Indian says: "Where leather meets technology." Motorcyclist says: "Long-haul luxury with a little fringe? Works for us!"

Indian Roadmaster and a vintage DC-3 airplane.
The new Roadmaster Classic mixes the flavor of the Chief Vintage with the tour capability and amenities of the fully dressed Roadmaster. The Classic loses the lower leg fairings of the standard Roadmaster but they're available as an option along with a long list of leather styling upgrades.Photo: Barry Hathaway

My legs were still a little wobbly as I stepped down the rickety ramp of the vintage DC-3 that Indian Motorcycle chartered to haul us test riders from Palm Springs, CA, to Lake Havasu, AZ, for the first press ride of the year. But man, what a treat! The aviation equivalent of riding in a souped-up hot rod set the theme for a one-day jaunt along Historic Route 66 aboard the new-for-2017 Roadmaster Classic, Indian's flagship touring rig revamped with a touch of Chief Vintage leather and fringe.

Route 66 photo shoot with the Indian Roadmaster Classic
A claimed weight of 864 pounds is pretty staggering no matter how you slice it, but like the Roadmaster and Chieftain, the new Classic carries it well and does not feel like a big bike.Photo: Barry Hathaway
Rear action shot of Roadmaster Classic on Historic Route 66
The Roadmaster Classic is in its element on roads like Historic Route 66.Photo: Barry Hathaway

So if you're wondering what sets this new Classic apart from the Roadmaster that was introduced back at the 2014 Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, there's no getting around the simple fact that this update is a styling exercise. Like the Roadmaster, the Classic is based off of the Chieftain touring platform with no chassis or powertrain revisions. But that's okay—nothing was really needed in those departments. What the Classic brings to the Indian marketing table is that "leather passion" that they hope will bridge the gap between a long-haul motorcycle with modern amenities and a bike that throws you back to '47 when Indian first introduced the Roadmaster name. Product Manager Josh Katt explained how the vintage leather look is such a huge part of the passion that Indian riders have for the brand and that was a missing element in their flagship motorcycle.

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Red and creme Roadmaster Classic
The 1,811cc Thunder Stroke 111 is unchanged from 2016 models. With 119.2 lb-ft of torque on tap and a healthy exhaust tone emitting from the dual chrome pipes, we're okay with a\this carry-over.Photo: Barry Hathaway

There’s no question about it. Size intimidates. If you’re used to riding small bikes, sportbikes or even a mid-sized cruiser, walking up to the new Classic might make you think twice before throwing a leg over the saddle. A fully dressed Roadmaster is a substantial machine with capacious storage bins, a tall trunk, and a wheelbase that measures 65.7 inches axle to axle. Those valanced fenders come down over the tires and wheels making the stance look even longer and lower than it actually is.

Indian Ride Command
Ride Command introduced last year features a 7-inch glove-friendly touchscreen, navigation, 100-watt audio, Bluetooth-compatible, customizable rider screens. You can pinch, swipe and tap the display without removing your gloves.Photo: Barry Hathaway

But like the other two models on this platform, the new Roadmaster Classic doesn’t feel at all like a big bike once you lift it off of the kickstand. Getting acclimated in the Desert Tan saddle happens quickly, proving how well-mannered and friendly this bike really is. Historic Route 66 is not only scenic but also provides a nice variety of high-speed curves, long straights, and even sections of tight twisty turns with several elevation changes. Some of our photo stops required repeated U-turns along the narrow two-lane road; a good test of the bike’s low-speed maneuverability, which is uncommonly good. And moving along at speed, the Classic remains stable and smooth with impressive power coming from the Thunder Stroke V-twin. While it might not have quite the punch of Harley’s new Milwaukee-Eight mill, you can always break open the piggy bank to add some performance parts like the Indian intake/exhaust combo and Stage 2 cams.

Indian Roadmaster Classic wind screen
Windscreen height is adjustable on the fly with up-and-down buttons on the left hand control. At 5-9, I found the top edge of the screen was directly in my line of sight at its lowest position.Photo: Barry Hathaway

Our ride took place on a cold winter day, giving us a chance to test the standard equipment heated grips and seat. Grip temperature responds quickly and is easily adjustable on the fly thanks to a large switch located on the top of the tank, and the seat warms quickly to one of two selectable levels controlled by a slightly harder-to-find-while-riding toggle below the left edge of the seat (there are two toggles, one for rider and one for passenger).

Roadmaster Classic saddlebags and truck.
The Desert Tan saddlebags and trunk provide a claimed 32 gallons of storage space, about 2.5 gallons less than the hard bags and trunk on the standard Roadmaster.Photo: Barry Hathaway
Roadmaster trunk storage
The easy-to-remove trunk will hold two full-face helmets but unlike the standard Roadmaster, there is no remote locking system.Photo: Barry Hathaway

Priced at $26,999 for the Thunder Black version (add another thousand for two-tone colors) the Classic comes with all of the premium touring features of the standard Roadmaster including keyless ignition, power adjustable windshield, air-adjustable rear suspension, tire pressure monitoring system, anti-lock brakes, cruise control, 100-watt audio system with Bluetooth/USB input and smartphone compatibility, and an analog/digital dash with a glove-friendly and customizable Ride Command control center with GPS navigation that keeps rider informed of engine and trip status.

2017 Indian Roadmaster Classics in front of DC-3 airplane
Styling features of the Classic include a chrome fairing bezel, new teardrop tank badge reminiscent of the Chief line from the late ’40s and early ‘50s, and Desert Tan leather saddlebags and trunk.Photo: Barry Hathaway

It's sort of ironic that this ride took place on the very same day that Indian parent company Polaris announced that it would be winding down its Victory Motorcycles operation. In spite of that heartbreaking news, the atmosphere and attitudes among the Indian staff couldn't have been more upbeat. After briefly touching on the subject, Indian Marketing Director Reid Wilson assured us that Indian will now be getting into new segments and launching new products very soon. Does that mean we can expect to see a genuinely new Indian model and not just a styling update in 2017? Our fingers are crossed.

TECH SPEC

EVOLUTION
A heritage-focused styling update to the proven Roadmaster platform.
TECH
PRICE $26,999
ENGINE 1,811cc, air-cooled 49° V-twin
TRANSMISSION/FINAL DRIVE 6-speed/belt
CLAIMED HORSEPOWER n/a
CLAIMED TORQUE 119.2 lb.-ft.
FRAME Aluminum double-cradle
FRONT SUSPENSION Indian 46mm fork; 4.7-in travel
REAR SUSPENSION Indian shock adjustable for spring preload; 4.5-in. travel
FRONT BRAKE Indian four-piston calipers, 300mm discs with ABS
REAR BRAKE Indian two-piston caliper, 300mm disc with ABS
RAKE/TRAIL 25.0º/5.9 in.
WHEELBASE 65.7 in.
SEAT HEIGHT 26.0 in.
FUEL CAPACITY 5.5 gal.
CLAIMED WEIGHT 864 lb. dry
AVAILABLE Spring 2017
MORE INFORMATION indianmotorcycle.com
VERDICT
An appealing addition to the Roadmaster line with a focus on heritage and just enough modern amenities for those long rides. No functional changes but none needed.
Brian Hatano's gear, Alpinestars Oscar jacket and boots, Schuberth C3 Pro helmet
Brian's gear:
Helmet: Schuberth C3 Pro
Jacket: Alpinestars Oscar Charlie Leather
Pants: Alpinestars Copper Denim
Gloves: Alpinestars Bandit
Boots: Alpinestars Oscar Monty
Photo: Barry Hathaway