Springfield Dark Horse – American Cruiser UK

Springfield Dark Horse

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It started with infatuation, as most relationships do. The tough-guy paint, the upright ergonomics—the way that if you sort of squint your eyes, you can’t tell if it was made in 2020 or anytime in the last few decades. When Indian Motorcycle invited a group of journalists out to ride the 2020 lineup, I instantly fell for this Springfield Dark Horse; I’m glad to say we’ve been together ever since. Now 7,000 miles later, I have only grown fonder of this bike, using it as my daily commuter, weekend jammer, and occasional long-trip and camping companion. The Springfield Dark Horse is a balance of classic looks and modern styling with a great big 116ci V-twin bringing the whole thing together. It’s an awesome around-town bagger and daily commuter, and with a couple of accessories, a great long-distance tourer.

2019 saw the introduction of Indian’s redesigned Chieftain fairing, new seat, and new saddlebag shape, but Springfield was a little late to the party. That tall-backed seat design and more squared-off bag shape didn’t hit the Springfield models until 2020, but while those do have a major visual impact, that’s not the biggest update here. The Thunder Stroke 116 powerplant steals the show, improving power while maintaining everything we liked about the

The new 116 isn’t the big-bore kit engine that we saw previously offered as an aftermarket item. That one was hyper-aggressive and its abrupt fueling ruined the smooth power delivery that was such an asset of the stock motor. Well, the updated 116 has that same smooth delivery of power, with much more of it, putting out 102 pound-feet of torque and 82 hp on our dyno. It now comes stock in the touring Dark Horse and Limited lines.

Tour, Sport, and Standard modes change the mapping, with Tour delivering power a little more slowly, Standard coming through right in the middle, and Sport giving you a steep curve with a heap of throttle right out the gate. Standard delivers the same amount of power as Sport while allowing for more precise control in the lower register thanks to a less aggressive throttle response—which is helpful for fast launches, as the Springfield doesn’t have any traction control. So after the first few weeks with the bike, bouncing between Standard and Sport modes, I put the bike in Standard and forgot about it.

Average fuel mileage over the course of my test has been 32.4 mpg, which, yes, is low for a touring bike, but really doesn’t seem that bad to me considering how heavy-handed I am with that throttle and the output of the engine. I love the fact that there isn’t traction control, as its overly active input is one of my gripes with the new Challenger, but my heavy hand comes into play again on the Springfield, burning through that rear tire a little too quickly. The clutch, however, has handled my abrupt lever drops on both acceleration and decel quite well, not showing any signs of the slip or wear.

Ergonomics on the Springfield Dark Horse is perfect for me right off the shelf, but I have a weird lanky body. The tall handlebars are the only thing that may give shorter riders some trouble, but for me, they sealed the deal. I am upright, riding with a posture that would make my mother proud, and the long, wide floorboards are just as versatile on this bike as they are on the rest of Indian’s touring line. I can move my feet toward the back to shift my weight around when I’m riding hard, or throw them up toward the front to lounge. As mentioned earlier, the seat was updated for 2020 and now has the more stunt-style steep back. It’s cushioned, supportive, and comfortable. I usually have something negative to say about seats, but this one has actually been great—that’s undoubtedly thanks to the suspension as well.

The Springfield’s chassis is impressive. It’s rigid enough to feel stable throwing into turns at high speeds and deep lean angles (relatively, of course), yet the suspension is still supple enough to ride hundreds of miles in a day with ease. The front suspension is not adjustable but has been more than adequate throughout testing. The rear air shock is manufactured by Fox and is preload adjustable—though it requires the use of a hand pump that comes with the bike and valve located behind the right side cover. There’s a little guide on how to adjust the shock for your weight, suggesting that I ride zeroed out when I am alone and the bags are empty. I don’t. I weigh about 180 pounds but ride with the suggested pressure for a 275-pound rider—30 psi. This just keeps the rear from compressing too much in high-speed cornering and moves the scrape point from the exhaust pipes up to the floorboards. Scraping the floorboards first allows me to feel before I pick up the rear tire while chamfering hardpoints and therefore, more predictable handling. I know most people probably won’t be dragging this thing through canyons like I have been, but know that if you want to, you can, and it’s a hell of a lot of fun.

Throwing some floorboard sparks through a turn on the 2020 Indian Springfield Dark Horse.Monti Smith

While my time with the Indian was nearly all clear roads and sunshine, there are a few areas that could stand to improve. The saddlebags have great storage, and I love the new squared-off shape, but the latch system could be more secure. It’s easy to close the lids and trigger the latch without locking it, meaning you have to press the button to reset the latch and try again. More than a few times I have taken off down the road thinking the bags were closed only to find one has flung open. Goodbye, second pair of gloves.

One other area that could see some improvement is the rear ABS. A slam on the rear brake pedal will result in a bit of tire chirp. The chirp means tire lock. It’s not terrible, the bike still stops quickly enough, but again, if I have to pick a couple of nits here, that’s one of them.

Lastly, the engine is hot. Rear cylinder deactivation helps cut down the temperature at idle, but if you’re stuck in traffic or maneuvering through town on a hot day, you’re going to be feeling it on your legs

This bike really didn’t need a lot of customization to get it exactly where I wanted it, but the addition of a couple of key accessories really helped. The first is Indian’s Quick Release 16-inch Flare Windshield. This can attach or detach from the bike in a matter of seconds and is tall enough to cover my 6-foot 4-inch tall frame. It still looks classic, but with that flare design, is incredibly functional. I basically never take it off unless I am doing some around-town cruising on a really hot day.

The second key accessory I use is the Harley-Davidson Overwatch Handlebar Bag with a clear phone compartment on top. It allows me to have my phone visible and secure while on the road, and keep snacks, sunscreen, ChapStick, and whatever else within arm’s reach.

Lastly is navigation. I use a Beeline navigation system at the handlebars to get where I’m going. It’s amazingly easy to read, despite its small, minimalist design. With these few things, I don’t find myself missing a fairing at all

No fairing means no screen and no Ride Command system, so you don’t have to worry about your bike’s software needing updates or the fairing looking dated after a redesign. Sure, I occasionally miss the speakers and adjustable windscreen on the Chieftain line, but it’s a trade-off for a more timeless, traditional style. It’s a nice balance of modern bagger comforts and two-wheeled simplicity. At a starting MSRP of $22,499, the Springfield Dark Horse is only $500 more than last year’s model, which seems like a great value considering the upgraded engine. Now as we get closer and closer to seeing Indian’s 2021 model line, I hate thinking about having to give this bike back. But that’s one of the beauties of the Springfield; I can trust that 2021 may show some updates and upgrades, but the fairing-free, timeless aesthetic will remain. And if nothing is new, I’m good with that too.

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