2017 Indian Roadmaster Test
“Maybe they just tightened the bolts a bit harder”.
That was all that my ‘insider’ at Indian Motorcycles Australia joked when I rang to quiz him about why the 2017 Roadmaster performed better than the 15’ and ’16 models.
With the exception of the upgraded dashboard and info-tainment system, the bike’s spec sheet reads pretty much the same as the previous releases, but somehow the suspension seems a bit plusher, the engine a bit sweeter and the handling a bit tighter. The overall feel of the bike just seemed … improved. On a bike that I already thought was superb.
Of course my Editor 'Brum' had some sage words on the subject: “They all do it Dave, every manufacturer, when they get three of four model years under their belt the bikes get sweeter. They iron the bugs out of the process.” Of course I could only agree and suggested it was something to do with ‘tighter bolts’.
The 2017 Roadmaster has also addressed aspects of the machine that we thought weren’t in keeping with the rest of the bike’s excellent engineering.
Upgraded to the max.
The first batch of Indian Baggers’ (both Chieftain and Roadmaster) paint was not up to the standard of their opposition. While that was part of the reason we hired Mark Walker to re-paint our Running Bull project bike it’s no longer an issue. Polaris spent $20million upgrading their paint facility in mid 2015. The 2017 finish is not quite flawless, but it presents very, very well and the pinstriping is excellent. The two-tone finish with gold highlight is now a good paint job.
The ’15 and ’16 Baggers dashboard and instrumentation was also not quite up with the overall styling of the machine either. It was ‘clever’ and legible, with its day/night colour and contrast change, but it was a bit ‘plain-Jane’. It didn’t really pop with the presentation of the rest of the bike. With the ’17 model Indian has gone ultra-high-tech and while its presentation and appearance has been a bit ‘polarising’ around the Heavy Duty editorial department, I thought it was absolutely fantastic.
Now the analogue instruments are separated by a 7” touchscreen that displays a range of data, diagnostics and info-tainment. Indian calls it ‘Ride Command’ and it worked very well for me.
It allows the rider to customise the display screen and then scroll through the various modes with either gestures from a (gloved) finger or using the trigger switch on the back of the left hand switch block. It also incorporates the GPS and guidance systems. A maps update for right hand dive is forthcoming and updating should be no problem via the USB connection in the very handy dash-top compartment with Smartphone Compatible Input (with complimentary data stick for the software upgrades). The compartment will accommodate ‘plus’ sized mobiles and the Bluetooth connection was the easiest of any I’ve used. It only took a matter of seconds to have it paired with the Ride Command and pumping out an mp3 playlist or streaming Pandora stations. Same with headsets and coms systems connection – very easy.
The third significant upgrade to the ’17 offering is the sound system. A new 200watt amp and speakers paired with Ride Command now make this one of the better stock sound systems available. It pumps, and it’s all easily operable from the touch screen display (or the left hand switch block) if a mobile disco is your preference.
Once the tunes are sorted it’s a case of scrolling through the display screens to find one with the data that suits. The screen header bar displays time, ambient temperature, source and signal strength. The main screen has options to display: GPS (and guidance); Vehicle Status (tyre pressure, voltage, engine hours, oil change); Vehicle Info (speed, fuel range, RPM, gear position); Dual Trip Meters (fuel range, miles, average fuel economy, instantaneous fuel economy time, average speed); Ride Data (heading, moving time, stop time, altitude, altitude change): Audio (song, artist, track or station) or you can set up custom split screens to display some of any.
The ‘old school’ dials that sit on either side of the Ride Command feature analogue Speedometer and Tacho, an array of warning lights and have inset LCD displays with fuel gauge, range, odometer and gear indicator. The whole set up is very clever and very intuitive.
Donk & Chassis
The 2017 Thunderstroke is the same 111cube we know (and love), but with another model year it too seems just that little bit sweeter. It runs the same 101 mm x 113 mm bore and stroke and 9.5:1 compression ratio fed by a 54 mm throttle body and closed loop fuel injection system. The directness of the gear primary drive and belt final drive make the bike feel tight and responsive. At very low speeds that directness can cause the bike to surge slightly as the EFI finds its idle speed. It can be disconcerting the first few times but then becomes quite natural.
The test bike was fitted with Genuine Indian Stage 1 pipes and it breathed a lot easier than the previous Roadmasters – even though it only had a few hundred kilometres on the clock it revved more than willingly when I gave it a squirt.
The Roadmaster shares the same geometry as the Chieftain. 25 degree rake, 150mm trail and a 1668mm wheelbase, but in yet another example of that ‘tighter bolts’ syndrome it seems more settled on the road, particularly in Freeway conditions (compared to the ‘Running Bull’). Perhaps it’s due to the fairing lowers, but it’s not affected by blustery conditions or side winds like the Bull and it always felt rock solid, even in the wash from the big rigs. It still chucks around, corners and manoeuvres like a bike that should be half of its 414 kg dry weight. And it still has arguably the best lean angles and cornering clearance in the class – even with its big footboards.
It’s running Telescopic Forks with 119 mm of travel up front and Single Shock with air adjustable pre-load at rear (114 mm) and they do seem a little more compliant than the previous model.
The ABS with Dual 300mm Floating Rotor and 4 Piston Calliper up front - and single 300mm 2 Piston at the rear pulled the big girl up really well. Genuine two finger fronts – on a 414kg bike!
The touring accoutrements are also first class. The central locking hard bags and top box have good capacity, the cruise control is easy to use and the rider and passenger comfort levels are about as good as they get. Temperatures were in the low 30’s in SEQ during the test and some heat was noticeable from the engine, particularly while getting out of town, but it wasn’t excessive or problematic – just … there. The saddle is plush, well padded and very comfortable while the power adjustable windscreen is still the best on a bagger.
Got it right
The lights are brilliant, the self-cancelling indicators, the security fob, heated seats, grips - and the rest of the large inventory of creature comforts all add to the appeal of this stunning, heritage styled machine.
With the 2017 Roadmaster Indian have now made the bike all in keeping with what you would expect from one of the most expensive mass-produced, premium motorcycles on the market. For just under $42,000 ride-away you’d expect it to be very good.
It is. With ‘tight bolts’ on.
Engine Type: Thunder Stroke® 111
Displacement: 111 cu in (1811 cc)
Bore x Stroke: 153 mm
Compression Ratio: 9.5:1
Electronic Fuel Injection System:
Closed loop fuel injection / 54 mm bore
Primary Drive: Gear Drive Wet Clutch
Clutch: Wet, Multi-Plate
Final Drive: Belt 2.2 : 1
Peak Torque: 119.2 ft-lbs (161.6 Nm)
Peak Torque: RPM 3000 rpm
Front Suspension:: Telescopic Fork (119 mm travel)
Front Fork Tube Diameter: 46 mm
Suspension: Rear-Single Shock w/Air adjust / 4.5 in (114 mm)
Brakes/Front: Dual / 300mm Floating Rotor / 4 Piston Caliper
Brakes/Rear: Single / 300mm Floating Rotor / 2 Piston Caliper
Wheels/Front: Cast 16 in x 3.5 in
Wheels/Rear: Cast 16 in x 5 in
Tires/Front: Dunlop® Elite 3 130/90B16 73H
Tires/Rear: Dunlop® Elite 3 Multi-Compound 180/60R16 80H
Exhaust: Split dual exhaust w/ cross-over
Wheelbase: 1668 mm
Seat Height: 673 mm
Ground Clearance: 5.5 in (140 mm)
Overall Height: 58.7 in (1491 mm)
Overall Length: 104.6 in (2656 mm)
Overall Width: 39.4 in (1000 mm)
Trail: 5.9 in (150.0 mm)
Fuel Capacity: 5.5 gallons (20.8 liters)
GVWR: 1385 lbs (630 kg)
Dry Weight: 414 kg
Standard Equipment ABS; Cast Aluminum Frame with Integrated Air-Box;
Cruise Control; Highway Bar; Keyless Start; Horizon Power Shield; Desert
Tan Genuine Leather Seats; Remote Locking Hard Saddle Bags; Remote
Locking Trunk; Tire Pressure Monitoring; 200 Watt Stero with AM/FM,
Bluetooth, USB, Smartphone Compatible Input, and Weatherband; Heated
Rider & Passenger Seats; Heated Grips; Adjustable Passenger Floorboards;
37.6 Gallons of Storage. Pathfinder LED Lights (headlight, fog lights,
turn signals, tail light trunk, tail light, trunk interior light, and
headdress fender light).
Gauges Fairing mounted instrument cluster featuring analog speedometer
and tachometer, with fuel gauge, range, odometer and current gear. 15
LED telltale indicators; cruise control enabled, cruise control
set,neutral, high beam, turn signal, ABS, check engine, low tire
pressure, battery, low fuel, security system, low engine oil pressure
and MPH or Km/H unit designation. Ride Command™ 7" Indian Motorcycle®
Touchscreen including realtime clock; ambient air temperature; heading;
audio information display; vehicle trouble code readout; Vehicle Status
(tire pressure, voltage, engine hours, oil change); Vehicle Info (speed,
fuel range, RPM, gear position); Dual Trip Meters (fuel range, miles,
average fuel economy, instantaneous fuel economy time, average speed);
Ride Data (heading, moving time, stop time, altitude, altitude change);
Bluetooth connectivity for phone and headset; Map/Navigation