By David Soderholm
The flagship. The top dog. The grand poohbah. This is what Polaris intended the 2017 Indian Roadmaster with RCS to be. This is American touring luxury at its most decadent. That means spoiling its riders with a plethora of luxurious and useful touring features that make this thing hard to pull into a parking spot at the end of the ride. It will be much preferred for you to pull up to the gas pump, refill and hit destinations you haven’t seen yet. It’s comfy, capable, nostalgic and cool.
The new star of the show in 2017 is the RCS (Ride Command System). This is a brand new integrated infotainment package that sits mid-ship between the bars in a beautifully finished handlebar fairing. It includes a high resolution 7 inch glove friendly touch screen that is big, bright and colorful. It’s mounted up high just under the windscreen and is easy to use and reference at a glance without looking very far down from your normal line of sight. It can be run without taking your hands off the bars with controls mounted at the grips. It’s very smart phone like in its function and layout, including things like a pinch to zoom function. The screen is big enough that they even included side by side functionality to display say nav and radio together. Below the screen are 5 easily used rubber buttons that jump you directly to main functions without navigating menus. Smartphone and communicator pairing are simple and allow full phone function in this system. It’s fast functioning and easy to navigate.
RCS offers an amazing amount of functions. Included in the list; clock, ambient air temperature, heading, audio information display, 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. I used the map function quite a bit and left that up on the screen. I often wander around new areas and this gave me a great overview of the road layouts around me and made changes of route very easy to make. Using gps functions works fine, but having a smartphone paired made using Google Maps easy and more familiar to me.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the stereo portion of the system. The Roadmaster stereo is very powerful. It’s got 200 watts, and the sound comes through exceptionally loud and clear when riding – even on a freeway. Phone pairing makes options for you endless. Throw on Pandora or your favorite playlist, listen to your favorite podcasts or whatever strikes your fancy. AM / FM / Weather Band are also included. Control it all at the bars… fantastic.
The Roadmaster with acres of gleaming chrome and thick glossy paint is quite striking to look at — the styling being a beautiful combination of retro classic with modern quality. It looks like and is a massive motorcycle — 944 lbs fully fueled. Storage capacity seems endless and has remote locking with interior lighting. Hoisting it off the side stand is quite the lift. The weight is intimidating at this point. Seating is uber comfortable and the dash is the perfect distance away to use and see easily.
Start the motor and the smoothness is comforting. This is a 111 cubic inch V-twin and there’s no shaking going on here. Nothing vibrates, just a gentle background thump. Shift the smooth shifting six speed transmission into first, and you’re off. Fueling is excellent and the clutch has a buttery smooth uptake to get you rolling with little effort. Effortless huge torque is front and center and moves this massive bike from stops with ease. It does get warm around your legs though.
This is a classic American low-rev V-twin engine. It’s a soothing low stress way to get around. Running down the road, the engine settles into the background and covering large distances in comfort is exceptionally easy. Wind management is excellent and as the electrically adjustable screen deploys, it opens up NACA ducts in the screen to keep cockpit wind buffet free. Nothing stresses you when riding down the road and you are coddled in convenience and comfort.
Shifting up through the gears allows the bike to shed what seems like hundreds of pounds as speed increases. The Indian is built on a cast Aluminum Frame with an Integrated Air-Box. It’s exceptionally stiff and allowed the engineers the opportunity to build a handling platform with characteristics that are exceptional for a bike this size. Steering is light and direct and bends into corners with ease. I wouldn’t call it “nimble”, but it tracks easily on its intended line and has terrific ground clearance for its market segment. It’s not a sport bike, but my goodness is it ever refreshing and surprising given the heft that you initially lifted off of the side stand.
Suspension is also well done, working in unison from front to back as you travel over bumps in the road. The chassis feels very unified front to back and helps lend to the solidity of the handling, lacking any sort of hinged feeling. Travel numbers are 4.7 inches front and 4.5 inches rear which is quite long in the cruiser / touring world. Having such a stiff frame allowed the suspension guys to focus on bump absorption and it shows. Bumps are smothered and erased under the wheels.
Obviously all of this sizable goodness doesn’t come cheap. This is a big, luxuriously feature and tech packed to the gills kind of motorcycle. It also has exceptionally good fit and finish. Solid colors ring in at $29,599 and two tone colors like our test bike cost $30,399. Accessories are many and you can tweak away at your pleasure mixing combinations of uniqueness for your own bike.
Indian has the unique distinction of being the only real competitor that has made a dent in its cross border rival’s market share from Cheddar land. Polaris knows this and shuttered Victory to focus on its flagship brand. The Indian line-up is filled with excellent motorcycles that are well thought out, engineered and like brand H have that rich nostalgic history baked in. This Indian is exceptional. How does brand H compare? We’ll find out next month by looking at this bikes direct competitor – the 2017 Ultra Limited with the new 107 ci Milwaukee 8. Tune in – I rode both…
By Sev Pearman
I picked up a pre-production press bike from Indian on a crisp October afternoon. Past MMM® editor Guido Ebert went over the Roadmaster and its many features. I asked the usual questions about what type of fuel, how to check oil level, tire pressure and so forth. His parting comment, “Just ride it. Get some seat time. Pile on the miles.” Challenge accepted.
First order of business was to gas her up. The Roadmaster swallows 5.5 gallons of premium (91 ROM) fuel. Top off tank, reset trip computer, punch lunch destination into the Ride Command® System (RCS) 7-inch screen and head for PIE!
The Roadmaster is revamped for 2017 and is Indian’s flagship platform. She is a gleaming mile-eater loaded with any and every accessory for the touring rider. The Roadmaster comes with LED lighting, electrically-adjustable windshield, fairing lowers with air control, the Ride Command® interface; 200-watt, four speaker audio system; keyless ignition, cruise control, heated grips and seat, adjustable passenger floorboards, remotely lockable hard luggage, tire pressure sensors, ABS braking and more. Riders can personalize their bike with Indian accessories, chrome and bling.
When it comes to motorcycling, we all have our opinions. One of my strongest, born out of decades of riding and reviewing many machines, is my preference for two-cylinder engines. Rolling northwest out of the Cities, I immediately fell in love with the Indian V-twin. Vibration in the 111 cubic-inch motor is corralled to a pleasant thrumming by counter balancers. Large displacement plus long stroke equals torque and this twin delivers the goods. Hang on when twisting the throttle, because torque is prodigious at any engine speed, even off idle. Peak torque (rear wheel) is 107 ft-lbs at a sedate 2,700 rpms. For a “low tech” pushrod, 2-valve, air-cooled motor, horsepower is surprising, 76.6 hp (rear wheel) at 4,500 rpm. One invisible feature is the self-adjusting valve train. Less maintenance equals more riding, and we approve. One point for Indian.
I liked the clutch action. It is light and provides good feel through the lever. This reduces fatigue on long rides as well as in heavy traffic. The gearbox is a 6-speed; 6th gear is an overdrive. Final drive is by toothed belt. Once into rural Wisconsin, I opened her up. Torque is such that shifting is optional. I would happily motor along in 5th, engine whirring and churning beneath me, forgetting that I had another ratio if I wanted to drop the engine speed further. There was no upshifting, searching for another gear. Two more points for the clutch and gearbox.
The stock exhaust note is classic V-twin low rumble, the bass line of a beautiful mechanical symphony. I liked the tone at any engine speed and in all gears. For those owners that insist on “riding pirate”, Indian offers an optional Stage 1 exhaust and accessory exhaust tips.
Baggers are built for travel and the Indian Roadmaster is ready to take you from Cape Cod to Cape Fear. With over 37 gallons of weatherproof, lockable storage between the top trunk, side bags, fairing and lowers, you and your passenger won’t need to fight for space. The rear bags and trunk are carpeted and free of rattles. The keyless bags are secured by solenoid, controlled by a button on the ignition fob. A second luggage button is found on the tank. This is convenient if you are already on the bike and your passenger wants to get in the luggage for one last thing. No need to get off the bike or dig the ignition fob out of your jacket or jeans. Nice.
The Ride Command® System is worthy of a review unto itself. Part GPS, part trip computer, part music center, the RCS combines all of these functions into a centrally-mounted unit. I’m not a “gadget guy” but this system is well thought out, allowing access and control to tons of vehicle, trip and audio information. The 7-inch screen is bright and easy to read, even in daylight. Map scale can be adjusted by the two finger “pinch/spread” technique familiar to anyone with a smart phone. On screen “buttons” can be selected while wearing gloves. Below the screen are five rubber buttons that instantly return you to the primary functions without having to back navigate through a sub-menu. Polaris claims easy smartphone connectivity (untested) to Ride Command® via a fairing compartment with cable at the top of the dash. I primarily used the navigation function and liked how it automatically zooms out at speed, and zooms in, adding detail, when you slow down for a town.
The four-speaker audio system is nice. You can scan for radio stations, lock in your favorites, play your songs through your smartphone or enjoy the weather band, all controlled, with your gloves on, thru the Ride Command®. Audio fidelity was good in town, but I found it unsatisfactory at highway speeds. I tried changing windshield height, my body position and even tried different helmets. Maybe the audio system is designed for riders who don’t wear helmets? DISCLAIMER: I’ve never been a “tune rider”. I prefer to listen to the bike and my surroundings while I ride.
Two other complaints. The oversized handlebar, grips and levers are sized for Yetis. I wear XXL gloves and even with the levers to their closest setting, I found it to be a reach from the grips to the levers. More noticeable is the 944-pound curb weight. You can’t escape it. During my first hundred miles, I almost capsized the big Roadmaster three times at slow speeds. You can’t fight the laws of physics. Keep your head up and the handlebar squared when steaming in to port. To be fair, once I recalibrated my brain to the 944-pound mass, I rode without further incident.
I put over 1,000 miles on the Indian Roadmaster in a mix of city, rural highway and freeway riding. I came to appreciate her excellent balance, handling and road manners. The Ride Command® system is useful. If you are looking for a well-appointed, two-up luxury tourer, do yourself a favor and schedule a test ride on this American icon. It has been 64 years since an Indian Roadmaster rolled off an assembly line. Parent company Polaris may have taken their time, but they got it right.
See you down the road.
Loved the motor. Ample torque across the rev range in all gears.
The clutch is a delight with a light pull and smooth action. It was never grabby.
Superb paint, chrome and attention to detail.
944-pound mass unforgiving of rider inattention or lapses in judgement.
Oversize handlebar and levers sized only for giants.
Audio fidelity a disappointment over 40mph.
Wife’s First Reaction® “Good Lord!”
Fuel Economy: High 40s (tested)