Indian's Springfield - We Rode It To Devils Tower At Sturgis

Not only did Clutch and Chrome test Indian Motorcycle’s Springfield, we did it in the scenic surroundings of Sturgis, riding it to one of the best known destinations of the legendary event, Devils Tower.

Indian Motorcycle’s Springfield carries much on its metaphorical motorcycle shoulders, most of which comes from being named after the birthplace of the iconic brand. First released at Daytona Bike Week, an event that kicks off the motorcycle summer, taking the Springfield through its paces at Sturgis which essentially bookends the biker seasons seemed suiting. The incredible roads around Sturgis proved to be the perfect testing grounds for the Springfield, a model which was years in development and enjoys the tagline of a ‘pure touring motorcycle’.

‘You. The road. Nothing else. That’s the definition of pure riding. And that’s exactly what you get with the Indian Springfield,’ is how Indian Motorcycle describes it on the model’s official webpage.

First, a look at what the Springfield is. Classified as a bagger, the 2017 model saw additional colors added to a long list of features and accessories the Springfield enjoys in its efforts to make a ‘distinctive mark in the bagger and touring category’. These features include Indian’s Thunder Stroke 111 engine which delivers 1811 cc of power nestled in the classic curves Indian motorcycles are known for. Taking design cues from the forties and fifties, an oversized headlight and casing sets the tone for a big, beautiful and stylish appearance for those who are attracted to this era of riding.

For readers not necessarily looking for a bagger or touring motorcycle, we would recommend you stay with us as not everything is as it appears to be.

2017 Indian Springfield - Source Indian Motorcycle

The design efforts of the Springfield are all about detail. From the tastefully-studded contoured seat to the guard rails around the engine and those protecting the hard saddlebags towards the bike’s rear, thoroughness is key with the Springfield.

There is nothing dark about this bike in anyway, no matting of any type, just bright shiny chrome offset by high gloss paint. In this case, it was Indian Red and the stock Springfield that would ride off the showroom floor.

Parked among some Scout models, the Springfield looked massive as an Indian representative walked through the highlights, features and most importantly, controls of the bike. With a 67 inch wheelbase and overall length of 101.7 inches, the Springfield is of average size among the heavier Indian motorcycles but there was something about the model that just made it feel bigger.

2017 Indian Springfield - Source Indian Motorcycle

It could have been the large, curved hard saddlebags or long, sweeping handlebars which framed its wide, rounded gas tank that gave the feel of a larger motorcycle, but aside from its low profile, it felt like one was sitting in the Springfield rather than on it. Between the contoured, studded seat and swept back handlebars, the design puts the rider in a near-perfect riding position. Obviously this can be tweaked with adjustments to the handlebars, but at 5’11” the factory setting were a perfect fit on first seating for myself.

And it’s at that moment when a rider first sits on the Springfield the realization that this is a well-designed and cleverly-engineered motorcycle starts to set in. Officially weighing in at 862 lbs with a full tank of gas, when taking the motorcycle off its kickstand it feels as light as a smaller engine bike. As with many things about this motorcycle, a nod should be given to Indian’s engineering and design teams for lowering the center of gravity and finding this optimal balance in what is in all intents and purposes is a heavy motorcycle.

It’s actually surreal how light the Springfield feels and as detailed later, I enjoyed the perplexed look of other riders as they sat in the Springfield’s saddle, trying to connect the appearance of a large motorcycle with its apparent lightness.

The Springfield’s instrument clusters are well-organized and an indication of just how much stuff Indian has crammed into this motorcycle as standard equipment. Electronic ignition, cruise control, all the standard controls as well as the myriad of information that can be accessed are managed from the handlebar clusters. A full list of everything Indian has included as standard can be found on the model’s webpage.

The instrument clusters continue the level of detail given to the Springfield with their shape following the design cues of the headlight casing, enjoying distinctive curves and cuts to give the motorcycle its stylish appearance.

The abundant real estate on the wide gas tank is filled by a raised console between two fuel caps, one is for decoration and the other isn’t. A traditional dial speedometer featuring an area displaying digital information dominates the console. Relatively speaking, a smaller gauge for fuel sits adjacent to the speedometer with an ‘on-off’ button completing the layout. All these use a theme of red backlighting.

The ‘on-off’ button is one of the most interesting parts of the process to start the motorcycle. This large modern button replaces the traditional mechanical switch normally used and is just one of many small ways Indian brings this classic style into the age of modern motorcycles. In a way, it also speaks to the younger generations, giving the motorcycle a more familiar operational feel.

When starting the Springfield, the Thunder Stroke 111 engine delivers it’s ‘sound’ which could be described as a lower, more rounded rumble when compared to the famous notes of a  Harley-Davidson. Coming off the showroom floor, the Springfield isn’t a loud motorcycle and for many riders attracted to this particular Indian that may be more of a selling point than detraction. Its sound doesn’t need volume to sell the motorcycle’s power and actually achieves much with its richness.

Another indication of the attention to detail, Indian designers complimented the low center of gravity by giving the motorcycle’s forks a 25° Rake, adding responsiveness to the easy feel of the Springfield. As the open road would show, this all adds up to incredible handling that defies the motorcycle’s size.

Pulling away, the Springfield reminds the rider of its light handling, so much so, it’s easy for bikers used to operating heavier handling motorcycles to over-compensate, leading the somewhat humorous appearance of a new-rider’s wobbly first lap at a safety course. At least this is how it felt and surely looked as I rode off.

After leaving Indian’s back lot and within the first few lights on Lazelle Street, I pulled up next to an older couple on a Harley-Davidson Street Glide. While their eyes went up and down the Springfield, a quick visual comparison acknowledged that it was longer that the Harley and much lower. Boasting a seat height of 26 inches and a ground clearance of only 5.6 inches, the motorcycle felt as low as its sounds. A quick check of the specifications shows the Springfield is about six inches longer, but with this Indian model sitting the rider slightly further back than that of a Harley-Davidson, the length felt more pronounced.

To Devils Tower

After a solid thumbs-up from the Harley rider, it was off to Devils Tower, a popular destination for Sturgis-goers that offers a full day of mixed riding and incredible views. Part of the Black Hills, Devils Tower is a butte that rises a dramatic 1,267 feet above the Belle Fourche River and was the first declared United States National Monument, established on September 24, 1906 by President Theodore Roosevelt.

Considered one of the most popular rides in the Black Hills, there are what could be considered mandatory stops along the way with the ride itself full of long, sweeping curves. Offering highways and slower riding, it was a 180 mile ride that would allow us to put the Springfield through a range of riding styles.

Not surprisingly, the Thunder Stroke 111 engine offers a wealth of power taking an enthusiastic rider through the first three gears quickly. From then on there’s a plenty of play in the upper three gears. The engine is very forgiving, offering torque even if the rider arrives at a gear earlier than they should, including the Springfield’s sixth gear.

Add the light and responsive handling to the powerful and easy-going Thunder Stroke 111 engine and the ride becomes pure enjoyment. The handling is complimented by a single rear shock which is air-adjustable and fairly simple to set according to who riding on the motorcycle and how much is loaded in the saddlebags. This, we’re told, helps even out the motorcycle’s response to the road.

The motorcycle handles so well it feels as if it’s anticipating the rider’s next move, something I experienced going into the first sweeping curve of the trip. Only needing subconscious movement, the Springfield appears to react to the very thought of leaning into a curve. Once a rider dials in the responsiveness and handling of the Springfield a feeling grows of being able to devour anything the open road throws up and best of all, do it with some fun. In fact, there were moments when I thought my aggressiveness on the corners would result in the telltale warning of scraping floorboards.

Another indication to not only the power of the Springfield but also its handling was seen in how it managed the gusty climate of Sturgis. While only a flick of wrist was needed to push the motorcycle back to the original cruising speed when the large screen caught a gust of wind, the Springfield easily held the road allowing the bike to power through everything Mother Nature threw at it during the day-long ride.

The first stop at Stonehouse Saloon presented a great opportunity to test the Springfield’s handling at low speed over uneven terrain. Located in Belle Fourche, South Dakota, the Stonehouse Saloon is considered as one of those ‘must-visit’ places while at Sturgis. Basically a few stone buildings with wooden decks, it’s located out on some Dakota plains offering good food, cheap drinks and great music,  all enjoyed by large crowds of riders.

Parking is found in the surrounding unpaved fields with staff on horseback directing the multitude of motorcycles. The mildly off road experience wasn’t a problem for the Springfield with the motorcycle’s handling doing just as well on a Dakota plain as it did on the open highway.

Once parked, I had the choice of using a keyless fob or locking switch on the console to secure the saddlebags and motorcycle, making it easy to pack when arriving and quick to leave when heading back onto the open road.

Continuing onto Devils Tower it was easy to see this as a motorcycle perfect for tackling long hours in the saddle and those ‘ultimate’ road trips. The ease of riding the Springfield not only made negotiating the sloped parking lot at the entrance of Devils Tower full of chaotic motorcycle traffic effortless, the winding road to the National Monument was a short but fun ride. Even looking back at the video we shot of our time at Devils Tower, riders can be seen manhandling their motorcycles around parking lots and through the maze of bikers, further highlighting how much the Springfield makes every day and less glamourous riding situations easier.

Taking mostly highway for the journey back gave an opportunity to play with the treasure chest found on the instrument clusters. Cruise controls are easy to activate and can be disengaged in various ways, allowing a rider to come out of it with little notice. Scrolling through the abundance of available information was quick and easy as well; voltage, gear, rpm and even the current temperature are among the laundry list of data available to the rider.

A stop for dinner at Deadwood and parked among a line-up of various Harley-Davidson models again highlighted the Springfield’s size and ergonomics. This was contradicted with the nimble fashion the motorcycle rode off the curb and through thick Deadwood traffic when leaving.

Back at our motel, the parked Springfield brought out the surrounding neighbors. The official count was five Harley-Davidson owners, one Triumph and a Kawasaki touring motorcycle rider.

As each sat in the saddle, they were not only amazed at how light the Springfield felt but minds quickly raced to how that would translate to the open road. When it was explained the motorcycle could be converted to a cruiser by easily removing the windshield and saddlebags through quick-release tabs, they usually sat in the saddle again with even more enthusiasm. Although a rider would be left with the guard rails on the front and back, these too can be removed, albeit with using a tool, but with matching plugs, it would be hard to know they were even there.

It was comforting to know everyone was equally intrigued and amused by the ‘on-off’ button as I was when first seeing it.

Trouble in paradise

While riders are the first to admit, and manufacturers begrudgingly so, there is no such thing as a perfect motorcycle. As comfortable and fun as the Springfield is to ride I did notice a stream of hot air running past my inner and upper calves. Understanding Sturgis is an incredibly hot environment to ride in, the engine seemed to deflect the wind perfectly onto my leg. Looking at the Springfield it appears this problem comes about from the flush and curved bodywork filling in the gaps behind the engine as well as the sheer size of the Thunder Stroke 111 engine, which puts out the heat relative to its power. Between these two factors and the riding position which is slightly further back, the air finds itself hitting the rider’s upper calf.

While not painful or distracting, it was noticeable. Would it be an issue in cooler riding climates or even something to dissuade someone from owing a Springfield? Probably not. Oddly enough, the riding position and engine design eliminated the usual frying of a rider’s inside leg when at a stop.

In this age of smartphones and electronic devices, there is no USB port around the console. When asked about this, the Indian representative noted this was at the lower end of the price range and hasn’t been included for the current model year. Indian have put a car charging socket in the right saddlebag however so riders won’t be left with a drained device.

To buy or not to buy?

There is much to like about Indian’s Springfield. The build quality is among the best out there and aside from the few matters mentioned above, a lot of thought went into the design of this model. Although this is at the lower end of the price range for the heavier Indian models, a rider is getting a lot of motorcycle bang for their buck and it certainly doesn’t feel like an entry-level bike.

Starting at $20,999 for the Thunder Black model, the Indian Red version we rode starts at $21,449. Understanding every biker wants to ‘make it their own’, with so much included for those prices any changes would be purely cosmetic.

Taking into account the Springfield is essentially two motorcycles in one, a touring bike and cruiser, this value is further enhanced. With the bodywork underneath the saddlebags painted to the same high standard as the rest of the motorcycle, no-one is the wiser it was a touring motorcycle after they are removed.

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In many ways this motorcycle should appeal to a variety of riders. Taking aside the debate of a new motorcycle for a biker’s first ride, the Springfield’s handling and performance makes it an ideal choice for those new to the saddle. Too many times have we seen new riders struggling with the sheer mass of a motorcycle, but the Springfield allows a focus on building needed skills instead of manhandling their bike. The model seems as forgiving with its performance as it does its handling, again making it a good choice for new riders.

The same line of thought could be applied to older bikers who want to spend more time enjoying the ride rather than managing the motorcycle or even those who have concerns over balance. The small additions such as the engine switching off when placed in gear while the kickstand is still down saves the biker embarrassment for riders old and new to the past time.

As with new riders, some seasoned bikers never know what they want to be when they grow up leading to the frustration of what style of motorcycle to own. The Springfield could be considered a two-for-one special with a snap on and off transformation taking it between a touring motorcycle and cruiser, ideal for local riding and bike nights as well as the more ambitious road trips.

It’s the area of style which could be considered a possible stumbling block for riders considering the Springfield. Polaris have embraced the Indian brand and its heritage exceptionally well, producing a line of motorcycles that certainly do the legendary name proud. But riders who aren’t attracted to the specific style seen with the Springfield face the dilemma of substance over style.  

For those that enjoy the classic Indian look however, the Springfield is a head-turning joy to ride that will easily fill several biker worlds and cruise into endless motorcycle adventures. In the endless debates of how many motorcycles should one rider own, not would the Springfield be included, but it might just bring that magical number down.

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  • Comment Link Rich

    Rich

    25/08/2016

    Great hearing from you and glad to hear you made it back safe!

    Everyone should know the last sentence is dedicated to Mike and the other neighbors as that was one of our major conversations the night we debated the Springfield!

    Take care my friend!

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  • Comment Link Mike  Kate

    Mike Kate

    24/08/2016

    Great article. We were the neighbor next door with the Harley. Planning on purchasing a Springfield in the spring. Nice meeting you and ride safe friend.

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