2015 Indian Roadmaster – First Ride Review

More cargo capacity and increased rider comfort

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2015 Indian Roadmaster

Editor Score: 81.0%
Engine 15.0/20
Suspension/Handling 12.75/15
Transmission/Clutch 7.5/10
Brakes 8.25/10
Instruments/Controls4.0/5
Ergonomics/Comfort 9.25/10
Appearance/Quality 9.25/10
Desirability 9.0/10
Value 6.0/10
Overall Score81/100

Indian has said – repeatedly since its release of its first models under Polaris’ ownership – that it plans to expand its model line beyond just the Chief and Chieftain. Well, today, the company announced its latest addition at its dealer meeting. A few weeks ago, Indian invited a few members from the moto-press to visit the Polaris Product Development Center in Wyoming, Minn., to meet the people behind the development of Indian’s newest motorcycle, the Roadmaster.

While almost mechanically identical to the Chieftain, the Roadmaster has a few functional and premium upgrades – all of which were directed towards Indian’s stated goal of building “the most luxurious touring motorcycle in America.” In order to achieve this goal, the designers made some assumptions about the Roadmaster’s ideal rider. Since tourers tend to rack up more miles than baggers, Indian believes their riders value carrying capacity and comfort. To meet these goals, Indian more than doubled the Roadmaster’s cargo storage and added numerous comfort features.

The differences between the Indian Roadmaster and the Chieftain largely fall under the headings of luggage capacity and rider comfort.

The differences between the Indian Roadmaster and the Chieftain largely fall under the headings of luggage capacity and rider comfort.

Where the Chieftain had a combined saddlebag storage of 17.2 gal. plus an additional pocket for a media device in the upper fairing, the Roadmaster adds to that total another 17 gal. in the form of a trunk and 2.4 gal. in the new lowers. The trunk’s shape is capable of storing two “full-sized helmets,” according to Indian. The interior of the trunk features a carpet lining and a 12-volt power port.

2014 Indian Chieftain Review

While that is what one might expect from a premium tourer, Indian went a few steps further. First, like the saddlebags, the trunk has a remote lock/unlock capability. Second, the trunk can be easily removed. The wiring harness connects under the trunk with the tail tucking neatly out of sight under the pillion when the trunk is absent. Next, the rider need only open both saddlebags and disconnect two attachment points before lifting the trunk free. For those who worry that this ease of use would make it possible to steal the trunk, it can be locked in place by a screw that can’t be removed with the saddlebags closed.

The easy-to-remove trunk comes with a standard chrome rack, LED brake and interior lighting, and keyless locking/unlocking.

The easy-to-remove trunk comes with a standard chrome rack, LED brake and interior lighting, and keyless locking/unlocking.

These features are nice, and the attention to detail on the trunk is exemplary. In addition to the chrome on the exterior metal features (such as the included top rack), all of the interior fasteners are painted black to keep them from being noticeable and detracting from the appearance.

Similar levels of detail apply to the lowers, too. Each one is removable with only three bolts. Both employ two air vents. The top vent allows for the fine tuning of the upper air flow around the shins, knees and thighs. The lower vents handle the ankles and shins. The vents can be easily adjusted while riding for optimal airflow. In the warm weather during the two-day Roadmaster introduction, they proved to be fairly effective. The storage in the lowers is convenient but is not locking, which limits their security.

LA Indian MY15 PR shoot May, 2014LA Indian MY15 PR shoot May, 2014LA Indian MY15 PR shoot May, 2014

The lowers each have two vents and non-locking storage.

Since the Chieftain was already chock-full of amenities (electrically adjustable windshield, cruise control, keyless ignition, stereo with Bluetooth, tire-pressure monitoring, etc.), the list of additions to the Roadmaster is short but important to touring riders. First come the creature comforts. To create a better calm air envelope for the rider and passenger, the windshield was reshaped. The Horizon windshield is 3/4 in. lower than the height-adjustable screen on the Chieftain, but the top edge was reshaped into a flatter arc, creating a wider pocket of still air when in its highest position. The new shield will  be available as an accessory option for the Chieftain.

2014 Indian Chief Classic Review

The Roadmaster also receives heated grips with 10 levels of adjustment. The control fills one of the empty spaces on the center console. (Chieftain owners will be happy to learn that this improvement will be available as a factory accessory.) The rider and passenger seats now have separate two-level heating. The full-grain American leather on the seats is also upgraded to reduce both scuffing and fading experienced by some 2014 Indian Vintage owners. Rider comfort is improved by slightly increased legroom created by thicker padding on the seat, while the passenger receives floorboards that have an adjustable angle of 12 degrees and a 2-in. range in height.

The Roadmaster’s seat has more padding and will better resist scuffing and UV-related fading.

The Roadmaster’s seat has more padding and will better resist scuffing and UV-related fading.

One interesting change in the engine is an air duct added behind the air filter on the left side that directs additional cooling air towards the rear cylinder, helping to balance the temperatures between the two cylinders. All 2015 Indians will receive this upgrade. Indian also says that transmission noise when shifting from neutral to first has been reduced.

2014 Indian Motorcycle Review: Chief Classic, Chief Vintage And Chieftain

The Roadmaster also benefits from a new, LED headlight. According to Indian, the bright, white beam is lighter and draws less power than the incandescent items on the Chieftain. Indian also claims a broader coverage at both high and low beam. Since the introduction didn’t include night riding, we’ll have to wait for a full test to comment on this.

The new windshield is ¾ in. lower but with a flatter curve at the top improving rider/passenger weather protection.

The new windshield is ¾ in. lower but with a flatter curve at the top improving rider/passenger weather protection.

Riding the Roadmaster is essentially the same as riding the Chieftain. The bike handles almost exactly like its brother, with the additional 33 lb. (for a fully-fueled weight of 930 lb.) of the lowers and trunk being unnoticeable without a side-by-side comparison.

However, one notable experience from the Roadmaster ride bears mentioning. Indian has included a feature associated with its ride-by-wire (RbW) that may be of dubious utility. Basically, the Roadmaster (and, apparently, all previous Indian models – a fact verified by another journalist on the ride) will refuse to acknowledge any input from the throttle when it and the brakes are applied simultaneously for more than approximately two seconds. Indian’s reasoning behind this decision is to prevent the litigation and bad press, similar to what Toyota experienced with its Prius, associated with any real or imagined sudden acceleration. Indian also claims that other manufacturers (Harley-Davidson was cited) also do this with their RbW bikes, and it believes this type of lockout will be federally required in the future.

The Roadmaster works every bit as well as its sibling, the Chieftain.

The Roadmaster works every bit as well as its sibling, the Chieftain.

Unfortunately, this lockout led to two situations on our two-day ride that ranged from embarrassing to unsettling. Dragging the rear brake is a fairly common technique for controlling a motorcycle at low speeds. In one instance, trying to roll on the throttle to complete a U-turn resulted in the bike lying on its side when no power was delivered to the rear wheel. The other instance of unexpected throttle lockout was much more troubling. When attempting to turn left onto a four lane divided highway by threading between two oncoming cars in the close lanes, the throttle refused to operate as the rider (me) attempted to accelerate. This was caused by dragging the rear brake while modulating the bike’s speed and waiting for the the space to pass between the cars, resulting in the bike coasting into traffic. Only a quick U-turn (in which the brake was released, thus releasing the lockout), prevented a potentially tragic incident.

2014 Indian Chief – Reinventing An Icon

The response from Indian to questions about these two events was that the lockout is a feature, not a bug, and riders will need to avoid combining braking and throttle inputs simultaneously. Since trail braking is an important tool for riders in a variety of situations, expect to read more about this issue in the future as we look further into it. Because another journalist said that he had the same problem with the Roadmaster and other Indians, the lockout is related to a particular riding technique. Indian’s statement that riders should simply not use that style any longer seems odd, at best.

(Update: Indian has since removed its “Brake Throttle Override” for all 2015 models and will provide a fix for previous models.)

The Roadmaster’s weather protection keeps a rider mostly dry in rain riding. The bright, white of the LED headlight and fog lamps stand out in daylight riding.

The Roadmaster’s weather protection keeps a rider mostly dry in rain riding. The bright, white of the LED headlight and fog lamps stand out in daylight riding.

The throttle lockout issue aside, in the Roadmaster, Indian has produced an impressive upgrade to the Chieftain that should appeal to more touring-oriented riders. The Roadmaster will be available in September with three color choices. Thunder Black will retail for $26,999 while Indian Motorcycle Red bumps the price $600. The Indian Motorcycle Red / Ivory Cream combination weighs in at $28,199.

+ Highs

  • Twice the cargo capacity
  • Better weather protection
  • Even more amenities than Chieftain
- Sighs

  • Weight is up to 930 lb.
  • Engine still heats right thigh
  • Potentially dangerous throttle lockout
2015 Indian Roadmaster Specifications
Engine Type Thunder Stroke 111,air-cooled 49-degree V-Twin
Engine Capacity 1811 cc
Bore x Stroke 101 mm x 113 mm
Compression 9.5 : 1
Fuel System Closed loop fuel injection, 54 mm throttle body
Transmission 6-speed
Final Drive Belt
Front Suspension 46 mm telescopic fork, 4.7 in. travel
Rear Suspension Single shock with air-adjustable preload, 3.7 in. travel
Front Brakes Dual floating disc, four-piston caliper, ABS
Rear Brakes Single floating disc, two-piston caliper, ABS
Front Tire Dunlop American Elite 130/90B16 67H
Rear Tire Dunlop American Elite 180/65B16 81H
Seat Height 26.5”
Curb Weight 930 lbs. (claimed)
Wheelbase 68.1”
Fuel Capacity 5.5 gal.
Storage Capacity 37.6 gal. total
Colors Thunder Black, Indian Motorcycle Red, Indian Motorcycle Red/Ivory Cream
Warranty Five years coverage that includes both a one year limited warranty and an extended service contract. Unlimited miles.
MSRP $26,999 Black, $27,599 Red, $26,999 Red/Cream

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  • http://www.mymotorrad.com/ james lagnese

    Man, these bikes are getting expensive. On the short list, we have the Gold Wing, K1600, Roadmaster, Vision, Cross Country Tour and Ultra/Ultra Limited (I guess the Voyager too, but it’s not quite in the same class). The Victory’s would seem to be the value bikes of the bunch with the others have some more bells and whistles. Where would your money go amongst this bunch? As much as there are times I want to go back to a cruising tourer, for the same money as the HD, Indian and GW, the BMW comes with a whole lot more…Am I missing something? It’s all above my pay grade anyway. It must be nice.

    • DickRuble

      Here’s what you do: you buy a $1600 nighthawk 750 in excellent condition, you add a $400 rifle windshield and you have as much motorcycle as you need. One that will last you tens of thousands of miles and will need little resources to maintain. Oh, and the throttle won’t lock up on you.

      • fastfreddie

        Or a cb 900 custom for that plush ride and add a small windscreen.Job jobbed:)

      • http://www.mymotorrad.com/ james lagnese

        That would be a step down from my 2009 RT.

        • DickRuble

          Nice bike, the RT. But those who don’t have that dough or don’t want to part with it can still get an equally great ride for $2000 or so, and for the difference ride across the country for six months or more.

  • http://www.themotorcycleobsession.com/ Chris Cope

    the designers made some assumptions about the Roadmaster’s ideal rider.” — It appears the marketing team has also made some assumptions. If you look at Indian’s advertising for this bike it is clearly aimed at retired individuals keen to relive the motorcycling adventures of their youth. I have no problem with that in particular, but my issue is that Indian offers no machine for the young man who that retired guy used to be. There is no affordable, lighter, easier to manoeuvre Indian to serve as an inspiration.

    Additionally, I would have a HUGE problem with the lockout issue you mentioned. Balancing throttle, clutch and rear brake is at the very heart of slow-speed riding. How the hell are you supposed to navigate this thing through a parking lot? Duck-walk it like a noob?

    • http://www.mymotorrad.com/ james lagnese

      Or the guy that isn’t quite retired yet.

    • Michael McLean

      Bitter party of one? Take heed young man. Watch for the Scout to be unveiled at Sturgis this year.

      • http://www.themotorcycleobsession.com/ Chris Cope

        I’m not bitter, just eager to see Indian offering some bikes to bring people into the brand rather than relying on wealthy people with a heavy sense of nostalgia.

        I doubt very much we’ll see the Scout this year. If it comes, it will take another three years to arrive –– at least.

        • Michael McLean

          Not only will the Scout be released next week but the engine will be in the 800 to 900 cc range and It will be fast. Very fast.

          • http://www.themotorcycleobsession.com/ Chris Cope

            I’d be first in line for one if such a thing were true. But it would mean Polaris having had to develop two all-new engines (the Thunderstroke 111 and this one) in a pretty short space of time). I just don’t see that happening. Especially since they’ve made no mention of any sort of launch in a week. I’m intrigued to know why you think different, though. Is it just hope?

          • Michael McLean

            Purely speculation based on my own analysis of a corporate marketing strategy. Factor in the historical references that Polaris has dedicated themselves in preserving the Indian Motorcycle tradition. For example they are using a chronological yearly release pattern with first year colors, models and badge numbers honoring the year 1901. This year they released two tone color schemes and the Scout will be announced soon. Look for an inline 4 engine to be released at Sturgis 2015. Polaris knows good and goddam well they will have a huge audience for that one.

          • DickRuble

            Oh.. ok.. if it’s based on pure BS then don’t forget to look for a turbo diesel 9-cyl star-engine in the second half of 2015, in pastel pink.

          • Michael McLean

            I have to say that was quite disrespectful Dick. Let’s revisit in 1 week and then again after Sturgis 2015. How’s that sound Dick?

          • http://www.themotorcycleobsession.com/ Chris Cope

            Looks like you were right, Michael. Shame on me for not believing. The Scout looks great.

          • Michael McLean

            I agree it looks fantastic! I test rode one yesterday Sturgis. This thing is a little rocket! I’m used to a much bigger bike so it felt small to me. My buddy is bigger than I am but he was completely comfortable and he didn’t look out of place on it. Polaris wisely chose to make all of the Scout accessories available when they release the bike to dealerships at the end of the year.

          • dthorny

            They did announce a new bike on their website which is under the box pictured and unveiled 8/2/2014.

            http://www.indianmotorcycle.com/en-us

          • VeganLondonMan

            I wager the Scout will be in the 1100-1400cc range

        • LS650

          Looks like they are here…

  • SRMark

    Like the seat, tank, bags and engine. The rest, not so much. The lowers are terrible.

  • Gary Blankenship

    I have been a licensed motorcycle rider for over 46 years. I have successfully completed the vast majority of all defensive driving/motorcycle riding courses ever offered. I started out on a Vespa Cuisair and have owned or ridden motorcycles of all classes and sizes. My nastalgic desires for the Indian motorcycle are as high as anyone’s. I was raised with an uncle that rode a ’45 Scout and a ’46 Chief. Simply. I love Indian. I love what Polaris is doing with their design and marketing. BUT, having test ridden the Vintage and the Chieftain, I will NEVER buy an Indian, or any other brand, that uses that throttle lock-out system. It makes it impossible to maneuver an almost half-ton two-wheeled vehicle in slow-moving situations. It is nothing short of dangerous in my opinion, and I bet if Indian keeps it, it will get far more experienced motorcyclists killed/injured than than all automobile manufacturers ever did.

    • frankfan42

      At the very least Gary this should have been told to owners and press people, as well as those taking a test ride. Kinda shaky this has never been mentioned in any article on the Indian, until now.

    • dthorny

      I’ve been riding over 50 years and just bought a 2014 Indian Chieftain and make U turns on it without any issues. Simply release the rear brake and light or no throttle through the turn. Making u turns in front of oncoming traffic as in the review is just asking for trouble. You are riding on the street, not attempting a speed record for a u turn.

      • Evans Brasfield

        I guess I wasn’t clear in my description of the event. I was taking a left turn across traffic when I had no throttle response. The U-turn back to the side road was a defensive maneuver to keep from being hit by the car. I hope that clarifies things.

        • dthorny

          Got it. Thanks Evans. Great review, by the way.

    • Evans Brasfield

      You will be happy to learn that Indian’s Brake Throttle Override is now a thing of the past. Indian Motorcycle Product Director Gary Gray took me and another journalist who had written about the BTO aside and said that they have removed it from their 2015 bikes. I’ll have more about it in a news posting later.

    • Joanne

      They do not have that lock-out system on the 2015 Roadmaster. :)

  • Auphliam

    I test rode all 3 of the Indians earlier this summer. During that test ride, because I had read about this throttle lock out before, I tested it on all 3. I would trail brake the rear brake while accelerating through sweeping turns…and it never “locked out” the throttle. I could feel throttle input throughout. So am I missing something, or was something done differently with the units I tested?

    • DickRuble

      It doesn’t happen if you apply only the rear brake. The throttle lock-out occurs when both brakes are applied, if my understanding is correct. Does it occur when both brakes are only gently tapped or does it need to be firm pressure on both? I don’ t know.

      • Evans Brasfield

        It happens when you apply either brake or both brakes. In my tests, the determining factor was brake(s) and throttle applied for roughly two seconds.

        All Indians have had this feature.

        • DickRuble

          Thanks for the clarification! I could see it as a feature if it applied to only the front brake (or front and back simultaneously) but definitely not when using only the rear brake.

  • tonym

    No Way will I ever buy, rent or borrow a 2 wheeler that locks out throttle when using the rear brake. I was a police motorcycle rider for 11 yrs. and this style of riding insures the most stability at slow speed. I have competed in numerous cone course events that could not be attempted with this new “Safety” feature. Sorry Indian but this is a big FAIL!

  • reg26

    Was very interested in this bike as I’m looking to get rid of my Street Glide. When I read about the lock out feature I lost my interest totally. Not being able to use the rear brake in a parking lot or in heavy traffic is a deal breaker for me. To bad. It’s a nice bike

  • Kevin Polito

    The Roadmaster looks like another winner, although the audio/entertainment system is lacking compared with that on the H-D models. They just revealed the new Scout, and I’m afraid they may have booted it with that one. The new Scout engine looks like it was styled by the guy who did the V-Max. Weird. I don’t see anything resembling the original Scout.

  • LS650

    If they did this (throttle lockout) on the 2014s, how come this is the first time I’ve ever read of it?
    That’s crazy!

  • CFLAP

    $30,000 for a motorcycle……..? Sigh……