2023 Indian Sport Chief Assessment – First Journey – Watch Out Low Rider S

Indian pulled no punches and left little question when it got here to the bike it had in its crosshairs when growing its newest mannequin. Often at press intros, everyone knows what different mannequin(s) could possibly be thought-about competitors, but it surely’s very uncommon to have the host producer come out and say it. They often resist the urge to speak about their opponents by identify – and particularly received’t point out a selected competitor mannequin – when hyping up their new product.  

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. Photographs fired. Clearly, the Harley vs. Indian rivalry is displaying no indicators of slowing down.

2020 Harley-Davidson Low Rider S Assessment – First Journey

The weapon of selection? Indian’s new Sport Chief. A spinoff of Indian’s in style 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.

The 2023 Indian Sport Chief in Ruby Smoke.

2022 Harley-Davidson Low Rider S and Low Rider ST

For reference, right here’s the Harley-Davidson Low Rider S (left) and ST. Pull the tank badges off and it’d be arduous to inform the distinction between them.

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 completed this, we really begin behind the motorbike and work our means ahead. Particularly, the suspension. Indian partnered with Fox to provide 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, but it surely’s price taking a minute to understand the truth that a cruiser has prioritized suspension journey over low seat heights and truly given the again tire an opportunity to maneuver up and down over bumps as a substitute of blowing by the shock journey instantly and jolting the backbone. If compression and rebound changes are vital to you, the Indian catalog has a set of upgraded Fox shocks that provide you with that means.

Suspension journey, particularly within the again, is often severely missing on cruisers. The Sport Chief’s twin FOX shocks have 4 inches of journey, which actually enhance the trip.

Other than giving the rear finish extra compliance by extra suspension stroke, the longer shocks additionally elevate the rear of the motorbike, pitching extra weight over the entrance finish. This accomplishes a number of issues: first, it helps the bike flip faster, which is aided additional by completely 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 gas tank. Additional, elevating the rear provides the bike extra cornering clearance. General, the Sport Chief’s 64.6-inch wheelbase makes it two inches longer than the usual Chief.

In comparison with the usual Chief, and its conventional fork and single disc setup, the Sport Chief will get a KYB inverted fork (non-adjustable) and two 320mm discs paired with radial-mount, 4-pot Brembo calipers.

Transferring to the entrance of the bike, the Sport Chief advantages from a KYB inverted fork, however with none means for adjustment. Bringing the occasion to a cease are a pair of 320mm semi-floating discs paired with radial-mount Brembo four-piston calipers. It’s really the identical braking system used on the Challenger, however with completely 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 sort or private fashion, 10-inch or 4-inch risers are additionally obtainable, as is a shorter seat and even an prolonged seat for a passenger (you’ll need to get the passenger pegs, too). So, there isn’t 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 and not using a flare. 

Adjustability is the identify of the ergonomic recreation for the Sport Chief, and the usual 6-inch risers could be swapped for taller (10-inch) or shorter (4-inch) variations from the Indian equipment catalog. These are additionally suitable throughout the Chief vary.

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 may have the choice of getting the 111ci model, or you’ll be able to 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 taking part in 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 means when you’re ready for the pink mild to show inexperienced.

The Thunderstroke engine wants no introduction. The 116ci model we examined is wholesome however feels choked with EPA restrictions.

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 completely different trip modes (Touring, Commonplace, and Sport), and the 4-inch spherical TFT show with Indian’s Journey Command tech. Operable with the contact of a finger or by buttons on the left bar, the spherical dial retains the aesthetic that befits a motorbike 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 along with your finger to entry completely different menu screens, together with the navigation display that may present turn-by-turn instructions.

The 4-inch spherical TFT show is surprisingly informative, straightforward to make use of, and nonetheless readable even in direct daylight.

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).

Using Impressions

The time period sport cruiser is slightly oxymoronic if you happen to ask me, however to its credit score, the Sport Chief seems the half. Then once more, so does the Low Rider S. So far as cruisers go, I’ve lengthy had a gentle spot for those that try and have some sport chops (however don’t inform anybody that). 

Appears are subjective after all, however so far as cruisers go, the Sport Chief seems fairly good.

A keyless ignition means the fob can keep in your pocket. All you need to 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 driving 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 return out, but it surely’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 steered we begin our trip within the Commonplace trip mode, particularly as the primary part can be by city and quite a few cease lights. It was straightforward to do with solely three presses of the touchscreen, and after clunking the trans into first, we had been on our means. The Sport Chief pulled away cleanly, albeit with much less eagerness than I anticipated. Curious, after solely two cease lights I gave the Sport driving mode a attempt. It was clear to see why Commonplace was the steered mode. In Sport acceleration is fast, which is sweet and what I wished, however as we had been driving 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 Commonplace mode and sacrificing fast torque for a clean trip is the optimum tradeoff.  

Cruisers generally, and cruisers with sporting chops particularly, typically get criticized (and rightly so, for my part) for sacrificing shock journey in trade for low seat heights. The Indian workforce made an enormous deal concerning the suspension on the Sport Chief, so the primary order of enterprise was to see how nicely 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 affirm the 4 inches of shock journey make an enormous distinction. Whereas different cruisers might include rear shocks however are principally nonetheless hardtails that ship jolts up the backbone over any bump, the Sport Chief really takes most of that hit. As suspension is meant to do. To date, so good for the Sport Chief. 

Rolling alongside by the highways and again roads, I discovered the Sport Chief’s cockpit to be a reasonably comfy place to be. The mid controls are located completely for this type of bike, the seat is properly padded and bolstered, and the usual six-inch bar risers are a great peak. If it had been me, I might go for the elective seat to maneuver nearer to the bars, however my 5-foot, 8-inch body is scrawny with brief arms. Clearly, your mileage might range. 

It ought to come as no shock, however cruising is what this Thunderstroke engine does nicely. It’ll lope alongside in sixth gear at freeway speeds, and with all that torque, there’s no have to downshift to make a move. 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 at the very least one other thousand revs. Redline hits at 5,000 rpm, so principally, you employ the torque if/whenever you want it however are all the time aware of clicking the following gear as quickly as you’ll be able to to maintain issues clean. 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 possible attraction to the taller or shorter choices from Indian, however for me, the inventory display 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 one’s going to be mistaking certainly one of these for a sportbike, but it surely 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, but it surely folds up and offers you a number of extra levels of lean angle earlier than extra inflexible arduous elements begin touching down. Not that you need 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 a protracted wheelbase, the Sport Chief desires to be guided easily from nook to nook, not manhandled and whipped into submission. You should utilize the 2 entrance brakes to regulate your velocity, and the Brembos will provide you with loads of stopping energy and respectable 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 rather more of the rear brake to pivot the bike within the path I wished. Both technique works. 

Being the kind of riders we’re, motojournos typically push the boundaries of what a motorbike can do – particularly in the case of 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 in all probability received’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 the route quite a bit faster than something this large, lengthy, and low ought to actually have any proper to. 

However that is additionally the place we discovered the boundaries of the usual suspension. Ramp up the tempo and you may blow by the suspension journey at each ends, leading to a jolt up your backbone. The elective suspension upgrades within the Indian catalog will assist with this. The factor is, I discover it arduous to imagine the typical proprietor is de facto going to be pushing to those ranges. Ridden inside its boundaries and for its meant use, the Sport Chief can be a good place to be.


Does the Sport Chief have some downsides? After all. As talked about earlier than, the thrill beginning at 3,000 rpm could be very noticeable and never one thing you need 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 just too sensitive for on a regular basis driving, so hold it in Commonplace and twist the throttle slightly extra. Touring mode wasn’t used as a result of, nicely, there wasn’t a motive to change. 

You don’t give a lot thought to mirrors till you really want them. I couldn’t place the Sport Chief’s mirrors to see something helpful behind me.

Talking of touring, this brings us to my subsequent gripe. The mirrors are completely ineffective. The teardrop form lends itself to giving a good view behind, however the ball and socket the mirrors are mounted on don’t enable sufficient articulation to place the mirrors in a usable vary. Loads of bikes have dangerous mirrors, however often, I can transfer them to a spot the place I can at the very least see slightly of what’s behind me. With the Sport Chief, I ended up relying solely on the shoulder test anytime I wished to see what was occurring on my six. 

If the entrance cylinder alone generates sufficient warmth to roast your thighs at a cease, we’d hate to assume how scorching it will get when each cylinders are firing.

Lastly, there’s the engine. Particularly the warmth. You already know concerning 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 a logo 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 pink mild for lengthy sufficient. Then it’s finest to relaxation your proper foot on the peg to steer clear of the scorching scorching exhaust pipes.   

Photographs Fired

Indian is blatantly gunning for Harley-Davidson each likelihood it will possibly get, and the Sport Chief is the most recent tit for Harley’s tat. It’s attention-grabbing how easy modifications like longer shocks, completely different geometry, higher suspension, and higher brakes can actually change a motorbike, however within the Sport Chief’s case, it positively provides it extra athleticism over the usual Chief. It’s an pleasurable cruiser to trip, with sufficient muscle and slightly little bit of cornering chops to please somebody who’s, say, a reformed (retired?) sportbike man. It could be enjoyable to uncork one and actually let it breathe, however fortunately you are able to do that by yourself by the Indian catalog if the Sport Chief is your jam. 

After all, the large query is the way it stacks up in opposition to its most evident rival – Harley’s Low Rider S. Having not ridden one but it’s inconceivable to reply that query. However don’t fear, this comparability is already on our to-do listing. 

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