being the kind of riders we’re, motojournos generally push the bounds of what a motorcycle can do – particularly with regards to cruisers. And contemplating the bike has Sport in its identify, we rapidly discovered ourselves navigating the twisty sections of our route at velocities the typical Sport Chief proprietor most likely gained’t discover themselves in (precise speeds are being withheld to guard the responsible). Nonetheless, anticipating what’s subsequent and utilizing the brakes successfully allowed the SC to get by means of the route rather a lot faster than something this large, lengthy, and low ought to actually have any proper to.
However that is additionally the place we discovered the bounds of the usual suspension. Ramp up the tempo and you may blow by means of the suspension journey at each ends, leading to a jolt up your backbone. The optionally available suspension upgrades within the Indian catalog will assist with this. The factor is, I discover it arduous to consider the typical proprietor is actually going to be pushing to those ranges. Ridden inside its boundaries and for its supposed use, the Sport Chief is mostly a good place to be.
Does the Sport Chief have some downsides? In fact. As talked about earlier than, the thrill beginning at 3,000 rpm could be very noticeable and never one thing you wish to trip with if you happen to can keep away from it. Shift early and trip the torque wave. I already talked about the Sport trip mode is simply too sensitive for on a regular basis using, so maintain it in Normal and twist the throttle a bit of extra. Touring mode wasn’t used as a result of, properly, there wasn’t a cause to modify.
Talking of touring, this brings us to my subsequent gripe. The mirrors are completely ineffective. The teardrop form lends itself to giving an honest view behind, however the ball and socket the mirrors are mounted on don’t permit sufficient articulation to place the mirrors in a usable vary. Loads of bikes have dangerous mirrors, however normally, I can transfer them to a spot the place I can a minimum of see a bit of of what’s behind me. With the Sport Chief, I ended up relying solely on the shoulder test anytime I needed to see what was taking place on my six.
Lastly, there’s the engine. Particularly the warmth. You already know in regards to the buzziness, however the Thunderstroke engine additionally will get actually scorching. Fortunately, the V-Twin will deactivate the rear cylinder at a cease (and you realize this as a result of there’s an emblem on the TFT show), however the entrance cylinder alone generates loads of warmth as it’s and might get you good and roasted if you happen to’re sitting at a purple mild for lengthy sufficient. Then it’s greatest to relaxation your proper foot on the peg to avoid the scorching scorching exhaust pipes.
Indian is blatantly gunning for Harley-Davidson each probability it may get, and the Sport Chief is the most recent tit for Harley’s tat. It’s fascinating how easy modifications like longer shocks, totally different geometry, higher suspension, and higher brakes can actually change a motorcycle, however within the Sport Chief’s case, it undoubtedly offers it extra athleticism over the usual Chief. It’s an gratifying cruiser to trip, with sufficient muscle and a bit of little bit of cornering chops to please somebody who’s, say, a reformed (retired?) sportbike man. It might be enjoyable to uncork one and actually let it breathe, however fortunately you are able to do that by yourself by means of the Indian catalog if the Sport Chief is your jam.
In fact, the large query is the way it stacks up towards its most evident rival – Harley’s Low Rider S. Having not ridden one but it’s not possible to reply that query. However don’t fear, this comparability is already on our to-do record.
|2023 Indian Sport Chief Specs|
|MSRP||$18,999 (Black Smoke), $19,499 (Ruby Smoke, Stealth Grey), $19,999 (Spirit Blue Smoke)|
|Engine Kind||1811 (111 cubic inches) / 1890 cc (116 ci) air-cooled 49-degree V-Twin, OHV, 4 valves per cylinder, with rear cylinder deactivation|
|Bore and Stroke||101mm / 103.2mm x 113mm|
|Compression Ratio||9.5:1 / 11:1|
|Torque||108 lb-ft @ 3200 rpm / 120 lb-ft @ 2900 rpm|
|Entrance Suspension||KYB 43mm inverted telescopic fork, nonadjustable, 5.1 in (130mm) journey|
|Rear Suspension||Twin FOX piggyback shocks with adjustable preload, 4.0 in (100mm) journey|
|Entrance Brake||Twin 320mm semi-floating rotors, 4-piston radial-mount Brembo calipers, ABS|
|Rear Brake||Single 300mm disc, 2-piston caliper, ABS|
|Entrance Tire||130/60B19 Pirelli Evening Dragon|
|Rear Tire||180/65 B16 Pirelli Evening Dragon|
|Rake/Path||28° / 4.4 in (111 mm)|
|Wheelbase||64.6 in (1640 mm)|
|Seat Top||27 in (686 mm)|
|Curb Weight (Claimed)||685 lbs|
|Gas Capability||4.0 gal. (not together with reserve)|
|Colours||Black Smoke, Ruby Smoke, Stealth Grey, Spirit Blue Smoke|
|Infotainment||4 in Touchscreen powered by RIDE COMMAND. Mannequin 12 months 2023 bikes embrace a complimentary 1-year trial of RIDE COMMAND+ (after which, charges apply) which incorporates options like reside climate/site visitors and intuitive vacation spot search,. Touchscreen show contains real-time clock; ambient air temperature; heading; audio data show; map/navigation; Bluetooth standing for cellphone and headset; automobile standing (voltage, engine hours, oil change); automobile data (pace, gasoline vary, RPM, gear place); present trip knowledge (distance, transferring time, cease time, altitude, altitude change); journey meters; trip mode choice; display screen brightness; and automobile hassle code readout.|
|Guarantee||2 Years, Limitless Miles|
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