2023 Indian Sport Chief: Club style for the masses

2023 Indian Sport Chief
The Sons of Anarchy TV show may have ended eight years ago, but it forever changed how people see motorcycles and motorcyclists. Though it never showed a perfect example of bikers, we can thank SOA for showing Southern California club-style bikes to the world.

Forget the ‘Sons of Arthritis’ parody shirts on Facebook and the guys trying to look like Jax on a Dyna Wide Glide at the local biker bar. The show will likely be remembered for exposing us to cruisers with jacked up, sporty suspension, mid-pegs, and quarter fairings that are meant for fast riding. They’re meant to handle. They’re meant to be ridden long and hard.

Those bikes have become the style of modern cruisers in America. But you don’t have to take our word for it. Ola Stenegärd, Indian Motorcycle’s Director of Design, agrees. As the style has taken over in the custom (dare we say ‘club’) scene, Stenegärd is seeing that buyers are gravitating towards that style in the showroom, too.

Today, Indian releases Stenegärd’s latest bike: the Indian Sport Chief. An upgraded version of the existing Indian Chief, it’s a blacked-out cruiser that includes a tall and narrow fairing, mid-pegs, raised narrow bars, a sportier stance, and a solo seat. There are no giant valenced fenders here.

2023 Indian Sport Chief
“I’m careful with the term ‘club bike’,” Stenegärd says. “But of course I use it too, although something like ‘West Coast performance style’ is probably more accurate. I love subcultures and underground stuff, because that’s where I come from too and I love where things originate from. That whole scene has always fascinated me.”

“Sons of Anarchy took it to the mainstream, but that style has always been around.”

2023 Indian Sport Chief
The bikes that were ridden in the 1960s and 1970s were closer to this style than the raked-out choppers we think of from the days of shag carpet. Think Dennis Hopper’s Billy Bike in Easy Rider, not Peter Fonda’s raked-out ‘Captain America’ chopper.

“Dennis Hopper’s bike was a typical late 1960s club bike. That’s the coolest bike in the movie,” Stenegärd continues. “It just has that stance. It’s badass.”

2023 Indian Sport Chief
“The current Super Chief is like a club bike from the 1940s. That’s the kind of bike clubs would ride to the race tracks like Hollister, and you’d take the screen and the bags off for the weekend and maybe even race it, and you needed a club to race.”

“Now fast forward, and the Sport Chief really brings it home, full circle. It’s inspired by the West Coast scene today, but now you don’t go to the dirt track, instead you go to your local ‘brawl’ to do burn outs and wheelies.”

2023 Indian Sport Chief
To drive home the performance aspect of the Sport Chief, Indian added 43 mm upside-down KYB forks, a pair of Brembo radial calipers on the front, Fox piggyback shocks and Pirelli Night Demon tires. Those are exactly the kinds of parts that club riders add to their bikes.

“The Sport Chief was designed simultaneous with the Chief,” Stenegärd adds. “We set up the Chief with the typical ‘taildragging’ cruiser look, so the frame sits a bit lower in the rear and higher in the front. This was done deliberately, so that when we jacked up the Sport we knew it would sit pitch perfect horizontal—but not start to lean forward and look like a compromised afterthought.”

2023 Indian Sport Chief
Maybe you could take your new Sport Chief to the track and try out some tail-sliding. The Chief’s big Thunderstroke 116 engine (with 162 Nm of peak torque) would likely be game for the antics.

However, the Sport Chief also makes a nod to riders who aren’t grouches about modern things like screens. On the Sport Chief, the moveable 4.0-inch round TFT display hides convenient touches like turn-by-turn navigation and phone connectivity.

2023 Indian Sport Chief
As is the way with major OEMs, Indian has also released a full range of bolt-on accessories for the Sport Chief. But we’re keen to see what potential it has in the hands of pro customizers.

“We also want to see what people do to it,” says Stenegärd, “to make it their own, and to take it to the next level. It’s a blank canvas. That’s how I see my job—we aim at creating the best-looking blank canvas.”

2023 Indian Sport Chief
Though SOA is off the air, it is responsible for giving non-motorcyclists an insight into what SoCal riders build, and what many of us now think of when we see a blacked-out custom bike with T-bars. Though not all of us want to look like a featured extra in SOA, let’s face it, it does feel cool to sit on a big, loud, bike with high bars.

We’d just skip the ‘Sons of Arthritis’ shirt.

Indian Motorcycle | Instagram

2023 Indian Sport Chief