Bikes we love Test rides

Ride Review: 2018 Indian Springfield

Old-school tourer is timelessly awesome

“OK, I’m going to sell my Triumph and get one of these.” – That was the thought that ran through my head several times during my two weeks with an Indian Springfield, and for quite a long time afterward.

READ MORE: Check Out All of TMO’s Bike Reviews

Admittedly, I have that thought with just about every bike I ride because I love motorcycles and am easily dazzled by the newness of a given experience. And, admittedly, that feeling tends to be intensified when I ride an Indian motorcycle, because I carry unapologetic affection for the brand.

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Usually, though, the feeling subsides. With some bikes – a BMW R nineT – for example, it may take me a day or two to come to my senses. With others – eg, the Harley-Davidson Sport Glide – the feeling will stick with me for several weeks. My infatuation with the Indian Springfield, however, has kept its grip for eight months and counting.

Way back in July, I flew out to Minnesota to test ride the Indian Scout Bobber. You may know I have strong connections to the Land of 10,000 Lakes, so I politely asked if Indian would be willing to delay my return flight back to the UK by a day or two to allow me to visit family and friends. Because Indian is awesome (and, if I understand correctly, it actually ended up saving the company a little money), I was given two weeks. Because Indian is super-super awesome, the company also let me borrow a Springfield to use as transportation.

I mean, even if the company didn’t make kick-ass bikes, you could kind of understand why I hold such a special place in my heart for it. Anyway, over those two weeks, I rode the hell out of the bike, at one point even taking a road trip north to Duluth to visit with Andy Goldfine of Aerostich. I rode the Springfield on interstate, through the downtowns of Minneapolis and St. Paul, and on endless country roads. I rode it through a lot of hot days, a few cool mornings, and one really intense thunderstorm. By the end of it I had fallen in love with the bike. Here’s why:

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Massive V-twin engine is massive.

Vintage Urban Cruising

At 388 kg wet (855 lbs) the Springfield is hardly featherweight. I guess you could chalk that up as a positive in urban situations – certainly it’s unlikely that anyone will be pulling up and throwing the thing into the back of a van. But thanks to the bike’s tonnage being kept low you don’t really notice how heavy it is. For example, the Springfield is easier to muscle around in a parking space than my Tiger Explorer, which weighs at least 120 kg (265 lbs) less.

A 25-degree rake angle helps turning ability and the bike is surprisingly easy to maneuver at slow speed. No, it’s not a Triumph Street Triple or any such thing, but it is still reasonably capable of navigating a crowded city center. Minnesota doesn’t allow filtering (aka “lane splitting”) but I may have… ah… forgotten that fact a few times, so I can attest to the bike’s ability when moving between cars. Almost-meter-wide ‘bars will limit the number of gaps you can hit, of course, but the combination of smooth throttle, low weight, and perfect balance result in a steadiness that gives you the confidence to squeeze through the smallest possible spaces.

RELATED: Indian Hires BMW R nineT Designer as Head of Product Design

The Springfield’s ultra comfy suspension soaks up all but the worst of city potholes. However, adjusting the pneumatic rear shock is kind of a pain in the ass. Similar to the system used on the Chieftain and Roadmaster, it involves removing a panel and making sure you’ve got a pump handy. I would not be surprised or disappointed to see Indian following Harley’s lead and introducing a good ol’ hand-adjustable monoshock in the not too distant future.

Probably the biggest strike against the Springfield in urban scenarios, however, is the fact it’s got pretty heavy clutch pull. You certainly won’t really be two-fingering your way through town. It didn’t bother me much, but in a perfect world I’d like to see Indian putting a little more effort into this aspect of the bike. The Springfield is a motorcycle upon which you will want to be seen, which means you are going to be doing a lot of passes of your favorite ice cream parlors and such – you don’t want to have to call it an early night because of hurty hands.

On the Interstate/Motorway

The Springfield’s gargantuan 1811cc Thunder Stroke 111 V-twin was built for long hauls, as was the chassis. The greatest joy is to be found on the sort of country highways that crisscross a big country like the United States, but the bike’s roughly 90 hp means there is more than enough oomph to hustle along at – or reasonably above – modern highway speeds. If you want to hustle along at unreasonable speed you’ll need a longish runway to get the bike’s analogue speedometer firmly pointing at triple digits, and the engine will run out of puff pretty quickly once there, but that’s really not what this bike is about. If you want to go fast, get a lighter, more powerful, less-expensive Scout Bobber.

READ MORE: 2018 Indian Scout Bobber – Ride Review

An old-school barn door windscreen comes standard. Easily removable (it will take you about 5 seconds), I’m inclined to suggest it should spend most of its time in a corner of the garage. The Springfield looks better sans windshield and speeds up to 75 mph are perfectly tolerable. At my height (6 feet 1 inch), the stock screen creates a certain amount of buffeting. I found the wind flow was less disruptive without it. On my way back to my parents’ house from Duluth I covered the 170 miles on Interstate 35 – most of that stretch having a 70mph limit –without suffering fatigue.

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Having said that, I probably would have appreciated having the screen the night I got caught in a heavy thunderstorm, and I’m pretty sure riding in consistently cooler weather (spring/autumn, or Britain year-round) would convince me of the screen’s benefits.

The aforementioned plush suspension makes covering long distances feel downright luxurious, and the huge engine is surprisingly abstemious when it comes to consuming dino juice from its 20.8-liter (5.49 US gallons) tank. The rider’s seat is armchair comfy, and the presence of skateboard-sized floorboards means you can move your feet around quite a bit – shifting positions whenever the mood strikes you. It’s so comfortable that at the end of long rides I usually felt I hadn’t ridden far enough.

RELATED: 2017 Indian Roadmaster – Ride Review

That feeling was facilitated in part by an accurate cruise control system that is light years beyond the system Victory was using not so long ago. However, if you’ve read any bike review from me that mentions cruise control you’ll know I have all kinds of complaints (see below) about Indian’s switchgear, regularly using it as an example of what not to do.

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As I’ve said before, keyless start makes you awesome.

The King of Quieter Roads

Where the Springfield really wins you over is away from the competitive “must get there now while checking Instagram” silliness of main roads. In the United States, it’s perfect for what folks in Texas call Farm to Market roads: long stretches of open highway that occasionally route through quiet towns whose biggest claim to fame is the presence of an A&W Restaurant. In the UK, it would be ideal for cruising those hedgerowed stretches of asphalt that connect comically named towns like Bittlington Lower Salterford.

Floating along at 60 mph, give or take, everything in the world seems right. Then you slow down to roll through one of those nowhere towns, perhaps stop to grab a coffee or a sticky bun (in Minnesota, small towns are all about sticky buns), then ease on down the road. In the United States, of course, these kinds of roads are great places to get caught for speeding – the local constabulary more often than not funding itself on the folly of strangers. But the Springfield is so much fun at legal speeds that all the police will get from you is a friendly wave.

The bike’s keyless-locking panniers are large enough to hold a few days of clothes. This kind of riding is so much fun, though, you’ll soon be entertaining fantasies of packing a large Ortlieb bag and getting lost for several weeks. If you’re bringing a passenger, Indian sells an accessory quick-release top box (“trunk”) that holds a ridiculous amount of stuff and is color matched. It is pricy, though. And I personally feel it spoils the Springfield’s aesthetic.

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What Everyone Else Says

“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.” – Lemmy, Common Tread

“The Springfield is stable as a freight train but carries its weight very well. With the lighter front end, the nimble handling that I loved on the Chieftain just got a little better.” – Morgan Gales, Motorcycle Cruiser

“Indian’s classy convertible is arguably two bikes in one: both cruiser and tourer, and very accomplished in either role. It is certainly impressively versatile, as well as beautifully finished, bursting with character, and as enjoyable to ride as it is comfortable over distance.” – Roland Brown, The Telegraph

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The Little Things

You’ll never see Donald Trump riding an Indian Springfield; it is a motorcycle built for people with large hands. Thick bars and grips, chunky levers, and – most annoyingly – a huge reach to operate the cruise control switch can be annoying for even those with long digits.

It’s my understanding that Indian has been quietly improving the ergonomics of its cruise control switchgear – something the company alluded to in its release of the 2018 Indian Chieftain Elite – but unfortunately that switchgear is still on the right side and it is still ugly. Right-side cruise control systems are difficult to operate because they require you to hold the throttle steady while reaching for a button or buttons with your thumb. It’s tricky to do and there is the potential for major error; a buddy of mine accidentally hit the kill switch on a KTM 1290 Super Duke GT when trying to set its right-side system.

Secondly, the Indian cruise control switchgear hangs off the grip like an afterthought. For a bike with so many beautiful lines, so many perfect little touches, its “Oh, and this” nature is jarring.

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The Best Things

The Springfield is a modern bike with an old-school look and timeless feel. It’s the nature of bikes like this that owners hold on to them for a very long time. Go to a big cruiser-focused moto gathering and count how many of the Harleys are from the 70s, 80s and 90s. Indian builds its bikes with that sort of rider in mind. Everything about the bike is robust – even that cursed cruise control switchgear is likely to stand the test of time.

But the bike doesn’t just look tough. Riding back from my friend Anthony’s house one evening I got caught in a torrential downpour that flooded the streets so badly water was washing over the floorboards. Every item of clothing was soaked as if I had jumped into a lake. The anti-fog visor on my Schuberth C3 Pro had given up completely. But the bike rolled on. It helps, of course, that the air intake on most V-twins – Indian or otherwise – is placed relatively high, but I was still impressed.

The other thing I particularly love about the Springfield is the reaction it solicits from others. My father has always held a dim view of motorcycles, but he was like a little kid when I parked this gorgeous machine in his condo parking space. He asked to sit on it, then delighted at the fact all his neighbors thought he had bought a bike. Anthony’s daughter, meanwhile, now refers to me as “Motorcycle Man.”

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One of my favorite moments came when I visited another friend, who lives in the country, and took his daughters on rides on nearby roads. The eldest daughter, Evelyn, is 14 and has perfected the art of teenage-girl dismissiveness. It fell apart, though, in the face of this bike.

Indian’s analogue speedometer can cleverly be set to reflect either miles per hour or kilometers per hour; depending on setting, the bike uses the same dial but recalibrates its reading to reflect the appropriate form of measurement. For those of you playing along at home, this means you can ride at 60 mph and have the dial read 100. So, moving down a country road at legal speed I was able to nudge Evelyn, point at the speedo and shout: “100 miles per hour!”

“OH MY GOD!” she shouted, clutching my waist just a little bit tighter.

She was shaking with excitement when we got back to the house. All of her high school cool had been obliterated. That’s the power of the Springfield, y’all. I’d like to think her “100 mph on a motorcycle” story is a regular part of her repertoire when seeking to impress the other kids.

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Is it Worth the Price?

In the United Kingdom the Indian Springfield will set you back £21,349. In the good ol’ US of A, you can expect a starting price of $20,999. There is no getting around the fact that is A LOT of money. The most obvious comparable bike is the Harley-Davidson Road King, which costs £19,195 in the UK, or $18,999 in the US. That’s a pretty big price difference for two bikes that more or less perform the same, have the same standard features, and boast the same kinds of intangibles. And I’m surprised to see that Harley’s the one winning on price.

Meanwhile, in the UK, the Springfield is inexplicably £200 more expensive than the standard Chieftain, which shares the same engine and chassis, but has considerably more features – namely that huge fairing, a power windshield, and a 100-watt stereo.

So, you really, really have to love the Springfield if you’re going to buy one. That all said, I wouldn’t criticize someone for forking over the money. This is a legacy bike; I don’t see a Springfield owner trading in his or her motorcycle every two years, the way I tend to. They’re going to hold on to this thing for quite a long time, and as such you can mentally spread the cost across a greater space of time.

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The Three Questions

Does the Indian Springfield fit my current lifestyle?
There’s no reason the Springfield couldn’t serve daily, year-round duty for a guy who doesn’t own a car. Leave the screen attached and pony up the dough for heated grips, and you’ve got a bike that can go all the places I currently choose to go. More weight and less horsepower than my current bike would mean no more half-assed wheelie attempts, but that’s probably for the best. My biggest concern, though, would be the tires. The Springfield’s stock Dunlop Elite IIIs aren’t terribly confidence inspiring in the wet. There is conflicting information as to whether genuinely better tires exist, but I’d be willing to take the risk and try other brands.

Does the Indian Springfield put a smile on my face?
Definitely. The Springfield is surprisingly nimble for a big bike and incredibly well balanced. It’s got a great look, and great sound, and a fantastic engine. It is my favorite kind of bike, one that allows you to ride far and look cool (in a vintagey sort of way). But I also love the smiles it puts on other people’s faces.

Is the Indian Springfield better than my current bike, a 2017 Triumph Tiger Explorer XRx?
Let’s be controversial here and just say yes. There are caveats to that, of course – related to the fact my bike is lighter, faster, more affordable, and overall better suited to the wet, miserable conditions so common in Wales. If I had the money, though, I’d definitely consider replacing it with the Springfield… then I’d end up buying the Chieftain instead.