Posted On 21 May 2024
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This entry is part 12 of 28 in the series AusMotorcyclist Issue#32


“Wot’s in a name?” asks CJ Dennis’ Sentimental Bloke in one of the well-known poems.

“Struth, I dunno. Billo is just as good as Romeo.”

Well, not quite. A rose by any other name may smell as sweet, but a motorcycle by any old name would not necessarily sell as well. With the revival of some classic motorcycle brands that has become ever more important.

But is every old name as good as new again? I’m not sure. Road master is a good example of a badge that carries perfectly good credentials – the last one built by the original Indian company rolled off the line as recently as 1953 – but that is perhaps not well known.

I hadn’t heard of it (and I used to own a 1947 Chief) so it was a surprise because it didn’t seem to have any relevance to the “Indianness” of the marque’s names. So is the name well known and therefore strong enough to carry a new model?

Fortunately it doesn’t matter. The Road master is exactly what its name suggest. I rode it to the Northern Manoeuvres of the Bear Army, and it mastered the road in every way. As well as mastering the cold (heated grips and heated seats); the wind (an effective fairing and moveable deflectors); the rain (an electric screen with venturi effect when it’s set high); any luggage demands I might have had ( the large, accessible panniers and huge top box); and my wish to be noticed (it isn’t just big, it looks big despite the discreet Indian Red colour scheme).

Not that it is actually much bigger than the other 111 cubic inch (1811cc) Indians. It’s only about an inch longer than the Vintage and the Classic, and its wheelbase is shorter. But it does weigh a substantial 403kg; luckily the seat is low at 673mm. Despite the weight this is not a difficult bike to move around.

The engine starts without any apparent hesitation, and warms up quickly. First gear engages easily, although with a bit of a clunk, and the Road master pulls away smoothly.

Naming Names

One intriguing “wot’s in a name” story is the one about Edward Turner passing the Thunderbird Motel in South Carolina on a trip to the US. He liked the name and used it for a bike. History does not record whether he asked if motel owner minded. Ford was more polite and in 1954 asked Triumph for permission to use the name for a sports car; Royal Enfield in India reportedly didn’t bother when it gave its rather odd-looking cruisers the name. The name also lives on in Triumph’s current range; Billo is obviously not quite as good as Romeo – or Thunderbird.

Changing up to second is not so easy.

I have a tendency to change short, and the Road master’s gearbox does not like that, at least in the lower gears.

The best thing to do is to wind it out a bit and then change into second; that makes for a smooth change. After that, the gearbox gives you a lot more leeway and it isn’t so critical to be at the right revs. It also improves as the bike warms up.

What can be critical, however, is keeping an eye on the road. The bike has an uncanny tendency to follow lines on the surface, and will be easily displaced sideways by those long ridges that trucks often leave in tarred road surfaces. This can be quite disconcerting, not only the first time but also when you happen to be heading for a coal truck coming the other way!

That is, however, just about it as far as complaints from me are concerned.

The suspension works well, and copes with all but the most enormous potholes. On the open stretches of road beyond Lithgow I just sat back in the comfortable leather seat, with the heat under my backside turned on low and the radio rocking happily away.

Road master? You bet.

I didn’t use the brakes in real anger at any stage – I think the rest of the traffic saw me coming – but when I did slam them on, having nearly missed the turnoff into a favourite café, the ABS came on smoothly and slowed me effectively.

The bike is a competitor for quite a few large, fully equipped touring cruisers. Just to give you an idea of the equipment that’s standard, let me run through a partial list: anti lock braking (ABS), cruise control, fuel range with low fuel warning, front and rear tyre pressures, two trip meters with distance and time, clock, air temperature, gear position display, compass, engine oil life percentage (!), battery voltage, instant and average fuel consumption, security system… the list goes on.

The bike also has fog lights, a light in the top box and of course the lit Indian head on the front mudguard.

The passenger floorboards are adjustable and the stereo puts out 200 Watts from FM, AM, smartphone and Bluetooth input. I’ve mentioned the heated seats; handgrips are heated as well. The top box and panniers have remote locking, and the bike offers keyless starting.

I could not imagine anything else that I might want to fit to or carry on the bike (except an air compressor, I guess).

I think your pillion will love this bike for its comfort and reassuring manners on the road – except for that potentially disturbing habit of following lines and humps. You will love it as well if you’re after a big touring cruiser. Wot’s in a name? In the case of the Indian Roadmaster, everything.



PRICE: $38,995 (ride away & depending on colour)
WARRANTY: Two years, unlimited distance
SERVICING INTERVALS: Every 8000km or 12 months
ENGINE: Air-cooled V-twin cylinder,4-stroke, OHV, 2 valves per cylinder
BORE x STROKE: 101 x 113mm
DISPLACEMENT: 1811cc (111 cube)
TORQUE: 138.9Nm @ 2600rpm
TRANSMISSION: 6-speed, wet multi-plate clutch, belt final drive
SUSPENSION: Front, 46mm telescopic forks, non-adjustable, travel 119mm. Rear, monoshock, adjustable preload, travel 114mm.
DIMENSIONS: Seat height 673mm,weight 403kg (dry), fuel capacity 20.8 litres, wheelbase 1668mm
TYRES: Front, 130/90/B16. Rear, 180/60/B16
FRAME: Cast aluminium
BRAKES: Front, twin 300mm discs with four-piston ABS calipers. Rear, 300mm disc, dual-piston ABS caliper.
FUEL CONSUMPTION: 6.1 litres per 100km, premium unleaded
COLOURS: Indian Motorcycle Red; Thunder Black; Indian Motorcycle Red / Ivory Cream


There was so much to like about the Moto Guzzi V7, revived a few years ago. There was, indeed, so much to like that one of our contributors bought one and I seriously considered doing the same. This is the I, or me or whatever, who has always liked Moto Guzzis but never bought one because I couldn’t shake my concern about reliability. But I loved riding the first of the new V7s when I had my first chance in Italy, its narrow tyres cutting through the leaf litter on the hill roads behind Mandello and the song of its air cooled – ah! – engine never failing. Yes, there was much to like about that bike – and now it has been replaced, just like that.

And the new V7, identified with a Roman II and available in three versions, is a better bike again.

Before I go any further, however, I have a confession to make. Two confessions, in fact. As I mentioned above, I’ve always loved Guzzis and that has inevitably affected my reviews. This time, however, there was no need for any prejudice. The V7 II can stand on its own.

As I said, the previous model was fun, too, but it had a few shortcomings which are only really obvious now that Piaggio, which owns the Moto Guzzi brand, has fixed them.

One of the least obvious but most important changes has been the relocation of the engine. Not by much, and only by way of the front engine mounts. They have been lowered so the engine is now horizontal, which in turn has lowered the seat by half an inch, making it 790mm. Foot pegs have been lowered too. More importantly, the change has increased knee room for the rider. It also means that the shaft drive and final drive pinion are aligned more directly, which has to improve efficiency.

Dry weight is 177kg, and the fuel tank holds a laudable 21 litres.

The engine is still air cooled, but a slick new six speed gearbox has replaced the somewhat clunky five speeder. ABS and traction control are standard, but the suspension is a bit stiff on the Stone that I rode; supposedly it’s better on the Racer with its gas-charged twin tube shocks, but the last of the three versions, the Special, apparently shares the Stone’s suspenders.

Suspension aside, the Stone – available in matt black or red – was a pleasure to ride. It is small and neat, and the small lowering of the centre of gravity is quite noticeable. I tend to ride fairly “THERE ARE NO STEAK KNIVES, BUT SOMETHING ELSE DOES COME WITH THE BIKE” conservatively (that’s “slowly” in the old money) and while I did sample the ABS a couple of times I didn’t really notice the traction control. Nice bike, capable of hammering around the countryside and commuting and everything in between, one or two up. But…

That isn’t all. There are no steak knives, but something else does come with the bike, and that is a whole bunch (as the Americans would say) of accessory kits to serve various “missions”. These are Dark Rider, Scrambler, Heritage, Cafè Racer and Record. They’re all fully covered by Moto Guzzi and create what amounts to several completely different bikes – at least in appearance. The kits and individual accessories can be applied to any of the three base models.

That, at least theoretically, makes 15 different V7 IIs.

The bike is not particularly fast – as you would expect from the nominal 50 horsepower that the engine produces.

But it is a lot of fun, gives you the opportunity to personalise your ride even without looking outside the brand’s own accessories, and never fails to get an approving smile from other riders.

What’s not to like? Even the $14,000 ride away price for the standard Stone is pretty good.

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