2015 Indian Roadmaster – First Ride Review
More cargo capacity and increased rider comfort
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
|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|
|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|
|Curb Weight||930 lbs. (claimed)|
|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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