2015 Indian Roadmaster Review

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The radio’s tuned to the local classic rock station, volume on 12, Freddie Mercury’s voice synchronizing with the big pistons of Indian’s Thunder Stroke 111. There’s plenty more of the 200-watt stereo system to tap into but the radio’s already filling up our helmet quite fine. Just enough vibes are coming through the bars and seat to let you know you’re on a big V-Twin.

The world passes by in an 80-mph panorama, the blur of fall colors in big-leaf maples and Oregon oaks, mountain ridges peeking above lingering morning clouds. Pockets of wind press against progress, but the wide, fully-faired front of the 2015 Roadmaster serves as a proper shield. Broad sweepers encourage twisting the throttle just a little more, with the floorboards high enough to allow for healthy lean angles as the bike is big but fluid as it traces the arc.I’ve witnessed seasons changing on the 2015 Roadmaster over the last two-and-a-half months and 3334 miles. The ambient temperature gauge has read from 112 to 28 degrees. Hundreds of miles have been spent in the rain and we’ve used Indian’s luxo-tourer for both road trips and daily rider. Its saddle is even beginning to mold to the contours of my body.

I first met the 2015 Roadmaster on a blistering 112-degree day in Redlands, California, a fine way to meet a 900+pound touring cruiser with a mammoth air/oil-cooled engine. Fortunately, I was able to keep in motion through traffic, seldom idling longer than stoplight length, so heat coming off the big cylinder heads wasn’t an issue. But the day was so hot, I’m not sure it would have made much difference if they did. No matter what position I placed the vents on the lower leg fairings, there was no relief from the heat of the Inland Empire. With the top wind deflector up and the lower vents open, it circulated air all right, the hot dragon breath of the SoCal heat wave racing up legs and into the chest. It was one of those days you wished motorcycles came with A/C. Had to cool off with a Slurpee at 7-11 instead.

A couple weeks later, I stuffed the Roadmaster’s bags and topcase and made the 350-mile run to Reno from our southern Oregon HQ. I needed to bring three days of gear and enough equipment to shoot Reno’s annual Street Vibrations rally. The topcase is wide and deep enough to stuff in a large backpack, which held a 17-inch laptop and camera equipment. One saddlebag holds a couple days’ worth of clothes while I stuck rain gear in the other. There’s two small compartments in the lower leg fairings, too, but the bags and topcase offer up plenty of space so they aren’t needed on this trip. Overall the 2015 Roadmaster claims 37.6 gallons of storage, 17 in the trunk, 17.2 collectively in the saddlebags, 2.4 gallons in the lower fairings, and one gallon in the media pocket tucked into the right side of the fairing. Inside the topcase is a 12V plug I use to charge my phone, a convenience I’m quickly growing fond of.

The 2015 Indian Roadmaster is a fine luxury touring motorcycle, especially considering it’s in its first year of production.

The front and lower leg fairings on the Indian Roadmaster provide a solid buffer from wind, rain and road debris.

Heading up 4310-foot Siskiyou Summit, the “Highest Elevation on I-5,” the Thunder Stroke 111 powers up the grade with little effort. A recent trip to the dyno registered 102.15 lb-ft of torque at 3000 rpm from the 1811cc engine powering all Indian models except the Scout. Better yet, the Roadmaster’s mill delivers over 100 lb-ft between 2300 and 3200 rpm, propelling the big bike up to freeway speeds in less than six seconds. The throttle responds with an initial hit that’ll straighten out any slack in your arms. Midrange in the middle gears isn’t quite as aggressive as it takes a split second for the bike to respond before it reacts to the open throttle. I cruise along at 80 mph on clear stretches of interstate, the Roadmaster in a sweet spot at just over 2800 rpm in sixth gear, and in this rpm range the motorcycle still has plenty to offer as it pushes on up to the ton.

The dials of the Indian Roadmaster are good-sized and easy to read, while the digital display reads out a slew of info.

I ride through the Mt. Shasta area aware of the disastrous news coming out of the region lately, from the wildfire that decimated the town of Weed to mudslides spawned by melting glaciers. Fortunately, fire season is coming to a close, projected road closures have been lifted and the path is clear. With little traffic, I smell fresh-hewn hay stacked in the back of a flatbed truck from a quarter-mile away as I travel the forest-lined roads.

The Thunder Stroke 111 of the Roadmaster has plenty of power for two-up riding, the powerplant recently putting out 102 lb-ft of torque on our dyno.

I arrive in Reno long before I’m ready to stop, the Roadmaster doing 350 miles like it’s nothing. The bike’s ergos are almost ideal for a six-foot-tall rider, feet comfortably forward on floorboards long enough to allow for shifting in the seat, the bars wide but easy to reach. I’m not getting any pressure points from the big, cushioned leather seat, and the combination of front fairings is providing an excellent buffer from wind and road debris. Arriving in Reno, I still feel fresh and ready to ride plenty more miles.

The control housings on the 2015 Roadmaster are big and useful, but the directional buttons for the audio controls sit so flush to the housing they’re challenging to use with gloved fingers.

The buttons on the console mounted on the Roadmaster’s tank operate the bike’s heated grips and locking system for its bags. On our recent morning commutes where temps have been in the low 30’s we’ve become big fans of its heated hand grips.

And while the weather cooperated for the ride to Reno, coming home was another story. Rain pelted me for the first 100 miles and temperatures dropped 20 degrees. Fortunately, once again the wide front fairing sheltered my upper body well and though the lower leg fairings look bulky, they effectively kept my legs dry. This is when being able to raise up the windscreen at the push of a button came in handy as well, and the only spot that got wet and cold was the tops of my knees. Under these conditions I was definitely grateful for the roomy saddlebags, allowing me to bring along rain gear instead of leaving it at home.

The V-Twin-powered, American luxury-touring segment just got a little more competitive thanks to the release of the 2015 Indian Roadmaster.

My next adventure on the 2015 Indian Roadmaster took me up Interstate 5, north to Canyonville, Oregon, for the 11th annual Brittney Ride. The yearly benefit ride raises money for St. Jude’s and includes an approximately 60-mile poker run through the mountains and forests of Douglas County. This year organizers switched up the route, directing riders to scenic South Umpqua Falls before returning to Seven Feathers Casino in Canyonville. Tiller Trail Highway runs alongside South Umpqua River and the road had been slickened by early morning rain. Traction was even worse in spots where the Oregon Department of Transportation had laid down fresh oil, and in two stretches pavement had been stripped down to bare dirt. Patches of gravel and pock-marked pavement became the norm the closer riders got to the falls, and this particular type of surface translates a vague feeling on the front end of the Roadmaster. The bike’s fork transmits adverse road conditions to the rider through the bars and the front tire has a habit of grabbing every parallel groove in the pavement with a wiggle in the bars. In tight turns, you’ve got to keep constant pressure on the bars to keep it online. I concur with Editor Justin Dawes on this one, who said in his First Ride review of the Roadmaster: “If I had to nit-pick, I’d say the front rebound damping is a tad too quick, giving the front a slightly bouncy ride on choppy road surfaces, but overall the ride is what a touring machine should be.”

The topcase of the Indian Roadmaster is huge and it’s saddlebags deep and overall the big touring motorcycle offers 37.6-gallons of total storage space.

The 2015 Roadmaster has some of the most comfortable accommodations around for both rider and passenger.

My tenure with Indian’s luxury-touring motorcycle included plenty of two-up testing as well, which we reported on in our 2015 Indian Roadmaster Passenger Review. Similar to the rider, my passenger found accommodations to be “ultra-comfortable,” the floorboards positioned ideally and vibrations at a minimum. My passenger stated that while some tourers have hollow spots because of speaker placement, the Roadmaster’s passenger seat supported her back fully. As we hit higher elevations and temperatures dropped, she appreciated having her own controls for the heated passenger seat, and enjoyed the volume and clarity of the stereo as we rode along. She thought the pipes might be loud from a pillion’s perspective, but didn’t have any major issues with it. When we started hustling up our favorite mountain testing grounds, the Roadmaster hopped around and bottomed out on the stock settings with the added weight of a passenger, a condition we could have probably remedied with a few squirts off a small hand-held air pump, which we didn’t have at the time but comes with the bike from the dealer. The pneumatic shock is preload adjustable. Simply remove the left side cover, peek at the chart inside the cover which tells you the recommend air pressure for total weight, and adjust accordingly.

The big topcase of the Indian Roadmaster has a 12V socket to plug in electronics like a cell phone and will easily hold a good-sized backpack.

On occasions when you know you’re riding solo, the bags and topcase on the Chieftain pop off easily. The bags are held in place by two quick-release latches and slide right off, but the wiring for the electronic locks must be disconnected first. Simply remove the side cover and unplug it. The topcase comes off almost as easily. The electrical harness for the trunk’s cargo light, 12V outlet, and taillights is plug-and-play and disconnects quickly. After that, pop open the saddlebags, make sure the anti-theft latches are in the up position, then grasp the trunk from behind with both hands and lift it off the support bracket. There’s even a small pocket under the back of the seat to tuck the connector in to keep the back end tidy. This leaves Indian’s signature valanced fender on full display and gives it a leaner look with only a few minutes of work.

For a six-foot-tall rider, the seat of the Indian Roadmaster has no annoying pressure points and the ergos are spot-on, making it one of the most comfortable rides around.

Passengers on the 2015 Roadmaster get spoiled too, from this plush backrest and seat to their own switch for the heated seat to adjustable floorboards.

Over the last couple of weeks, weather has been hovering between fall and winter, morning temperatures at or below freezing. On these biting cold mornings, the heated grips with 10 settings and the heated seat have been my antidote for the elements. The button for the grips is mounted on the tank and the setting is displayed in the digital screen between the analog speedo and tach. The switch for the heated seats is on the left side beneath the passenger seat and has two settings, up for high and down for low. The heat from the seat radiates all the way up to the inner thighs. Another factor that’s allowing me to continue riding comfortably when it’s cold is the fairings, which keep air off my neck and hands.

In its role as an everyday rider, the Roadmaster is surprisingly manageable during parking lot maneuvers. Footing is solid thanks to a 26.5-inch laden seat height and its center of gravity is fairly low as well. With a tap of the rear brake and a little finessing of the clutch lever, tight U-turns can be executed smoothly. The clutch lever is tight and springy, and when banging through the first two gears the transmission notches into place hard and loud. In the middle gears, engagement smooths out.

The Roadmaster comes with ABS as standard fare. I like that the system isn’t overly intrusive and takes a pretty good stab at the brakes to activate. The bite of the front brake when used solely isn’t overly aggressive but provides good feel at the lever and progressively strong stopping power. The dual-piston caliper on the rear digs in quickly to the 300mm floating rotor. Stomp the pedal and you’ll feel the ABS pulsing in the ball of your foot and overall the Roadmaster’s braking package instills confidence in riders.

In the city or on the freeway, the Indian Roadmaster is up to the task of hauling two riders around in style and comfort.

Since losing an hour to “Daylight Savings Time,” it’s already dark by the time I make the commute home. Thankfully, the reddish-orange glow of the digital display is highly visible at night. The Roadmaster’s headlight puts out a healthy punch, and occasionally we increase the spread by turning on the fog lights, too, doing so in motion with the quick push of a button in the upper right corner of the inner fairing. The round gauges of the speedo and tach, like the digital display, are illuminated nicely.

The rear pneumatic shock of the Indian Roadmaster is preload adjustable when it’s time for some two-up traveling.

The digital display has several windows to toggle through, the most useful being the electronic tire pressure monitor. You can hook up a smartphone and run Bluetooth to answer calls while in motion, but a separate rider headset is needed. Playlists can be accessed directly and riders can toggle through them using the audio control buttons on the left handlebar housing. Cruise control is located on the right control housing, the system activating at the push of button. Another button allows riders to bump up speed in one mph increments. One issue I found with the Roadmaster’s controls are the buttons on the left housing controlling audio volume and media options. They sit so flush to the housing that they are difficult to manage with gloved fingers. Another issue is the reach to the buttons used for raising and lowering the windshield which requires taking my hand off the handlebar because of their location.

The 2015 Indian Roadmaster exhibits a balanced blend of power and grace.

After a couple months in the saddle of the Roadmaster, I’m feeling pretty spoiled. It’s one of the most comfortable motorcycles on the market, has a torque-rich engine, and storage galore. Its bags lock at the push of a button and its windshield raises electronically, too. I like knowing the tire pressure without having to constantly check them manually, while heated seats, grips, and effective wind-dispersing fairings have been our saving grace on more than one occasion. The Roadmaster has been chugging along at an efficient 37.83 mpg, and with a 5.5-gallon tank max range is about 200 miles. It’s a motorcycle I wouldn’t hesitate to jump on and ride across the country, knowing that I’d be doing so in comfort and style. The V-Twin-powered, American luxury-touring segment just got a little more competitive thanks to the release of the 2015 Indian Roadmaster.




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