Norman Reedus Waxes Poetic on His Custom Indian Sport Chief Motorcycle
Custom motorcycles, once viewed as a subculture for the more rebellious and disorderly, have since established a more popular foothold in mainstream motorcycle culture. And yet, with those unruly roots, and the opportunity to flex the custom potential of a bike’s platform, a lot of Hollywood stars have paired up with iconic bike builders to create something exceptional. But building the perfect motorcycle can be challenging, especially when it’s a bike for Norman Reedus. The Walking Dead star is a hardcore motorcyclist. Even his post-apocalyptic, zombie-slaying character, Daryl Dixon, knows his way around two wheels.
Up for the task was Yaniv Evan, founder of Powerplant Motorcycles in Los Angeles. Beginning with modifying bicycles during his childhood, Evan progressed to customizing cars, then motorcycles. As he continued to hone his skills, Evan began undertaking significant modifications and metalwork, which led to apprenticeships at various garages.
In 2002, Evan opened Powerplant Motorcycles in Los Angeles and became the go-to builder for custom bikes, particularly for his stellar work on Dyna and FXR motorcycles. His visionary approach, clean lines, and intuition for what his customers hope to accomplish have attracted some of Hollywood’s biggest names into his shop—like Reedus.
“I met Yaniv through mutual friends,” says Reedus. “Everybody knows Yaniv. He’s one of those artists who knows what you’re going to like. And he’s very specific about what he wants to do for certain people. Like, you can see a Yaniv bike when it goes down the street.”
What was the base bike for Reedus’s new ride? Indian’s brand-new Sport Chief, the motorcycle brand’s purpose-built performance cruiser designed around its air-cooled Thunderstroke 116ci V-twin motor. Out of the crate Sport Chief looks rowdy and comes with striking features including 6.5-inch machined risers with moto-style bars and an increased lean angle that gives it an aggressive riding position. This presented another challenge for Evan—customizing an already-badass bike without compromising its performance.
“When Sport Chief rolled in, I have to say I was kind of blown away,” says Evan. “I was really stoked about the front neck of the frame. They did some goose-necking and to see that on a factory bike blew my mind. It gives it so much potential to work with. You have a great frame and a beautiful motor.”
Reedus Meets His Motorcycle
In a video released today—hosted by freestyle motocross icon Carey Hart—Reedus visits Powerplant for the reveal of his new ride. Like a lucky kid on Christmas morning, he beams with a grinning smile in appreciation of Evan’s skillful work, fires up his new bike for the first time, and relishes in the motor's purr.
“Wow, dude, this is so beautiful. I love it,” says Reedus. “I like the smell of gasoline” he adds. “I like feeling the motor do work under you. I do my best thinking on a motorcycle. I sing the best on a motorcycle [laughs]. I prefer two wheels all day long.”
After 12 seasons of zombie-crushing, Reedus’ work seems to be increasing exponentially. He just released the New York Times bestselling novel, The Ravaged, starred in a hit video game, and on the heels of airing the final episode of The Walking Dead, announced his own spin-off series titled Daryl Dixon, where the titular actor will continue his post-apocalyptic journey in France.
“I used to live in downtown L.A. before there was a downtown L.A.,” says Reedus. “I would ride to Venice on the freeway with this little-bitty bike and these yellow sunglasses. When I started doing The Walking Dead, I had a motorcycle in Georgia, and I’d ride it to set every day. One of the producers of the show said, ‘You know, you’re not supposed to ride your bike to work’. And I said, 'Well, it’s happening. I don’t have a car.' And then, like a month later, he goes, ‘How about a travel show where you travel around the world on a motorcycle and meet custom bike builders?’ And I was like, ‘Yeah, let’s do that.’ ”
And they sure did. Reedus is host of the motorcycle travel show, Ride with Norman Reedus, in which, over five seasons, he explores famous motorcycle routes with like-minded celebrities including Dave Chapelle, Josh Brolin, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, and iconic Easy Rider star, Peter Fonda.
Sport Chief Specs
So, how do you turn a stock motorcycle into the perfect custom cruiser for a Hollywood star?
“With this bike, we stripped it down and rebuilt it to say Powerplant Motorcycles and Norman and dimension-wise, fitted everything for Norman down to the seat and form of the bike,” says Evan. “I tried to stay with earthy colors. I didn’t want to go to wild. It looks good from every side. I made sure this thing doesn’t leave here looking the same.”
As Evans explains it, slimming the bike, fabricating custom parts, and shedding weight all came with arduous work. He started by narrowing and repositioning the rear shock mounts and relocating swingarm mounts to slim up the backend of the bike. “I also narrowed and lifted the fuel tank, outfitted the tank and side covers with three-inch louvres, and made a fender that represents the old-school Indian style I love,” he says.
But that’s not all. For the wheels, Evan used Marvic Morris 7-spoke magnesium replicas that required special modifications to fit the Indian axels, brakes, rotors, sensors, and bearings. He also chopped down the stock fork legs and caliper hangers, reshaped them to accommodate a narrow wheel, and a reduced 11.5-inch rotor. For risers and handlebars, Evans fabricated a custom set of 8-inch risers to incorporate his own engagement system with the Indian display gauge. “The handlebars are very specific,” explains Evans. “They’re very narrow with lots of pullback, which is what this bike needs.”
Most of the bike was customized at Powerplant, but Evans did call on a few outside specialists. The bike has a one-off stainless steel exhaust pipe made by Redthunder in Italy, chrome rotors and sprocket by Lyndall brakes, chrome and powder coating by GAS Powder in Simi Valley, paint and body work done by W&W Cycles, and pinstriping by Pacman.
Final touches include a mix of root beer-colored paints with hand-painted flames on the tank and faring, handmade valance fender, and a fully customized seat pan and upholstery that creates what Evans calls “a cobra-style gunslinger seat with an old-style shape.”
Ride With Norman Reedus
The final product is a radically new creation with clean lines and thunderous performance. The two eagerly hop on their bikes and go for a ride around L.A.
“I’m so satisfied seeing Norman riding it on the freeway, how it glides,” he says. “It’s an amazing feeling and every single time, no matter what, it’s the same feeling you’re chasing—that one moment with the finished product.”
And how does Reedus feel about his new two-wheeled beast? “I’ve never ridden an Indian before today. I’ve always wanted one,” he says. “So today was a big day for me.”
The ecstatic, long-haired actor puts on his signature black sunglasses, dons a helmet and jacket, and prepares to take it for another spin.
“It’s so custom to me. This bike rides so fucking good. It fits and handles perfectly. It sounds sick. I’m totally in love with it. I just want to drive away!”