A war bonnet that will have heads turning
Indian’s mighty Roadmaster not only looks magnificent, it is good enough to challenge Harley-Davidson’s dominance of the big bike tribe.
Author Pat Malone - Published: 6 September 2015
REJOICE! Indian is in for the long haul, and the Roadmaster is the living proof. After innumerable false dawns in the past 60 years, the feathered headdress now adorns a range of motorcycles to match the golden heritage of a company that once made more bikes than anyone else in the world. And even those zealous guardians of the marque’s spirit, the Indian Riders Motorcycle Club, couldn’t pick a bone with the Roadmaster, which picks up where Indian went bust and left off in 1953, adds stunning build quality and all the technical toys of the Bluetooth era.
The Roadmaster will go head-to-head with Harley-Davidson’s heavyweight Electra Glide. Harley, of course, still has more than half of the American big bike market, but Indian is surely going to challenge its dominance. The Roadmaster does everything the top-of-the-range Electra Glide Ultra Limited does, plus a little bit more, and the novelty and cachet of the brand — backed by the resources of the engineering giant Polaris, which has owned Indian since 2011 — will turbocharge its market.
Just as the Glide finds a fan base in Britain, so too will the Roadmaster, although it’s not the bike for country lanes; with a big chap in the saddle it can weigh more than half a ton and threading between hedges or trickling through traffic is not its long suit. Plushness, comfort, power and toys are what the Roadmaster is all about — it’s a “statement” motorcycle, and it says a lot.
Given its weight and bulk, you’d expect it to corner like a curling stone but because most of the mass is close to the road it changes direction with unexpected celerity; in fact it’s an easy ride all round, once moving, although you don’t want to get caught at a hillside T-junction with an adverse camber. Going down the road is like being conveyed by bearers upon a throne, but avoid whacking open the throttle because a perfectly brutal stream of torque will cause tyre and tarmac to part company. The smooth, muscular motor — V-twin, of course — would hardly notice it if you were towing a caravan, the bottomless torque almost renders the six-cog gearbox superfluous, and the brakes are beefy enough to cope with the weight.
Comfort level is stupendous, and the electrically adjustable screen and capacious cargo holds make it a practical luxury tourer; the 20.8-litre tank could stretch to 200 miles of motorway running. The technology would fill a book. Suffice it to say that the 200-watt sound system is marine grade so it works underwater, or at least in heavy rain; the heated grips have 10 temperature settings; there are three power sockets; it has USB and Bluetooth connectivity, remote locking and keyless ignition; there’s a ride-by-wire throttle, and an indicator to tell you how much life is left in your oil — but it lacks an integrated sat nav.
Still, it’s mostly about the look. The swooping tinwork, the deep, ruby-red (or black, if you swing that way) paintwork, the stitched and studded leather, the stirring sound of the Thunder Stroke engine that would distract a crowd fleeing Godzilla. Ride the Roadmaster through town and a Mexican wave of heads will follow your progress, even before you crank up the watts. If you don’t like being stared at, buy something else.