Guest Post by: Curtis Sawyer
I will quickly admit, the new Roadmaster is a wonderful motorcycle. I honestly didn’t think I’d go all “band-wagon” on this new incarnation of the Roadmaster but, there is more here than meets the passing glance. Touring has never been cooler. And, may I be one of the first to say, chrome is back.
You’re all aware I ride a 2019 RM Elite a good share of the time. I truly love everything about it. This new Roadmaster has some features I wished I’d had, and some I wasn’t as impressed with. That said, the things I didn’t like were so few and so trivial, they barely register on the chart.
The first thing you notice about the Roadmaster Limited is the paint. The two colors its now offered in are stunning. Crimson Metallic and Thunder Black Azure Crystal are both breathtaking. At almost every stop someone commented on the colors and complimented the “look” of this long-hauler. Gas stops suddenly took a few extra minutes.
Coming from what is now often referred to as the “classic” fairing, the new design has grown on me. It is just as functional as ever and lends to the bikes, trim muscular, modern look and feel. The large top surface area of the fairing produces a tremendous amount of down-force and with it, cross winds and truck passing are effortless as the bike sticks and steers confidently. From behind, the still air pocket is still larger than most and offers just the right amount of air movement to vent a helmet well and keep the heat off. The large lowers do their job perfectly and can be vented as needed to capture engine heat or mitigate it.
For me, at just 5’9’“, the stock windscreen is too tall. I found myself always trying to look over it and to look through it caused distortion and sun flashes. I would change it out right away. For taller riders, I suspect it would be ideal, just as the 13.9” version is for me.
Old habits die hard and the placement of the new On/Off switch was a struggle. I’m very accustom to a quick double tap on the start switch as a means of getting underway. Again, I’m sure I’d adapt but, at first, this switch configuration gave me fits. On the other hand, the easy access placement of a trickle charging port and its ability to power heated riding gear, could make up for the fumbling my fingers did for the better part of the week.
The new Roadmaster featured the all-new, one of a kind innovation Indian has named the “Clima-Command” seat. This is a true step up in seating comfort from the ‘19 I ride. Where the 2019 RM Elite features the nicely stitched “saddle” type seat, it’s heating is, at times, too hot and not at all evenly distributed. Cooling isn’t even a consideration. The Clima-Command seat is nicely shaped and offered me an extremely comfortable riding position, a bit taller than I’m familiar with on mine. Temperature control is precise both heating and cooling. The temperature is managed well over the surface of the seat thanks to some ingenious hi-tech material under the surface. The new seat is well built, highly adjustable and adds comfort at both ends of the thermometer. In a word, Wow.
Ride Command. The debate continues. Some riders absolutely love what is now the new screen view and manageability. Coming from the “original”, I was not thrilled with how long it seemed to take to get comfortable with the widget based system on the Roadmaster. Information I had readily accessible on mine seemed harder to find or didn’t appear where I might expect it. When you have less than a second to look down at 80+mph – having things in a more familiar layout would have been welcomed. Again, it’s a learning curve that isn’t insurmountable but surely was disconcerting at times. The GPS system itself did a better-than-average job of keeping us on the right track in the wide open spaces but did, on a couple of occasions, fumble a bit at finding the way in crowded city settings.
The success of this bike comes from its core. The frame design, the stressed member motor, weight distribution, suspension and the steering geometry Indian is now famous for, give this bike a huge advantage when enlisted for the long-haul and two up travel. The ancient Egyptians believed man could build anything if he first set it on a proper foundation. This foundation is ideal. Nimble, light feeling and designed to provide just the right amount of rider feedback, the Roadmaster is equally at home on the Interstate as it is in tight two-lanes. Forget what you think you know about full dress touring bikes. The 2021 RM Limited, with its responsive feel, light steering and long lean angles can have you quickly forgetting you’re tossing around close to 900 pounds.
Add to it, a motor that delivers usable real world power at the right times and places in the RPM range and now you’re really on to something. The stock 116 lacked the raw punch I thought it might have, offering instead, power that was a twist away in any gear at almost any speed. It wasn’t noisy or fussy about it either – it simply offered up the torque on demand and showed plenty of top end when called for. I’ll mention too, one of our bikes was set up with the Indian Stage One exhaust, intake and tune. The slip-ons sounded great and the off-the-line uummmphh was noticeably greater than stock. Surely worth a look. The Thunderstroke 116 is exactly what the Roadmaster has needed all along – the next level power delivery that makes two-up, all-day travel the rule and not the exception.
With just over 37 gallons of storage on the bike, the kitchen sink and the recliner in the den can all come along for the ride. We had our personal things and our video gear and computers along this time and we had room to spare. Multiple power jacks kept us up and running when the next “outlet” was 200 miles away. The amenities on the bike are plenty and it never left me wanting for something I’d wished it had.
Classy, powerful, responsive and nimble. Those aren’t words usually reserved for long-haul, trunk bearing motorcycles. They fit the 2021 Indian Roadmaster, perfectly. The 2021Indian Roadmaster Limited is for that guy who appreciates the “good stuff” while still wanting to have more than a little badass tucked away – just in case…