I want to start out with a confession. Most of the motorcycle reviews I write are positive, and there’s two reasons:
1.) Most bikes nowadays are legitimately good!
2.) I’m not Cycle World, so I don’t have to review every single thing that comes out. I get to pick and choose, and I usually pick stuff I know I’m going to like. Surprise.
The Indian Scout was my cruiser of choice when I rode it, so I was excited to try the factory Bobber variant and I assumed I’d enjoy it as well. I was wrong. I rode the Bobber around town for a couple of weeks but I also wanted to see what it would be like on the open road so I took it out to Vegas and back to cover the Mecum auction at the South Point casino.
I loved the Scout, but this is a miss. Everything that was good about the Scout stays the same, but everything bad about the Scout has been amplified. It's very good looking, but the other modifications aren't worth the prettier face. On their website, Indian says Strip it down. If less is more, this bike is loaded. I say more is more, and why does 'less' have the same MSRP of $11,499? (This is when comparing 2018 models. The 2017 Scout was actually $200 cheaper.)
My vote would be to buy a regular Scout and modify the styling as you wish.Check out the 2018 Indian Scout Bobber!
Photos by Aaron Schasse and yours truly.
Let’s start with the good stuff – I think the Bobber is a wonderful styling exercise. The license plate mount feels like an afterthought, I prefer the style of the regular Scout wheels, and the exhaust pipes are still a little too long (they hit the curb before your tire does when you park on the street) but otherwise I love what the stylists have done to create a third model in the Scout family to complement the original Scout and the Scout Sixty.
To make it a “bobber”, Indian has added street-tracker style handlebars, cut down the fenders (which show off more of the knobby-inspired tread), taken out an inch of suspension travel, and blacked out the frame, exhaust, headlight nacelle, part of the seat, bars, mirrors, and the gauge face. They’ve also gone with chunky block lettering for the Indian logo on the tank:
From a fit and finish standpoint, everything seems great. The paint feels like it came off of a much more expensive bike – the reflections off the black sides of the tank are often stunningly gorgeous – and every control point feels like it will last a long time. It looks fantastic and everything feels good to the touch. It also feels good to ride…for the first 20 minutes.
I’m 6’2″, which is definitely approaching the upper limit of what this bike was designed for before you have to tap into Indian’s “Extended Reach” controls. But even if I was 4 inches shorter, the riding position is where this bike stops making sense. Compared to the Scout, the foot controls are 1.5 inches closer, the street tracker bars are lower, and somehow despite less rear suspension travel and ground clearance the Bobber has a slightly higher seat height of 25.6″ (versus 25.3″).
Both seat height numbers are commendably low for shorter riders or beginners and I thought the legroom was adequate, but the combination of changes turns the average rider into Quasimodo with a hunchback that could again terrify the residents of Paris. Even though this bike was designed as a bar hopper, your back will actually be happiest on the freeway at high speeds where you get some wind blast to force you slightly upright.
Thankfully, the wonderful engine/transmission combination is left untouched. The 1,133cc V-Twin is truly a jewel of a motor and it’s paired with a transmission I can’t find fault with. The fueling is so good that it makes much larger manufacturers look inept. It’s spot on from idle to the horsepower peak at 8,000 rpm, which makes it easy to take advantage of 100 horsepower and 72 lb-ft of torque at the crank. The peak torque number is healthy but what’s more important is that the curve is relatively flat between 2,000-8,000 rpm. I really can’t say enough good things about the motor. It makes both the Scout and the Scout Bobber more fun than they look.
How Does It Ride?
In certain situations, very well. The Scout was surprisingly capable in corners for a cruiser and the Bobber keeps most of the magic. Points are deducted because the lean angle is now down from 31 degrees to 29 degrees and the ground clearance has similarly decreased from 5.3″ to 4.8″. The pegs touch down a little bit earlier but it isn’t a game-changing difference. The Bobber shaves 5 pounds off the 2017 Scout’s wet weight of 559 pounds, which is still a lot. Still, the weight is carried low and it doesn’t take much effort at all to approach maximum lean angle. Interestingly, Indian now says the 2018 Scout (not Bobber) will weigh 550 pounds, so I’m curious to find out where the weight got shaved and why the Bobber now weighs more.
The rear suspension travel has been shortened from 3″ to 2″ – it wasn’t great before and it’s worse now, but the front suspension gets an upgrade to cartridge forks. Even with the silly tires, this bike handles well.
Even though there’s one disc up front, the overall braking performance is better than expected. My only complaint is how Indian handles the optional ABS. It’s a $1,000 option – about twice as much as other companies seem to charge nowadays – and it’s only available with “Thunder Black Smoke” paint. I think the “Indian Motorcycle Red” of my test unit is the best of 4 available options and it’s frustrating that I can’t get it with ABS.
When Indian released this bike last summer, they mentioned that their focus group research suggested riders were looking for a short-distance runabout that looked cool. Who are these people? Was the Scout not cool-looking enough? And did they say they wanted something that ONLY capable of going short-distances? If you haven’t realized it by now, I am clearly not the target market. Obviously, in town riding is where the Bobber is at its
least bad best. The motor makes you a stoplight to stoplight king if you want to be, or you’ll get plenty of looks thanks to the styling if you want to take it easy.
On my way back from Vegas, I took my time and got a combination of freeway, curvy backroads, and even a bit of dirt. As you can probably deduce for yourself, the freeway is a fairly miserable experience but it’s not what the bike is designed for so let’s give it a pass and move on. When you’re in the curves, the pegs scrape early but it’s predictable and it doesn’t upset the frame so you can just ride out the turn while grinding the pegs away. It’s a very competent handler, which just makes me wonder how much better it could be with mid controls, more ground clearance, and a decent suspension.
I was pleasantly surprised with how the Bobber fared on a groomed dirt road. The same characteristics I appreciate on road of it being well-balanced with a low center of gravity and excellent low-speed fueling characteristics were great off pavement, plus the balloon tires front and rear even help a little when the going gets soft. As long as you’re mindful of the ground clearance, you can use this to get to fun spots like a dry lake bed without a problem!
I know I’ve been pretty negative but my gripes are more with the idea to build the Scout Bobber rather than the bike itself. If you’re one of the people that participated in Indian’s focus groups and you want something stylish that you can only ride for 50 miles at a time, great. This does that well. But I ended my review of the regular Scout by saying “Indian – please make a standard/scrambler with this engine. I’m drooling already.” I know I’m not the only one with that opinion, and I’m still waiting.