Go for a ride with a leather-clad Indian

“There’s a huge loyal following of people who love Indian’s style, its history, and this bike is squarely targeted right at what they love.”

By Ronald Ahrens 01/03/2017

Old Route 66 becomes tricky as you approach Sitgreaves Pass in western Arizona's Black Mountains. A succession of hairpin turns leads into the pass, which was gouged out of volcanic rock 160 years ago so wagons could make it through the mountains.

Like all touring bikes, the Indian Roadmaster Classic, a new model based on the Roadmaster, is suited to ambling along superhighways. But because the bike stretches 265 centimetres long and weighs 392 kilograms, I was surprised by the agility it demonstrated through the pass. It held a tight line on patchwork pavement.

Just beyond the road's 1100 metre crest lies the ghost town of Oatman, a tourist attraction where wild burros loiter in the main street, cadging hay cubes that visitors purchase from one of the town's shops.

The beasts, descendants from miners' stock, are remnants of Oatman's days in the early part of the last century as a gold-rush boomtown. The Indian brand dates to 1901, and the Roadmaster Classic's distinctive design elements speak to its heritage. The bike features leather saddle bags and a leather trunk, skirted fenders, and a locomotive-like shield on the fairing.

The bags and trunk are more than a fashion statement: Together they have a 125-litre capacity. They're not lockable, but they detach in seconds. Atop the trunk is a convenient zip-close pouch, and while buckles and straps abound, quick-release plastic clasps do the actual fastening.

"There's a huge loyal following of people who love Indian's style, its history, and this bike is squarely targeted right at what they love," said Indian Motorcycles marketing director Reid Wilson.

The Classic's 111 cu in Thunder Stroke V-twin engine provides plenty of horsepower and produces a mellow rumble, and the bike brims with the latest comforts. I synced my phone with the standard 100-watt audio system to listen to my own playlist, and I also enjoyed the heated handgrips and heated seats. The 7-inch (17.8cm) touchscreen presented a clear navigation display and abundant information, including the distance to my destination and the time of arrival.

The test bike was painted a handsome lustrous black. Optional two-tone colour schemes include willow green or red over ivory cream. Among the other available options are additional leather trim, fairing lowers that keep the wind off your knees, and a shorter, flared windshield.

The Roadmaster Classic went on sale on February 21, 2017, with a base price just under $US27,000 (about $A35,190). (indianmotorcycle.com)

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