A day on an Indian Roadmaster

Earlier this year I was on a motorbike ride around southern USA taking in the states of Virginia, Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, Florida and North and South Carolina, and as we were mostly riding on highways, I was amazed at how many big touring bikes there are over there. I’ve since found out that it’s the biggest and fastest-growing sector of the American motor bike scene. That doesn’t surprise me, as every man and his dog seem to have one!

In fact in America there’s an elite club of riders known as the Million Mile Club, people who’ve log booked their rides over the years and have travelled in excess of one million miles, and apparently the vast majority of the members ride Touring
motor bikes.

Now it’s not that I don’t like the big tourers, I just haven’t had an opportunity to ride one since the early 80’s when a mate let me ride his Honda Gold Wing, which incidentally was released 45 years ago last October. My memory of that ride is hoping like hell that I didn’t drop it!!

So when given the opportunity to take a 2019 Indian Roadmaster for a ride, I jumped at it. I wanted to see what a modern Touring Bike is really like, so I rode from Melbourne to Adelaide via the longer but more scenic route of Hamilton, Naracoorte, the Coonawarra, Keith and then Highway 1 into Adelaide, just over 800kms.

I’d heard so much about the Roadmaster, regarded by many as one of the top genuine touring motor bikes with its 1811cc V-twin engine connected to a 6 speed transmission and a reported top speed of 125 mph, it certainly has all the power needed to comfortably go wherever and get you out of trouble whenever needed.

When I was initially briefed on the Roadmaster and it’s features, it was like being
taken over a luxury car – keyless start, ABS, cruise control, power adjustable windshield, remote locking hard bags and trunk, integrated GPS, tire-pressure monitoring system, 200-watt stereo with Bluetooth and Pandora, heated seats and grips, and it also has a massive 137 litres of storage space, which is 5 litres more than that under the bonnet of a Porsche 911.

But what I found really impressive is how you can choose from Tour, Standard, or Sport to alter the performance of the very torquey Thunder Stroke 116 engine based on how and where you are riding. In addition, when the engine is at operating temperature and the bike is nearly at a standstill, the rear cylinder automatically shuts off without the rider noticing it, which improves rider comfort, especially when idling through slow-moving or stopped traffic.

Leaving Melbourne at 7am on a frosty morning and heading up to Ballarat I had the
perfect opportunity to test both the heated leather seats (high and low on driver and pillion seats) and also the heated hand-grips (5 settings). To be honest, when I was told about these I smirked a little, but having now used them, I’m converted and was surprised how they made the physical side of a long ride much more comfortable.

For such a big bike, a little over 2.5 metres long and weighing in at 420kg’s (3.5 times the weight of Dwayne Johnson aka The Rock), riding the Indian Roadmaster through the back roads of Western Victoria was so easy at speed, it was literally a breeze. Although I felt very little breeze, with the power-adjustable windshield at a height where the wind goes over your helmet and the top of the shield isn’t right in your line of sight, and the redesigned fairings have open and closeable vents in the lower panels, means you can have as much or as little wind on you as you like.

The audio system on this bike is pretty special. Able to be operated with gloves on through the 7 inch Ride Command Touch Screen and with speakers all around, you can easily hear it with a full face helmet. However as I found out, it does pay to turn the volume down as you ride through a town, otherwise you may be perceived as a
mobile disco on two wheels, although it does have a fully adjustable equalizer which monitors and corrects specific frequencies at varying speeds to provide peak performance in different environments.

After nearly 5 hours with only a short stop for fuel, I had a break in Penola, in the
renowned South Australian Coonawarra wine region, and it occurred to me how
Indian has combined the latest technology and mechanical engineering in the
Roadster, yet still managed to maintain their classic vintage looks, which sets this
bike apart from other tourers.

It was then up to the township of Keith and 250km’s of Highway 1 into Adelaide, and it was this section of the trip I found really interesting. Before Keith I had open country roads with little traffic and long sweeping curves, and the Roadster was an absolute joy to ride. So when I hit the main highway, with its continuous flow of semi trailers, caravans and cars both ways, I was expecting a very different experience. I thought it would be a little more intimidating with lots of wind buffeting and unwanted movement of the bike, but I was pleasantly surprised. The ride was very stable with little noticeable wind interference and the Thunder Stroke motor had heaps of power and torque to spare when it was needed for overtaking.

I had just one other fuel stop and a quick break at the coffee shop opposite the painted silos in Coonalpyn, which I can highly recommend and it was then onto my destination.

Having driven the road from Melbourne to Adelaide many times over the years, I know how mundane and boring it can be, however I can honestly say that when I arrived in Adelaide, ten and a half hours after leaving Melbourne, I felt remarkably fresh, none of the normal lower back aches, just a real buzz of adrenalin. Incidentally I used less than 50 litres of fuel for the trip, which is about 6.25 litres per 100kms and that did include some sections of spirited riding!

I think I can now understand why so many are taking to the roads on the Indian Roadmaster, and rather than feeling vulnerable, I had a much greater sense of security than I’d ever expected. It really is built for long distance riding and is the epitome of a true luxury tourer. Oh, and the bike I rode costs $42,995 new, ride away.

If you’re interested in a brief look at the history of the Indian Motorcycle Company from 1901 through to today, click on this link.


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