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2016 Indian Springfield – First Ride Review

Greg DrevenstedtMarch 03, 2016
The Springfield’s snug steering geometry, aluminum chassis and generous cornering clearance make it a pleasure to hustle through curves.

The Springfield’s snug steering geometry, aluminum chassis and generous cornering clearance make it a pleasure to hustle through curves. (Photography by Barry Hathaway & Brian J. Nelson)

Engineer Oscar Hedstrom, who would come to be known as the Medicine Man for his mechanical ingenuity, and bicycle manufacturer George Hendee, who became affectionately known as the Big Chief, created a prototype motor-bicycle in 1901, which was tested on the streets of Springfield, Massachusetts, including Cross Street hill, the steepest in the city. Mass production began in 1902, and the “motocycle” was called Indian.

Though it has fully modern features like throttle-by-wire, cruise control, ABS and tire-pressure monitoring, sitting on its sidestand the Springfield is pure classic.

Though it has fully modern features like throttle-by-wire, cruise control, ABS and tire-pressure monitoring, sitting on its sidestand the Springfield is
pure classic.

The newest model from Indian Motorcycle, which has been owned and operated by Minnesota-based Polaris Industries since 2011, pays homage to the birthplace of America’s first motorcycle company. During the first half of the 20th century, Indians were built in Springfield, primarily in an enormous factory on State Street called the Wigwam. Today, Indians are manufactured in a state-of-the-art facility in Spirit Lake, Iowa.

Since relaunching Indian in 2013, Polaris has aggressively filled out its model lineup. First, it introduced the Chief Classic cruiser, Chief Vintage soft bagger and Chieftain faired hard bagger for 2014, all powered by the gorgeous, torque-rich, air-cooled Thunder Stroke 111 V-twin. Next came the Roadmaster luxury tourer, based on the same platform, and the Scout, a compact, lower-displacement cruiser powered by a liquid-cooled, 100-horsepower V-twin. For 2016, Indian introduced the blacked-out, lower-priced Chief Dark Horse and the entry-level Scout Sixty. (Read about all of these Indian models on ridermag.wpengine.com.)
The third model for 2016 is the Springfield, a versatile touring bagger based on the Chief platform. At first glance it looks like a Chief Vintage with the hard saddlebags from the Chieftain, but there are more differences than meet the eye. The Springfield has a quick-release windshield that’s shorter and wider than the one on the Vintage (they use different brackets, so they’re not interchangeable), and it has an all-new, internally wired buckhorn handlebar. Because the Springfield is designed for touring, it uses the same chassis as the Chieftain and Roadmaster, with 4.5 inches of rear suspension travel (compared to 3.7 inches on the Vintage), tighter, more maneuverable steering geometry and a generous 553-pound load capacity. It also has cruise control, a tire-pressure monitoring system, adjustable passenger floorboards and remote locks for the removable, 72-liter (total) hard saddlebags (the windshield and passenger seat can also be removed).

Riding the Springfield on a frigid February day in the Texas Hill Country made me appreciate the large pocket of air created by the windshield, but I longed for the accessory heated grips, heated seat and fairing lowers that were absent from our stock, pre-production test bikes. The shield punched through the air with authority, but its top edge was in my line of sight and noise and turbulence were bothersome (shorter and taller accessory shields are available). Though it was cold, it was bright and sunny, and chrome glare from the large center console became an irritating distraction.

2016 Indian Springfield

2016 Indian Springfield

Sitting on a deep, wide saddle, with a relaxed reach to the bars and my feet resting on large floorboards, the Springfield is definitely comfortable enough for high-mileage days, with excellent suspension damping that provides a plush, well-controlled ride. The air-cooled, 49-degree Thunder Stroke 111 V-twin churns out nearly perfect rumbling sound and feel, and the last one we put on Jett Tuning’s dyno belted out 107 lb-ft of torque at 2,700 rpm and 76 horsepower at 4,500 rpm—more than enough grunt to pull hard out of corners, make quick passes and carry a full load with ease. Our only complaint about this engine is excessive heat, especially on the right side where the downward-angled exhaust headers are located.

If I’m honest, we hammered the Springfield during our test ride. Indian’s engineers are passionate enthusiasts, and when they got a chance to escape the deep freeze of their northern Minnesota Product Development Center, they wicked it up, egged on by a bunch of impatient, competitive journalists. We beveled floorboards and scraped pipes and pushed the Springfield to its limits, and it simply turned the other cheek. In my opinion, the Chief platform’s modular, aluminum backbone frame and cast aluminum swingarm is the most unflappable chassis in the world of big cruisers. Despite its claimed dry weight of 818 pounds, the Springfield feels downright agile, proven over and over on tight curves and with our repeated U-turns for photo passes on narrow country roads. And its big, honking brakes—a pair of 300mm floating rotors in front squeezed by 4-piston calipers and a single 300mm floating rotor out back with a 2-piston caliper, with stainless steel lines and dual-channel ABS—stop the whole parade on a Buffalo nickel.

A scenic, all-day ride comes to an end. As the sun sets, all you hear is the tinking sound of the cooling engine and a chorus of crickets. Life is good.

A scenic, all-day ride comes to an end. As the sun sets, all you hear is the tinking sound of the cooling engine and a chorus of crickets. Life is good.

Indian has enjoyed brisk sales since its relaunch because Polaris has nailed the look, sound and feel of vintage-styled cruisers big and small, while delivering serious performance and sophistication. The Springfield is a good-looking, sharp-handling, comfortable, torquey V-twin tourer that’s ready to be customized to your liking—stripped down for solo duty, built up for two-up long hauling (just add the color-matched, 64-liter trunk and other accessories) or anything in between.

2016 Indian Springfield

The Springfield gets a special large Indian badge on the tank, a shorter, wider quick-release windshield and dual driving lights.

The Springfield gets a special large Indian badge on the tank, a shorter, wider quick-release windshield and dual driving lights.

Base Price: $21,999 (Thunder Black)
Price as Tested: $22,549 (Indian Motorcycle Red)
Website: indianmotorcycles.com
Engine Type: Air-cooled, transverse 49-degree
V-twin, OHV, 2 valves per cyl.
Displacement: 1,811cc (111ci)
Bore x Stroke: 101.0 x 113.0mm
Transmission: 6-speed, cable-actuated wet clutch
Final Drive: Belt
Wheelbase: 65.7 in.
Rake/Trail: 25 degrees/5.9 in.
Seat Height: 26 in.
Claimed Dry Weight: 818 lbs.
Fuel Capacity: 5.5 gals.
MPG: NA

A hallmark of the Chief platform is the fully valenced front fender with illuminated war bonnet. Stout triple disc brakes include standard ABS.

A hallmark of the Chief platform is the fully valenced front fender with illuminated war bonnet. Stout triple disc brakes include standard ABS.

The Thunder Stroke 111 V-twin is one of the most beautiful engines in production today, and its combination of sound, feel and torque delivery is nearly perfect.

The Thunder Stroke 111 V-twin is one of the most beautiful engines in production today, and its combination of sound, feel and torque delivery is nearly perfect.

11 comments

  1. All aluminum frame and yet it still weighs over 800 lb.? I’m not a big fan of the ugly front fender or the styling in general.

    • Robert Hamilton

      Gar, it’s an Indian…all Indians have had the ‘UGLY” front fender…..it’s an Indian!

      • Indian motorcycles didn’t get the big art deco fenders until 1940. 1901-1939 Indians had regular fenders and IMO were better looking bikes.

  2. I own a 1946 Indian Chief, with the Bonneville racing engine parts. I ride it weekly. The entire bike is 550lbs wet and there is no plastic (they didn’t have any for motorcycles in 1946 – nor turn signals….). It is all steel and cast iron. Frame, brakes and all. No juice brakes or clutch, the entire motorcycle is manual and mechanical, including the hand shifter and foot clutch (it is NOT a “suicide clutch.” Only and idiot would put that on a bike). Not sure why my 2014 Indian Vintage weighs nearly 300 lbs more! Both handle extremely well, wish I had the same steering dampener on the new ’14. Both the same color(‘ish), bags and all look quite similar. Nice cross-over design. The ’46 has an 84 cubic inch stroker engine in it with racing cams, carb, heads, pistons, etc. It is only a hair slower than the 111 cubic inch ’14 Vintage. The new ’14 engine is as noisy with clacking, whacking and rattling as my ’46 flat head.
    Is the ’14 an improvement? Yes. But don’t underestimate a 70 year old Indian motorcycle screaming down the road at 91 mph either 😉 (yeah I got a ticket for that on radar!!!) Besides I really like the foot clutch and hand shifter on the old one. Makes it easier to put it directly into neutral at a stop 😉

    PS. I really, really like the big fenders because they work so well. They work as designed and keep all the mud and dirt off the front of the bike and me! And big enough inside to keep from trapping mud in between the tire and fender. They weren’t just meant to be art deco, but functional as well. Something Harley to this day has not gotten right yet.

  3. How can you say the engine gives off too much heat when earlier you said it was cold out? I have owned 37 bikes from 10 different manufacturers and I can honestly say my 2015 Chieftain and my 2014 Vintage are no hotter than my Electra Glide was, or my Victory Cross bikes, or my Statoliner, or my Vulcan 2053cc , or even my water cooled Royal Stars. I think you guys just keep saying what some other magazine before you said.

    • We have been consistent in reporting excessive engine heat from the air-cooled Thunder Stroke 111 in multiple road tests and comparison tests. That the engine heat can be felt on a cold day may provide some relief (warmth), but on hot days it becomes downright uncomfortable. The amount of engine heat that is felt depends on what type of boots and pants you wear, and one’s own sensitivity. It’s our job to report what we experience and feel. If heat doesn’t bother you, then no problem.

  4. I test rode a Springfield recently. There was a bad vibration from 2500 to 3000 rpm. It came really bad through the floor boards and some through the seat. has anybody else noticed this?

    • The vibration is more noticable at higher rpms but still not as bad as a Harley. Mine is very comfortable at all speeds. The windshield leaves a little to be desired but overall a much better machine than my Riad King.

  5. Linton crabtree

    I’am looking to buy a springfield in the spring,I would like any feedback on the machine.
    My e-mail is lintoncrabtree@yahoo.com Think you.

  6. Linton crabtree

    Thank you.

  7. So Polaris discontinues the Cross Roads, which is a fantastic bike, on the premise that a hard bagger without a fairing isn’t selling. Then they essentially bring the concept back except heavier and more expensive with worse suspension.

    I’ll keep my Cross Roads

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