2015 Indian Roadmaster: Luxury Liner

Text: Alfonse Palaima • Photography: Tom Riles, Brian Nelson, Alfonse Palaima

In the February ‘14 issue of RoadRUNNER, we learned about Indian Motorcycle’s Chieftain when Florian laid out the form and function of the maker’s key touring model for 2014. Chock full of good intentions, massive investments in both capital and engineering, and American 
bravado—Indian came to the market with a huge splash in South Dakota during the Sturgis rally in 2013.

Simultaneous to the 2014 rally, David Burbach’s article in our October ‘14 issue dissected the Chieftain for its livability as a long haul tourer and considered it “a joy to rack up miles on ... one of the best touring motorcycles available.” Little did he know that Indian was about to take over the Black Hills rally yet again with the introduction of the Scout and their best tourer yet—the Roadmaster. Both names are derived from old generations of Indian models, which were intended to be the progeny of the legacy lineup had the company never ceased operation.

Well beyond the scope and range of the original Roadmasters, the 2015 version tickles most every rider’s fancy with many top of the line accessories. During this year’s rally, we got our introduction to the model, as well as a three-day getaway from the madness of Main Street, to test the performance of Indian’s latest and greatest. You can read about that journey in an upcoming issue, Where Indians Roam Again, as this piece is about the bike itself. For now, let’s peel back the layers on this machine.

The Nitty Gritty

The crafty designers in Medina, MN, pulled a fast one on us in 2013, stuffing a full-grown chicken inside that eggshell when releasing the Chieftain before the Roadmaster. What we didn’t know last year was the Chieftain was born of the “master” instead of being the inspiration for it. When building the touring line, Indian began with a blank slate and laundry list of must haves. Lead designer, Greg Brew, and his team knew they would eventually have to compete against the Harley-Davidson Ultra Limited. So, they built the ultimate machine first and didn’t tell anyone—the Roadmaster—complete with saddlebags, lower fairings, and a trunk. Then, they stripped it down and revealed the lighter Chieftain in 2013, followed a year later by the full-featured Roadmaster in 2014. Tricky. Thus, there hasn’t been any suspension updates needed to accommodate the added weight. A manually adjustable air shock in the rear helps fine tune your ride based on your load. Inside the access side panel is a label of suggested air pressures for the combined weight of rider and gear—nice touch.

Speaking of weight, the Chieftain packed on 82 pounds to become the Roadmaster but still falls squarely in line with the competition. Mere pounds—relative to the overall weights—separate the Roadmaster (897 pounds with an empty tank / roughly 930 pounds with 5.5 gallons of fuel) from the Ultra Limited (896 pounds in running order) and Victory Vision (869 pounds dry / roughly 905 pounds with 5.5 gallons of fuel)—none of which you feel when riding.

The Real Deal

Is it comfortable? Can I carry a lot of groceries with it? How does it fit in my garage? That last one is on you and your living quarters, but we can say the Roadmaster is comfortable, friendly—and given the newly added trunk—the bike’s total carrying capacity is now up to a whopping 37.6 gallons.

Wired for sound and part of the remote locking system, it takes only a press of a button on the key fob (there is no key) or on the tank-mounted console to unlock the saddlebags and trunk. Inside the new trunk you’ll find a formed, felted liner with enough room for a pair of full-face helmets, as well as a second 12-volt port (the other is on the dash), and interior LED lighting.

Designed to be removable without the need for any tools (unless you install the two anti-theft security bolts), the new trunk’s chrome bumper rail doubles as a grab rail and protects your paint when you put it on the ground. Disconnect the wiring harness, open the saddlebags, flip open the latches holding the trunk to the frame, and lift the whole package up and off the bike.

Imagine the moment when you and your passenger get off the bike and place your helmets on the saddle. When you flip open the trunk’s lid—thanks to the placement of the hinges—it lifts the lid up and over anything put on the saddle without limiting the access or pushing your helmet to the ground.

However, with the good comes the bad. When you have a lid that hinges towards the dash, it requires any passenger on board to dismount in order to access it. I also found myself walking into the radio antenna a lot while accessing the trunk.

Perhaps the coolest feature is the electronics system. With the alarm key fob within range—stashed in your pocket or on your hip—there’s no need to press the tank dash start-up button to begin the launching process. Simply swing your leg over the bike, drop your hand on the throttle, press and hold the starter button, and the bike wakes and rumbles to a start in one swift motion. Be sure to have that clutch pulled in while doing so, as this only works when pulled in or when the bike is in neutral.

Wait! There’s More

Key features of the Roadmaster are, of course, the addition of a trunk to the Chieftain but many more features slipped in under the name. Adjustable passenger floorboards are now standard on both the Roadmaster and Chieftain models, a two-position heated rider and passenger saddle makes for a warm start to those early morning rides, and the 10-position handlebar grip warmers (the switch is on the tank) makes for happy hill climbing when the mercury dips.

Weather protection on the Chieftain comes in the form of a batwing fairing with an electrically adjustable windscreen. But, it’s been updated for this model to be lower and wider for a larger rider and passenger bubble. It also includes a pair of rain-blasting lower fairings, which still allow for a full leg stretch, each with two venting options and massive non-locking storage containers (large enough for three 20 oz. water bottles on each side). Removable (three bolts) and retrofittable to the Chieftain, these (as well as the trunk) are now available for those owners looking for more protection and storage.

The Roadmaster is loaded with Bluetooth, an Apple Siri-enabled voice command, 200 total watt stereo system, cruise control, and tire-pressure monitors. Unfortunately, you won’t find an onboard navigation or communications system. But Indian riders are purists—they’re in it for the ride and enjoying that bright, easy-to-read dash. Right? That said, an entire standalone story can be written about the features included in the dashboard system. And, for about $ 1,000 more you can add a touchscreen GPS system to the Roadmaster if you feel you need it.

Wrapping it All Up 
(in Red and Ivory Cream)

Touted as the “most luxurious American Tourer” by their own marketing efforts, the Roadmaster is a master of the lineup and the competition. With attention to detail like no other brand, Indian even looks out for its own by making all the new accessories, including the newly-affixed rear cylinder vent (designed to help cool the rear cylinder on bikes with lessened air flow due to the addition of lower fairings), retrofittable to previous model year touring machines—well, at least last year’s Chieftain.

In 1947 the first Indian Roadmaster hit the streets, complete with highway bars and a few chrome accessories. Back then a luggage rack was the highest premium touring accessory available from the maker. Since then, the wants of a long-distance rider have grown to include weather protection, personal entertainment, and carrying capacity. The modern day Roadmaster still carries on the original styling—the iconic valanced fenders, parallel pushrod tubes, and war bonnet on the front fender—and looks good doing it.

MSRP starts at $ 26,999 for the basic black Roadmaster, while the traditional Indian red costs a few dollars more ($ 27,599), and the two-tone red and ivory cream tops the bill at $ 28,199.