“Take it easy, it’s got 40 miles on it,” says freestyle motocross legend Carey Hart to friend and fellow FMXer “Twitch” Jeremy Stenberg as they head out for a first ride. Hart built Stenberg a custom 2023 Indian Motorcycle Sport Chief as part of Indian’s Forged video series—and it’s a beaut. A full frame-up build, Hart has put 400 hours into the bike, building a machine that can stand up to Twitch’s abuse. But still, it’s brand-new and the unveiling of this custom Sport Chief was just minutes ago for the cameras shooting the finale of the Forged series.
Twitch just laughs, “Uh huh, sure buddy.”
Twenty minutes later, Hart’s best friend and rapper Big B gets a video text of circle burnouts and a pegged rev limiter. “So much for taking it easy,” he says showing me the video.
At least I won’t have to worry too much about my ride on the one-off Sport Chief later in the day. Pre-abused is how I prefer to roll on a motorcycle that Indian’s PR company was very worried about me riding. We even had to show proof of insurance that would cover the cost of replacement.
And the worries are well founded. Hart took the Sport Chief down to the frame before building a club-style custom that enhances the performance of Indian’s latest Chief model. The list of parts and mods is extensive including a machined billet-aluminum Trac Dynamics swingarm, Fox rear shocks, Brembo Monoblock calipers, Beringer controls, knee cutouts on the fuel tanks, and paint by Schultz Designz.
Related:2023 Indian Sport Chief First Look
Hart’s privateer motocross racing days instilled the value of doing things the right way and not cutting corners. And this is where all unseen work is hidden behind the silver leaf and glossy paint. Titanium fasteners are used nearly everywhere with threadlocker and the proper torque values. Every pivot is greased. Every touch point is perfected for the rider.
After Twitch returns, the film crew gets some interviews and sound bites as I gear up for my turn after getting a behind-the-scenes look at the production of this final episode for Indian. Having ridden a Sport Chief for a few hundred miles, I’m well aware of my likes and dislikes of this model. I love the torquey grunt of the Thunderstroke 116 engine, but the vibes through T-bar controls at 3,500 rpm forces a short-shift or to rev the engine past the meat of the power. It’s also a stretch for my 5-foot, 10-inch frame to those vibrating grips, and the footpeg position doesn’t fit my knees or hips. Braking at the front is impressive for a cruiser with strong power and great feedback, but the rear is less so with a light switch feel.
Immediately it was clear the Hart-Luck handlebar matched to Kraus Motor Co. bar clamps and risers brings the bars into a more comfortable and commanding position with less of a stretch forward. The height of the risers is a bit tall while sitting, but when it’s time to stand up and burn the rear tire off, your hands are right where you’d want them to be. Hart’s signature-model ODI grips are less bulky and match perfectly with the thinner Beringer levers. That highly annoying vibration is now gone as well.
A Hart-Luck Saddlemen seat gives a more comfortable perch while the San Diego Customs footpegs and foot controls are more motocross than street—again, adding more control and comfort.
On the road, the Hart-Luck Bassani exhaust is raspy as you roll on and off the power in Temecula’s hillsides and canyons. While the overall power hasn’t increased much, the lighter chassis and stiffer suspension reacts quicker to throttle inputs. Although the bike has more snap, final gearing through the Barnstorm Cycles chain conversion is identical to stock.
Where Hart’s creation really shines is in handling. Hart-Luck five-spoke wheels wrapped in Dunlop American Elite tires allow the Sport Chief to change directions and drop into corners quicker than the bulkier stock mags. The 1.5-inch-longer fork with GP Suspension valving, springs, and DLC coating raises Twitch’s ride for increased cornering clearance. Overall, the ride is much sharper and responsive.
Slowing Hart’s build is handled by a revamped braking system. At the front, dual Brembo Monoblock calipers squeezing Galfer Wave rotors actuated a Beringer master cylinder. At the rear a Beringer master cylinder is matched with a twin-piston Beringer caliper. With this setup, the front brakes are now a one-finger squeeze with an impressive initial bite combined with exceptional feedback and excellent power; think superbike levels of stop. At the back the Beringer setup is more progressive in power than the on-off operation of the stocker.
Suspension action is markedly stiffer than stock, perhaps a little too stiff at the rear as there’s less squat through the Trac Dynamics swingarm and fully adjustable shocks. This makes hookup out of corners at full stop more difficult than stock. That rear Dunlop spins up easily—great for burnouts and slides, but it does require more throttle attention and finesse when blasting out of corners. Hart got the setup right for the owner and what he wants to do—use a lot of the rear Dunlop tire. Even with the lack of hookup, the Hart Sport Chief waxes a box-stock machine in the twisties.
As I became more comfortable with Twitch’s Sport Chief, I began pushing harder, lighting up the rear tire out of fast sweepers. Thank goodness the clock ran out for my time with the bike, as I was becoming too familiar with a bike that was not mine. That’s when bad things can happen, and I absolutely didn’t want to put that insurance policy to work.
Carey Hart has increased the performance of the Sport Chief significantly. If you’ve got a Sport Chief, I would suggest following Hart’s lead. You don’t need to do all of the list, but just copying a few of his tricks will increase your fun, even if you don’t beat on your Sport Chief like Twitch does.
Hart-Luck Indian Sport Chief Parts List
|Tires:||Dunlop American Elite|
|Fork:||GP Suspension w/ 1.5 in. longer, coated lower tubes, spring, and valving|
|Shocks:||Dual Fox Factory 13-in. piggyback shocks|
|Swingarm:||Trac Dynamics billet aluminum|
|Front brake calipers:||Brembo Monoblock|
|Rear caliper and hanger:||Beringer|
|Shift/brake levers:||San Diego Customs|
|Chain conversion:||Barnstorm Cycles|
|Air intake:||Indian high flow|
|License plate mount:||Drag Specialties|
|Pegs:||San Diego Customs|
|Lower frame cover:||Hart-Luck custom|
|Hardware:||Pro-Bolt black anodized titanium|
|Bar clamps and risers:||Kraus Motor Co.|
|Bars and grips:||ODI/Hart-Luck|
|Gauge bucket:||Kraus Motor Co.|
|Clutch perch and front master:||Beringer|
|Front and rear indicators:||Rizoma|
|Rear master reservoir:||Rizoma|