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2020 Indian Roadmaster Dark Horse Ride Review

2020 Indian Roadmaster

Indian Beefs up Touring Power With its Roadmaster Dark Horse

When you’ve got about the smoothest, most powerful and most comfortable bike on the road, you’d sit back and enjoy the ride, right? Not if you’re Indian Motorcycle. We loved the Chieftain Elite (MCN 7/17), with its 111 cubic inch ThunderStroke engine, sporty handling and Ride Command infotainment system.

Indian said there was an outcry from its faithful for even more power. So, the engineers went to work and boosted the engine that powers its bagger lineup with components from its previous Stage 1, Stage 2 and Stage 3 engine enhancement kits.

The company also recently rolled out its new and even more powerful liquid-cooled PowerPlus engine (109 horsepower and 120 pound-feet of torque) for its new Challenger model. Company reps told us liquid cooling will be exclusive to the Challenger; some customer prefer an air-cooled bagger.

The result of the beefed up 116 engine is—you guessed it—more horsepower and more torque, but the power plant also breathes easier, cruises effortlessly and has an exhaust note that lets everyone know that this is a machine that has no limitations.

ENGINE

We last rolled this engine onto the
dyno while testing the 111 cubic inch

Chieftain Elite, which cranked 75 horse-power and 100 pound-feet of torque. The 116 in this Roadmaster churned out 83 horsepower and 109 pound-feet of torque. That difference was just as noticeable out on the highway.

The 116 is equipped with larger pistons, cylinders, cylinder heads, fuel injectors, and camshafts which all required revised engine mapping.

Widening the diameter in the combustion chamber resulted in reduced valve shrouding and a rise in compression ratio (103.2 x 113mm). The cams have been updated as well.

While the bore changed, the overall engine design remains the same. A connecting rod was available as part of the big bore kit for the 111, now both engines share an optimized stock design. This affected the balance, so small changes to the crankshaft and balance shaft were made to keep things just as smooth as a 111, sans connecting rod.

The new engine carries on the ride mode selection features (Standard, Tour, Sport), as well as the rear cylinder deactivation—great for rider comfort on hot days in slow traffic.

The thrust is massive and immediate, yet totally manageable, and linear up to 5,000 rpm. This motorcycle weighs a hair below 900 pounds, fully fueled, so wheelie control is not necessary. There was a hint of predetonation on hard launches during our timed runs, but in everyday use, the power is all there, all the time.

We averaged 43 miles per gallon of fuel, for an estimated range of 237 miles from the 5.5-gallon tank.

TRANSMISSION

The gear ratios did not change with the larger engine, and shifting is still a little clunky, but we experienced no false neutrals.

Feedback was positive although a little stiff.

About the only thing missing is a quick shifter, which is becoming more common on touring bikes, for the obvious benefits when riding two-up.

SUSPENSION & HANDLING

The ride changed dramatically between
ride modes, including dreamy smooth
response in Tour mode. The suspensionmay be too soft for the weight, as we had
a bit of an issue with front end swimming
and what felt like a little too much flex.

Ironically, the entire front clip, includ-
ing steering head, triple clamps and fork

diameter and tubing rigidity felt flexy at

low speeds, though there could be a con-
nection to the tire and rim combination.

More on that later.

At cruising speed, the ride and suspen-
sion were as smooth as can be, helped

along by prodigious power and tremen-
dous girth. Handling was fine in the

twisties, but get carried away and sparks
will fly early in the lean as you drag the
low-slung tailpipes. The Roadmaster was
built to ride upright, of course.
Low-speed maneuvering requires
great care and constant focus; the bike is
heavy and there’s no reverse.
BRAKES & WHEELS
Although ABS intrusion was minimal,
the front brakes had poor initial bite and
felt low on friction. Stopping needs to be
deliberate. From 60 mph, the best stop
we could coax out of the Roadmaster
covered 144 feet. If you want to stop in
Minneapolis, start braking in St. Paul.
The foot pedal is absolutely essential
when scrubbing off speed. This is partly
due to the weight, but the front brake
was insufficient alone, as we discovered
in a couple of involuntary drifts past red

lights and into intersections. We ques-
tioned whether the front rotor diameter

was large enough. However, the rear
brake ABS worked well, independent of
the front setup.
The 19-inch front wheel should have
aided handling, but its narrow aspect

ratio tire worked against that. The multi-
spoke alloy wheels look very sporty, a

factor sure to win in showrooms.
The conflicting tire construction
profiles made low-speed turns (under 10
mph) more difficult. The conical shaped
(cross section) sport front tire rolled off
at a different rate than the more square
touring tire in the rear. So, while the
front tire rolled off line easily, it was easy
to feel the rear tire’s propensity to keep
going straight. The instability of too little
front tire or too much rim can also be felt
through the handlebars.
ERGONOMICS

The Roadmaster Dark Horse’s amaz-
ingly comfortable ride begins with only

a 26-inch rise to the seat. The bike is
heavy, but also very easy to flat foot on
both sides at a stop. The generously sized
floorboards are welcomed, but the gear
shift lever may be too far forward for
those of shorter inseam.
The electric windscreen riser was nice,
but we didn’t like having it on the right
side, because it often required taking the
right hand off the throttle to adjust wind
deflection. The cruise control button
is right above it, and also a little too far
from the right thumb.

The passenger seat is one of the
most comfortable in the business,
although there were no grab handles
for the passenger and our unit had no
heated seats.
Speakers were positioned and tuned
in a curiously perfect manner that
permeated the helmet with amazing
clarity.
INSTRUMENTS & CONTROLS
Ride Command is one of the best, if
not the best, infotainment systems
available. The 7-inch color display
provides easy view of the Rider Screen,
with a wide array of ride data, and
vehicle status and information.
The Rider Screen also links the
rider to audio controls, Bluetooth
and navigation. On screen map-view
navigation will find addresses, points
of interest, even gas stations and other
necessities. The Device Manager easily
pairs smart phones via Bluetooth and
shows messages, recent calls and other
information.
The touchscreen allows a rider with
a gloved hand to change ride modes,
reset trip meters, navigate radio tuning
and volume, and other settings.
We felt most of the toggle switches
were awkwardly located and could
have been better, although the heated

grip switch atop the fuel tank was con-
venient and easy to operate.

ATTENTION TO DETAIL
We loved the styling of the Roadmaster
Dark Horse, including the blacking of

the engine and other metal compo-
nents. It’s a little more chiseled than

the curves and swooping fenders of
traditional Indians, though it still has
the Indian head running light centered
on the tip of the front fender.

The frosty Ruby Smoke paint is sub-
lime and the aforementioned spoked

front wheel adds a hint of custom
design.
There is a little more than 37 gallons
of storage space, including top and
side cases that are sturdy, durable and
close tightly with precision, better
than most. The top case will easily
close with one helmet inside. There

are additional small front storage com-
partments, just forward of the knees,

which come in handy, plus a small,
spring-loaded hatch between the dash
and the windscreen. Below those two
side compartment are hand levers that
open wind wings to cool the legs and
the engine.
The heated grips get HOT. Curiously,
no heated seats.
VALUE
The Roadmaster Dark Horse’s $28,999
MSRP is comparable to others in

its class, such as the Harley-David-
son Ultra Limited ($28,699), Yama-
ha Star-Venture Intercontinental

($26,999), and Honda Gold Wing Tour
($27,500). It’s a lot of cash to pay for a
motorcycle, but it’s typically one you
don’t change out every year or two.
The Indian’s new 116 engine is the
largest among these (by a hair) tuned
to ride easy and pile up the miles. For
this price, you also get Stage 1, Stage 2
and Stage 3 enhancements that base
model owners must pay extra for.

When you’ve got about the smoothest, most powerful and most comfortable bike on the road, you’d sit back and enjoy the ride, right? Not if you’re Indian Motorcycle. We loved the Chieftain Elite (MCN 7/17), with its 111 cubic inch ThunderStroke engine, sporty handling and Ride Command infotainment system. Indian said there was an outcry from its faithful for even more power. So, the engineers went to work and boosted the engine that powers its bagger lineup with components from its previous Stage 1, Stage 2 and Stage 3 engine enhancement kits.

The company also recently rolled out its new and even more powerful liquid-cooled PowerPlus engine (109 horsepower and 120 pound-feet of torque) for its new Challenger model. Company reps told us liquid cooling will be exclusive to the Challenger; some customer prefer an air-cooled bagger. The result of the beefed up 116 engine is-you guessed it-more horsepower and more torque, but the power plant also breathes easier, cruises effortlessly and has an exhaust note that lets every- one know that this is a machine that has no limitations.

ENGINE

We last rolled this engine onto the dyno while testing the 111 cubic inch Chieftain Elite, which cranked 75 horse- power and 100 pound-feet of torque. The 116 in this Roadmaster churned out 83 horsepower and 109 pound-feet of torque. That difference was just as noticeable out on the highway. The 116 is equipped with larger pistons, cylinders, cylinder heads, fuel injectors, and camshafts which all required revised engine mapping. Widening the diameter in the combustion chamber resulted in reduced valve shrouding and a rise in compression

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