AUTOS

Indian unwraps Springfield motorcycle, gunning for Harley's Road King

Watch out, Road King. There's an Indian on your tail.

Indian Motorcycle has added another large-motor machine to its growing fleet of American-made road warriors. This one is aimed squarely at the Harley-Davidson competition.

This one, called Springfield after the city where Indian first began building bikes in 1901, is the company's first "hard bagger."

Outfitted with the same 111-inch (1811cc) engine Indian runs in its Chieftain, Chief Classic, Chief Vintage and Roadmaster models, the Springfield is designed as a light touring bike.

The new machine features an easy-on, easy-off windscreen, hard side bags and passenger seat, all of which offer quick, tool-free removal. It can also be fitted with a hard-sided trunk.

The key, Indian says, is versatility. Around town, it's a bar hopper. On the road, it's a cruiser.

Weighing 818 pounds dry — considerably less than the Roadmaster, but slightly more than the Chieftain — the Springfield can carry up to 533 pounds of rider and baggage.

It sits at a low 26 inches, like the other Indians, and has a similar 5.6-inch ground clearance. It also features Indian's signature deep fender skirts and abundant chrome highlights.

The air-cooled, V-twin engine produces 119 pound-feet of torque, delivered to the rear wheel by a belt drive and six-speed transmission.

The Springfield comes standard with remote locking, tire-pressure monitoring, cruise control and ABS — many of which, Indian is quick to point out, are not standard on Harley-Davidson's Road King.

The Springfield will be sold in two colors, at two base prices: $20,999 in black, $21,549 in red.

Steve Menneto, president of motorcycles for Indian parent Polaris Industries, said the Springfield had been on the drawing boards for a while.

"The day we launched Indian, and people were riding the Vintage, the question they asked was, 'When can I get a hard bagger?'" Menneto said. "A lot of people wanted this bike."

Polaris does not discuss market share, but the company is still a David to Harley-Davidson's Goliath.

But, Menneto said, Indian's sales grew 67% in 2015. The company's piece of the heavy motorcycle pie, he added, was in "low single digits" a short time ago, is in "middle single digits" now, and intends to be in "upper single digits" by the end of this year.

Indian plans further model releases for 2016. Menetto indicated something would be coming near the kick off of the summer riding season, in June or July.

Twitter: @misterfleming

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