2015 Indian Roadmaster Test

While much attention, deservedly, has been directed toward the radical and unexpected 2015 Indian Scout, it is worth remembering that Indian also has a new flagship touring bike — the Roadmaster. Working from the already-successful Chieftain platform, the Roadmaster extends the touring capability with expanded cargo capacity—now over 37 gallons — along with a few extras.

Pushing 900 pounds (claimed) dry, a tanked up Roadmaster tips the scales at around 950 pounds, so you’re looking at a weight north of a half-ton even with a luggage-free jockey aboard. Make no mistake, the Roadmaster is a heavy motorcycle, but it is not overly large or unwieldy. It comes off the kickstand as easily as any full-dresser, and the ergonomics are surprisingly manageable.

Pullback bars make for a fairly compact cockpit, while the floorboards are a bit farther from the seat than on the Chieftain, reflecting its longer distance intentions. Full lowers mounted on highway bars have storage space, and allow for Indian Script highway pegs to be quickly mounted.

The brake pedal is huge and easily reached, though not the least bit in the way, while the shift lever (Polaris’ corporate antipathy toward heel/toe shifting continues) is quite far forward of the natural foot position.

Passengers will love the quilted leather seating with its own heating control. Wide back support integrates nicely with the top box, and the rear floorboards are adjustable for height and angle. Armrests are optional, and something we think most passengers will want.

As with the other big-inch Indians, the heart of the matter is the air-/oil-cooled 49-degree V-twin Thunder Stroke 111. We have loved it in previous iterations, and it is no less impressive when fitted to the heavier Roadmaster.

Pulling away from a stop is effortless, as the torque output is stunning. Cranking out a muscular 119 ft/lbs at 3000 rpm, the Roadmaster is never at a loss for power, regardless of the gear position (which is quite prominent on the LCD dash).

At 3000 rpm in sixth gear, you’ll find yourself doing 80 mph. Twist the throttle open at that speed and you will find yourself doing 90 in a couple of heartbeats. This is a motorcycle that stands ready to pass slower traffic in all conditions.

Like the other big Indians, the Roadmaster is a relatively slow revving beast, however. This may frustrate those who want a sportier ride, but the rest of us will savor the mammoth power and its smooth and immutable delivery. The Thunder Stroke 111 laughs at any grade you can find, and it has a natural rumble that greatly enhances the riding experience.

At speed, you will appreciate the new electronically adjustable Horizon windshield. In the low position, most riders will be able to easily look over it, and feel a pleasant airflow at helmet height. If you make it a habit of running high speeds — the cruise control will let you speed along at 80+ mph all day long — you may push the left handlebar button and raise it a bit. Do that, and you will be looking through the windshield, which is much less enjoyable.

With the Horizon windshield, low-profile fairing, and sizeable lowers, the Roadmaster has a nice air pocket for the rider and passenger. It’s perfect for cooler days, and when it gets cold, you can direct air hitting the lowers onto the engine for forced-air heating on the rider. On the downside, the Roadmaster does get toasty at temperatures over 90 degrees, even with a mesh jacket on.

As with the Chieftain, the Roadmaster has a four-degree steeper rake and a bit less trail than the Vintage bagger. The Vintage is something of a freight train, locking itself onto the road in no uncertain terms; changing direction requires serious rider input.
In comparison, the Roadmaster is surprisingly light on it 950-pound feet. Turn-in is painless, as is maneuvering in parking lots. The side effect is the Roadmaster is less stable in corners, especially those with less-than-perfect paving. It’s disconcertingly easy for imperfections in the roadway to lead the front end astray, though on perfect pavement the handling is pure pleasure.

When you find those ideal roads, feel free to have your way with them. Cornering clearance is plentiful, and you will have to put in a serious effort to touch anything down besides the Dunlop Elite 3 rubber. Again, with good pavement, you can put the Roadmaster where you want without worry — it is quite impressive.

Suspension action is superb, finessing the balancing act between complaint for the bumps and thumps of a modern under-maintained road, and behaving admirably in the corners. In a straight line, the suspension is predictable and stability is excellent.

Click on the electronic cruise control and let the Roadmaster do its thing. Even when getting blasted by an 18-wheeler on a two-lane road with a closing speed of 150 mph or so, the outstanding chassis and fork-mounted fairing keep things from getting squirrelly.

We like the Bluetooth-friendly sound system, but are disappointed with the dash. The amount of info on the LCD screen is bare bones, and we would trade the tach for a GPS in a second, plus a more comprehensive readout for the sound system and motorcycle systems.

The seemingly cushy leather seat was another disappointment. For under-100 mile rides it was fine, but we found the hard seam between the lower back sup- port and the main seat to unexpectedly, but insistently, intrude on comfort.

As a true long distance tourer, the new Indian flagship has its limitations. The Roadmaster is not quite a fully dressed luxury tourer, though it is far beyond a simple bagger. Power is abundant and reassuring, and the handling is light and does not fatigue the rider. It doesn’t get quite the response from motorists and pedestrians that the Chief series enjoys, yet it still has the charisma that comes with the highly successful reboot of the Indian brand.

Touring is about getting the right bike for the job, and the 2015 Indian Roadmaster has a compelling combination of features and delivers them in a captivating manner.

Riding Style:

  • Helmet: Arai Signet-Q
  • Communications: UClear HBC200 Force
  • Jacket: Joe Rocket Reactor 3.0 Hybrid
  • Gloves: Tour Master Select Summer
  • Jeans: Icon Strongarm 2
  • Boots: Tour Master Vintage 2.0

Story from Ultimate MotorCycling magazine; for subscription services, click here.

Photography by Tom Riles & Brian J. Nelson