So Indian has invested a lot of time, money and effort into ensuring they are happy. My pillion says they’ve done a brilliant job with the new Roadmaster which we tested while at the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in South Dakota.
The Indian Roadmaster is the flagship of the fleet, arriving in Australia in late October or early November at $38,995 ride away which is only $3000 more than the Chieftain on which it is based. However, the Roadmaster comes with a lot of extras such as a carpeted top box, lower fairing protection, heated seats and grips, and an advanced infotainment system with GPS, phone and Pandora. It also features all the goodies of the Chieftain including powered windscreen, ABS, tyre pressure monitors, cruise control and acres of chrome.
Neil Quade, program leader for Indian Motorcycles, says they usually design the aerodynamics with a 70-80% focus on the rider. “But this time we had a 60% focus on the passenger. A lot of women make the final buying decision,” he says.
“This bike has been designed more for pillion comfort. Some 60% of the road-testing program was also done with a passenger on the back.”
The result is the passenger sits in a protected bubble and has a supremely comfortable perch with good back support and generous floorboards.
Neil says they tested the bike’s aerodynamics in a Nascar wind tunnel. As a result they made the powered “horizon windscreen” a littler wider, retaining 4 inches (10cm) of travel up and down. With the screen up high I only experienced a bit of wind buffeting on the very top of my head. If it rains, you can quickly power the screen down to below eye level so you can still see clearly.
The main fairing has wind deflectors and the lowers have floor deflectors which look like they overlap, but they work together to direct airflow on to your legs. It feels cooler than the Chieftain which can get hot on your legs when riding in slow traffic. The right leg still cops a fair bit of heat, though.
I tried cooling my legs by hanging them out wide, but the cooling airflow actually works better when your legs are hugging the tank. That’s probably because all 2015 Chief and Roadmaster bikes now come with an air vent on the left side of the engine that directs cool air from the front to the rear cylinder to keep it running cooler.
A problem in Australia with the Indian Chief Vintage brown “distressed” leather seats has been fading in our harsh sun. Some owners actually like that aged look. However, the Indian Roadmaster comes with “desert tan” leather which is 30 times more fade resistant.
The brown leather seats are also a bit plusher which makes the riding position slightly higher (17mm or half an inch) than the Chieftain, but apparently with the same geometric ergonomics. I thought it felt a bit more compact than the Chieftain in the cockpit with the bars just a little lower and closer.
The brown leather seats and the pre-war freight-train fairing style are designed to make it look like the classic Indians, even though they never had a full dresser model until now. Yet it has modern LED lights all round; headlight, running lights, blinkers, taillight, even the light in the top box.
There is 143 litres of weatherproof luggage space which is not huge for a full dresser and the interior shape of the top box will require a purpose-made inner bag to maximum space. However, it is nicely carpeted and all the luggage is remote lockable by the ignition fob. The top box also comes with a chrome rack on the lid as standard.
If you don’t need the top box, it can be removed in seconds. Just pull a latch, unplug the electrical cables plug, then pull off the top box, leaving no visible attachment hardware. The latch and electric cable also tuck away neatly under a velcro section of the rear seat. Very clever.
There are three 12V sockets on the bike located in the top box, right pannier and on the dashboard. You can also plug your smart phone or music player into the USB connector in the weatherproof compartment under the right upper fairing like on the Chieftain or just use Bluetooth.
Tucked in behind the aerodynamic fairing and windscreen, there is less noise than on the Chieftain, which allows you to appreciate the audio system and the deep baritone of the exhausts.
Like the Chieftain, it disguises its weight very well, even though it weighs an extra 61lb (27.6kg). It easily lifts off its sidestand and feels nimble as soon as you get the 897lb (406kg) bike rolling.
It is powered by the same 111 Thunder Stroke engine as the Chief range but it doesn’t seem hamstrung by the extra weight. It has with the same torque (119ft-lbs/161Nm) and the same power output (about 91bhp/68kW), although, like Harley, Indian doesn’t mention power ratings). The throttle feels quite springy and responsive, while the revs climb quickly.
At high revs it doesn’t vibrate too much. In fact, the flexible engine feels a little more refined and quiet than before, although that could be the aerodynamics at play.
The six-speed transmission also feels and sounds less clunky than previously. Gears are evenly spaced with a tall overdrive for vibration-free highway cruising.
Handling is similar to the Chieftain with its slightly sharper and lighter steering than the other Chief models. Yet stability on the highway is good, and when tucked in behind a truck there is very little weave.
Ride is plush. It bounces a little in the rear, but it soaked up the very few potholes we lined up on our test ride.
Brakes are simply awesome. I tried several panic stops and it dipped the front forks and halted rapidly with strong initial bite in the front lever, linear progression as you squeezed hard and plenty of feel in the back brake. The ABS came on smoothly and allowed steering input while braking.
Positioning the bike for a photo shoot was also easy as the bike feels light at parking speeds and tight, feet-up u-turns are easy with plenty of steering lock. The heavy clutch may be an issue when riding in commuter traffic.
If you drop the bike, it will tip over a bit more than its Victory touring cousins, but it has crash bars that protect the panniers and lowers from any damage.
The Indian Roadmaster comes in traditional Indian red, black, and a beautiful combination of red and ivory cream which is my favourite.