Living with the Springfield.
Story and photos by Ray Seidel
A quick recap of my first impressions of the new Indian Springfield (Part 1, May issue) – this is a work of art. Not only is it a beautiful motorcycle, the bike is loaded right out of the box with about everything you’d want. Windshield, hard bags with remote lock, highway bars front and rear, plus passenger floorboards. (No tools required to remove windshield and bags.) Esthetically, I really like the large “Indian” tank badge that harkens back to the day of the original Springfield made Indians.
But, at the outset, there were two concerns which we’ll address right away, which I’ve learned are easily rectified. I must mention that this PARTICULAR Chief came fresh out of the warehouse, and I was the first person to ride it. As I was ready to pull away from my house for the first time, rev the engine and engage the clutch, nothing was happening as I twisted the throttle. More twist and the engine was there, but a huge delay. This is a fly-by-wire throttle, no cable, but having a new Indian of my own (Scout) and ridden other Chiefs, I suspected this was unique to this particular bike and was simply a matter of adjustment. Just to confirm this, I’ve fired up other dealer Springfields, and they have no problem with throttle lag … though to be picky I’ve found a tiny bit of variation. Just have your dealer do the adjustment if YOUR new Indian has throttle lag, as some DO come out of the factory that way. Having said that, another way around throttle lag is the installation of the Stage 1 free flow exhaust. That is not a “fix” – it is bypassing the root cause of the problem, so if someone insists you spend a grand to remedy throttle lag, tell them to go pound sand and go elsewhere.
So, throttle, not an issue. Your dealer can make that spot on perfect, and you’ll love it. Next up once I was under way, I went to shift to 2nd gear, and having a Garlic Indian myself with toe / heal shifter, I momentarily forgot the new Indians are toe shift only, and nothing there when attempting to push my heel down. Lifting up on the toe shifter with my shoe, when the transmission is cold, takes some effort for the first shift of the day. After several minutes things begin to loosen up, and all is well. Shifting was smooth and no missed shifts, but still takes some effort. For some Chief owners on our QT staff, toe shifting is perfectly fine. My personal advice is just add the heel shift attachment when you buy the bike – it’s pre-drilled to accept it, and you’ll never have to think about it again.
Okay, with that out of the way, you’ll have perfect throttle response (and I do mean perfect!) and effortless shifts (with heel shifter), so how about the rest of the bike? The hard bags are pretty roomy, and my half shell helmet fits easily inside. It’s nice to know it will still be there locked away when you park somewhere. And I discovered quite by accent if you try to open up the bags when locked a LOUD horn alarm goes off! Yes, that’s another plus – this bike has a horn that can actually be HEARD.
The dashboard on the tank has a wealth of information, more than I actually needed. Riding up to Lake Arrowhead, I knew it was going to get colder up there, and setting the dash to show outside temperature, I just watched as the figure plummeted. Yikes! But, I had extra clothing in the hard bags, so no worries. Getting some long day rides in over the course of a couple of weeks, I went through several of the screens. Climbing up the Lake Arrowhead hills, 119.2 ft-lbs of torque pulls the bike like a steam locomotive. The all new frame of the Springfield shares the 25° rake as the Chieftain, and as such can make the 10 mph turns up the hill with the ease of a shorter wheelbase bike. If that 10 mph turn comes up as a SURPRISE, you have standard ABS, and the sub-1000 rpm idle speed will help slow you in a down shift.
For a very different kind of road test I spent a day climbing up the mountains to Julian, CA – apple country! I toggled to see what my gas mileage was. Hmm….38.9. Hitting some flats, it goes up a bit, but not much. My conclusion is you’re getting a very conservative estimate of mpg. I know, because I actually MEASURED the gas mileage on this factory fresh bike, and it’s 41 mpg +/- ½ mpg whether climbing twisty hills or on the freeway. And that will only go up as the bike gets broken in. The faster curves going up to Julian allow you to see just how the Springfield responds to whatever commands you care to give it. Julian itself has no signals and only one stop sign, so is a great place to take a test ride and get a bite to eat. The Must See (or maybe MUST EAT) is “MOM’S” for fresh Julian pie. The very best you’ll find anywhere, with several different choice combinations to choose from, or simple plain apple. Across the street, for actual food, is “Miner’s Diner and Soda Fountain.” I had the pulled pork with a chocolate phosphate to drink, not something offered just anywhere. This is a great destination for the summer to get away from the heat, great scenery, and some comfort food.
At the very opposite extreme, I planted the Springfield Chief on Route 66 to really open it up and see what it rides like on the open road. If you happen to be passing through Newberry Springs (and you most likely will be if you do the Laughlin River Run), I made a stop at the Bagdad Café for lunch, from the movie of the same name. The film is about the unusual characters in this road side greasy spoon. In real life, you’ll find whoever happens to be there every bit as interesting, if not more so. Back on the bike I noticed the range is pretty good. Fill up in Barstow, CA, and you can reach Kingman, AZ with fuel left over. Toggling through different screens, I see just what my range is. Taking a lazy back road through the Mojave desert with no traffic, I turn on the cruise control and set it to 55 mph, then watch as the range INCREASES from 195 miles to 200, 205 and upwards. This is the perfect use of cruise, where a long stretch of road APPEARS mostly level but actually is not, and the feature keeps your speed consistent (obviously) whereas the subtle ups and downs would need repeated correction. I personally do not find Cruise of much use on the super slabs of our Interstates with so many cagers being bottlenecks. I did not get to try the cruise control up a really steep high speed grade, but with 111 cubic inches of engine I suspect it could keep its pace quite easily.
One surprise on long day rides was how comfortable the floorboards were. Not only was the location just right, but my feet weren’t sliding all over the place as on some floorboards. For me at least, the handlebars were just right. Bars are a very personal thing, a matter of taste and preference, and Indian does offer options here, but I sure felt the one it came with was just right. A bit more about living with an Indian Springfield. Two ways to start your bike: it’s keyless ignition, so no fumbling around trying to find the slot for your key. Just have the fob on you, and push the ON button on the tank, then the START switch. Even easier (and my preference) is simply hit the START switch twice. I rode this bike up steep hills, twisty roads, and long endless flatlands over the Mojave desert to get some good saddle time. And on that very note, that seat is actually comfortable after a full day of riding. The windshield is just tall enough to block the wind, yet perfect visibility. This is something to consider if undecided between a Chieftain with front fairing and a Springfield with a windshield, as there is an unobstructed view of what’s ahead with the latter. Just below the windshield on the lower left corner is a push button for the aux lights. I personally just leave these on, believing I can never be visible enough to cagers. At 70 mph in 6th gear the engine takes it all in stride at about 2500 rpm, and feels effortless, while the ride itself smoothes virtually any road imperfections. I felt the Chief could cruise all day like this, and with this kind of comfort, security, and a myriad of features, so could I.
So there you have it. This is an amazing example of what motorcycling is all about. If you want something different from a Road King (at about the same price with equivalent features added to the Harley), go take a ride on the new Indian Springfield and compare. You won’t be disappointed.
Engine Type: Thunder Stroke® 111
Displacement: 111 cu in / 1811 cc
Bore x Stroke: 3.976 x 4.449 in (101 mm x 113 mm)
Compression Ratio: 9.5 : 1
Electronic Fuel Injection System: Closed Loop Fuel Injection / 54 mm Bore
ABS; Cast Aluminum Frame with Integrated Air-Box; Cruise Control; Highway Bar; Indian® Script Tank
Badge; Keyless Start; Quick-Release Windshield; Quick-Release Hard Saddlebags, Tire Pressure Monitoring
Tank Mounted Electronic Speedometer with Odometer; Dual Tripmeters; Digital Tachometer; Ambient Air Temperature; Fuel Range; Average Fuel Economy; Battery Voltage; Gear Position Display; Real-Time Clock; Vehicle Trouble Code Read-Out; Heated Grip Level (If Heated Grips Installed); Low Engine Oil Pressure; 9 LED Telltale Indicators: Cruise Control Enabled, Cruise Control Set, Neutral, High Beam, Turn Signal, ABS, Check Engine, and MPH or Km/H Unit Designation; Tank Mounted Electronic Fuel Gauge with Low Fuel LED Indicator
MSRP (as tested) $21,549