We’ve taken our Springfield Dark Horse on long weekend trips and through canyons, but until now we haven’t had occasion to commute with it. I commuted on the Dark Horse all last week to see how it can handle low speeds, city traffic and long red lights. Temperatures were above 90°F all week and my commute is 10 miles through the city center. Check out our last Episode #10 in case you missed it.
Let’s Commute to Work!
Let’s start by setting some expectations for what makes a bike a good commuter. You’re really looking for three things. Maneuverability, some storage, and comfort while sitting still.
Obviously, you want maneuverability because a lot of commuting takes place in the concrete jungle. Intersections, parking lots, pedestrian and bicycle lanes, and city traffic all create an atmosphere of precision. You need a bike you can put exactly where you want it without a lot of fuss on your commute.
Some storage is important because most of us have some amount of provisions or equipment we commute with. Whether it’s just your lunch tote, a full-sized laptop computer, PPE, or some tools, most of us have stuff we carry from home to work. Having a bike that can stash and stow those items conveniently makes all the difference.
“You’re really looking for three things. Maneuverability, some storage, and comfort while sitting still.”
Finally, if you work a traditional shift and work in a town of any size, you’re going to spend a lot of time sitting still during your commute, mostly at traffic lights and intersections. Some of us who work on military installations may spend a lot of time queued at a guard shack or other inspection point too. So you need a bike that doesn’t get out of sorts while idling at a standstill.
Can the Indian Springfield Dark Horse Maneuver?
In a word, yes. It’s a bit big, sure, but not prohibitively so. I was able to slow-roll up to the automatic barricade at my facility without a problem, balancing the bike while the sensors kicked in and raised the guard arm. Through town I was able to make smooth lane changes, negotiate gaps and even filter through long lines of stopped traffic (legal in my state!) easily.
This is all owing to the Springfield Dark Horse’s low center of gravity and predictable throttle response.
Something else that seems to fit here is the turn signals on the Springfield Dark Horse. Indian outfitted the bike with self-cancelling turn signals, which could be a pretty cool feature. Unfortunately, I only noticed them working about half of the time, which isn’t often enough to get in the habit of counting on them.
They also feature an innovative lane-change routine, though, and it works very well. If you press the turn signal switch in a direction and hold it longer than three seconds, then the turn signal will turn off automatically when you release it. This is great for lane changes, on and off ramps, and quick rolling turns were you’re not waiting for a gap or for a light to change.
The Coffee Express
I’m fortunate in that I don’t need a lot of peripherals for work. Most mornings, all I have to carry with me is a thermos of coffee and my credentials. Sometimes my kit includes a pair of headphones, a power tank, and some charging cables. On weekends when I’m teaching on the motorcycle range, I also carry a stopwatch and a cooling vest, and maybe a couple bottles of water or an electrolyte drink. The side cases on our Springfield Dark Horse carry all of these things on my commute without a problem.
“…on the other hand, the clutch is pretty heavy for sitting still at a red light. See what I did there? Eric’s got jokes!“
In the interest of thoroughness, I did pack up my personal 16″ laptop in a case with it’s charging cable, wireless mouse, and infrared remote. I was able to pack all that in one side case and my coffee thermos in the other. Even after all that there was still plenty of room, so I could have stopped for some small groceries on the way home if I’d needed to.
Red Light, Green Light
Sitting still in traffic is a mixed bag on the Springfield Dark Horse.
Your first concern might be the heat. After all, the Dark Horse is sporting a large-displacement, air-cooled longitudinal V-twin. That kind of motor is famous, or perhaps infamous, for dumping heat out the rear cylinder when you’re sitting still.
I’m happy to report this wasn’t a problem on my commute. The Springfield Dark Horse features rear-cylinder deactivation (RCD), which automatically shuts off injection to the rear cylinder when the bike is sitting still in warm weather. This feature can be turned off, of course, though I’m not sure why you’d ever want to.
And it works. I spent a couple rides home through city traffic with RCD turned off and the difference was noticeable.
On the other hand, the clutch is pretty heavy for sitting still at a red light. See what I did there? Eric’s got jokes! Anyway, if you’re sitting still in gear with the clutch pulled in, you will start to notice the weight of of the clutch. I found myself putting the bike in Neutral at a couple of the longer lights on my commute.
So How Does the Springfield Dark Horse Commute?
My commute on the Springfield Dark Horse was totally acceptable. In fact, it was the most enjoyable my commute has been since I owned my Vulcan 800 with it’s leather saddlebags. My Kawasaki Concours has very nice panniers, but it’s just a little too tall for red lights and a lot overpowered for city streets. My Versys was also too tall for stop and go traffic, despite being supremely manageable, and my Ninja 500 offered no storage besides what I could carry on my back.
The Springfield Dark Horse suffered from none of these maladies on my commute. Ample storage, manageable power, easy to flat-foot at red lights. Give the Springfield a lighter clutch and I wouldn’t have much at all to mention on the negative side of this article. I think with the regular 12″ instead of the 16″ bars it would be even better.
The Springfield Dark Horse is definitely not the first bike that comes to mind for a comfortable commute, but it can commute and does it without much to apologize for and that’s pretty awesome.
Have you missed an episode of our Indian Summer? If so, you catch up on our previous episodes right here:
- An Indian Summer: Indian Springfield Review: Ep12 – Springfield Dark Horse Fit, Feel and Finish
- An Indian Summer: Indian Springfield Review Ep11 – Springfield Dark Horse Commute
- An Indian Summer: Indian Springfield Review Ep10 – Indian Springfield Dark Horse Touring
- An Indian Summer: Indian Springfield Review Ep9 – Indian Springfield Dark Horse First Ride
- An Indian Summer: Indian Scout Review Ep8 – The Big Decision: Indian Scout Ratings and Results
- An Indian Summer: Indian Gear Review #2 Ep7 – Luxurious Leather
- An Indian Summer: Indian Scout Review Ep6 – Everyday Scout – Commuting
- An Indian Summer: Indian Scout Review Ep5 – Scout Horsepower Dyno Runs!
- An Indian Summer: Indian Scout Review Ep4 – Scout Fit, Feel, and Finish
- An Indian Summer: Indian Gear Review #1 Ep3 – Gear-Up in Style
- An Indian Summer: Indian Scout Review Ep2 – Scouting An American Idol
- An Indian Summer: Indian Scout Review Ep1 – Scouting for Good Times
We would like to thank Indian Motorcycle for providing us another Indian motorcycle (Indian Springfield Dark Horse) to review for you. We have much more to come on our review of the Indian Springfield, their big bagger. Stay tuned each week for yet another long term unbiased review from Total Motorcycle!
Ride Safe & Ride Often!