Indian's Roadmaster is king of the open road cruising, true to its name. Here's our Indian Roadmaster review. Test by Mick Withers Photography by Indian Motorcycles
The Indian Roadmaster is a big motorcycle. It occupies a lot of floor space when sitting still and about the same when moving. Sitting still is where we’re starting our voyage of discovery.
So, parked in my bike shed and consuming a lot of floor space was the Indian Roadmaster. It’s a physically large bike and that may be daunting to some riders. The topbox with its padded armrests appears to sit up high and that may be part of the optical illusion. The 422kg wet weight may also make a difference to potential riders.
Packing for a ten-day trip to Queensland resulted in my normal meagre pile of stuff. When I carried it all out to the bike shed, I quickly realised that there was still a whole topbox sitting empty! My Bell Rogue helmet and a pair of Rossi walking boots helped relieve the empty space.
A few other bits and pieces that were never used also rode north and back with me but that’s better than carrying air. The rack on the lid of the top box is rated at 2.2kg but the heaviest thing I put on the lid was a Contour Roam 3 camera and suction cup mount. Mind you, I did use it as a spot to tie a microfiber towel so that it could dry while I was riding!
The saddlebags have top opening lids that open to the outside and made it easy to add or subtract luggage. The addition of central locking to the saddlebags and top box was a welcome discovery. Locking was as simple as pushing the right-hand button on the lower tank dash. I rode through a bit of reasonably serious rain on the way south and there were no signs of water inside either saddlebag or top box. Not sure about dust as I didn’t ride on any dirt roads.
We’re not done with the storage areas just yet. Each side of the Roadmaster is a large leg shield that encapsulates the front crash bars. The top section of each includes a non-lockable glovebox. I found it perfect for a drink bottle, spare glasses and other small objects. Again, there was no sign of water ingress.
Easily missed was a flap on the lower right-hand side of the fairing. I found it after flicking though the 185-page Indian Owner’s Manual. Opening it reveals a padded envelope just the right size to hold my music-filled iPhone.
Also tucked away in there is a USB plug that matches perfectly with a lead from the phone. Before I left Sydney, I hit random on iTunes on the phone and never opened that flap until I got home again.
The on-board stereo system provided the rest of the magic need to make music play whenever the ignition button was pushed and the fob was within range. Don’t ask me about Bluetooth. It’s part of the package but I find it easier to plug and play.
Also, I refuse to talk on the phone while riding so the need to pair devices was a mute point. Unlike the sound produced by the stereo and speakers, which was loud enough to keep me bopping away happily at all speeds.
The controls were all simple and easy enough for me to make things louder or skip songs because that’s about the extent of it for me. Provided the music is clear and loud enough to hear, I’m happy.
ON THE ROAD
Basics and music loaded it was time to hit the road. Because it was early in the morning and a bit fresh, I turned the electric seat warmer on for my seat. My camera bag was strapped on the wide and deep pillion seat but didn’t require warming so that switch wasn’t flicked.
The equally equipped handgrips were also activated and by the time the engine was warmed and first gear selected, my hands and bum were suitably warm. I’d never experienced a heated seat before but at this time of day and in this single-digit temperature, it was appreciated.
Rather than much-thicker gloves, I decided to set off wearing my favoured Five Stunt gloves, a leather glove more suited to summer than winter. The warmer gloves were in the top box and that’s where they stayed for the rest of the day. With ten levels of heating available for the hands, and excellent wind protection from the fairing, my digits stayed toasty.
By a simple press of the upper or lower portion of a button, the screen moves up or down. I found a location that suited me perfectly and that’s where the screen stayed till somewhere north of Newcastle when I got bored and spent a while adjusting it to try and find an even better perfect spot where the windflow over my head matched the vision and desired wind noise.
That was after I rode it from Wahroonga to Hexham on the cruise control! The Roadmaster has the easiest to use cruise control I’ve yet found. The buttons are on the right-hand switchblock with a single button for on and off, and a rocker switch for resume/accelerate and set/decelerate.
Up or down adjustments were roughly 1-2kmh for each button push, making it easy to set your own speed relative to the posted limit and desire to push the envelope.
One feature I really liked was that you can use the brake to drop speed, such as when you’re coming into one of the three or four fishing villages up north on the Pacific (or any of the 374 road construction zones), and then when you re-activate the cruise, it does so at your new speed and not at the previously set figure.
It may only seem like a small thing but it was much easier than switching it off and back on again to reset the speed. I liked that feature.
Hand controls were all easy and intuitive to use with span-adjustment on the front brake lever to suit your own preferences. The clutch lever was non-adjustable, but careful adjustment of the cable would allow a degree of adjustability.
On the clutch, it was light and offered plenty of feel for the take-up point. Foot controls were also good, especially the gear lever that was a toe-only affair. Have I ever mentioned that I don’t like most heel levers? Not unusual when you’ve got size 13 feet.
The floorboards were roomy and right where my feet wanted to be most of the time. If this was my bike, I’d explore a pair of highway pegs as a way of being able to stretch and move about. The pillion footboards offer three height adjustments, which should satisfy most.
With the seat heater turned off – very easy with two separate switches on the left of the pillion seat for high, off or low — the leather seat was very comfortable. With the camera bag supporting my lower back above the deep seat, an almost-1000km day was clocked up. I left western Sydney early in the morning and three stops for fuel and food later, I was 980km away on the Moggill Ferry in 9.6 hours according to the on-board trip computer.
The ride was superb. Even with the regular punctuations from road works including a stretch from the Hastings River on Port Macquarie’s northern edge that wound painfully to a point just south of Coffs-bloody-Harbour.
That’s the quickest trip I’ve ever managed from western Sydney to western Brisbane but it wasn’t the toughest. I walked into the bottle shop at Bellbowrie and was surprised at just how fresh I felt. I’ve done that exact same trip a number of times and this is definitely the best I’d pulled up. The way that the Indian Roadmaster devours distances is amazing. You could easily punch out an AHA 1600km in 48 hours Challenge with a day to spare.
The engine worked happily everywhere from the stop-start of peak-hour and bloody roadworks to the free-flowing traffic on freeways. Backing the engine is a gear-driven primary drive and a six-speed gearbox that gave the option of more than one ratio for anything I asked of it.
The 111 Thunderstroke really is a flexible engine, even at this higher weight. I found myself happily sitting on the speed limit with the last two ratios sitting idle a few times. Mind you, fifth and sixth are both overdrives so that is not as radical as it first sounds.
Overtaking was a simple case of lining up your planned attack and executing it. When I did drop a gear or two, the manoeuvre was obviously quicker but the bonus was the booming exhaust roar. The pipes were not stock standard, replaced with Indian’s own Stage 1 mufflers. Definitely one of the best exhaust symphonies I have played.
Equally as impressive as the forward motion was the stopping part. Squeeze the lever and pedal for rapid reduction in forward velocity. There is ABS available but I do not recall needing it. What else do you want to hear? Squeeze, stop. It really was that simple.
Rolling round corners is where most of the fun happens and the Roadmaster was pretty well-equipped in that department. On the way north, I touched down a few times but nothing major and certainly not heart-stopping.
After a day riding up and over Mt Glorious, I ended up at Victory & Indian in Brisbane. After chatting with Robertino about the Roadmaster, he stuck it up on a hoist to adjust the rear drive belt. While it was in the air, he also adjusted the rear shock absorber to better suit my weight.
The difference really was noticeable. He also showed me the easy way to drop the swingarm to make rear wheel removal a much simpler process. Place a stand under the flat sump, remove a circlip and extract a bar, then raise the bike on the stand. The wheel stays on the ground and when the bike is high enough, it can be rolled straight out. Brilliant and much easier than some of the rear wheel extractions I’ve done over the years.
With the rear suspension now working better for my weight, the trip south was even better. Nothing touched down and the actual ride was better. Slightly firmer. This was especially noticeable when I turned off the Pacific Highway at Woodburn and headed inland to Casino.
The road rolls along between dairies and is not one of the greatest road surfaces but gave the suspension a decent workout on the straight bits as well as the bendy bits. The Summerland Way into Grafton is a quieter and more enjoyable north-south route, only spoilt by the necessity to re-join the coast road for the stretch south.
With the cruise control set, there was a chance to try out the high beam in between oncoming trucks. The Roadmaster’s LED headlights are very good. No wildlife was spotted venturing out onto the road, but if there were, they’d have been spotted in plenty of time to take evasive action.
The freeway was also the best place to watch the numbers available from the on-board computer mainframe. The variety of information was more than most of us would ever need but I could instantly see battery voltage, gear position, ambient air temperature, fuel range, average fuel economy, heated grips heat level setting, main odometer, trip odometers and a clock.
Then there was the information on tyre pressures and engine hours along with oil and filter life as an increasing percentage. As songs randomly played, the artist and song title appeared, but only for the tracks I’d labelled when loading them.
As the temperature dropped, it was also time to close the air vents located in the shrouds in front of the floorboards. They reminded me of quarter-vents in older utes and cars.
Let’s be blunt, the Indian Roadmaster is not the ideal bike for your daily commute into the city centre from the outer suburbs in any Australian state capital. There are a much better choices for that role.
Out on the highway eating up big distances is where the Roadmaster really shines. It is a premium touring cruiser. Ride one before placing a deposit on anything else.
The Indian Thunder Stroke 111 engine was designed specifically for the Indian application by Polaris Industries, who also own Victory, which hosts the Freedom V-twin engine.
The Thunder stroke is a totally new engine however, with the 49 degree V-twin boasting a capacity of 111cu, or 1811cc for those who talk metric. The bore and stroke are 101 x 113mm, with overhead valves due to power and wear considerations, while original Indian styling such as large heads on small finned cylinders and parallel push-rod tubes were kept to ensure the bike’s heritage would be clear.
There are two valves per cylinder with intake ports designed to enhance charge swirl for more efficient combustion, while the cylinder bores are plated with Nikasil-like coating.
Pistons are cast short-skirted items with flat tops, the crankshaft a single piece of forged steel and the parallel push-rod tubes mean the engine runs three cams, a centre cam with two lobes that drive the intake valves, while two single-lobe cams drive the exhaust valves. Valves are 51.3mm IN items and 42mm EX items. A single engine-speed balancer also helps reduce engine vibration.
The throttle-body is a 54mm item, with Y shaped injectors and RbW is featured.
The gearbox is a six-speed item with a straight-cut first, while second to sex are helical gears. Final drive is by belt.
The Indian Roadmaster’s chassis comprises of a cast aluminium frame with an integrated airbox and a cast aluminium swingarm, with 46mm front forks offering 119mm of travel and using dual rate springs. The rear suspension is handled by a single shock with pneumatic adjustment and has 114mm of travel.
Brakes are 300mm rotors, two front, one rear, with four-piston calipers grasping the front rotors and a two-piston caliper grasping the gear. ABS is standard.
Wheels are cast 16in items, with a 3.50in front and 5.00in rear, clad in Dunlop Elite 3 rubber.
There’s plenty of electronics and chrome on the Roadmaster, with cruise control, LED lighting, keyless start and remote locking for the luggage, a 200W stereo system standard – with Bluetooth and smartphone compatibility.
Heated grips come standard, as do the heated seats for pillion and rider. The pillions floorboards are also adjustable.
The windshield is also an adjustable item, and a tyre pressure monitoring system is standard.
The lower fairings offer great wind protection but features adjustable airflow to direct air towards or away from the rider to suit any condition. Total storage is 140L.
SPECIFICATIONS: Indian Roadmaster
CLAIMED POWER: N/A
CLAIMED TORQUE: 139Nm[102ft-lbs]@3000rpm
WET WEIGHT: 422kg
FUEL CAPACITY: 20.8L
ENGINE: Air-cooled, ThunderStroke V-twin, three-cam, two-valves per cylinder, 101 x 113mm bore x stroke, 1811cc, 9.5:1 compression, gear primary drive, belt final drive, closed loop EFI, split dual exhaust with cross-over,
CLUTCH: Wet multi-plate clutch
CHASSIS: Cast aluminium frame, cast aluminium swingarm Rake: 25°, Trail: 150mm.
SUSPENSION: 46mm telescopic forks, dual rate springs, 119mm travel, single air-assisted shock, pneumatic adjustment, 114mm travel
BRAKES: ABS, Dual 300mm floating front rotors, four-piston calipers, 300mm floating rear rotor, twin-piston caliper
WHEELS & TYRES: Cast, 3.50 x 16in, 5.00 x 16in, Dunlop Elite, 130/90 – 16, 180/65 – 16
Seat height: 673mm
INSTRUMENTS: Multi-function digital display
THE VERDICT | Review: 2016 Indian Roadmaster
Awesome long hauler…