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Look out Harley-Davidson, Indian’s new Sport Chief is up for a fight

The 2023 Sport Chief brings some of Indian's swagger to the performance cruiser segment

Performance isn’t for sport bikes and superbikes anymore. Motorcycle brands have turned their sights to high-performance cruisers. While Harley Davidson is getting a lot wrong at the moment, no one does performance cruisers quite like the brand. The Harley-Davidson Low Rider S was introduced as a new bike in 2020 and immediately captured the attention of riders looking for, well, something that looked it was from the Sons of Anarchy. Indian may not have been first to introduce an amped-up cruiser, but it wants to join the fight and is entering the ring with the new 2023 Sport Chief.

The Chief nameplate carries a lot of weight for the Indian brand and it has the hard job of splitting the Scout and Indian Springfield bikes. Since its revival in 2021, the Chief has helped Indian garner 11% of the cruiser market as opposed to 1% before. With the new Sport Chief, Indian isn’t trying to reimagine the performance cruiser, it’s trying to put its own spin on it. So, like with many other Indians, the new Sport Chief has a renegade design, offers loads of customization, and is for people that enjoy riding.

For a cruiser, the Sport Chief has a relatively aggressive riding position. That comes courtesy of the bike’s design and components, which include KYB inverted front forks and piggyback rear FOX shocks that increase rear suspension travel and lean angle to 29.5 degrees relative to other Chief models. Staying on the topic of design, the Sport Chief continues to use the Chief’s steel-tube frame for a familial look with the rest of the family, but gains a new quarter fairing, moto-style bars with machined triple clamps, and six-inch risers. Another iconic Indian touch on the Chief Sport are the dual exhaust pipes that exit off the right side of the bike.

At the heart of the Sport Chief is a blacked-out Thunderstroke 116 engine that displaces 1,890 cc and produces 120 pound-feet of torque. Maximum torque is produced at 2,900 rpm, roughly halfway up the rev range, as redline is at 5,000 rpm. With fluids and all the other necessary bits to get out on the road, the Sport Chief tips the scales at 685 pounds. Riders clamp down on four-piston Brembo brakes to bring the Sport Chief to a stop.

Riders can choose from three different ride modes with the Sport Chief: Touring, Standard, and Sport. The three selectable drive modes can be accessed via the Ride Command system through a 4-inch touchscreen. The screen can be operated by touch or through handlebar controls and provides riders with information on the motorcycle, navigation, weather, and traffic. The Ride Command system can also show riders information about incoming phone calls and provide a spot to control their music over Bluetooth as long as they’re using a wireless helmet communicator.

As one would expect, Indian will be offering the Sport Chief with a host of available accessories. Some of the more noteworthy ones include 10-inch handlebar risers, performance adjustable FOX piggyback rear shocks, multiple windscreens, adaptive headlights, and saddlebags.

Pricing for the 2023 Sport Chief starts at $18,999. That makes it slightly more expensive than the Harley-Davidson Low Rider S, which starts at $18,199. For those that love comparisons, the Sport Chief is also down on power, as the Low Rider S’ Milwaukee-Eight 117 is rated at 125 pound-feet of torque. Indian may not have been first on the performance cruiser scene, but the new Sport Chief is arriving with a mega bang.

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Joel Patel
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Joel Patel is a former contributor for The Manual. His work has also been featured on Autoweek, Digital Trends, Autoblog…
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