The perfect marriage of beauty and function
Story by Ray Seidel
Last year we tested Indian’s cruiser bike, the Springfield; this year we’ve moved up to their touring bike, the Roadmaster Classic. Both Indian Chiefs are very much alike, but if you’re into the longer trips, the Classic may be more to your liking.
Both bikes have 1940’s styling, but modern in every other way possible. First, Indian went through their history books for these two models, slapping on a large “Indian” script badge for the Springfield as was used on the 1948 and later models, and the solid tear drop shape engraved badge on the Classic dating from 1940. One thing we liked from the outset is both of these bikes come absolutely loaded right out of the box. The two big differences that separate the two is the Springfield comes with locking hard bags while the Classic has the retro all leather bags & trunk, and the Springfield has a medium sized windshield with a small (but informative) dash while the Classic has the full fairing with powered windscreen, a 100 watt stereo and all the information you may need on the industry’s largest 7” Cinemascope screen to take a long tour in unfamiliar territory. It’s a bit of a stretch to reach the button for the powered windscreen, but makes the ride more enjoyable to lower when it’s low speed or hot, or high speed or cold.
A trip to the Laughlin River Run gave a chance to experience the Classic for an extended time. The ride on any Indian Chief is remarkable, as almost no road imperfections are transmitted through the bike to the rider. On my first test ride I was LOOKING for a pot hole to experience what the negative feedback might be, yet the Chief smoothes out every ripple on the road. The leather bags look great, as does the trunk, but the opening of the bags is smaller than on the hard bags. A sweater and leather bomber jacket will fill up one bag, leaving the remaining bag and trunk to carry everything else. For a Laughlin trip, this is plenty, but if you’re in need of every possible square inch of space (without attaching more bags) consider a hard bag Chief.
Up at the front end, the new dash is truly amazing. I tried the stereo in my driveway at its lowest setting (1 of 1-10) and was just below the threshold of bringing the neighbors out. Plenty loud. I myself do not care for a radio blaring away while riding, but that’s a personal thing. Maybe at a rest stop while having a bite to eat – plenty of sound coming out of those speakers to do the job. The fairing itself does not really obstruct the view of the road ahead, though at 6’ 2” my line-of-sight is steeper than someone 4’ 11”. I suspect not an issue. Also the fairing is light weight plastic, and I did not experience it as dead weight that had to be muscled while doing a turn. The bike IS heavy of course at almost 900 lbs., so allow some time to get your sea legs before doing any stunts with it. Our petite staff writer Geri Cidot rides a similar Chieftain (with full fairing) as her daily driver, so again the size/weight ought not to be an issue with the smaller riders.
The dash is so loaded with goodies; this alone may be a reason to buy this bike. While other models such as the Springfield do give you a lot of information, one issue was with the sun overhead the glare could sometimes make it impossible to read the LCD screen. The Classic on the other hand has, besides the jumbo screen, redundant information. Speed, RPM, what gear you’re in, in different locations, so if for some reason it’s unreadable in one spot, you almost certainly can read it in another. For me, the speedometer is my default screen. That includes below it my fuel range, and what gear I’m in. To the left is what the F & R tire pressure is, the level of the heated grips, when the next oil change is due, and other information. Toggle the switch (behind clutch lever) and the radio screen comes up. Toggle again, there is your GPS. One morning I started the bike and it said to me YOU ARE LOW ON FUEL. WOULD YOU LIKE TO FIND THE NEAREST GAS STATION? Uh, okay, why not? I of course know where they are by my house, but let’s see what it does. If you press the YES button a drop-down menu appears with a list of stations to pick from. I choose the one I was going to anyway, and a map appears showing the route. That is a GREAT feature for a TOURING bike where you may have no idea where the next gas spot would be. Toggle again and there is TRIP 1, TRIP 2 odometers, with miles ridden, remaining range, average MPG, and other information. There is an actual COMPASS you can toggle to, again very good for a TOURING bike. Returning from my trip to Laughlin on an unfamiliar back road and coming to a “T” intersection and having to pick a left or a right turn, good to have that feature to make the correct choice. The screen can be manipulated while wearing your leather gloves, but I found it easier just bare handed.
Although this bike didn’t come with a back rest, I noted the seat design itself gave good support for my lower spine. That is possibly unique to my particular frame, but if you take one for a test ride, you may notice this saddle keeps the lower back comfortable. Once I started the bike I was quick to notice throttle response was spot-on perfect. I mention this as the Springfield from last year was right out of the factory, and had a large delay in the fly by wire throttle, but all that’s needed is a simple dealer adjustment, so no worries there. The only other issue was shifting from 1st gear to 2nd gear when the transmission is still cold. The Springfield last year took a few minutes for effortless shifting, once it warmed up. The Classic, cold right out of the garage, took some effort for the first shift to get into 2nd gear, and then fine after that. However, returning from the Laughlin River Run where the bike was parked outside in a warm morning, that initial shift to 2nd gear was not stiff at all. For me, adding a heel shifter (dealer can add) makes good sense as it takes MUCH less effort to push down with a heel than pull up with toes, especially in freezing weather when machine and muscle are stiff. From my personal experience.
MPG was averaging over 42, so with a 5.5 gallon tank will get 230 miles, and this will go up as it breaks-in. 119.2 ft-lbs of torque will pull a fully loaded bike with ease, regardless of head wind or a steep hill, just what is needed for a touring bike.
Although this is a touring bike by design, this has so much going for it by whatever criteria you choose, this is a bike that is not only a rolling work of art, but one that has virtually all your riding needs covered. Take one out and experience it for yourself. You won’t be disappointed.
Go see the new Classic at Reno Cycles and Gear in Reno, NV!
Indian® Roadmaster® Classic
Starting At $26,999
As tested: Willow Green over Ivory Cream
Starting At $27,999
Thunder Stroke® 111
111 cu in (1811 cc)
Bore x Stroke
3.976 in x 4.449 in (101 mm x 113 mm)
Electronic Fuel Injection System
Closed loop fuel injection / 54 mm bore
Gear Drive Wet Clutch
2.2 : 1
119.2 ft-lbs (161.6 Nm)
Peak Torque RPM
2.789 : 1
Suspension: Front – Type/Travel
Telescopic Fork / 4.7 in (119 mm)
Front Fork Tube Diameter
Suspension: Rear – Type/Travel
Single Shock w/Air adjust / 4.5 in (114 mm)
Dual / 300mm Floating Rotor / 4 Piston Caliper
Single / 300mm Floating Rotor / 2 Piston Caliper
Cast 16 in x 3.5 in
Cast 16 in x 5 in
Dunlop® Elite 3 130/90B16 73H
Dunlop® Elite 3 Multi-Compound 180/60R16 80H
Split dual exhaust w/ cross-over
65.7 in (1668 mm)
26.5 in (673 mm)
5.5 in (140 mm)
58.7 in (1491 mm)
103.5 in (2630 mm)
39.4 in (1000 mm)
5.9 in (150.0 mm)
5.5 gallons (20.8 liters)
1385 lbs (628 kg)
Weight (Empty Tank / Full of Fuel)
864 lbs / 896 lbs (392 kg /406 kg)
ABS; Cast Aluminum Frame with Integrated Air-Box; Cruise Control; Highway Bar; Keyless Start; Horizon Power Shield; Desert Tan Genuine Leather Seats; Desert Tan Genuine Leather Saddle Bags; Desert Tan Genuine Leather Trunk; Tire Pressure Monitoring; 100 Watt Stereo with AM/FM, Bluetooth, USB, Smartphone Compatible Input, and Weatherband; Heated Rider & Passenger Seats; Heated Grips; Adjustable Passenger Floorboards; 32.7 gallons of Storage.
Pathfinder LED Lights (headlight, fog lights, turn signals, tail light, and headdress fender light).
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.
7” Touchscreen including Map/Navigation; 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.