First Impressions: Indian Roadmaster vs. Indian Pursuit

One of my goals for last month’s Indian Demo Days event at Bair’s Powersports was to try out one of the brand’s big touring models. I unexpectedly ended up test riding two of them, and the difference in the riding experience between the Indian Roadmaster Dark Horse and Indian Pursuit was vastly – and surprisingly – distinct.

I arrived at the Canton, Ohio, dealership at about 4:30 p.m. on Aug. 23 and, after going through registration, was eyeing the demo area for an Indian Scout to ride. None of the about half-dozen Scout models in the fleet were available at that time, so I quickly decided to get the touring model demo done first. 

It didn’t take long for the blacked-out Roadmaster Dark Horse to catch my eye. The matte-black color scheme looked great, and the seat impressed me as soon as I sat on it with the support it offered my lower back.

After getting a quick tutorial on some of the Roadmaster’s electronic features – including the adjustable windscreen and the large touchscreen display mounted in the fairing – I was off to riding the self-guided demo route. 

From the first couple corners after leaving the Bair’s parking lot, it was very apparent that the Roadmaster was unlike any motorcycle I’d ridden before. The forward controls, floor boards, high handlebars and more upright riding position were drastically different from the sport tourer I usually ride.

The left hand turn onto the off-camber curve on Hossler Drive NW was very unnerving. The big tourer was very stable and responded aptly to my inputs: it was just an adjustment to get used to being in such a different posture and not being confident in how to interpret the feedback the motorcycle was giving me.

Something that really surprised me about the Roadmaster was how easy it was to maneuver at low speed. I had figured a heavy bike like the Roadmaster would be a handful in slow traffic. But I’d dare say the Indian was easier to balance at low speed than my sport tourer.

The low-end grunt was everything I expected, and the engine note made throttle shots like a symphony to my ears. There was a little bit of low-frequency vibration through the handlebars, but the little rumble just added to the Roadmaster’s character. The powerband was smooth and predictable – a feature of twin-cylinder motorcycles that I’m a big fan of.

The clutch engagement point took some getting used to, as I had trouble feeling out the engagement point. By the end of the ride, I’d found the boundaries of the friction zone. 

I really liked how forgiving the transmission was. On my four-cylinder sport touring machine, you’ll know if you’re a gear too high or low instantly. The Roadmaster’s low-end torque made gear selection more of a suggestion than an exact science, which I didn’t mind at all.

The instrumentation was top-notch, and the menus were easy to navigate through using the handlebar controls. The floorboards were comfortable – though it took some time to get my left foot oriented to where it needed to be relative to the shift lever.

I tried out the adjustable windscreen, and it did make a big difference even though it didn’t raise up very much. 

As soon as I got back, the gentleman running the event told me and another rider to switch bikes. The other rider had been demoing an Indian Pursuit. I was initially hesitant, as I wanted to make sure I got a Scout ride in and doubted the experience would be much different from the one I’d just had. But, I was out there to have fun, so I just went with it.

From the moment I sat down on the Pursuit, I could tell it was a better fit for me ergonomically than the Roadmaster. The bars were lower and a tad wider set, which allowed my arms to relax more. The seat had the same comfort level as the Roadmaster.

Though I had my doubts that the Pursuit riding experience would be very different from the Roadmaster, the first few minutes of the ride proved that assumption wrong.

Though the Pursuit was set in “Sport Mode,” the liquid-cooled PowerPlus engine had a different vibe than the Roadmaster’s air-cooled Thunderstroke mill. The Roadmaster’s torquey but linear power delivery had been replaced with a harder-hitting powerplant that wanted to pull hard with even a subtle twist of the throttle.

The riding position didn’t feel different from the Roadmaster from the waist down.

Something I never did get comfortable with was the clutch. Unlike my Roadmaster experience, I never did get a good feel for the Pursuit’s clutch engagement point.

The Pursuit’s handling was very good for a bike its size, and the handlebar angle deceived me as to the bike’s rake and trail. The bars have a lot of pullback, which you may think indicates a slow-responding front end. Upon further examination, the steering stem angle is actually on the steeper side for what I’ve seen on cruiser models. The Pursuit seemed to respond to my inputs a tad faster than the Roadmaster, though after the initial bar press it handled mid-corner and corner exit about the same.

The instrumentation was very similar to the Roadmaster, with the same easy-to-read-and-use touchscreen infotainment platform.

When I arrived back at Bair’s, I commented to the gentleman running the demo event how shocked I was at the difference in the ride. He wasn’t surprised and was the one who pointed out the differences in the models’ engine packages as the reason for the machines’ vastly different personalities.

I’d be hard-pressed to give up the sport-touring motorcycles I’ve been riding for more than a decade. But, I have to admit, the comfort, power and handling of the Pursuit really got my attention. Though I’d want to tweak some of the ergonomics a bit more, the Pursuit showed me enough to get itself into the discussion for being my next primary long-distance workhorse. 


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