My using buddies don’t get me. We have now all been using and shopping for the identical taste of bikes for a very long time now. ADV bikes, scramblers, and retro European bikes have been our bikes of alternative, and now we have not even bothered with touring bikes, sportbikes, and, particularly, cruisers.
Final yr, I had the pleasure of protecting the launch of the 2022 Indian Tremendous Chief. I had not spent a lot time using cruisers earlier than the launch, and I had not appreciated the Harley-Davidsons I had ridden previously. They had been loud, heavy, sluggish, and too vibey. Traditionally, they underperformed relative to European and Japanese opponents. And H-Ds are costly. I didn’t see the attraction.
After spending two superb days in Sedona using the Tremendous Chief, I started to grasp the enchantment. It’s a completely completely different expertise from all the opposite bikes I’ve owned and ridden.
The Indian instantly put me in a extra relaxed using mode. It was now not about how briskly I can go or how rapidly I take corners. I began to see alternatives for having fun with lengthy straightaways and massive, sweeping turns by means of our gorgeous nation because the Indian’s large air-cooled American engine purred alongside. I appreciated the Indian’s vibe. I appreciated its relaxed method mixed with a strong engine, and I appreciated the model.
I appreciated it a lot, I had Indian mortgage me one for a bike and blues music journey I used to be doing by means of the Mississippi Delta a number of months later. The Indian launch and the Delta Blues experience received me hooked on the thought of proudly owning a cruiser, so it was time to begin researching my subsequent bike.
The 2 most blatant manufacturers to discover had been Harley-Davidson and Indian. Each have wealthy and lengthy heritages and are the undisputed leaders in large cruisers. They’ve mastered the craft. Different producers have cruiser-style bikes— Triumph, BMW, Ducati, and the Japanese producers, however they aren’t the true cruiser I needed. There are solely two genuine decisions: Indian and Harley-Davidson.
My parameters for a cruiser had been fairly particular. I like the look of an old-school bare cruiser with its easy, clear traces. I needed a bike with robust efficiency—a motor that felt highly effective and fairly nimble whereas nonetheless having the presence and really feel of a giant, air-cooled cruiser.
I additionally liked the thought of simply altering a motorcycle to what sort of using or which expertise I needed—a stripped-down bare cruiser for a solo experience round city, or prepared for distance and perhaps two-up using with a windshield, trunk, and baggage.
With these parameters set, my decisions narrowed to the Harley-Davidson Heritage Basic 114, the Indian Springfield Darkish Horse, and the Indian Tremendous Chief I rode in Arizona. All three have giant displacement engines, quick-release windshields (an possibility on the Springfield), and non-obligatory quick-release trunks or passenger backrests.
As I researched all three, the Tremendous Chief and Heritage Basic ultimately fell out of the working.
The Tremendous Chief had superior model, lighter weight, and efficiency. Sadly, it has a smaller fuel tank and less-comfortable rear suspension. It lacks tubeless tires and tire strain monitoring (each of which I discover very useful for touring). Additionally, the Tremendous Chief has the least snug pillion seat of the three bikes.
The Heritage Basic 114 is spectacular on many fronts. It has excellent energy proper out of the gate, incredible ergonomics, a comfortable increased seat for upright using, and a simple attain to the grips. The Heritage Basic additionally has good brakes and plush, well-dialed suspension. As well as, the match and end are excellent. The Heritage Basic is a shocking bike.
The one problem for me was the texture and sound of the Milwaukee-Eight 114 engine. Whereas it has glorious energy, it is tough across the edges and a bit vibey for me. I do know I’ll get an earful from The Motor Firm devoted, however the Heritage Basic sounded a little bit like a VW microbus once I accelerated up hills. I’m certain the rougher really feel is precisely what the H-D patrons like, and a easy exhaust modification would enhance the sound, however it simply didn’t pull the heartstrings.
In order that introduced me to the Indian Springfield Darkish Horse. The Tremendous Chief launch was eye-opening as a result of the engine had that nice air-cooled really feel and presence. The Thunder Stroke 116 motor is easily muscular. I can experience it aggressively or sit again and cruise. The Springfield Darkish Horse has the identical V-twin engine, so I knew I would really like it, regardless that it was a much bigger bike.
Seeing the Springfield in particular person, it had an instantaneous presence. The engine is the centerpiece, and it’s good-looking. The bike has lovely swept traces and perfect proportions. This bike seems exactly like what it’s—an American muscle bike with that old-school American cruiser vibe. It was simply what I used to be on the lookout for.
Swinging a leg over, it instantly felt completely different from the opposite cruisers. Whereas it is just a little bit longer and barely heavier than the Tremendous Chief and Heritage Basic, it felt a lot greater. I used to be initially frightened it was too large and unwieldy for me. Apart from a much bigger tank between my knees, the nacelle surrounding the giant headlight gives the look of using a Tomahawk cruise missile.
As soon as I began the engine, that easy energy was proper there. As quickly as I received the bike rolling, the load and measurement melted away. It magically remodeled right into a extra nimble, authoritative, and easy bike. I knew I had discovered the one for me.
There’s a lot to love concerning the 2022 Indian Springfield Darkish Horse. Along with elegant traces, a incredible matte military inexperienced coloration, and a blacked-out engine, it has the engine measurement I needed, a bigger gas tank for lengthy rides, tubeless tires for simple flat fixes, twin disc entrance brakes, plus a superior rear air shock with extra journey and lodging for a passenger. Additionally, there may be extra info on the sprint, together with gear place indicator, tire strain monitoring, and distant lockable onerous instances.
Nonetheless, no bike is ideal for everybody. There have been some issues I wasn’t loopy about that I couldn’t change, and a bunch of issues that I might. Bikes, notably American cruisers, are about customization and personalization. So, I used to be going to just do that.
The areas I couldn’t change had been minor—the tank-mounted location of the speedometer/gauge and the large upfront steel cowl. Each are a part of the model and are solely very minor gripes. Additionally, the clutch is heavy and a chore to drag in LA’s stop-and-go visitors, and the entrance brake might use a bit extra chunk. Once more, nothing terribly unhealthy.
The areas that I might handle had been wind safety (the Springfield Darkish Horse doesn’t include a windshield), seat (the inventory, whereas snug, is just too low and much from the bars for me), the mini-ape handlebar (neither my favourite look nor snug), no pillion backrest, passenger footpegs quite than floorboards, lighting (including aux lighting), and exhaust sound and efficiency (together with consumption—as a result of why not?). It was time to dip into the Indian Equipment & Elements catalog.
“She certain is gorgeous.” That was the primary impression of the bike because it rolled off the supply truck from Arizona.
I started my seek for a Springfield Darkish Horse within the Sagebrush Smoke coloration (matte military inexperienced for us abnormal people). Seems, there have been none in California and only a few in the USA. To make issues worse, Indian was discontinuing the colour for 2022.
Panic out of the blue set in, and I started scouring the web. Fortuitously, I discovered the final instance within the western states in Tucson! It took a little bit of negotiation and logistics work, however I made the acquisition. After spending months looking for the precise bike in the precise coloration scheme, my 2021 Indian Springfield Darkish Horse lastly arrived.
First on the checklist of adjustments to the Springfield was swapping the apes for the Indian Seaside Bar with no crossbar (since discontinued) and including heated grips ($330). I do know apes are common with many V-twin riders, however they simply don’t work for me. The tall bend is uncomfortable, and the positioning makes the bike much less maneuverable and awkward in turns. I had the Tucson vendor set up the brand new handlebar and grips earlier than supply, and the bike appeared precisely like I needed.
The primary experience with the bars was nice, together with the terrific sound, really feel, and efficiency of the Thunder Stroke 116. Sadly, the inventory seat was nonetheless too low and set too far again for the using place I needed. Additionally, freeway using above 70 mph required a agency grasp of the grips to battle the robust windblast to my chest.
To deal with these areas, I turned to the Indian Equipment catalog as soon as once more. I discovered the ClimalCommand Basic Seat ($1000) and the Polycarbonate 14-inch Fast Launch Flare windshield ($750). The seat supplied heating and cooling! To assist resolve my ergonomics points, it’s a few inches increased and set extra ahead, which I felt would create the perfect seat place for my six-foot body.
My first journey was a two-day dash from LA to Paso Robles. The routes included some freeway using on US Route 101, plus the twisty nation roads round Paso and California Freeway 58 between Santa Margarita and McKittrick—excellent for testing the preliminary modifications.
Climbing aboard the Springfield, the whole lot felt nice. As I hoped, the brand new seat put me a number of inches increased and extra ahead—precisely the place I needed to be on the bike. The windshield was positioned proper beneath my eye line, permitting for the wind safety I needed with out obstructing my view.
Whereas the display screen offered glorious safety on the roads round city, the large take a look at was at freeway speeds. One of many few complaints I had of the Indian Tremendous Chief I had ridden was that the upright windshield created numerous buffeting at speeds above 60 mph. As I cruised Freeway 101, I didn’t expertise that very same impact on the Springfield. The windshield is barely extra angled and flared on the high and sides, leading to smoother airflow and fewer buffeting. One other fascinating facet of the windshield is its quick-release mechanism for quick installations and removals to swimsuit the specified feel and appear I need at any explicit second.
Because the miles rolled on, I received a greater really feel for the brand new seat. Along with creating a greater physique place, the seat could be very snug, due to loads of padding and assist.
As I approached Paso Robles, the temperatures climbed—time to attempt the “cooling” facet of the seats (small followers below the seat present the cooling). Sadly, the seat was unresponsive as I pressed its management buttons on the facet. I came upon later the seat requires a selected wiring harness that the vendor had not put in.
Total, the journey was numerous enjoyable, and the modifications had been an excellent success. The Springfield was now dialed for distance. Nonetheless, it wasn’t prepared for two-up journeys with out a passenger backrest or trunk.
This necessitated one other overview of the intensive Indian Motorbike Elements & Equipment catalog. One of many different advantages of the ClimalCommand seat is a big and really padded pillion part. To enhance the passenger expertise, I discovered and ordered a handsome Fast Launch Touring Trunk with a well-padded Low Profile Truck Backrest Pad ($80). I additionally ordered passenger floorboards ($215), which permit the passenger to alter leg place on the experience. The Springfield comes inventory with driver floorboards, and I completely love that skill to maneuver my legs round on lengthy journeys.
Sadly, the pandemic-related provide chain downside reared its ugly head. The trunk was again ordered for an eternity. After a really, very lengthy wait and quite a few discussions with the Indian rep, it was determined that the Touring Trunk might by no means come. Fortuitously, Indian gives a Fast Launch Low Profile Trunk ($1800).
The benefit of the slimmer high field is a streamlined look that enhances the Springfield Darkish Horse. Nonetheless, the primary purpose I needed a trunk was to supply a big backrest for the passenger, and the Low Profile Trunk setup is just not extremely supportive. Apart from that, it capabilities nicely, holds numerous gear (however not a full-face helmet), and appears sharp.
It was now time for the ultimate section of the customization undertaking—efficiency!
I went with the Thunder Stroke Stage 1 Oval Slip-On Muffler ($1100) and Efficiency Air Consumption ($550), in addition to the Thunder Stroke Stage 2 Efficiency Package ($850), which features a new gas injection system, cams, and gas mapping. I didn’t do a before-and-after horsepower and torque dyno take a look at as a result of my standards for the outcomes really feel. I can inform you that these upgrades undoubtedly improve energy, enhance throttle response, and the Thunderstroke engine sounds nice. Winding the motor out on the freeway clearly demonstrated the worth of the upgrades.
It ought to be famous, nonetheless, that the cams give the idle a little bit of a loping really feel. As well as, the assorted throttle maps which are commonplace with the engine aren’t mapped constantly with the brand new cams. Whereas this isn’t noticeable in Sport mode, I often use Touring mode round city, with a pillion to easy out the throttle response. In Touring mode, there’s a slight lag in throttle response, which isn’t perfect.
Total, the modifications had been essential to creating the bike simply the best way I need it. The very best adjustments and additions had been the windshield, beach-bend handlebar, seating place, and exhaust pipes. All of those improved the using expertise and didn’t break the financial institution. I just like the look and performance of the low-slung trunk, however it wants the next backrest for the passenger. Sadly, the heated and cooled seat by no means labored, so I doubt I might do this improve once more. The Stage 2 Efficiency Package makes a notable distinction, although I would follow the inventory Thunderstroke 116 subsequent time attributable to a choice for smoothness over energy.
Not together with set up, the overall value of the 2021 Indian Springfield Darkish Horse got here up simply wanting $30k. Now that I’ve my dialed my bike, the one factor left to do is load it up and head to my first Sturgis Motorbike Rally this summer season.
Pictures by Kelly Callan and Don Williams
2021 Indian Springfield Darkish Horse Mission Bike Worth (not together with set up): $29,914 MSRP
Indian Springfield Darkish Horse Mission Bike Photograph Gallery