Ask any motorcyclist – there’s no one motorcycle that does it all. Some might come close, but ultimately there’s always a better bike for the road ahead. If you’re looking for an adrenaline-pumping, high-speed canyon rip up the twisties, the Indian Roadmaster Elite doesn’t even enter the equation. But if you’ve got miles to crush and distance to cover, the Roadmaster Elite all of a sudden becomes the Rolls Royce of two-wheeled land yachts.
Recently, I had a mission: get from Los Angeles to Las Vegas and back, as quickly as possible. Travis Pastrana was recreating three of Evel Knievel’s jumps and making history in the process, which you can read all about here. Door-to-door, Vegas is 300 miles from my house in Redondo Beach. It’s not that long of a ride, but throw 110+ degree weather into the mix, and 300 miles starts to feel like more, with each passing mile seeming longer than the last. I tried to get an early start to beat the heat and left my house at 6am, but it was already into the triple digits by 8, and I hadn’t even reached the high desert, yet.
Fast forward an hour, and it was 113. It finally peaked at 118 just before the Vegas skyline came into view. Some sick part of me wanted to see it hit 120 (and another part of me wanted to die), but the Indian Roadmaster Elite actually made it surprisingly bearable. Rolling down the road at 85-90 mph with the cruise control fully engaged, the Roadmaster’s big front fairing and lower leg covers deflected almost all of the hot air, leaving me in a more comfortable, slightly cooler, and much less turbulent pocket. With Skynyrd crankin’ on the stereo, I was cruising. Judging by the body language of some of the other guys I was riding with, they were fairing (get it!) much worse than me. You know that feeling when you open a hot oven and all the heat comes rushing out? It always instantly fogs my glasses up, making me feel like a total nerd, but that’s exactly how it felt whenever we pulled over for gas or stopped moving. It’s also how I imagine everyone else who wasn’t riding the Indian Roadmaster felt most of the time. But not me, no sir!
The Roadmaster Elite is Indian’s premier, top of the line, flagship, Big Bertha touring machine. It’s a motorcycle designed to keep you comfortable no matter what, but that all day everyday comfort doesn’t come cheap. With a $36,999 price tag, the Roadmaster Elite isn’t exactly chump change, and it should probably come with its own full-time butler. So, what does almost 40 grand get you?
At its core, Big Bertha has a Thunder Stroke 111-cubic inch V-Twin motor, and it’s claimed to crank out 119 lb-ft of stump-pulling torque. We haven’t dynoed this particular version of the engine, but our previous tests of the Thunder Stroke 111 yielded 103 lb-ft at 3,100 rpm. Click the Roadmaster into gear, let the clutch out without giving it any throttle, and the motor barely even coughs. It just chugs right along. Despite what you might expect from a plus-sized American-made cruiser, gear shifting isn’t anything like on a Harley-Davidson Big Twin. There’s none of that heavy metal-on-metal clunk when pushing the shifter lever down into first, just a nice reassuring click letting you know you’re firmly engaged – the same goes for up and downshifts.
All that torque is great too, because the Roadmaster Elite ain’t light. Big Bertha tips the scales at a claimed 953 lbs. That’s almost a half-ton before you even pack the luggage cases, which can carry over 37 gallons of whatever it is you need to take on the road with you. The top case alone is capable of fitting two full-face helmets and a jacket without having to wrangle the lid closed – and that’s possible without having to get creative with your packing method. Just toss it all in and lock it up with a click of the remote key fob. In total, there are five storage compartments: both saddlebags, the top case and two gallon-sized compartments on top of the front lower leg fairings. Oh, and there’s also a place to keep your phone safely plugged in, charging, and connected to the Roadmaster’s Ride Command System.
The Indian Ride Command System is my favorite onboard control center that I’ve tested on any bike, ever. By far it’s the most easy and intuitive to use. From every imaginable vehicle status reading and indicator to GPS and audio controls, it’s all displayed on a 7-inch touchscreen, just under your field of view. There’s no flipping through multiple menus to find what you’re looking for, it’s all right there and easy to read. The touchscreen works perfectly even with gloves on, but if you prefer to keep your hands on the bars, there are little triggers and buttons by the levers to toggle through the system as well. In addition to the Ride Command System, there’s an analog speedometer and tachometer gauge on either side of the touchscreen, but I found that I rarely even glanced at them, except for maybe the tach every now and then, because any pertinent travel information was neatly displayed at a quick glance right there on the touch screen in front of me.
You can sync your phone up to the Roadmaster Elite directly by plugging it in, which allows it to charge as well, or you can connect wirelessly via Bluetooth. You can then listen to whatever Highway to Hell playlist you’ve got and pump it through the Roadmaster’s premium 300-watt audio system. There are six speakers total, with two in the front fairing, two in the saddlebags and two more at the base of the top case, right by the passenger’s hips to get them groovin’. They’re plenty loud – probably louder than most car systems actually, and perfect for any old timers with hearing difficulties. At anything less than highway speeds, these speakers will bump your favorite Taylor Swift songs at embarrassingly loud levels – almost like your own personal mobile karaoke machine.
When it’s time to give your vocal cords a rest, or if you’d just prefer to hear the sound of the wind and motor, the duet of two paint can-sized pistons pulsating up and down through dual exhausts is equally intoxicating. Unlike some V-Twins and cruisers, the stock exhaust system on the Roadmaster Elite doesn’t sound like a lawnmower. It’s actually got some bass to it and a deep, throaty rumble that you just can’t find on most other stock Big Twins. The throttle action is different, too. The Indian Roadmaster Elite has more of a 1/3-twist throttle. It’s not quite a quarter-turn – because I looked at and measured it, John! – but the distance it takes to turn from completely closed to WFO is all within the natural motion of your wrist, without having to move your arm.
As mentioned earlier, the Roadmaster Elite is a big girl, and you’d think she’d be hard to maneuver at slow speeds. Fortunately, this isn’t the case. Let the clutch out, and as soon as ol’ girl starts rolling, almost all of her 953 pounds disappear. It’s a really well balanced bike, and it’s actually more nimble than you might expect. We’re not talking Triumph Street Triple nimble, obviously, but she’ll dance around a parking lot and around town with surprisingly little effort. The Elite even does a halfway-decent job in the curvy backroads, but ultimately, her limiting factor in “sportier” riding is her soft front fork, which is also non-adjustable. No problem, though, this just means you get to take in more of the sights along the way. Boom – glass half full.
In a straight line down the freeway, the front end soaks everything up and feels like you’re riding on a pool table, but sometimes if the road gets real choppy (some of LA’s freeways are notorious for this) the front fork seems to get a little overwhelmed, and it transmits some funky feels through the bars, reminding you you’re riding a half-ton land yacht, not a JetSki. The rear shock, however, is an air shock, and it’s adjustable with an air pump that comes with the bike. It’s just too bad that for a $36,999 motorcycle, the front isn’t at least somewhatadjustable.
I keep having to remind myself, though, whoever plans on buying the Roadmaster Elite probably cares very little about how well the bike flicks from side to side or how quickly it can navigate a curvy road. For the record, it hustles pretty darn good considering its dimensions and the weight it’s carrying – a lot like an NFL lineman. How those guys move so fast is beyond me. For riders in the market for a flagship touring bike, you’re looking for something that’s going to keep you comfortable, no matter what, and carry all your stuff without having to strap or bungee-cord everything down. The Roadmaster Elite does just that.
The big front fairing and lower leg covers, which have adjustable vents to allow more or less airflow, will keep you cooler in the summer and warmer in the cooler months. I wanted to say winter, but not everybody has the luxury of riding year round. However, between all the fairings, and heated grips and seats, the Roadmaster Elite will let you ride longer into the season. Both the heated grips and seats are easily adjustable, and so is the windshield, with about six to eight inches of adjustment up or down. The heated grips have ten levels while the seats have three – high, low and off. The driver and passenger can control theirs independently. Speaking of passenger comfort, your co-pilot even has adjustable armrests which swivel around for maximum relaxation.
So, back to the what does almost 40 grand get you question. Included in the premium price is a premium paint job, which takes one guy over 30 hours to complete. It’s all done by hand and features two-tone black and blue candy paint with 23K gold leaf badging on the fairings and motor. The paint definitely looks great, but for $37,000, I’d prefer a few more color options, because the Roadmaster Elite is currently only available in this colorway.
All in all, the Indian Roadmaster Elite and I shared a little over 1,000 miles together in two days, and we enjoyed each other’s company just fine. If it hadn’t been for having to stop for gas every now and then, I could have easily continued watching the odometer count upwards. Between the cushy stepped seat and long floorboards to dance my feet around on, I never found myself searching for more comfort, though I would have preferred it not to have been 110+ degrees… I averaged between 38-40 mpg, which paired with the Roadmaster Elite’s 5.5 gallon fuel tank should yield a range of up to 220 miles or more. I have to admit, though, there were definitely stretches across the desert where we were cruising along in the triple digits, which certainly didn’t do our fuel consumption any favors. So, you can expect better mileage at anything less than go-to-jail speeds.
If you’re in the market for an American touring bike with all the bells and whistles to keep you and your passenger comfortable for miles on end and you have more than two nickels to rub together, the Indian Roadmaster Elite is definitely a hog to consider, I just wish it came with a cup holder.