New Bike Review: 2023 Indian Motorcycle Sport Chief

The premium American power cruiser built for performance

By Tricia Szulewski, Editor

Indian Sport Chief

Outfitted with Indian Motorcycle’s powerful air-cooled Thunderstroke 116 engine, the Sport Chief is Indian’s latest model in its Chief cruiser lineup. Packaged in a frame with slightly forward mid-controls, a low 27-inch seat height, a maneuverable moto-style handlebar behind a retro-styled quarter fairing, and Sport, Standard, and Touring ride modes, the sportiest Chief is getting a lot of well-deserved attention from women and men.

Indian Sport Chief Woman rider
Testing the Sport Chief in my lush home state of Connecticut for a few weeks, my favorite rides are, by far, on the back roads. Even in standard ride mode, the powerful torquey engine combines with the planted 19-inch front wheel and premium components making curvy roads super fun on this beefy motorcycle.

Whether you want a powerful cruiser to just tool around on or one that you could take off for a weekend of fun, the Sport Chief has you covered. Equipped with a fairly substantial quarter fairing, the wind protection on the highway is noticeable. Current Indian Motorcycle accessories available include taller (and shorter) windshields, taller handlebar risers, an adaptive headlight, and some small luggage options. I found inside the fairing a suitable place to bungee a small bag with some extra gloves and rain gear.

Indian Motorcycle Sport Chief
The slightly forward riding position encourages riders like me to really test out the Sport Chief's sporty performance.

Sport Chief Ergonomics and Fit

The long, low hot rod is commanding in presence and finished beautifully in one of three flat paint options or glossy Stealth Gray. The solo Gunfighter seat, bobbed fenders, tall handlebar setup, and mini fairing follow the current trend of what you see regularly at bike night burnout contests when riders show off the power and performance of their custom cruisers.

Indian Sport Chief
The Sport Chief has a 19-inch front cast black wheel and a 16-inch rear cast black wheel. Both have Pirelli Night Dragon tires, which I know and love from back when I mounted them on my Harley-Davidson Fat Bob years ago. These tires are made for sporty performance cruisers.
Indian Sport Chief
The Sport Chief’s 27-inch seat height is plenty low for most riders. I am 5 feet 6.5 inches tall and have lots of knee bend—making it easy to straddle-walk the bike around the parking lot. The foot controls are slightly forward, so they don’t interfere with putting your feet down.
Indian Sport Chief seat Gunfighter solo
The Sport Chief’s Gunfighter solo seat is not only comfortable for longer rides, it also has good support in the lower back. This is helpful to keep you in the seat when twisting the throttle and taking off.
Indian Sport Chief handlebar
The moto-style handlebar sits atop 6-inch-high risers and is just a tad further forward than I would wish for, putting me in a sporty lean-forward position.

Class Leading Instrument Display

A feature-rich full color touchscreen display offers a wealth of information in a traditional round screen centered under the handlebar clamp. Paired with Indian’s Ride Command app, riders get turn-by-turn navigation, music, and phone info right out front and center in the easy-to-see display.

Indian Sport Chief display
There are several options for the main dashboard—this one features a more traditional display with speed, tach, fuel level, gear indicator, odometer, and clock.

While the 4-inch round display is touchscreen compatible and works with any gloves, I love that there are also multiple buttons near the grips to cycle through display options. You can use your left forefinger as well as left thumb to toggle through the different displays.

Indian Sport Chief display
Some other screen displays include outside temperature, average speed, fuel range to empty, and important vehicle information you need to know.

Sport Chief: Premium Components

To match the bike’s powerful engine, the Sport Chief gets Indian’s premium suspension and brake components. With an inch more rear travel suspension than Indian’s other Chief models, dual Fox piggyback shocks offer plush ride comfort and better cornering clearance.

Sport Chief woman rider
Sport Chief’s inverted KYB telescopic front fork keeps the weight down low, offering more sport-oriented handling.
Indian Sport Chief
The Fox piggyback shock is standard on the Sport Chief, and offered as a $1,000 upgrade for other Chief models. An adjustable piggyback Fox shock is also available for $1,600.
Indian Sport Chief
The Sport Chief houses dual Brembo 4-piston calipers on 320mm semi-floating rotors in front. A single 300mm semi-floating 2-piston caliper makes up the rear brake.

Sport Chief Riding Impression

Taking off on the Sport Chief gives me the same adrenaline rush I feel when taking off quickly on a sportbike. In fact, it’s almost hard to ride slowly even in standard ride mode. This huge powerful engine just wants to “go!” You feel the 120 foot pounds of torque right away upon takeoff. 

Shifting through the six gears is done with an easy-to-deploy clutch, although there is no adjustment on the lever for smaller hands. Premium features like Standard, Sport, and Tour ride modes and cruise control are standard equipment and work well to customize the ride.

Indian Sport Chief
Controlling the display is done with the left hand controller. Besides the toggle switches you see here, there is a button that is operated with the right forefinger too.
Indian Sport Chief
Indian decided to put the cruise control on the right side controller, which makes it a little awkward to set while using the throttle. But it’s not hard to get used to.

The mid foot controls match the sporty riding position and are easy to reach for any leg length, but on longer rides I ache to stretch my legs out. The combined forward arm reach and rather tight knee bend of the peg position makes sense when riding aggressively, but for long highway jaunts, I start wiggling around a bit.

Indian Sport Chief
The Sport Chief gets all LED lighting. You can clearly see how bright it is in this picture with the high beams and hazards on.
Indian Sport Chief
The brake light is integrated into the bright LED turn signals. And while the side-mounted license plate looks cool, it doesn’t pivot like some other bikes do. Bumping into it regularly in the garage, I never quite got used to this.

Specs at a Glance: 2023 Indian Motorcycle Sport Chief

Engine Size: 1890cc
Seat Height: 27 inches
Fuel Capacity: 4 gallons
Wet Weight: 685 pounds
Colors: Black Smoke, Ruby Smoke, Stealth Gray, Spirit Blue Smoke
MSRP: $18,999

WRN Recommendation

If you love carving corners on a powerful cruiser and want class leading performance, look no further. Indian Motorcycle’s Sport Chief is your ride. Even if you don’t find the ergonomics to be perfect for your size, you’ll find a plethora of parts and accessories to make it so. Starting at just $18,999, you get a host of premium quality parts with a motorcycle that has gobs of torque that brings instant smiles.

Scroll to Top