It was not only notable for the wonderful 435km jaunt that took in some of the most picturesque countryside on the Eastern Seaboard and the spectacular motorcycle roads that run through it, but also because the 2017 FLTRXS continued to prove itself as a truly outstanding, capable and delightful touring motorcycle.
And literally - from the evidence of just how high the floods from cyclone Debbie really were.
For the third time in the last five years – and the second time in the last three days - I visited Murwillumbah, but today we took a much different route to get to the river town.
Because choosing the route for this ride had defaulted to me I spent quite a lot of time pawing over Google Earth on Saturday night - trying to come up with a suitably cunning plan for the lads.
Plan A was to have a look at the Lamington National Park loop and Beechmont, but a quick search of the main roads web site showed several road closures in the park, so it was on to Plan B: Look at the map and pick the twistiest roads I could find.
From Brisbane that generally means heading to the Sunshine Coast or Gold Coast hinterlands. The Sunshine Coast was off the agenda because of the Easter Traffic bun-fight coming home - worse than the normal every-other-Sunday afternoon bun-fight.
So it was Border Ranges here we come - again - but here’s the hi-tech angle.
In case you haven’t checked it out yet, Harley have a very good ride planner on their web site. Start by entering “rideplanner.harley-davidson.com” in your web browser and click on “Create my Ride” after the page loads.
From there it’s simply a matter of entering your list of places or waypoints you want to visit into a dialogue box – and they are automatically placed on the embedded Google map while the route is drawn. Now here’s where it gets really clever.
You can then export a .gpx file of the planned route, save it to a USB stick and then transfer the ride data to your motorcycle’s on-board navigation system via the USB plug in the right hand glove box.
This You Tube video shows how to import it once you have the data on the USB stick: https://youtu.be/5HLOgAYqVOo
So, with the ride wired into the Road Glide’s on-screen display I met up with Jason at Yatala and waited for Rowey, Spook and Hughesey to make their way north from their hook up at Coomera – and I was ready to navigate. (Although Rowey already knew the way and took the first lead.)
Well … almost ready to navigate. 10 minutes out of Yatala we had to turn back towards the Freeway and head north to Beenleigh because the bridge at Crystal Creek had partly washed away and the road was closed.
Then it turned out that Spook only got as far as Tambourine and he was called in to work. Then Rowey bailed at Beaudesert because he’d shagged his back fitting new footboards on his Road Glide the night before.
After all this, the remaining three of us looked at each other and mumbled maybe we take a soft option too, and head for a beer at Rathdowney instead. But fortunately we didn’t pillow and from Beaudesert we motored across the flat and relatively straight bits past Rathdowney to the start of the Mt Lindsay ascent.
Across those plains, over the very rough and irregularly corrugated strip of bitumen that the map calls the ‘Mt Lindsay Highway’ the Road Glide felt like it could do with a bit more rebound or damping on the front suspension. Perhaps it was due to not having enough pre-load on the rear shocks, but by the time we got to the climb up the mountain and started really chucking the bike around again it was back to feeling like a fine fettle.
And that’s where the day started to get really, really good.
I settled in tight behind and gave the Road Glide a good workout too. We had a charmed run with no traffic in front of us pretty much all the way up and over the mountain.
The Roadie was magnificent. Stable, sure footed and we hit a couple of big dips and hits on the suspension that didn’t throw it off line or cause any grief at all. Rowing it up and down the cogs and engine braking was delightful, the brakes did everything asked of them perfectly, without fading, and tapping the 107 out in low gear between corners was honey.
Hughesy on ‘Pearl’; his 2006 Ultra was in our mirrors all the way too.
Over the summit and on into NSW the road surface improves, but remains just as twisty almost all the way to the Summerland Way turnoff and the road to Kyogle. Note this road. It's mint.
Through the hamlets of Grevillia, Rukenvale and Wiangaree and on to Kyogle the sweeping road runs along the valley floor and the countryside at this time of year, after all the rain, is a spectacular shade of green.
The late morning sunshine was streaming through the stands of Beech and silver gums and it all was postcard perfect. It was almost a shame that we were having such a blast on the bikes that I didn’t stop to take a pic.
We did stop for a quick leg stretch in Kyogle before heading on to the Kyogle Road and our planned lunch stop at Uki Pub.
Kyogle Road: Another one to note.
I was quite rapt with the ride over Mt Lindsay. I think the run up the hill from Kyogle to Cawonga, Wadeville, Mount Burrell and on to Terragon was even better. The road was certainly in better nick and the countryside just as picturesque with Mt Warning looming - and through this spectacle I was still marvelling at how comfortable, accomplished and freakin’ nice the new Road Glide is to ride.
Ten Kilometres short of Uki the aftermath of the floods suddenly became apparent. Until there we’d glimpsed the damage as we rode by the creeks and smaller rivers, but when the road started to run alongside the Tweed, beyond Terragon, the scale of the destruction was remarkable.
Most of the Landslips and washouts along the roadway had been (partly) rectified, but the way the vegetation was pushed over - 10 metres above the waterline, and the chunks of missing tarmac and road seal that littered the way were cause for pause. Which is what we did at the pub at Uki, pause that is, but it was way too busy for bikers on a mission so we continued on to Murwillumbah and had a good feed at the (slightly damaged) pub by the river.
The flood debris that was still plastered to the handrails of the Tweed River Bridge was really the most striking example of a high water mark we encountered all day.
Including having to turn back for the closed bridge near Yatala I covered 435km in about 6 hours (with all the stops).
The tall saddle was still comfortable by the time I got home - if fact the whole set up was still good for more. The tall screen kept the buffeting to a minimum, and it really was lounge chair comfort all day. Yet it still proved capable of carving up some twisty mountain roads, rolling away big distances between stops and all while looking like the type of machine that the old ducks say ‘nice bike’ when you do pull into the pub.
What a day.
More ride reports to come - and the full test will be in an upcoming edition of Heavy Duty Magazine.
Good Friday in Brisbane dawned dry and slightly overcast with light winds. It was a day typical of the last vestiges of the sub-tropical summer.
By the time I was ready to saddle up and head south for a rendezvous with my pal Rowey and his Gold Coast crew the temps were in the early 20’s and the sun was breaking through enough to make the ‘Superior Blue’ paint and chrome on Harley’s magnificent FLTRXS Road Glide absolutely pop.
As I pushed its 388kg (wet) mass out of my garage I was absolutely tongue-ing for this one. I’d been anticipating the ride so hard that I didn’t get much sleep on Thursday night – knowing what Friday would bring.
It didn’t matter - because by the time I had put my gloves on I was fully awake anyway. Beaming. Ride wired.
I had picked the Press Bike up from Morgan & Wacker on Thursday morning and subsequently spent a few hours around Brisbane that afternoon - coming to grips with its road manners, controls and the info-tainment system.
By the time I wheeled southward on Friday morning I had my phone blue-toothed to the excellent sound system and it was pumping out a pre-selected ‘Road Glide Playlist’. There were several route maps plotted into the navigation system as options for later in the day too.
The 8am traffic on the M1 was comparatively light so I dialled in the cruise control, cranked the sound and sat back and enjoyed the custom ‘tall boy’ comfort.
Yep - this one up is set up with Harley’s tall rider seat and windscreen. If any of you other tall guys and girls are reading this – the 'extended reach' saddle for the touring models is absolutely fan-bloody-tastic for the over six-foot crew. I’m 195cm (or 6’5” in the old school) and the Roadie with the tall seat and screen option make this as comfortable as I have been on ANY motorcycle. If you’re tall you have got to gets you one of these. It’s as good as the ‘reduced reach’ options are for the shorter inseams out there.
After a very easy hour of freeway I pulled in to Reedy Creek and met up with the Gold Coast crew. A good mix of Tourers, Softails, Dynas and a couple of Victorys were already lined up.
From Reedy Creek we headed north-west, up the hill to Advancetown, before wheeling south and following the sweeping corners around the Hinze Dam – and where I was starting to really fall in lust with the Roadie.
Maximum comfort, virtually no buffeting from the tall screen and triple vent fairing, gorgeous sound system pumping, and road manners that made it so easy to really relax and take it all in.
With the rear suspension properly dialled in it made the big Showa front forks with their dual valve bendy bits perform even better. The bike’s stability through some of the dual-apex sweepers around the dam was really confidence inspiring.
Beyond the dam we headed into the Numinbah valley and skirted the beautiful rainforest before making the ascent to the Queensland/NSW border.
Landslips and washouts block parts of the road in both directions, potholes abound and in some parts the tarmac has simply washed away. The Road Glide proved to be sure-footed, the handling responsive and the way it changed directions while manoeuvring around the damaged surfaces was very reassuring. Having the weight of the large ‘shark’ fairing mounted on the frame (rather than the batwing’s fork mounted setup) no-doubt helps.
Many of the houses close to the river in Murwillumbah still have large piles of flood-damaged home wares piled up in their front yards awaiting collection.
We re-grouped by the river near the town centre and were all a little shocked by the damage.
I was still buzzing as we made our way along the Tweed Valley way down to the excellent Seafood Co-op at Brunswick Heads. It was 26 degrees and sunny as we pulled in.
As we expected the fish-o was Good-Friday-type busy, but the crumbed Snapper was well worth the wait and I headed towards the river mouth to see if I could jag a portrait shot of the bike while the rest of the crew kicked back in the shade.
The general consensus was that the roads were too damaged to head homewards through the valley again so those of us with cruise control dialled in, got in staggered formation and steamed back up the M1 freeway northwards from the Ocean Shores turnoff.
The last of the Gold Coast crew took the Helensvale exit and I continued in reasonably light traffic for another hour or so northwards, back to east Brisbane base, stereo at force ten pumping a Bon Jovi and Springsteen mix - and feeling the kind of feeling that you get when a brilliant day’s motorcycling comes together. So good in fact that I took the long way home around Redland Bay and Victoria Point, simply because I was so comfortable on the bike and I wasn’t ready to stop yet.
The M8 engine is so smooth it really reduces fatigue on a long day like today; while it’s so strong and torque-ey it’s just remarkably pleasant to use. The gearbox is superb, - I’ve done several thousand K’s on M8s now and haven’t missed a gear change yet.
The brakes are equally good. I only engaged the rear a few times all day – on the really bad sections of road - because the fronts are so good – and the ABS really adds confidence when all of a sudden the road is strewn with gravel from a wash-out.
After dialling in the rear suspension the handling was also remarkably precise for such a big girl and the overall road manners are very good. The ride is quite firm with 117mm of front suspension travel available and 54mm at the rear, but I didn’t bottom out once or hit the stops at all.
With its outstanding comfort levels, rockin’ stereo, Sat-nav, pretty good luggage capacity (I took three cameras and a spare jacket – just in case it got too hot), excellent paint, fit and finish - and all the other niceties the FLTRXS proved to be a very capable and highly enjoyable motorcycle.
Plenty more testing to follow and the full write-up will be in an upcoming edition of Heavy Duty magazine.
“Maybe they just tightened the bolts a bit harder”.
That was all that my ‘insider’ at Indian Motorcycles Australia joked when I rang to quiz him about why the 2017 Roadmaster performed better than the 15’ and ’16 models.
With the exception of the upgraded dashboard and info-tainment system, the bike’s spec sheet reads pretty much the same as the previous releases, but somehow the suspension seems a bit plusher, the engine a bit sweeter and the handling a bit tighter. The overall feel of the bike just seemed … improved. On a bike that I already thought was superb.
Of course my Editor 'Brum' had some sage words on the subject: “They all do it Dave, every manufacturer, when they get three of four model years under their belt the bikes get sweeter. They iron the bugs out of the process.” Of course I could only agree and suggested it was something to do with ‘tighter bolts’.
The 2017 Roadmaster has also addressed aspects of the machine that we thought weren’t in keeping with the rest of the bike’s excellent engineering.
Upgraded to the max.
The first batch of Indian Baggers’ (both Chieftain and Roadmaster) paint was not up to the standard of their opposition. While that was part of the reason we hired Mark Walker to re-paint our Running Bull project bike it’s no longer an issue. Polaris spent $20million upgrading their paint facility in mid 2015. The 2017 finish is not quite flawless, but it presents very, very well and the pinstriping is excellent. The two-tone finish with gold highlight is now a good paint job.
The ’15 and ’16 Baggers dashboard and instrumentation was also not quite up with the overall styling of the machine either. It was ‘clever’ and legible, with its day/night colour and contrast change, but it was a bit ‘plain-Jane’. It didn’t really pop with the presentation of the rest of the bike. With the ’17 model Indian has gone ultra-high-tech and while its presentation and appearance has been a bit ‘polarising’ around the Heavy Duty editorial department, I thought it was absolutely fantastic.
Now the analogue instruments are separated by a 7” touchscreen that displays a range of data, diagnostics and info-tainment. Indian calls it ‘Ride Command’ and it worked very well for me.
It allows the rider to customise the display screen and then scroll through the various modes with either gestures from a (gloved) finger or using the trigger switch on the back of the left hand switch block. It also incorporates the GPS and guidance systems. A maps update for right hand dive is forthcoming and updating should be no problem via the USB connection in the very handy dash-top compartment with Smartphone Compatible Input (with complimentary data stick for the software upgrades). The compartment will accommodate ‘plus’ sized mobiles and the Bluetooth connection was the easiest of any I’ve used. It only took a matter of seconds to have it paired with the Ride Command and pumping out an mp3 playlist or streaming Pandora stations. Same with headsets and coms systems connection – very easy.
The third significant upgrade to the ’17 offering is the sound system. A new 200watt amp and speakers paired with Ride Command now make this one of the better stock sound systems available. It pumps, and it’s all easily operable from the touch screen display (or the left hand switch block) if a mobile disco is your preference.
Once the tunes are sorted it’s a case of scrolling through the display screens to find one with the data that suits. The screen header bar displays time, ambient temperature, source and signal strength. The main screen has options to display: GPS (and guidance); Vehicle Status (tyre pressure, voltage, engine hours, oil change); Vehicle Info (speed, fuel range, RPM, gear position); Dual Trip Meters (fuel range, miles, average fuel economy, instantaneous fuel economy time, average speed); Ride Data (heading, moving time, stop time, altitude, altitude change): Audio (song, artist, track or station) or you can set up custom split screens to display some of any.
The ‘old school’ dials that sit on either side of the Ride Command feature analogue Speedometer and Tacho, an array of warning lights and have inset LCD displays with fuel gauge, range, odometer and gear indicator. The whole set up is very clever and very intuitive.
Donk & Chassis
The 2017 Thunderstroke is the same 111cube we know (and love), but with another model year it too seems just that little bit sweeter. It runs the same 101 mm x 113 mm bore and stroke and 9.5:1 compression ratio fed by a 54 mm throttle body and closed loop fuel injection system. The directness of the gear primary drive and belt final drive make the bike feel tight and responsive. At very low speeds that directness can cause the bike to surge slightly as the EFI finds its idle speed. It can be disconcerting the first few times but then becomes quite natural.
The test bike was fitted with Genuine Indian Stage 1 pipes and it breathed a lot easier than the previous Roadmasters – even though it only had a few hundred kilometres on the clock it revved more than willingly when I gave it a squirt.
The Roadmaster shares the same geometry as the Chieftain. 25 degree rake, 150mm trail and a 1668mm wheelbase, but in yet another example of that ‘tighter bolts’ syndrome it seems more settled on the road, particularly in Freeway conditions (compared to the ‘Running Bull’). Perhaps it’s due to the fairing lowers, but it’s not affected by blustery conditions or side winds like the Bull and it always felt rock solid, even in the wash from the big rigs. It still chucks around, corners and manoeuvres like a bike that should be half of its 414 kg dry weight. And it still has arguably the best lean angles and cornering clearance in the class – even with its big footboards.
It’s running Telescopic Forks with 119 mm of travel up front and Single Shock with air adjustable pre-load at rear (114 mm) and they do seem a little more compliant than the previous model.
The ABS with Dual 300mm Floating Rotor and 4 Piston Calliper up front - and single 300mm 2 Piston at the rear pulled the big girl up really well. Genuine two finger fronts – on a 414kg bike!
The touring accoutrements are also first class. The central locking hard bags and top box have good capacity, the cruise control is easy to use and the rider and passenger comfort levels are about as good as they get. Temperatures were in the low 30’s in SEQ during the test and some heat was noticeable from the engine, particularly while getting out of town, but it wasn’t excessive or problematic – just … there. The saddle is plush, well padded and very comfortable while the power adjustable windscreen is still the best on a bagger.
Got it right
The lights are brilliant, the self-cancelling indicators, the security fob, heated seats, grips - and the rest of the large inventory of creature comforts all add to the appeal of this stunning, heritage styled machine.
With the 2017 Roadmaster Indian have now made the bike all in keeping with what you would expect from one of the most expensive mass-produced, premium motorcycles on the market. For just under $42,000 ride-away you’d expect it to be very good.
It is. With ‘tight bolts’ on.
Engine Type: Thunder Stroke® 111
Displacement: 111 cu in (1811 cc)
Bore x Stroke: 153 mm
Compression Ratio: 9.5:1
Electronic Fuel Injection System:
Closed loop fuel injection / 54 mm bore
Primary Drive: Gear Drive Wet Clutch
Clutch: Wet, Multi-Plate
Final Drive: Belt 2.2 : 1
Peak Torque: 119.2 ft-lbs (161.6 Nm)
Peak Torque: RPM 3000 rpm
Front Suspension:: Telescopic Fork (119 mm travel)
Front Fork Tube Diameter: 46 mm
Suspension: Rear-Single Shock w/Air adjust / 4.5 in (114 mm)
Brakes/Front: Dual / 300mm Floating Rotor / 4 Piston Caliper
Brakes/Rear: Single / 300mm Floating Rotor / 2 Piston Caliper
Wheels/Front: Cast 16 in x 3.5 in
Wheels/Rear: Cast 16 in x 5 in
Tires/Front: Dunlop® Elite 3 130/90B16 73H
Tires/Rear: Dunlop® Elite 3 Multi-Compound 180/60R16 80H
Exhaust: Split dual exhaust w/ cross-over
Wheelbase: 1668 mm
Seat Height: 673 mm
Ground Clearance: 5.5 in (140 mm)
Overall Height: 58.7 in (1491 mm)
Overall Length: 104.6 in (2656 mm)
Overall Width: 39.4 in (1000 mm)
Trail: 5.9 in (150.0 mm)
Fuel Capacity: 5.5 gallons (20.8 liters)
GVWR: 1385 lbs (630 kg)
Dry Weight: 414 kg
Standard Equipment ABS; Cast Aluminum Frame with Integrated Air-Box;
Cruise Control; Highway Bar; Keyless Start; Horizon Power Shield; Desert
Tan Genuine Leather Seats; Remote Locking Hard Saddle Bags; Remote
Locking Trunk; Tire Pressure Monitoring; 200 Watt Stero with AM/FM,
Bluetooth, USB, Smartphone Compatible Input, and Weatherband; Heated
Rider & Passenger Seats; Heated Grips; Adjustable Passenger Floorboards;
37.6 Gallons of Storage. Pathfinder LED Lights (headlight, fog lights,
turn signals, tail light trunk, tail light, trunk interior light, and
headdress fender light).
Gauges Fairing mounted instrument cluster featuring analog speedometer
and tachometer, with fuel gauge, range, odometer and current gear. 15
LED telltale indicators; cruise control enabled, cruise control
set,neutral, high beam, turn signal, ABS, check engine, low tire
pressure, battery, low fuel, security system, low engine oil pressure
and MPH or Km/H unit designation. Ride Command™ 7" Indian Motorcycle®
Touchscreen including realtime clock; ambient air temperature; heading;
audio information display; vehicle trouble code readout; Vehicle Status
(tire pressure, voltage, engine hours, oil change); Vehicle Info (speed,
fuel range, RPM, gear position); Dual Trip Meters (fuel range, miles,
average fuel economy, instantaneous fuel economy time, average speed);
Ride Data (heading, moving time, stop time, altitude, altitude change);
Bluetooth connectivity for phone and headset; Map/Navigation
After testing the ’17 Milwaukee 8 Road King Road I wanted to make a direct comparison between it and the latest incarnation of the 110B counterbalanced power plant in the Fat Boy S.
It is very easy to be swept up in enthusiasm for the M8. If you haven’t been fortunate enough to try one yet, take my word for it, it really is ‘that’ good. Conversely, after 3 weeks living with the Fatty I was feeling plenty of love for the big Twin Cam again too.
The older motor actually stood up pretty well in comparison and it all came flooding back as to why I declared the 2016.5 Softail Sim S “The best stock Harley motor I’ve tested”. While now that ‘best’ accolade no longer applies - it does belong to the 8-valve, and there’s no arguing that the Milwaukee 8 is smoother, torque-ier and it taps out further - but all that said - the 110 is also very smooth, responsive, strong - and remains the best engine Harley have fitted in a Softail so far.
The Screamin’ Eagle 110B runs a 101.6 x 111.1 bore and stroke displacing 1801cc with a 9.2:1 compression ratio. With the SE Sports Air Filter and CVO Shotgun over-under exhausts it seemed to breathe quite well (for a stocker). Harley claims maximum torque of 146nm @ 4000rpm – which really does put it in the same kind-of ballpark as the 150nm @ 3250rpm produced by the Milwaukee 8.
The fact that it’s slung in the fabulous-looking, blacked out chassis and running gear was also a big plus. Even just walking up it, to get on board, this bike has some angles that made me stop and drink in its stylish lines. The matte and black chrome finish, denim black frame, swingarm, the black solid wheels, all the extra blacked-out bits and the added Screamin’ Eagle fruit - the whole presentation remains superb to look at.
Riding it is just as pleasant.
On the road the bike is again an interesting mix. Motor, gearbox and chassis all make for a very enjoyable cruiser. Around town it’s a feel good package of the first order. It’s easy to settle in to the comfortable saddle, put feet up on the half moon footboards and rest on the very comfortable pulled back handlebars.
The fat 17 inch wheels and tried and trusted Softail geometry make for a stable, predictable ride. Same with the 41.3mm telescopic front forks and coil over rear suspender. There are 86mm of travel available from the rear and 130mm from the front also making it a very firm ride.
The new hydraulic, nine plate wet clutch was also interesting. Coupled with the Six Speed cruise drive gearbox it made for reliable, easy shifting and finding neutral was very easy – even at the traffic lights or pushing it around in the shed. That was fortunate, because after holding it in for longer periods I found it became a bit heavy. Not excessive, but certainly it needed more effort than the 8-valve’s lightweight lever.
The S has the same chassis set up as the Fat Boy Lo. The advantage is that it suits short inseams and has a saddle height of only 670mm. The down side of the slammed setup is that the bike only has 25.6 and 25.2 degree lean angles.
It’s very easy to touch the footboards on the deck and accordingly you have to be a bit circumspect about corner entry speeds. The up side is that with the 110 cube using the big torque hammer to pull its 333kg mass out of tighter corners is very rewarding.
The ABS 4-piston front (and 2-piston rear) brakes are genuine two-finger units and continue the recent trend of Softails with very good stoppers.
All the usual Harley retro tech and niceties are similar across the 110cube and 107cube models. The security system, self-cancelling indicators, brilliant lighting, trip computer, excellent paint, fit and finish are all as you would expect. The S also comes standard with Cruise Control.
It turned out that it was very good to throw a leg back over the older engine. I enjoyed the ‘S’ for what it is. It’s still a premium cruiser-style.
Type: Screamin’ Eagle® Air-Cooled,
Twin Cam 110B™
Capacity: 1801 cc (110 cu. in.)
Bore: 101.6 mm
Stroke: 111.1 mm
Valves: Pushrod-operated, overhead valves
with hydraulic, self-adjusting lifters;
two valves per cylinder
Carburetion: Electronic Sequential Port
Air cleaner: Ventilator intake with
washable exposed element with rain sock
Exhaust: CVO Shotgun
Type: 6-Speed Cruise Drive®
Clutch: Hydraulically actuated, 9-plate wet,
with high-performance spring
Primary drive: Chain, 34/46 ratio
Rear drive: Belt, 32/66 ratio
WHEELS & TYRES
F rim: 17 in. x 3.5 in.
R rim: 17 in. x 6 in.
F tyre: D408F
R tyre: D407
F brake: 300 mm x 5 mm
R brake: 292 mm x 5.8 mm
Model: Mild steel tubular frame; rectangular
section backbone; stamped, cast,
and forged junctions; forged fender
supports; MIG welded
Front: 41.3 mm telescopic, “beer can” covers
Rear: Hidden, horizontal-mounted, coil-over