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2017 Indian Roadmaster Review

2017 Indian Roadmaster Review | Infotained in the Smokey Mountains
2016 Indian Roadmaster

Take a California-based ex-Yankee, put him on the Blue Ridge Parkway on a 2017 Indian Roadmaster – with a big, new, standard equipment infotainment system smack dab in the middle of the redesigned dashboard – and what do you get? One happy and entertained dude.

The ride was an overload of colors, sights, tastes and smells. My previous experiences in the South were mainly driving from New York to Miami on I-95. Not exactly the best way to soak up local color, although I did enjoy a nice spin in Tennessee once on the 2015 Roadmaster. I’d never ridden the fabled back roads here and, I reckon, the Roadmaster was just about the perfect bike to load up and cruise these labyrinthine, perfectly paved byways. So there I was, in Charlotte, N.C., ready to see what all this is about.

Apart from the infotainment system, Indian Motorcycle has made no other changes to the 2017 Chieftain and Roadmaster. For those of you who eschew modern electronic gadgetry on your bike, I understand, so buy a 2016 model. If you are like me and enjoy music while riding, hearing GPS instructions, seeing trip data and more, then read on.

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Naturally, the new infotainment system is housed in a re-designed dashboard that moves the speedometer and tachometer outward. These units are nicely contoured and retain last year’s functions of displaying fuel level, gear position and such. The new, bright 7-inch, 800×480 resolution capacitive (works with regular gloves) touchscreen does all the heavy lifting for the myriad features of the “Indiantainment” system (for lack of a better name). It allows pinch and swipe motions to zoom and navigate the screen. It’s worthy to note that Indian did not buy a unit from any established supplier and fit it in the dash. Rather, they have created an entirely new system that is quite capable and much different in look, feel and operation with existing units available from other manufacturers and they deserve a lot of credit for this.

Our ride was in late June, and the system I used was a late beta version. Given the ability to flash firmware upgrades I look forward to the 1.0 version as well as the additional and inevitable refinements over time, as is Indian’s commitment to the platform. The system is quite robust but, as of my demo, users may not download, share or use external mapping functions as are available in other systems. There is no live traffic function. Also, buyers will get three years of free maps updates which are accomplished, along with firmware updates, using the included flash drive.

2017 Indian Chieftain Infotainment
2017 Indian infotainment system on Chieftain

There is just so much here. The system boots up in about 10 seconds from key-on which is quicker than most I’ve seen. One has a choice of playing music through the four standard, bike-mounted speakers – with 200 watts of output (100w on the Chieftain) – or via Bluetooth (BT) to your helmet communicator.

The system supported and controlled my iPhone (Lightning cable models only they say), whether tethered to the bike with the USB port in the spring-opening top dash cubby or through BT connection. It did not charge my phone while tethered, which is something I would like to see added to the functionality. I can plug a USB flash drive into this port and the system will play the music on it while displaying song information from each file and even album art, if available.

I was not able to make cellphone calls through the beta setup but was assured buyers will be able to do this in the production build. So owners will be able to make and take calls as well as, on the iPhone or Android, use the Siri or OK Google functions to do many voice-activated chores like read you your last message, or email, and reply, if desired. The system will automatically download one’s phone book for quick access when the pilot wants to make a call during flight. It will also show caller ID upon incoming call as well as text message notification.

The procedure to get this system ready to roll was an easy and intuitive five-minute job of pairing helmet communicator and phone to the bike. The helmet communicator is optional if you only want to use the speakers. Before doing this I broke the existing pairing between my helmet BT and my phone so there would be no odd pairing to interrupt the bike’s system, which is the the hub that controls all activity.

As is my usual modus operandi, I didn’t read the manual so I might determine ease of use. One or two button presses later I was in BT pairing mode and paired both units to the bike, one at a time. This happened in seconds and on the first try. I breathed a sigh of relief given the problems I have experienced using other systems.

Our group finally wheeled out of Charlotte late one morning with temperatures in the mid-80s, the sun shining brightly and the thermometer heading north quickly. It did top out at around 100 degrees F this day and would reach 105 the next. On our way to South Carolina I was reminded that SC has no helmet law. Man, I sure was tempted to flip my lid but better sense prevailed. As an aside, two days in this heat and humidity, which doesn’t let anything dry out overnight, then a flight home in my gear bag was not a great thing to do to one’s helmet. When I unpacked and stuck my nose into it there was a smell like old cheese meets dead rat. I immediately pulled the lining and set it for a soak in soapy water. Problem solved.

Our ride took us to Lake Lure, N.C., for lunch. Our mostly back road route was nice yet we hadn’t actually gotten into the real deal yet – but we were getting closer as we headed for our barn in Traveler’s Rest, S.C. As we approach, the scenery starts to change and the ever-clean roads get twistier.

2017 Indian Roadmaster TestBesides music and phone, I like having a lot of interesting information to review. I’m a data guy and I like to know stuff. When it’s hot I need a thermometer to quantify my misery, as I did these two days. It didn’t take a thermometer to tell me I was hot but, somehow, knowing the exact temperature is comforting. I’d say to myself, “man, it’s 105 – sure glad it’s not 106” and “it’s 102 and feels so much cooler than 105.” Moto mind games.

All the while I’m pumping classic rock through my headset and monitoring our route on the highly visible map. I even switched on the speakers and let them blast for an hour or two. They sounded great with awesome bass, even at 50-70 mph in a full face helmet. In various screens on the system I am able to monitor compass heading, altitude, cumulative altitude changes, moving time, stopped time and odometers. Another screen shows me tire pressure, battery voltage, cumulative engine running hours and miles to next recommended service.

On the top “command line” I can see what devices are connected to the system, time of day, air temperature and compass heading, no matter what else is onscreen. There is a top pull-down menu that handles all connection choices. All these functions are controlled by either the touchscreen or forefinger triggers on each grip and, in the case of music, one may still use the left-thumb controller, available on earlier models and still mounted for 2017. I can even use the controls from my BT headset. There are many ways the pilot can decide to run this environment.

Okay, so I’ve got GPS navigation and stereo music off a flash drive or my smartphone, I can run voice commands on my phone, I’ve got just about the most comprehensive trip computer system I’ve seen and there is an AM/FM/weatherband radio, too. One more thing. While I can see controls for all the aforementioned, each on a full screen, I am able to divide the screen into two halves and have three sets of those paired screens, all user defined. I am then able to configure the three pairs of screens so I can see a map and my stereo control panel, or see ride data with vehicle status, or any combination and flick through them at will. Choices that can be included in the half-screens are trip 1 and 2, ride data, vehicle status, vehicle info, audio and Bluetooth. I am in data-guy heaven.

When using the mapping functions, I can view and search points of interest and addresses as well as navigate to them and nearby gas stations, which I can search for in advance or when that screen pops up automatically as the low-fuel light comes on. Most navigation instructions are audible and can be heard through speakers, headset or turned off.

After a day in the saddle I was fully acclimated to the system and operation was easy and rewarding. So was the Roadmaster. In this heat I appreciated the dual vents on each side of the lower fairings that allowed more fresh air to circulate through the cockpit and exhaust some of the heat generated by the 111 Thunder Stroke motor. I found the engine heat oppressing only on the hottest days while in slow or stop-and-go traffic but that’s true for most all big-engined bikes. These fairing lowers are easily removable for summer riding.

Handling for the 2017 Roadmaster is just as nice as it was in 2015 riding the Natchez Trace out of Nashville. It’s strong and sure with a tight yet compliant ride. It doesn’t get overwhelmed in the tight stuff and feels good up until the floorboards start to grind. I used the included small hand pump to add pressure to the rear shock for ride height/rebound and that helped a lot.

Once accustomed to the ride one can float the floorboards through the turns just barely skimming the tarmac. More sensible riders will slow down a notch and not worry about grinding. Out on the highway the Roadmaster is king and rides like a magic carpet with a rock steady feel and intuitive handling.

2017 Indian Roadmaster horsepowerBraking is done with ABS equipped dual 300s up front and a single 300 in the rear. They do a good job in everyday riding and can really throw out the anchor when needed, like when I overcooked a few corner entries. With a wheelbase of 65.7 inches and dry weight claimed to be 912 pounds, plus fuel, gear and my keester, this bike is one to respect and plan accordingly for fast stops and other anomalies. Good balance and a strong core are your friends. GVWR is rated at 1,385 pounds and you do not want to have to pick this bad boy up off the ground. This is a bike for a strong and experienced rider.

Other noteworthy features are a really responsive electronic cruise control, leather heated grips, LED lights, heated touring seating with individual controls for both seats, adjustable passenger floorboards, and remote locking saddlebags and trunk. All standard.

The 111 motor is a thing of beauty both in looks and operation. Smooth and strong are its basic attributes and it allows the miles to just melt away. It does not have the brute force of the 110 CVO motor from H-D but it’s no slouch and pulls hard from idle to redline in every gear. Final drive is through a quiet rubber belt and the 6-speed transmission is smooth but requires a firm foot on the gear selector as is usual with a transmission that is heavy duty enough to deal with this kind of weight and the thrust produced by its 119 ft-lbs., 1,818 cc motor. I like that Indian has made the heel-and-toe shifter an option and it is delivered with only the toe shifter, allowing my size 11 boots more room on the nicely positioned floorboards.

If you have a taste for Indian motorcycles, like to cruise and want the best in inflight information and entertainment the 2017 Indian Roadmaster deserves a close look.

Riding Style

  • Helmet – Shoei GT-Air
  • BT Comm – Sena 10U
  • Jacket – Joe Rocket 92
  • Jeans – BOLID’STER RIDE’STER
  • Boots – Tourmaster Coaster WP

2017 Indian Roadmaster Colors & Prices:

  • Thunder Black, $28,999
  • Burgundy Metallic, $29,599
  • Willow Green over Ivory Cream,  $30,399
  • Thunder Black over Ivory Cream,  $30,399
  • Steel Gray over Thunder Black,  $30,399

Photo credit Barry Hathaway

Video credit Sara Liberte

Footnotes:

On this ride I was happy to try out Bolid’ster’s armored jeans called Jean’ster in which Armalith, the protective Kevlar-like thread, is woven into the fabric and not just sewn on patches. They are from France and brand new to the US; read my Bolid’ster Jean’ster review.

As always, I don’t ride without my SPOT Gen3 satellite tracker. I hope I never need it to issue an SOS signal but I like the feature that leaves tracking marks on a map that I can share with family or friends and check out when I get home. It helps keep my wife from worrying, too. I’ve included some of the tracking maps in the gallery, below. For more, visit SPOT.

2017 Indian Roadmaster Review – Photo Gallery

 

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