The open road never looked so good. To you, because the Indian revels in reaching for the horizon. To others, because the Roadmaster is unlike anything they’ve ever seen before.
In a country where size is equated with might and luxury is often directly related to the ability of a vehicle to turn heads wherever it goes, the idea of luxury motorcycling in India becomes slightly different from the West. If you were to think of open highways, rock and roll music, and motorcycles – you might probably be thinking of a two-wheeled version of the “American Dream.” But, fancy terminologies aside, what you might be thinking of is the state highways of California and the said motorcycle being a ‘Chopper’ which means that it has been extensively worked upon and modified to express the personality of the rider who owns that machine.
This “dream” of luxury motorcycling comes crashing down in India when you get your hands on a machine with such high luxury and stature in the world of cruiser motorcycles. The state highways of California look like a distant dream – both literally and figuratively – and it turns out what you have ahead of you are the likes of the Delhi-Jaipur highway or a sprint between Mumbai-Pune, and so on. As for the motorcycle, perhaps the most you can do is accessorise it with more lights than it already has because the idea of riding a “Chopper” goes out of the window when you realise that modifying vehicles in India is illegal. Your high-rake-look motorcycle will probably end up getting you traffic challans or result in a lot of time wasted in awkward conversations with the cops.
'The Indian Roadmaster is “yuuge,” as the ex-American president Donald Trump would say'
But you are here to read about the Indian Roadmaster, so why am I going on about bashing your teenage motorcycle dream? The reason is simple, motorcycles like the Roadmaster, when ridden in places like Delhi-NCR – where we rode it, give an experience unlike anything you have ever thought of before. That’s what was the case with me too. But to make you better understand that, I have to leave behind the typical idea of luxury cruiser motorcycles defined by popular culture from the West and approach everything with a blank slate and make you do the same.
Once you do that, you will start to see the Indian Roadmaster in an all-new light.
The Indian Roadmaster is “yuuge,” (read: huge) as the ex-American president Donald Trump would say. And as a result, wherever the motorcycle goes, it has people looking at it. And honestly, it is a mix of emotions. Many of those looks are from other riders and drivers of “What The Fruit!” as a motorcycle this big is not something they expect in their peripheral vision. Others, mostly, are observing the Roadmaster and its finer details which evidently, and understandably, takes time – the motorcycle is almost 2.6m long!
There are several stages to the shock and awe. It may start with them noticing the music coming out of the motorcycle’s 200-watt speakers placed in the fairing and around the back seat, or sometimes it is the burbling exhaust note. However, the final stage of observation is always of appreciation.
During my time with the motorcycle, I received several questions about the price, some complimented my riding skills for handling such a machine at city speeds of 30 km/h and some even cracked jokes with the overarching theme being that is the Roadmaster a bike or a helicopter, for some reason.
Overall, it makes for a conversation/camera app starter, and if you are someone like me who does not mind the small talk, you will find it all to be rather chucklesome. If you like being the centre of attention, then the Roadmaster is as good as it gets.
'It makes for a conversation and camera app starter. If you don’t mind the small talk, you’ll find it all to be rather chucklesome'
“I’m Lovin’ It”
Once you finish admiring the motorcycle from afar and take it for a ride, you will probably say what many Americans do after a meal from their most popular food chain. That’s because the Thunderstroke 116 V-twin engine is as smooth as err… cheese? Okay, I know I need to stop with these references. So, I will get straight to it – the 1890cc engine with the 6-speed transmission is one of the smoothest motorcycle drivetrains money can buy in India right now.
What you have at your disposal with the twist of the throttle is a meaty 171Nm of torque delivered as low as 3,000 rpm. You also get three riding modes – Tour, Standard and Sport. While Sport is uncharacteristic with its sharp throttle response and Standard can sometimes feel fidgety, the Tour mode is the best for almost all riding conditions.
What you would love is that the Roadmaster is full of features. The most helpful during our time with the motorcycle during Delhi’s December winter were the multi-stage-adjustable heated grips and the electronically adjustable wind deflector. Then, when you combine these features with the hard lower fairing that the Roadmaster comes with, pretty much all the wind that would have otherwise come in direct contact with the rider is deflected away. The motorcycle also comes with multi-stage adjustable cooled and heated seats – for both front and rear passengers – which make the ride experience cosy.
The downside to this air-bending is that at slower speeds, when the engine gets hot, you don’t have enough cold wind to cool things down either. The engine got unbearably hot in start-stop traffic, and do note that this observation comes while testing in the peak winter season. I can only imagine how extreme it would get during the summers. And in case you are wondering, opening the inlets on the lower hard fairing does not have a significant impact at low speeds.
The motorcycle also comes with rear cylinder deactivation, which happens when it comes to a stop. While this may help marginally with fuel efficiency, this too, is not enough to cool things down.
It’s a “La-Z-Boy”!
Once the roads open, though, the comfort is at par with the iconic La-Z-Boy chairs. And this is where you will enjoy the motorcycle the most. The chassis is so good that the motorcycle feels stable at highway speeds, feels agile during quick changes in direction, and can hold its line well through long corners.
During U-turns, however, you will notice the humongous 1,668mm wheelbase and the big turning radius that the Roadmaster has. You will also have to learn to always park in the ready-to-go position, as reversing this behemoth alone can be a task. It weighs 403kgs with fuel, and with such weight, the absence of a reverse gear is definitely felt, something that you get on the likes of the BMW K1600 and the Honda Gold Wing.
Other features include Bluetooth connectivity, USB charging port, remote locking saddlebags and trunk, keyless ignition, cruise control, ABS and a 7.0-inch touchscreen that registers inputs even with gloves on. The bike also has Apple CarPlay integration but requires a tedious process of signing up and creating accounts on the Indian Motorcycles’ app and is not a simple plug-and-play process – which is how it should have been.
“Can’t Help Falling in Love”
But at the end of the day, the Indian Roadmaster is more than its specifications and features. It is an experience, and despite not being the perfect motorcycle, it makes you want to return to it.
You would want to feel that road open up again rewarding you with some cool wind after you have put in the effort of slow-roasting yourself through crawling traffic. You find yourself missing the little conversations with strangers who create affection for you at a glance, the not-so-funny jokes made with pure intent, the shock, the awe, the music and at the end of it all – the craving to get back on the Indian Roadmaster once again.
The only question is will you spend half a crore to bring this motorcycle home? To find the answer, perhaps listen to one of the greatest hits by probably the most renowned American artist ever – Can’t Help Falling in Love, by Elvis Presley. Then visualise yourself on the Roadmaster, but this time, make sure your version is the “Indian Dream.”
- Indian Roadmaster
Engine: 1,890cc / V-Twin / Air-Cooled
Torque: 171Nm @ 3,000 rpm
X-Factor: King of the road, wherever it goes.