A few years ago I swung a Harley-Davidson Ultra Classic into Peter Egan’s hometown south of Madison and we proceeded to motor around the great roads in southwestern Wisconsin. Peter owned a Road King at the time and asked on the ride if I’d like to swap bikes for a while.
I was instantly charmed by the copbike-screen-equipped touring bagger, its lightness and agility much more up my personal alley than what was delivered by the heavier Ultra. Love all the extra features for the long haul on the big FL, but the unobstructed view and sportier feel of the Road King would send me its direction at a Harley dealer unless a lot of dedicated long-distance touring were on the menu.
Indian has followed a similar path with the new Springfield, stripping the Chieftain/Roadmaster of its purported 24-pound frame-mounted fairing with electric-adjust windscreen in favor of a quick-detach clear windshield. The riding results are charming and offer the same kind of light-feeling rewards delivered by the Road King.
It was 39 degrees the morning I saddled up on a Springfield in Austin, Texas, and I surely missed having the optional heated grips and seat, particularly when a few pieces of “solid rain” stuck to the screen. Still, wind protection was good, even if my lower legs were chilled by the windblast (add accessory deflectors to the chrome highway bars, if you like). Cruise control allowed me to alternate pulling my hands off the grips to warm them a bit.
But the temperature rose to mid-40s pretty quickly, the road mostly dried and Texas Hill Country was calling.
Steering was impressively light and precise, with a neutral cornering attitude and excellent stability. Damping is well dialed in, with good straight-line compliance from fork and shock, but no wallowing in corners, even in high-speed sweepers. And, as if Indian read my mind, the air-adjustable shock was set up for a 220-pound rider.
Hard saddlebags are like those on the other Indian touring models. Dual exhaust pipes help support the 19-gallon, electric-locking cases. It’s possible to add the top truck used on the Indian Roadmaster touring bike.
Although it is tempting to think the Springfield is a Chief Vintage with hard bags, this is not the case. Instead of the “cruiser” geometry, the Springfield uses the “touring” steering head and upper member on its aluminum frame, and utilizing a rear subframe designed to carry more weight. Plus, the dual exhaust pipes have the weight-bearing pads to help support the Cheiftain/Roadmaster electric-locking 19-gallon hard saddlebags.
Although the frame is like that of the other tourers, its 25-degree rake works with just 133mm of trail, vs. the 150 of the other hard-baggers or the 155 (and 29-degree rake) of the soft-bag Vintage.
This is the lightest steering Chief variant yet, to the point that there was a slight shimmy in bumpy corner exits when hard on the gas. It was no real worry, but a bit of a surprise given the bike’s role and general largeness. Tires are the same as those of the touring bikes (130- and 150mm-wide 16-inchers) and run on cast-aluminum wheels to accommodate tire-pressure monitoring.
The Springfield is the best handling of the Indian big twins and the rest of the dynamic package is similarly impressive, from the ABS brakes to shift quality to the hearty pull of the 49-degree Thunder Stroke 111ci V-twin. The Roadmaster we recently dyno tested made 76.4 hp at 4510 rpm and 106.6 pound-feet of torque at just 2640 revs.
Screen and bags are both supremely easy to remove, no tools required. I popped off the windshield for the post-lunch portion of our Texas tour and the bike felt sportier still. Turns out removing that big sail attached to the bars lightens steering effort a bit. It also eliminated the high-speed helmet buffeting I (at 6-foot-2) experienced at anything over 70 mph. Higher and lower screens will be available from Indian.
Detail improvement noted: The chrome strips on the windscreen have black backing on the rider-facing side, rather than the bare, not-that-chromed metal finish seen on previous Vintages. Nice to see Indian keeping after the little things. The screen is a significantly different rake and height compared to the one used on the Vintage since the fork rake is much different.
The leather saddle is identical to those of the tourers, just with a different stitching pattern, and passenger floorboards are adjustable for height and for rake, the latter to help accommodate boots with taller heels.
The cross-compatibility of parts and accessories (top trunks, wind-deflectors, and much more) is quite good since the touring platform is fundamentally the same across the line. Want to add the 17-gallon top trunk from the Roadmaster? Can do.
Clearly, Indian has observed the highly successful model-proliferation playbook developed in Milwaukee. As well it should.
The core product from Indian is well designed and engineered, making the work to produce more good models from the basic platforms relatively straightforward. The Springfield is one of those good models.
|2016 Indian Springfield
|Air/oil-cooled OHV V-Twin
|BORE x STROKE
|101 x 113mm
|Electronic fuel injection, closed loop, 54mm bore
|Split dual exhaust with crossover
|6-speed/constant mesh/foot shift
|12 volts, 18 amp/hour, 310 CCA
|42 amp max output
|Belt drive, 152 tooth. 2.2:1
|5.5 gal / 20.8 ltr
|5.5 qts / 5.20 ltr
|Gear drive wet clutch
|Telescopic fork, 46 mm diameter, 4.7 in / 119 mm travel
|Single shock with air adjust, 4.5 in / 114 mm travel
|CLAIMED DRY WEIGHT
|818 lb. / 372 kg
|5.6 in. / 142 mm
|1,385 lb. / 630 kg
|101.7 in. / 2583 mm
|RAKE / TRAIL
|25° / 5.2 in. / 133 mm
|26 in. / 660 mm
|67 in / 1701 mm
|Individual front and rear control with ABS
|FRONT BRAKING SYSTEM
|Dual 300 mm floating rotor with 4-piston calipers
|REAR BRAKING SYSTEM
|Single 300 mm floating rotor with 2-piston caliper
|Dunlop Elite 3 130/90B16 73H
|Cast 16″ x 3.5″ with tire pressure monitoring
|Dunlop Elite 3 180/60R16 80H
|Cast 16″ x 5.0″ with tire pressure monitoring
|COLORS & MSRP
|Thunder Black $20,999 US, Indian Motorcycle Red $21,549 US