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2016 Indian Springfield first ride review

Mar 07, 2016

Touring bikes are designed to keep riders happy and fresh as they cover long distances and modern touring rigs usually offer some pretty luxurious amenities. 

That’s progress, baby. Right? Time marches on. Machinery becomes more specialized. Tailored options supplant generalist hardware. But do they also displace quaintness and elegant antiquity?

The new-for-2016 Indian Springfield says “Nope.” Indian calls this a “Bagger” in their lineup, not a “Touring” bike, but that’s bunk: The Springfield is a touring bike, just like other baggers, dressers, garbage wagons, and whatever else you want to call bikes in this category. This is a motorcycle that contains all of the things needed to tour with and adds just enough extra frills to make a long trip easy — maybe like a touring mount from Indian’s first heyday. This setup — hard bags and a windshield — is my favorite setup. It mimics the touring bikes of old, set up with Buco or Bates hard bags and a nice protective windshield for the rider. That sort of style has always hung around as the “minimalist” touring setup. But bikes like that didn’t used to be the low-key touring option. Instead, they were the only option. This Indian teleports you back to that time.

Riding the Springfield

I didn't have oodles of time on the Indian. It really amounted to just a few hours. I spent some time on good ol' I-95 in Florida, knocking down some miles between Orlando and Saint Augustine, and I also took time to ride some slower two-lane state roads. I had never been to Saint Augustine previously, but I do intend to go back. It was very picturesque!

St. Augustine, Florida
Seeing America on an all-American bike is as good as it gets for me. Florida has string-straight roads everywhere I went, but scenery like this made up for it. RevZilla photo.

I rode a Springfield in Indian Motorcycle Red, which carries a $549 premium over the Thunder Black models that retail for $20,999. The bike looked and felt like the older tourers I tend to gravitate to: heavy, with the weight carried down low, and friendly, inviting controls. It should be noted, however, that the Springfield comes stock with no heel shifter. That didn’t bug me, because I ride lots of non-touring motorcycles, but seasoned big-bike people who miss it will want to order the bolt-on heel shifter, which can be easily added. Floorboards were large and generous, and the buckhorn-style bars put my hands in a comfortable position that offered lots of control.

Windshield removed
Those low bars and mirrors look fantastic with the windshield removed. RevZilla photo.
Before I got on the bike, though, I had to just stop and take it all in. Whether you love the style or hate it, you cannot possibly mistake this bike for anything but an Indian. Gone are the days of the bottlecap engine or warmed-over H-D Evo engines masquerading as some perverse form of Indian. Much like Triumph's Modern Classics are visually unquestionably just Triumph, this baby is Indian all the way through.

The engine is big and muscular. The left side of the bike is covered in branding, but it seems to work on the Springfield. RevZilla photo.
The most noticeable aspect of the Indian’s ride is its propensity to tug. The bike simply thunders along, amassing velocity forcefully. I bet a cannonball rides like this — heavy and fast. The engine chugs right along and doesn’t seem to want to be revved way out. Makes sense. It’s got a massive stroke at nearly 4.5 inches. My heinie-dyno gave me the impression that the torque chart for this bike looks like a contour map of Kansas: completely flat. When I’m out seeing the sights, I like to just motor along in the low end of a gear and let the engine do the “lazy lope” thing. The 111-cubic-inch engine, called the Thunderstroke, was more than happy with that arrangement. It’s cranking out 119.2 foot-pounds of torque at 3,000 rpm, which is neck-and-neck with the big, air-cooled V-twin made by The Other Company.

Exhaust cover
This is a nifty piece of trickery. It's a finned cover that is attached to the cylinder head to hide the 90-degree turn the exhaust pipe makes. It gives the illusion of the pipes exiting the heads straight down, just like the sidevalve Indians. And those tubes? Those aren't valve covers, but pushrod covers! RevZilla photo.

That TS111 is a mill with drop-dead-gorgeous styling. Deeply finned heads, with the fins canted to the sides that overhang the jugs. Air cooling, of course. Downward-facing exhaust pipes, just like an old side-valve. And the triple-cam setup means the pushrod tubes look exactly like flathead valve covers. This is an engine that screams “Indian.”

The warbonnet fender tip light has an LED that gives off a faint glow at night. It draws attention like a tractor beam. RevZilla photo.

Painstaking attention to styling detail carries over to the rest of the bike, too. The LED warbonnet on the fender is a cleverly modernized, immediately recognizable Indian feature. The mostly hidden dual front brake rotors are really unobtrusive, as are the cast wheels. Cast wheels seem like they’d be out of place on a classically styled bike, but there are good reasons for their existence. First, they allow tubeless tires to be plugged, not patched, which is a big undertaking on a bike of this size. More importantly, they allow the use of a tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS). This isn’t the go/no-go type found on most automobiles. Instead, the rider actually has access to exact inflation pressures for front and rear wheels. This greatly simplifies one of motorcycling’s most tedious chores: checking inflation. I loved this touch.

Check out the handsome stitching and chromed studs on the saddle. The seat is a two-piece arrangement, designed to allow the rider to run a solo seat only if desired. RevZilla photo.
The seat was ample and comfy, and the floorboards were large and gave me room to move my feet around. Passenger floorboards are a nice touch, too.

The wheelbase is 67 inches, so the chassis was long enough to really soak up the bumps. In full trim with fluids, the Springfield rings in at 852 pounds. Touring bikes are the only category where being overweight is not just acceptable, it’s encouraged. That weight feels pretty damn good underneath you if you find yourself hammering past turnpike doubles in a crosswind.

No heel shifter? No problem for me, but other riders may feel differently. RevZilla photo.

Handling and suspension are where I feel the Springfield shines. Knee pucks are obviously unnecessary when you’re on a Springfield, but I must say, this bike got down and boogied in a corner far better than I would have assumed. On the straight roads of Florida, I didn’t have the time or knowledge of my surroundings enough to go into full “Let’s try and destroy it!” mode, but I didn’t scrape a single part of the Springfield in what I would describe as spirited riding, a fact that makes me very pleased. The cornering clearance is no worse than a Harley-Davidson, and I think it may actually be a bit better.

As for the suspension… wow. Just wow. This bike is plush. The rear is air-adjustable, and the front is a conventional telescopic setup with 46 mm tubes. If I owned a Springfield, I would play a bit with the air-assist settings on the rear for solo and two-up work, memorize the pressures, and then I would never touch it again. I can’t fix this suspension, because there’s nothing to fix. This is no small point. Consider that many of the folks who buy these are likely to be a bit older. Consider, too, that many pillions will be less-than-eager spouses. I cannot stress enough how big a blow this strikes to the Road King. A luxe ride on a touring machine sells the bike better than a salesman.

Wheel, fender, brake, and tire
It's good to see the French curve is being utilized in the Indian styling department. Note the well-hidden brake caliper and the cast wheel that seems to suggest a spoked wheel. RevZilla photo.

Rounding things out is the stoppin' equipment. Triple four-pot calipers squeeze a trifecta of 300 mm brake rotors. Let’s not beat around the bush: This is a lot of bike to slow down, but the tires and brakes are definitely up to the task. ABS worked as expected in the dry weather I experienced for the few hours I had with the bike. The ABS kicked in normally and worked fine in sand, pea gravel, and the tiny bit of mud I tested it in. As a side note, I bet the brakes would be ridiculously effective on a smaller bike. Maybe a Sport Scout?

There's enough room in these panniers for a square dance! I did not obtain an accurate beer-holding count. RevZilla photo.

The Springfield has a big ol’ pair of hard bags on it, and an immense expanse of glass up front. You can be uncharitable and think of the Springfield as the peasant-model touring bike, or you can be a weepy-nostalgic type and bask in the comfort that this is a pretty direct descendant of the first Chiefs that were set up for long-hauling it. I didn’t start taking measurements, but the Springfield’s bags seem noticeably smaller than a Road King’s hard bags. Still, there’s plenty of room in there for a weekend for two if you’re not “kitchen sink” types.

The glass pops off in literally seconds. If you watch the video (coming soon) that accompanies this review, you can actually see me remove it in real time. A child could figure this out in under a minute. To me, this is huge. In the touring world, there are frame-mounted fairing people, handlebar-mounted fairing people, and windshield people. I am the latter, through and through. I love being able to quickly remove the windshield to get some crisp fall air on my face. With the Springfield, globetrotters no longer have to choose between hard luggage and glass on an Indian.

Lock button
Power locking saddlebags? I don't think the flatheads coming out of the Wigwam had those, but the cat's-eye shaped button on the dash sure blends in well. RevZilla photo.

The Springfield is equipped with some nice little tidbits: ambient air temp, voltmeter, keyless ignition, and power locking hard bags. They’re all integrated beautifully with the bike, though, and don’t detract from the elegance of the machine. The voltmeter and temp gauge, for instance, are on a scroll-through LCD screen located in the analog speedo. The button that unlocks the bags is a sleek cat’s eye oval located on the chrome dash and I was happy to discover a power port located in my right saddlebag. On a less happy note, condensation marred the view of the gas gauge on my Springfield, causing my OCD to flare up.

Stuff To Change

I’m happy to report that this may be the shortest “fix-it” list I have ever assembled on a RevZilla bike review. At just over twenty grand, this bike should be perfect. The good part is that unlike some bikes, it’s pretty damn close. This is definitely one of the sweetest-riding straight touring bikes I have ever settled my ass into.

Nothing is wrong with this bike. Everything on my list is non-essential. There are five parts I’d buy. The first is one of Howard Hegwer’s warbonnet lenses. His are literally works of art. It’s a little change that would make me smile every time the sun clocked out for the day.

The other parts are a package deal. Indian offers a set of upgraded cams for the TS111. I’d grab those, and a nice free-flowing exhaust, air cleaner, and fuel controller. Hear me out on this. I know these are the “standard” parts everyone buys. This bike is perfectly good without them. On the way to the airport, the guys at Indian swapped out my Springfield for another 111-equipped bike (a Chieftain) that had those parts, and it ripped. I never would have even mentioned the hop-up bits if I hadn’t ridden that bike. The Springfield has loads of power, but after having ridden one that had been awakened just a touch, I could never ride a stock one again.


Front shot of Springfield
The 2016 Springfield is as traditional as it gets. RevZilla photo.
The Springfield offers well integrated touring niceties that don’t compromise the bike’s historical, ceremonious appearance. It’s a big, heavy bike with an engine that was designed for making light work of interstate travel. Unlike some "Indians" that came before it in recent years, it honors its heritage, rather than just trying to cash in on it. It is immensely competent, and my biggest disappointment in reviewing it was how little time I had with it. I'd love to get it out on the road for a multi-day haul.