Review: Indian Springfield – a fast, rumbling, quick-change artist

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The Indian Springfield offers torque chewing power and quick release windshield and hardbags(Credit: Aaron Heinrich/Gizmag)

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Since Polaris bought Indian in 2011, the company has continued to hearken back to the rich history of the brand, while making the bikes bearing the name thoroughly modern in performance and features. The Indian Springfield is no exception with its easily identifiable fender skirts and war bonnet combined with a quick release windshield, hard side bags, and that massive 111-cubic inch (1,818 cc) engine. The folks at Indian gave us a Springfield for a couple of weeks and we weren't disappointed.

We picked up the Springfield at the Indian dealer in Orange County, California and were immediately surprised by the fact that rather than loan us a stock bike, this particular model had been fitted with optional Stage 2 cams, Stage 1 exhaust and a big open air box.

All but the Indian Scouts feature the Thunderstroke 111-cubic inch torque monster, and these add-ons unleashed even more power from the Springfield. The keyless ignition system allowed us to fire it up with a push of a button that brought those upgraded performance pieces immediately to life. The result was a hard to ignore; big low rumbling exhaust that sounded even better once we opened up and started grinding out the miles.

We later got comments that it sounded like a Harley, but we think that was only due to the sound volume, not because Indian has tried to mimic that company's traditional po-ta-to, po-ta-to rhythm.

We tested it through a good deal of varied Californian terrain – long, flat freeways coming up from the south and nice tight twisties on Highway 1 going all the way up the coast from San Francisco to Eureka.

The stock Springfield tops out with a claimed 119 lb-ft (161 Nm) of torque, but Indian literature sys the cam, exhaust and airbox combo on the model we rode increased that by 13 percent, and horsepower by 7 percent across the majority of the powerband. You can hit those numbers for about another $2,000 in parts.

All that grunt means the Springfield won't win any gas efficiency awards, but it doesn't claim any. We averaged around 37 mpg (7.6 l/100km), with the bike feeling at its best between 2,500 to 3,000 rpms.

Regardless of the type of riding, the one thing we noticed was how nimble this bike was given that it weighs in at a stout 800-plus lb (363 kg), which is about 24 lb (11 kg) lighter than its fared sibling the Indian Chieftan. You shouldn't expect it to snap upright like a sport bike, but it doesn't have to be manhandled either. We hit heavy crosswinds on occasion and the bike stayed vertical and on track with little effort, something a crotch rocket would have had some difficulty claiming.

The big windshield did an exceptional job of keeping wind buffeting to a minimum. It also did an exceptional job of keeping the plethora of bugs firmly on the windshield where they belonged.

We did take the windshield and bags off to see how easy there were to remove, but didn't ride without them. The windshield literally takes seconds to detach. Pull forward on the metal tabs, lift the windshield up and away from where it sits in place on the fork, and you're done. When attached, the windshield stayed where it was supposed to with no noise or rattling, regardless of how fast we were going.

Our Springfield also came with the optional crash bars installed at the front of the hard bags, which meant that the bike looked odd once the bags were removed, as those crash bars are really noticeable by themselves. They're bolted on and easy enough to remove, but definitely not quick release.

The bags, however, are just as simple as the windshield to detach and stow away, but they do require an additional step or two. Both plastic side panels ahead of the bags need to be removed to undo the electric wires that connect to the locks in both bags and the auxiliary power outlet inside the right one. Once those are unhooked, they tuck completely out of sight with the side panels back in place.

Pop the latches inside the hard bags up to release them from the mounting spools, then simply lift away and off of the exhaust. Hard rubber mounts on the bottom of the bags help take up some of the bounce and keep them more firmly in place.

Our only minor complaint with this system is that the pins that hold the latches in place inside the bag are just small metal dowels with nothing to hold them in place. So if you don't watch when you unhook the inside latches, the pins can slide out and, hopefully, into the bag where they'll be easier to find, as opposed to rolling off into a black hole in your garage or elsewhere.

Another standard feature that proved to be helpful is the tire pressure monitoring system. The low pressure light came on and indicated 36 psi and 37 psi for the front and rear tires respectively on a coastal morning where the overnight temperatures had been around 55° F (13° C). The manual calls for several pounds more, so the tolerances the monitoring system works with are pretty tight. A few pounds of air and some miles to warm up the tires and the system was soon reading normal on both sets of rubber.

Bringing this much bike to a stop comes courtesy ABS and dual four piston 300 mm calipers on floating rotors up front, and a single 300 mm caliper on a floating rotor in the rear. Given that we were riding in an assortment of conditions on a holiday weekend, we had plenty of opportunities to put the brakes to the test.

Fading was non-existent, and both front and back did a good job of biting down without any significant front-end dive or back-end wobble or slide around corners. However, we were told by those riding behind us that the back brake light could have been brighter, which is something that could easily be addressed by specifying a brighter bulb in future models.

Shifting through the Springfield's six-speed transmission was a breeze, especially given that Polaris continues to take flack for how noisy the six-speed is in its Victory lineup. There was also very little of the nose-dive effect that occurs during rapid down-shifting that seems endemic to the big Victory touring bikes.

Our biggest complaint was with the seat. Maybe it was just me, but like the seat on the Scout Sixty, this one had my glutes feeling like they'd been hit by an upset nun with a two-by-four instead of a ruler. The standard highway crash bars let us stretch out our legs to take some of the pressure off, but you can't ride all day like that. A revised or custom seat might be a necessary add-on.

Despite that bit of discomfort, we were sad to see the Springfield rumble off. At a list price of US$20,999, this bike isn't cheap. But considering its superior build quality, long list of standard features, plus the performance and ability to quickly shift from cruiser to full-on bagger, that's a price that could be easily justified.

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