Indian Roadmaster review, test ride
26th May 2016 12:42 pm
Indian Motorcycles’ latest bike to hit India is none other than its flagship, the Roadmaster. We take it for a spin on its home ground – the open road.
As the highway stretches into the distance, hot gusts of wind sweep its length. Unbothered, I sit behind the large windscreen of Indian’s new Roadmaster, and the wide and plush saddle makes me look forward to the journey ahead. To make things even more agreeable, the torquey motor plays all the right notes without a hint of vibration from the ’bars, pegs or seat, even at 120kph. The Indian Roadmaster is, in American speak, a full dresser. That is, it’s dressed up with all the kit to go touring, such as wind protection, comfy seats and ergos and of course, panniers. This type of oversized and overweight motorcycle isn’t ideal for touring in India, but as I experienced, it has a flavour that’s just hard to ignore.
The Indian Roadmaster is the embodiment of the typical American highway tourer. It gets the typical massive touring kit that you see on bikes such as the Harley-Davidson Electra Glide. The Roadmaster has been built on the same platform as the Indian Chieftain. So, while it carries over the chassis and engine, it also packs in a lot of extras for its touring role. Apart from the extremely relaxed highway-style handlebars and wide, comfortable rider’s seat, the bike gets massive storage options. These include hard panniers on either side and a gargantuan trunk at the back which can easily swallow two full-face helmets whole. And the best part is that all three of these boxes are remote lockable, from both a button on the fuel tank or the key fob. There are also a couple of boxes right over the front crash bars which extend downward along the bars, and do an excellent job of protecting your legs and feet from the elements. All combined, including all the little storage spaces in the vast front fairing and under the seats, you’re looking at about 140 litres of weather-proof luggage capacity. That’s almost the same as three average aircraft cabin permissible bags. The trunk also doubles up as an immense backrest for the pillion, and the luxurious rear seat also gets arm rests. The enormous electrically adjustable windshield on the front fairing rounds out the complete touring package. Now if you’ve noticed, I have used a lot of synonyms for the word ‘large’ in the preceding text. Well, that’s because the Roadmaster is one of the biggest bikes you can buy today.
Size does matter
The sheer bulk of the Roadmaster is something that really draws a lot of eyeballs on the road. But that’s not to say that it’s some monstrosity which sacrifices aesthetics for tackiness and shock value. Like all of Indian’s bikes based on the Chief, the design is pure retro and features the company’s traditional front fender design as well as the illuminated Warbonnet that has graced nearly all of Indian motorcycles’ front fenders since 1947. Everything about the bike’s shape screams ‘classic’, from its two-tone paint scheme (on the bike we rode), its flowing fuel tank design and even the way the panniers taper off in the same shape as the rear fender. But even though it is a rather large bike that’s extraordinarily heavy as well at 421kg (dry), it’s just shocking how light it feels once you pick it off the stand.
This is one bit of magic that Indian has managed to pull off with all its bikes based on the Chief. The Indian seems to shed a couple of quintals the moment you get going. This is down to the well-balanced chassis, steering geometry and suspension setup this bike has. Speaking of steering geometry, the Roadmaster (just like the Chieftain) has its forks raked in further to 25 degrees. This allows the front end to feel nimble even when it has all the weight of that massive front fairing over it. The bike turns in very easily, precisely and with a lot of confidence. Making your way through traffic or even around corners is no problem at all. Even the ride quality is rather well handled. The 46mm front forks and air adjustable monoshock at the back handle big bumps rather well and the ride is very pliant for the most part. It’s over sharp bumps and potholes where the ride feels rather harsh. However, for bringing all that mass to a halt, the ABS-equipped brakes feature twin 300mm front discs and a single 300mm rear disc, providing a surprising amount of stopping power and great feel as well.
Tales of Thunder
Another important reason why the Roadmaster feels so good to ride is its lovely motor. The 1,811cc air-cooled Thunder Stroke 111 V-twin motor makes 138.9Nm of torque and an unspecified amount of horsepower. But the highlight of the motor is just how unbelievably refined it is. It’s nearly vibe-free with bountiful torque spread across the rev range. So there’s ample thrust available in each gear and the bike accelerates very smoothly without any drama apart from a lovely rumble from its twin exhausts. The six-speed gearbox, although a little hard to operate, never mis-shifts and provides positive feedback.
Life is a Highway
The Indian Roadmaster is an incredible experience to ride. It wows you with pretty much every aspect and is jam-packed with features which will give most cars an inferiority complex – a 200W audio system, Bluetooth connectivity, tyre pressure monitors, cruise control, just to name a few. It’s the epitome of a luxurious American highway tourer; a bike that makes short work of the longest highways and keeps you, and a pillion, thoroughly entertained and relaxed for the entire journey. But the biggest chink in its armour is the fact that most Indian roads don’t resemble American highways. That, and of course, its price – a whopping Rs 38 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi)! But whatever its shortcomings, one ride and it’s impossible to not fall totally and utterly in love with this charming, marvel-worthy machine.