Still cruising after all these years

by Andy Bryenton

There’s something to be said for being different. Elsewhere in this section we’ve talked about the magnetic attraction of a 500hp Alfa Romeo when compared to the stolid, tried-and-true option of the ‘big three’ German super sedans. Does the same calculus of wants and needs apply on two wheels? You bet it does. Perhaps even more so — because a motorcycle is a statement of intent as well as a means of transport.

Sure, riding a big cruiser is comfortable, engaging, and more fuel economical than exploring the highways from the seat of a powerful V8 car. But for better or worse, riders choose a bike to reflect who they are, or who they want to be. It’s for this reason that you’ll find Japanese businessmen sharing a sake on a Friday night, dressed to the nines as rugged road warriors. The bikes parked outside may only ever crawl up and down the neon-lit streets of Tokyo, but they engage with an image and a legacy a century in the making.

Consider then the Indian Roadmaster Classic. One point eight litres of rumble and chrome, slipped into a bike that seems like the metal embodiment of James Dean on film and Elvis on guitar. Calculated to evoke the era of open highways, rock ‘n’ roll and cars with fins from here to Detroit. Those full fairings in classic cream and red evoke a history which spans service in two world wars, innumerable classic movies, and the shed of a certain Mr Munro from New Zealand.

The good news is, it’s more than just a nostalgia trip. To be competitive in the modern age, Indian have to beat not only their old rivals at Harley Davidson — a tall order in any decade — but also the Japanese.

Now, on the track, GSXRs and Ninjas hold the speed cards. But outside those Tokyo ‘biker’ haunts? They’d all rather have an Indian.

It’s a combination of the modern — such as touch screen infotainment, fuel injection and heated seats and grips — with sheer attention to detail wrapped into a classic look which puts this bike ahead of the imitators.

The sheer amount of stitching and detailing on the tan leather saddlebags and trunk, for example, is a testament of hours of painstaking work. The Roadmaster Classic is a sculpture of a time in American history which may never have existed outside of the imagination, made real, and made comfortably, mile-devouringly rideable.

For those who have no desire to hang out a knee on the sharp turns, a reminder, then, that summer is coming. Look at this thing and muster your best excuses.