Indian Roadmaster Classic: First Ride

Indian's big touring model gets all gussied up with new leather and chrome accessories

Roadmaster Classic
2017 Indian Roadmaster ClassicBarry Hathaway

Sitting in a 1943 DC3 warbird that was used in WWII, I still didn’t know what bike we were heading to test. Two rows of seven cylinders per engine, putting out more than 1,200 hp apiece, slowly sputtered to life with a cadence like an old hot rod. We were flying in the plane that popularized air travel in the US to ride Route 66, the road referred to as Main Street of America. I half expected to look out the window and see a bald eagle flying next to us. Touching down in Lake Havasu, Arizona, surrounded by iconic desert landscapes, America’s oldest motorcycle company unveiled its newest shot at a quintessential American bagger: The Indian Roadmaster Classic.

Indian Roadmaster Classic
The Indian Roadmaster Classic with accessory chrome, fringe and armrests equipped.Barry Hathaway

The new Roadmaster Classic takes an already proven platform, lowers the price point, and adds its own set of brown leather accessories and soft bags. Aimed at their core demographic of American tourers, the high level of chrome and fringe are anything but subtle. But is putting a new set of trim and finish on a Roadmaster enough to justify an entire new model, or should this have just been offered as an accessory package?

Removing the fairing lowers, but keeping highway bars, the Classic has a little bit of a lighter look to the front of the bike. The tank badge was changed to one reminiscent of an early ’40s Indian tank badge, adding a little more to the vintage style.

Indian Roadmaster Classic
The trunk is large enough to carry two full-face helmetsBarry Hathaway

The Desert Tan leather is a big part of the aesthetics on this bike, and Indian made sure it’s the highest quality sourced from US-raised cows. The large, plush seat is comfortable for hours of riding and comes standard with heating for both the rider and passenger. Although switching to the soft bags, the Roadmaster Classic still boasts 33 gallons of storage. The trunk, which also doubles as a passenger backrest, has room for two full-face helmets, as well as a separate zipper pouch accessible from the outside on the top (very convenient for things like a phone or wallet). While the top bag has a hard liner that helps keep its form, the saddlebags are soft leather without a reinforced structure. Both the side bags and the trunk secure with plastic snaps tucked behind leather straps, which look great but take longer to secure than the hard bags and removes one very important function: locking. Compared to the remote-locking bags standard on the Roadmaster, the Classic’s bags seem to be a big trade-off, sacrificing convenience and security for style.

Roadmaster Classic
Desert Tan leather seat and saddlebags adorn the back of the Roadmaster ClassicBarry Hathaway

Powered by the same Thunder Stroke 111 we have ridden thousands of miles on, know, and love, the Classic puts out great power throughout the entire range. With 119 pound-feet of torque readily available at low revs, this bike can seriously move. The two things I find myself wanting, however, are ride modes and traction control. While I don’t always prefer them, with a heavy, high-torque touring bike like this, riders would undoubtedly benefit from a rain, sport, and touring mode.

Along with the rest of the 2017 Touring line, the Classic is decked out with modern tech: Keyless ignition, adjustable windshield, and, new this year, the 7-inch infotainment touchscreen. Indian’s Ride Command system is awesome and super easy to use. The screens are easily customizable with the ability to pick what each half of the screen will display or quickly switch between the full-screen options. Once I set up the screen to show half GPS and half current status of the bike (tire pressures, speed, gear, temperatures, etc.), I was stoked and didn’t really mess with it past that. In the dash in front of the windscreen, there is also a small flip-up pocket for your phone with a built-in USB plug—something that may seem small but is actually a really nice daily convenience.

Indian Roadmaster Classic
Indian Roadmaster ClassicBarry Hathaway

What makes a motorcycle a classic? Is it fringe? I thought the normal Roadmaster is a throwback already, with the sweeping fenders and rounded lines. While this model does come in about $2,000 less than the hard-bagged version, I really don’t see the need to promote it as a separate model. If the engine, chassis, suspension, and just about every riding component stay the same, couldn’t it just be sold as an accessory package? When will we grow tired of mixed-up trim being sold under new names?

Roadmaster Classic
Indian Motorcycle's infotainment system was an addition to the touring line for 2017Barry Hathaway
Roadmaster Classic Leather
The added accessory pouch on top of the trunk is convenient to access your wallet, tools, or whatever else you're carrying, but doesn't have a locking option.Barry Hathaway
Indian Roadmaster Classic
Indian Roadmaster ClassicBarry Hathaway