Motoring

Indian Roadmaster Dark Horse: Black beauty on the road

The time is 6 am, and the sun is just about to rise from behind the horizon. There is a nip in the air that is unusual for this time of the year. I am seated on the super-plush seat of the Indian Roadmaster Dark Horse, as its massive 1,890cc V-twin chugs at a relaxed pace. The deep burbles from the twin-exhausts intermix with Coldplay’s riveting music playing through the quad speakers of the 200W music system. I am not sure about the American Dream, but riding a big, American touring machine is an incredible experience that will be etched in my memory for a long time. Here is the reason why:

Take a stance

To me, the first word that comes to mind on seeing the Roadmaster is ‘elegant’. The enormous fairing is beautifully shaped, with its curves and creases, and since this is the Dark Horse version, it does away with the chrome outline around the LED headlight and the twin aux lights that flank it. Instead, the LED aux lights are placed on the indicators, outside the fairing, which contributes to its cleaner design.

Below this fairing you will find the Indian signature war-bonnet ornament on the fender. While it adds a dollop of identity to the Roadmaster, it surprisingly does not light up as on the Indian Chieftain — you have to buy the illuminated one as an extra here. You will also notice the large plastic bodywork around the front leg guard, which has vents that open to channel cool air to the footboard and the engine. And while the front end looks captivating, it is only when you move to the side that you are left gob-smacked at the sheer length of this machine.

Shaped like a teardrop, the 20-litre fuel tank flows neatly to the sofa-rivalling seats. Beneath the tank, the new Thunderstroke 116 V-twin occupies a pride of place; and then there are the huge panniers and top box that add up to about 137 litres of storage volume. The top box doubles up as a pillion backrest and can swallow two full-size helmets without a hiccup.

The wheels look particularly nice, with the contrast cut finish on the spokes adding a touch of bling.

Moving to the tail-end, it is an equally good-looking angle, with the curved fender, the neatly integrated tail-lights and blacked-out dual exhausts peeking from the bottom of the panniers. The only issue I believe is with the top box being devoid of a light strip to improve visibility at night.

Now, with a motorcycle this big, dressed in this lovely satin white colour, and the fact you will find a needle in a haystack before finding one of these on our roads, the Indian Roadmaster is the epitome of being an attention magnet. Park the bike anywhere and people appear out of thin air and stand mesmerised at this otherworldly looking motorcycle. Camera phones are quickly fished out for photo ops and, in an instant, you have become a celebrity of sorts. In the few years that I have been testing motorcycles of all kinds, I have never seen such levels of admiration and curiosity.

Feature story

What adds to the special feeling astride this motorcycle are the features on offer. The 200W music system is incredibly loud, with two speakers in the fairing and two at the bottom of the pillion backrest. One can listen to songs clearly inside a full-face helmet and even at speeds beyond 120kph. 

Being a fan of analogue dials, I was glad to see the bike has one for the speed and the engine revs. The windshield can be raised and lowered at the touch of a button, the ignition is keyless and you can also remote lock the panniers.

Locomotivated

This super-sized, air-cooled V-twin engine is the hallmark of the Roadmaster, and it plays a pivotal role in the experience that the bike brings to the table. With 171Nm peaking at just 3,000rpm, you have a wave of torque coming in from the moment you let out the clutch lever. It is like the automotive equivalent of a locomotive. That is required, considering the half-tonne of weight that the motor has to propel, along with the cumulative weight of the bike, rider, passenger and luggage. Once you get going, the Indian gets up to triple-digit speeds quickly, if you are generous with the throttle. On the flipside, it does not mind sticking to low speeds in higher gears.

The cherry atop this V-twin, however, is the refinement levels, irrespective of the position of the rev needle. There are simply next to no vibrations in the handlebar or the foot pegs, and that goes a long way in making a short or a long ride a pleasant experience.

The three ride modes — Standard, Tour and Sport — show a significant difference in power delivery. The good thing is that even in Sport mode, the throttle response is not uncontrollably sharp. All being said, the downside of being seated on a motorcycle with such a large air-cooled engine is the amount of heat it radiates. The rear-cylinder deactivation function does help to some extent, but our traffic conditions and weather are at the extreme end of the scale for it to have a significant effect on heat management. So, if you are thinking of riding the Roadmaster for your daily commute — don’t.

Glideator

Looking at the specifications, it is only natural for you to feel intimidated by the 403kg kerb weight. The moment you start moving, however, all that weight seemingly disappears. This motorcycle is so well balanced that you could be crawling at 5kph with your feet on the floorboards, or flying around a sweeping corner at 140kph. Part of the confidence in the bike is also due to the suspension set-up. It absorbs bad roads in a much better manner than one expects and does not get as unsettled by mid-corner bumps either. In fact, I was amazed by how easy it was to change direction, despite the 1,600mm+ wheelbase.

The only thing you need to be careful about is the limited cornering clearance on either side before the bottom of the footboard begins to scrape the road. Also, the 140mm ground clearance, though decent, still requires one to err on the side of caution while negotiating extra tall speed breakers.

Another aspect that one needs to bear in mind is that it takes some effort to bring the behemoth to a stop, especially from high speeds. Bigger discs, hence, should be part of the next set of upgrades on this bike.

One of a kind

There is nothing like the Indian Roadmaster Dark Horse on our roads and nothing can compare to the experience of riding this bike. It looks great, rides well and there is an air of exclusivity around it. Paying over ₹ 50 lakh (on road, Maharashtra) for this motorcycle is certainly the preserve of the well heeled, and you need to be at peace with a tiny service network as well. If you fit that bill and fancy riding an American cruiser that is kitted with all the bells and whistles, the Roadmaster is a must have.


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Printable version | May 16, 2022 6:18:59 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/motoring/indian-roadmaster-dark-horse-black-beauty-on-the-road/article65413175.ece