The civil war that has raged for over a century between America’s two most iconic motorcycle manufacturers has been given a little more fuel with Indian Motorcycle’s latest Sport Chief. Indian has publicly stated that the bike in its crosshairs is the Harley-Davidson Low Rider S, a 117 cubic-inch, air/oil-cooled V-twin that’s carved quite a nice slice of the performance-cruiser pie for itself in the last 12 months.
To make good on its intent at targeting the Harley model, Indian has given the latest variant in its Chief line a 116 cubic-inch, air-cooled 49-degree V-twin that pumps out 108 ft lbs of torque at 3,200 rpm. Indian will also be making available an aftermarket version that bumps the torque figure to 120 ft lbs at 2,900 rpm.
The motor features rear-cylinder deactivation so your legs won’t get toasty at the traffic lights, but it’s more the suspension that’s the talking point. The Sport Chief’s design brief was to be the sportiest cruiser on the market, so Indian has teamed with Fox Shocks to provide preload-only adjustable rear shocks with a massive (by cruiser standards) four inches of suspension travel, which is over one inch more than on a standard Chief. That might not sound like much, but the extra suspension travel will give the rear tire a much easier time of it under acceleration and through corners. It should also provide a more comfortable ride as the suspension won’t crash through the stroke quite as easily and, conversely, send shockwaves back up the rider’s spine.
Fox also has upgraded shocks that provide compression and rebound adjustment if you want to refine your ride even further. The new suspension works in conjunction with the revised frame geometry that features a steeper 28-degree rake angle and 4.4 inches of trail, compared to the 29-degree rake and 5.2 inches of trail on the standard Chief. And the non-adjustable 43 mm KYB forks now sit in triple clamps that have 14 mm more offset. This is all in a package with a 64.6-inch wheelbase, which is two inches longer than the standard Chief.
The larger Indian Challenger’s parts bin was raided for the Sport Chief’s brakes, which are now Brembo’s four-piston monobloc calipers clamping on 320 mm discs with ABS.
As for the ride position, Indian has given a few choices in the mid-mounted controls mated to handlebars on six-inch risers. There’s the option of a four- or 10-inch riser, depending on your preference, with wind protection coming in the form of a six-inch-tall screen and quarter fairing, though a taller and shorter screen are also available.
Should you want to carry a passenger, though, you’ll need to purchase the aftermarket passenger seat and footpegs, as they don’t come standard on the Sport Chief.
What does come standard, however, is the Indian Ride Command suite accessed through a four-inch TFT display with turn-by-turn navigation. And the latter can be operated by touch (with your gloves on) or via the switches on the left handlebar.
The 2023 Indian Sport Chief comes in Black Smoke for $18,999, Ruby Smoke for $19,499, Stealth Gray at $19,499, and Spirit Blue Smoke at $19,999. The Sport Chief will be in dealerships starting this month.
Click here for more photos of the 2023 Indian Sport Chief.