Racing as much as the blind rise on the 2023 Indian Sport Chief, I roll off the throttle barely, and the pleasing roar of the engine lowers to extra of a threatening growl. As I crest the hill, there’s a second of weightlessness, and I see a line of a few dozen different riders, all on the identical efficiency cruisers, gliding down the curler coaster-like drop and blasting again up the sweeping left on the opposite facet. It appears to be like virtually as if they’re defying gravity – or on the brink of launch into the air. It’s a fast flash of a scene, a rush of exhilaration that makes me really feel youthful than my years, and I roll on the throttle once more. The massive Thunderstroke 116 responds with out hesitation, pulling me ahead as if it may possibly learn my thoughts and is aware of that, in that second, all I need to do is catch up and take off into the sky with them.
The 2023 Indian Sport Chief: A New Tackle a Acquainted Favourite
The primary Indian Chief, providing 61 inches of displacement, was launched slightly over 100 years in the past. On the February launch for the Sport Chief, Brandon Kraemer, Indian’s VP of product and motorbike electrification, mentioned that Charles Franklin, who additionally designed the Scout, had a purpose in thoughts when he developed the Chief.
“His purpose was to take what was nice in regards to the Scout and principally make it slightly larger and slightly extra succesful, slightly extra highly effective,” he mentioned, “and in the end they did that.”
Kraemer continued to say that 100 years later, Indian “rebirthed that, with what you see right here as the idea of the brand new Chief platform.”
He mentioned that the Chief bridges the hole between the Scout and the heavier, costlier Chieftain or Challenger ranges. Kraemer known as it “an important canvas.”
In 2021, we examined the brand new 2022 Indian Tremendous Chief Restricted, an up-spec, touring-ready model of the brand new Chief platform that included the usual Chief, the Chief Bobber, and the Tremendous Chief, all of which function the air-cooled Thunderstroke 111 49-degree V-Twin. The Darkish Horse variations of the Chief and Chief Bobber and the Restricted model of the Tremendous Chief boast the Thunderstroke 116, which makes a claimed 120 lb-ft of torque on the crank in comparison with the 108 lb-ft of the 111 engine.
The Darkish Horse/Restricted fashions even have a 4-inch spherical touchscreen TFT instrument panel as an improve from the standard analog gauge on the common fashions, in addition to normal ABS, an $800 choice on the bottom fashions.
“We wished to give attention to a very versatile design that we might take to many various locations,” Kraemer mentioned of the Chief base, including that the Sport Chief was the “first by-product popping out of the all-new platform.”
Taking It Up a Notch
Kraemer mentioned that whereas the 2022 Chiefs had been largely focused after the bobber phase, “we at all times knew we had been going to go after the efficiency phase second.” Enter the 2023 Indian Sport Chief.
“Going again to what we initially set the Chief structure up for, we positively have it in our wheelhouse,” Kraemer mentioned and talked about the plain rival on this class, the Harley-Davidson Low Rider S. “That’s what we’re going after.”
In our assessment of the 2022 Indian Tremendous Chief Restricted, we mentioned that the brand new “Chief lineup is extra stripped-down and elemental, reflecting modern tastes. Like their ancestor, the brand new Chiefs draw inspiration from the modern-day Scout, with a shortened wheelbase and uncovered twin laydown rear shocks quite than a single shock hidden behind bodywork. They’re additionally a lot lighter.”
We appreciated that the brand new rear twin shocks decreased the wheelbase and added agility however felt the three inches of ensuing rear journey (down from 4.5) was a design compromise – “general the trip is way firmer and fewer forgiving.”
Just like the Darkish Horses and Tremendous Chief Restricted, the 2023 Sport Chief is an up-spec mannequin with the Thunderstroke 116 engine, the 4-inch touchscreen TFT show, and normal ABS. Its suspension and brakes get a significant improve over earlier Chief iterations, together with the identical entrance finish as used on the Challenger bagger, with a 43mm KYB inverted fork providing 5.1 inches of journey and a pair of Brembo 4-piston calipers biting 320mm rotors.
With regards to rear suspension, Kraemer mentioned once they created the brand new Chief fashions, one factor they targeted closely on is what Indian calls the “Signature Line,” which runs from the steering stem all the way in which down by means of the axle.
“The rear shocks are a giant a part of that, having that continuation of that constant line.” Very like the cross-pollination evident within the entrance finish, Kraemer cited the Scout as inspiration for the rear suspension, however he additionally mentioned the corporate acknowledged that on a heavyweight cruiser, clients are going to need to customise.
“And we’re too,” he mentioned. “Having outboard rear shocks makes it very easy to jack the bike up and alter the suspension, or you may decrease it as effectively if you wish to go that route. Clearly we’re going increased with the Sport Chief.”
Alongside these traces, the Sport Chief has new piggyback Fox shocks with adjustable preload that bump journey up by an inch (to 4 inches) and lean angle up by 1 diploma (to 29.5 levels).
From a visible standpoint, a brand new quarter-fairing additionally units the Sport Chief other than the opposite fashions, mixed with a brand new moto-style bar with a machined triple clamp and 6-inch machined riser. A solo gunfighter seat with 2 extra inches of bolster than the usual Chief is complemented by mid-mount foot controls.
The bike options solid wheels (19 inches within the entrance, 16 within the rear) wrapped in Pirelli Evening Dragon tires, a 4-gallon gasoline tank, a bobbed rear fender, twin exhausts, LED lighting, keyless ignition, cruise management, and three selectable trip modes: Sport, Normal, and Tour.
The place the Rubber Meets the Texas Roads
We examined the 2023 Indian Sport Chief on a 120-mile mixture of Austin metropolis streets, interstate, and winding Texas Hill Nation roads. The tempo was brisk the place site visitors would permit, and apart from some patchy spots of development round city, the circumstances had been excellent for making an attempt out this new efficiency cruiser, particularly rolling by means of Hill Nation and the brief facet jaunt we took on a slim highway with some good twisties.
The very first thing I seen when firing up the Sport Chief was the pleasing rumbling of that blacked-out Thunderstroke 116. We began our trip with some laps across the metropolis, but it surely wasn’t till we hit the interstate that I actually bought a style of what this bike wished to do. To not anthropomorphize an excessive amount of, however I daresay the Sport Chief was simply as keen as I used to be to open it up slightly greater than permitted by the stop-and-go of metropolis driving.
The second factor I seen was that spherical touchscreen TFT. Though it’s not new – at the very least to the lower-spec variations of the Chief – it’s nonetheless fairly to have a look at, a lot cooler than an oblong show. Kraemer mentioned it can be crucial at Indian to maintain including tech with out taking away from fashion, which he known as “crucial” to the corporate’s clients. “And it’s not simple, by the way in which, to discover a spherical touchscreen.”
Riders can use the show to cycle by means of a number of interfaces, together with two completely different gauge configurations, bike and trip data, and turn-by-turn navigation with linked options like climate and site visitors overlays. Riders may pair their smartphones to the panel by way of Bluetooth or USB and entry music and telephone data by means of the Journey Command system.
As soon as we bought rolling, among the unavoidable potholes and bumps of metropolis driving had been slightly extra jarring than I’d’ve anticipated given the brand new suspension, and even with rear-cylinder deactivation, there was nonetheless some severe warmth coming off the exhaust. However as soon as we bought outdoors of city and off the interstate into Hill Nation, the Sport Chief actually shone. And on this case, among the constructive response I skilled from the bike was immediately associated to that new rear suspension.
Modifications to suspension subsequently alter the bike’s geometry. The brand new taller shocks not solely give extra lean angle but in addition pivot the entrance finish and lead to a barely tighter rake of 28 levels (from 29) and shorter 4.4 inches of path (from 5.2). Kyle Goede, product supervisor for the Tremendous Chief, mentioned the explanation they did this was for “flickability.”
“[It’s] slightly bit simpler to maneuver,” he mentioned, including that it was vital when creating the bike to consider its efficiency side.
And Indian nailed it with that one. For a motorcycle with a moist weight of 685 lb, it dealt with within the corners like a a lot lighter motorbike. It was virtually easy. I can admit that I’m in all probability within the class of “most riders” and didn’t make the most of the complete elevated lean angle, but it surely didn’t take rather more than a little bit of countersteering or shifting of my higher physique to carve out a pleasant apex.
Talking of these apexes, though I would’ve been extra conservative in my cornering, once I got here out of them and wished to catch up, a twist of the throttle introduced a right away however regular and powerful response. And because the speedometer climbed, the engine purred with a shocking smoothness, possible the results of the V-Twin’s counterbalancers.
One space the place the trip felt slightly rougher was on the prime finish of a few of these speeds, however that had extra to do with the equipment on the bike I used to be driving than the engine. There are a number of equipment for the Sport Chief which might be additionally appropriate with different bikes within the Chief lineup, together with the Fox piggyback rear shocks (and an up-spec 24-click adjustable model), 10-inch risers, the quarter-fairing with a low (4 inch) or tall (9 inch) ahead windscreen, an prolonged attain or decreased attain seat, the Chief Syndicate Seat and Syndicate Low Profile Passenger Backrest for two-up driving, and the Chief Pathfinder 5 3/4-inch adaptive LED headlight.
The bike I used to be driving had the 10-inch riser and the matching taller windscreen. Whereas this riser certainly contributes to a glance that Dan Peterson, PGA lead, known as “meaner and badder,” it additionally led to rather less management than the 6-inch riser presents and fewer wind safety at increased speeds, even with the taller windscreen. Nevertheless, even Peterson mentioned the windscreens are “as a lot about fashion as they’re safety,” so this was to be anticipated.
And from a consolation standpoint, I used to be happier to have the 10-inch riser. With my 32-inch inseam and the mid-mount foot controls, I felt slightly cramped at occasions alongside the trip, even with the extra open ergonomics.
When it got here time to sluggish it down, the twin Brembo elements up entrance put the “sport” into the Sport Chief with little or no convincing required. And the usual ABS was positively appreciated, particularly once I got here round a nook on that slim, twisty facet highway and encountered a brief stretch the place the highway floor went from asphalt to a patch of concrete that had been smoothed over by apparent years of seasonal excessive water. Fortuitously, there was an indication warning of the upcoming slick crossing and I had already utilized some braking, however I’ve a sense if it weren’t for the ABS, I would’ve locked it up and dumped the bike off the brief drop-off into the rocky riverbed … and felt like an fool.
However as soon as once more, the Sport Chief did what a efficiency cruiser is supposed to do: It carried out. And as we wound our means again to the lodge on the finish of the day, even after we needed to plunge again into the stop-and-go for the final stretch, it was a efficiency that I didn’t need to finish. I is probably not the 25-40 age bracket West Coast customizer this bike is primarily geared towards, however that day, I certain felt prefer it.
The 2023 Indian Sport Chief is available in Black Smoke, Ruby Smoke, Spirit Blue Smoke, and Stealth Grey beginning at $18,999.
2023 Indian Sport Chief Specs
- Base Worth: $18,999
- Worth as Examined: $19,929
- Web site: IndianMotorcycle.com
- Guarantee: 2 yrs, unltd. miles
- Engine Kind: Air-cooled, transverse 49-degree V-twin, OHV w/ 2 valves per cyl.
- Displacement: 116 ci (1,890 cc)
- Bore x Stroke: 103.2 x 113.0mm
- Horsepower: 76 hp @ 4,200 rpm (rear-wheel dyno, 2021 Thunder Stroke 116)
- Torque: 106 lb-ft @ 2,000 rpm (rear-wheel dyno, 2021 Thunder Stroke 116)
- Transmission: 6-speed, cable-actuated moist help clutch
- Remaining Drive: Belt
- Wheelbase: 64.6 in.
- Rake/Path: 28 levels/4.4 in.
- Seat Peak: 27 in.
- Moist Weight: 685 lb
- Gasoline Capability: 4.0 gal.