Before you read on: I hope you had a chance to see the video companion for this adventure/review – it’s Bike-urious’ first attempt at those newfangled moving pictures!
With that said, here’s my chance to get into a bit more detail about what I liked and didn’t like about the Scout. Let’s start with the basics:
What I don’t like:
The cruiser for sportbike riders. Indian is onto something, and Harley better be worried. I generally don't care for feet-forward motorcycles but the Scout is a fantastic bike for those of you that aren't too tall and are looking for a cruiser that stands out. Simply put, it makes me smile.Check out the Indian Scout!
I got to these opinions after some friends and I took two Scouts for a 500 mile trip to see what these bikes could do. Read on if you want to learn more about how that went. Photos by Aaron Schasse and Nathan May.
It all started when I was channel surfing on a lazy afternoon and I ended up stumbling upon the World’s Fastest Indian. The iconic scenes of Burt Munro on the Bonneville Salt Flats made me realize that despite 10 years of exploring Southern California, I’ve never had a chance to see El Mirage Dry Lake. Considering the other star of the movie is a 1920 Indian Scout, I thought it would only be appropriate if I took the new Indian Scout to go check out the dry lake.
Indian was kind enough to humor my request of two Scouts for a weekend of exploration, so I brought along a couple of friends for the journey to get their thoughts and help document what happened. We started on a Friday in downtown Los Angeles, where I couldn’t help but put the Scout’s beautiful V-Twin to good use:
The engine is a jewel. 1,133cc of water-cooled glory lead to 86 horsepower at the rear wheel (100-ish at the crank), and the light throttle gives you quick access to all of them. The engine also puts down about 63 pound-feet from basically 2k-8k rpms. Very impressive. Consider that a Sportster 1200 puts out nearly 25 less horsepower – it’s almost unfair.
First impressions? It was surprisingly nimble and an absolute joy at in-town speeds. My only complaint was simply that I’m a little too tall for the bike, but that’s to be expected considering the usual market for a bike like this. I suspect the ergonomics would be close to ideal for someone who’s between 5’6 and 5’10 or so. Note that factory extras are on the way that should change the ergos enough to make someone of my height (6’2″) a bit happier. If I had to nitpick beyond that, I’m still not sure I love the styling of the radiator, but I think the rest of the bike is spot-on styling wise and the bike is much better for being water-cooled – it’s a very worthwhile trade off.
…we ended the day at Angel City Brewery, enjoyed a couple of beers (I particularly enjoyed the deceptive White Nite, a stout that’s golden in color) and discussed the new things we had discovered about the Scouts.
What were those new things?
– While there’s an indicator light on the gauge for it, the Scout doesn’t have ABS. I find this disappointing – I just think we’re at a point that nearly every new bike should have it as at least an option. UPDATE: ABS will be available for the 2016 Scout – in fact, it’s the only way you’ll be able to get the Indian Red paint scheme.
– The exhaust pipes are just a little too long. I can’t be the only person who parks a motorcycle at a curb by rolling backwards until my tire makes contact. On the Scout, the exhaust often hits first. The exhaust sure does sound great, though.
– Unlike any other new bike I can remember riding in recent memory, the bike doesn’t have a side stand kill switch.
– I’m not the only one who thinks this bike is attractive. The Scout got lots of attention parked outside Angel City. 6 year-old kids, 86 year-old grandfathers – it didn’t matter. Everyone wanted to see more of the Scout.
The next morning we took off for El Mirage. We had the option of going via freeways and maybe stopping at the Vasquez Rocks, or seeing how the Scout could attack some curves via the famous Angeles Crest Highway. ACH it is!
Eventually we made it to Newcomb’s Ranch, one of Southern California’s most famous stops for riders. The entire time we were there, the Scouts got attention from riders who had all kinds of questions.
Most of the questions had to do with power (again, excellent) and comfort (I presume it’d be excellent for someone shorter than myself).
One of the riders called it ‘the cruiser for sportbike riders‘, and I think that’s an apt description. We got back on the road, with the hope of catching sunset at El Mirage. I may have had some fun in the twisties of ACH:
As you’d expect, the bike touches peg down early – though you get more cornering clearance than on a Sportster. The photo hopefully illustrates that I found the Scout’s behavior at lean to be very predictable, which encourages you to plant the peg down with your foot and ride out the turn. It was an absolute blast – this bike is much more fun in the corners than I thought it was going to be.
Unfortunately, that required us to double back, which cost us a few hours. We’d miss catching sunset on the lake bed, but that just meant we’d have to wake up early to try and catch sunrise the next morning instead.
Getting on the open road gave us our first experience with the Scouts at higher speeds. The engine is more than up to the task, and downshifting to pass isn’t necessary. Gas mileage on my bike plummeted because I couldn’t help getting heavy on the throttle at any opportunity – I really can’t say enough good things about how this motor runs. Like with any other bike in this class, prolonged high speeds are tiring on the lower back as the wind tries to push your back past 90 degrees. The well-sculpted seat (which I really enjoyed in town) made it difficult to stretch out and relieve back strain while on the move.
The next morning, we awoke to terrible news – El Mirage was closed off due to recent rains. Thankfully, a quick peek at a map showed that there were similar options out nearby. We decided to try the oddly-named Soggy Dry Lake instead.
We finally got to Soggy Dry Lake, only to find that we’d have to do a couple of miles on dirt before we could get to the lakebed. Well, the original Scout was famed for its ability to handle dirt, so this wouldn’t be a problem, right? Obviously the new Scout isn’t designed for this, but we were impressed with how it handled a little off-pavement detour. The fat tires and tall sidewalls soaked up a lot of the small jolts, so we plodded along just fine at slow speed.
We finally got to the lake bed, and it was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had on a motorcycle. We stood out a bit considering every other bike out there had knobbies on, but portions of the lakebed surface were smooth enough for us to hit triple digit velocities with medium-to-high levels of confidence.
We got back onto gloriously smooth pavement and headed towards Pappy & Harriet’s. I have a bad habit of getting a little bored on long stretches of straight road. Sometimes I may compensate for this with extra speed, and the Scout’s engine wasted no time getting me in trouble.
Unfortunately, the officer was not swayed by my argument that I needed to be heavy on the throttle to ensure that I stayed alert. The argument that I was testing high speed stability didn’t work either.
No matter – an evening of beer and live music at Pappy & Harriet’s was sure to make me forget all about Mr. Policeman, and give Nathan and I a chance to recap our time with the Scouts. When we set out, our mission was two fold: First, have a ton of fun on the new Indian Scout. Second, figure out if the Scout was any good. Mission 1 was easy – and frankly, so was mission 2, because the Scout is awesome.
Before I headed out on this trip, some of you had questions for me to keep in mind while I was riding. I tried to answer them above, but there was one question I wanted to address specifically:
Did they build a better Harley than Harley by not trying to build another Harley?
I thought this was an interesting question, and it really gets to the root of why I like this bike. The answer is yes. It would have been easy for them to build a bike that aimed at a 1200 Sportster and just did everything a little bit better. But I like this bike so much because it just feels different than anything in its class – they didn’t just try to build another Harley. It feels (dare I say it?) nimble, which was a bit of a revelation to me. If you take away anything from this piece, remember that the Scout is dynamically better than you’d expect. If a friend was looking for a Harley and didn’t require a fairing and hard bags, I’d force him/her to try a Scout, because I smiled way more on a Scout that I ever have on any Harley. Pick one up, get the optional saddlebags, and enjoy the ride. Hope you like being stared at by people in the know!
If I had to have a cruiser, it’d probably be this one. I just don’t want a cruiser. Indian – please make a standard/scrambler with this engine. I’m drooling already.