Last summer Indian Motorcycle invited me to test ride their soon-to-be-released touring bike–a thoroughly retro and ultra-deluxe machine. I allotted time in my busy calendar for a December 2014 journey. Mid-winter? That ruled out most of the northern U.S. states.
“I’m guess we’re looking at a southern U.S. route,” I told Susan Donahue, Managing Director of Skyya Communications, which handles PR for Indian. To my surprise, she replied that the company was thinking of having me test ride the bike abroad. Either Australia or South Africa–both destinations where big bikes rule and where Indian Motorcycle has outlets. (The original company, founded in 1901, folded in 1953. The famous marque was resurrected in 2006 and acquired in 2011 by Polaris Industries, the off-road and leisure vehicle maker, which in 2013 began to market the retro-themed motorcycles using its new 111 cubic inch “Thunder Stroke” engine.)
Perfect! South Africa has long been my number one dream-to-visit destination.
Then, in October 2014, I had a motorcycle accident while attending a Rawhyde Academy off-road training intensive and broke my ankle. The trip was postponed until April.
I’m a BMW 1200GS Adventure rider. The giant dual-sport is as far removed from the Indian Roadmaster as a Range Rover is to a Cadillac Coupe. I wasn’t sure I would like it.
To my delight, the Roadmaster was an absolute joy to ride.
The behemoth of a bike proved surprisingly responsive and nimble. It proved immensely comfortable throughout my 2,650 kilometer journey. And the quality of manufacture impressed me, not least, the calibration of all the controls was spot-on perfect. It even handled a tricky off-road section at Bucklands Private Game Reserve with aplomb.
South Africa was heading forcefully into weather. On one occasion, the temperature plunged to 9 degrees C (48 F)! On two days it rained. I even road through thick fog through the switchback Schoemanspoort Pass, north of Oudsthoorn. And South Africa delivered enough twisties and hairpins to test the bike’s maneuverability and responsiveness to the max.
In short… I LOVED IT!
Meanwhile, I experienced South Africa at its best… from the Cape of Good Hope (and Cape Town) to Gorah Elephant Camp, Kwandwe Private Game Reserve and Bucklands Private Game Reserve… and, of course, Winelands. The lodgings–from the Taj Cape Town Hotel and Cape Heritage Hotel to the game lodges–proved world-class, as did the cuisine throughout. And the South Africans could not have been more welcoming.
I’ll be writing up my full description of the test-ride for the August 2015 edition of Robb Report, plus additional feature articles for various in-flight, lifestyle and motorcycle magazines.