One More for the Road
With the richly appointed 2015 Roadmaster, Indian takes on some very tough competition in the luxury touring class
On a highway northwest of Sturgis, South Dakota I glanced down at the 2015 Indian Roadmaster’s multi-tasking instrument cluster and noted that we were now moving along at 85 miles per hour. Completely at my ease in the Roadmaster’s genuine leather seat and with my freshly polished cowboy boots resting comfortably on adjustable floorboards I was frankly a little surprised to be carrying this much speed. There was simply no physical evidence to suggest it. I was, as they say, contained in a bubble of still air. Lower moldings enshrouded even my legs, though there are vents in the lowers that allow airflow to be adjusted and some useful bits of storage room.
I thought about that. The lowers meant my newly polished boots would likely stay dry even in hard rain; nor would they be scuffed by flying debris.
I’d look every inch the together gentleman if we stopped where grownups meet. That would be nice.
I scanned the various gauges housed in the broad spanned fairing for any irregularities but, no, all was in order. The tire pressure monitoring system indicated the Dunlops were up to spec, the integrated infotainment device had locked into a local channel crooning something about roses on mama’s grave and the analogue tachometer continued to rest in the bottom third of the dial. On general principal I made a gear shift downward, but there didn’t seem much change, though I did make a mental note: “Silky smooth shift at highway speed.” That having satisfied the requirements of my job, I returned to simply enjoying the passage of time and the rural splendour of South Dakota. There wasn’t much else for me to do. The Roadmaster was quite content to motor along without great input from me, the big 111-cubic-inch Thunder Stroke purring like an alley cat brought in from the cold.
I fiddled with the switch controlling the four-inch up and down movement of the electric windshield, but it was already perfectly positioned. I briefly considered engaging the seat heating gizmo or the 10-level heated-grip controller but decided against it. What if they become permanently stuck in the High position on a warm, sunny day like this? Oh, the thoughts that run through our minds when we have too little to do.
Like any member in the fairly small luxury touring class, the Indian Roadmaster is loaded with premium features. But taken as a whole, it’s so smooth and undemanding it nearly operates itself.
In a momentary return to duty, I made a perfunctory attempt to calculate fuel economy but quickly gave that up as pointless. I’d already been informed that the fat-bob-styled tanks of this fire engine red motorcycle could hold 5.5 American gallons, or 20.8 litres if that’s easier to imagine, but if you’re the sort to worry about “miles to the gallon” equations then this probably isn’t the bike for you. Not that it’s an insatiable fuel hog but it is a premium touring motorcycle, which means an upfront big sticker (starting at $29,999) and with all its many luxury amenities, weight is a consideration.
Without fuel and so on, the Indian Roadmaster weighs 897 pounds (408 kg) and, that translates into 82 pounds more than the Indian Chieftain, of which it is a variation. I was initially quite surprised by the weight differential when I hopped from the Chieftain to the Roadmaster in a pre-ride static test of their relative hefts. Heaving the Roadmaster off its stand required considerably more grunt. Wow—all this extra weight from the inclusion of a top case and its associated hardware? And, really, the top case is the most readily noticeable feature separating the Roadmaster from the Chieftain. That, and the new luxury passenger compartment that continues the buttery rich leather appointment, the fairing lowers, a slightly lower windshield than the original, a few more chrome pieces, a new LED headlamp and rear highway bars. Well, how about that? Things really do add up. And the top case is a real beauty.
It’s removable, easily holds two full-face helmets and a good deal more. There’s interior carpeting to protect whatever’s inside, LED lighting, and locks remotely, as do the hard-shell side bags that with the top case combine for 37.6 gallons of storage. The case has a chrome rack on the lid to attach even more cargo. I think it might be possible to pack a year-long trip for two into this bike, depending on what you consider important.
The added weight of the Roadmaster vanishes the moment it’s moving. It shares the same aluminum frame and quick-handling characteristics of the Chieftain, that itself has a shorter wheelbase, tighter rake, and longer suspension travel than the Vintage and Classic Chief stablemates.
Helical-cut gears in the six-speed box, air-adjustable rear suspension, electronic cruise control and ABS brakes over dual 300mm front discs bring composure to the Roadmaster as it rolls along on 16-inch wheels. When the road becomes tight and winding, the big tourer turns in beautifully, and then snaps quickly upright for a fast transition into high-speed straights. If the road gets a little lumpy, the plush suspension settles it right down.
Where the traffic thickens, massive torque and a steadying low centre of gravity provide compensation as you feather into the chain-linked stream of slow-moving cars. There are virtually no pavement-based situations in which an experienced big-bike cruising rider will feel overwhelmed by the Indian despite its imposing physical presence.
It’s intended only for someone who’s serious about making a long ride in comfort and style, and who enjoys the unique flavour of an American V-Twin.
Enhanced by high-end operational features that the luxury-touring community now considers essential, there are many other surprises in store including triple power ports, keyless ignition, fog lights, and a powerful beam emitted by the signature front fender war bonnet. The Roadmaster will give its owner plenty to think about, but actually pointing the bike down the road and making it go where you want is a no-brainer.
-John Campbell, Issue #306, Oct / Nov 2014