Indian Scout Road Test

Indian Motorcycles was kind enough to lend us an Indian Scout to road test for a week—Paul reckons it takes about that long to really bond with a test bike.

IT WAS a glorious Sydney spring afternoon as we turned off the Pacific highway into the Royal National Park. Despite the usual tools in their tin cans we’d had a pretty good run out of the big smoke. I’d just picked up the Indian Scout, and as Indian had kindly supplied it with a pillion seat and backrest, my youngest daughter was along for the ride.

Not to be left at home, my eldest daughter had talked Ozbike’s esteemed Editor Skol into taking her along in his Harley outfit accompanied by his dog.

So there we were, cruising through the Royal National Park without a care in the world apart from having to keep checking my youngest was still sitting behind me—at 25 kg fully clothed you’d hardly know she was there—when the sun went down and 26 billion flying insects decided they’d enjoy the balmy evening air too. Soon we were completely covered in dead or dying insects. Sunnies were so encrusted with bug juice you couldn’t see through them. Clothes and bikes were splattered with dead bugs, bits of bug and still flapping bugs. There were little bugs still alive and flapping around inside ears and noses. My kids thought it was hilarious. I just thought about all the scrubbing I’d need to do to clean the Scout before I returned it.

Many attempts were made to revive the brand…

During the 1910s Indian was the largest manufacturer of motorcycles in the world, but by 1953 they were bankrupt and motorcycle production ceased. Many attempts were made to revive the brand but it wasn’t until 2011 that Indian’s rich motorcycle heritage was finally reborn under the ownership of Polaris.

The new Indian Scout is a re-interpretation of their earlier model first manufactured in 1920. Various different models of the Scout were produced from 1920 to 1949 including military versions that saw service with the Allied Forces during World War 2. The Scout was Indian’s best selling model; the most revered version being the 101 produced from 1928 until 1931. Many Scouts were raced especially in hill-climbs and some are still used to this day on the Wall of Death. The original Scout is probably best known today as the basis for Bert Munro’s land-speed racer made famous in the movie The Worlds Fastest Indian.

Indian’s modern Scout shares very little with the early model—just a name and a very attractive shade of red paint.

It’s an over-square design that revs very freely

Visually, the first thing you notice is the engine, then when you ride it, you really notice the engine—it’s one seriously smooth motor. According to Indian, the liquid cooled, 69-cubic-inch V-twin motor puts out 100 hp and 72.2 ft-lbs. It’s an over-square design that revs very freely. There is plenty of torque but chasing the power that lies just north of 4500 rpm becomes quite addictive.

The Scout came equipped with a Stage One kit with gave the pipes a great bass rumble. The induction noise was pretty sweet too.

I took full advantage of the Scout’s pillion seat giving rides to some of my kid’s friends and a few of their mothers. The Scout makes it easy to take a pillion. It doesn’t seem to upset the suspension overly and the motor just powers through. The more I rode the Scout, the more I liked that engine.

On Thursday Skol decided we should go somewhere for lunch. This seemed like a good idea so I rocked up on the Scout at Ozbike HQ to find Skol wheeling the Sporty out of the garage.

“Lets go to the O’Connell Hotel,” said Skol.

Riding around Sydney on the Scout is as easy as falling off a log. The Scout does get a little warm in traffic. It is water-cooled after all and that feet-forward riding-position wraps your legs around the motor. Speaking of water-cooling, how good is the integration of the radiator into the front of the frame?

The mirrors on the Scout offer a good view of what’s going on behind you even at freeway speeds.

…the ABS will get you out of trouble

The brakes work well. There’s stainless lines front and back and great feel at both high and low speeds. If you want to get harsh with them, you can, knowing the ABS will get you out of trouble.

At one set of traffic lights we lined up with a hairy biker on a Harley Breakout. The young man appeared to be having some problems with his bike. As the lights turned green, his throttle must have been accidentally jammed wide open sending him down the road in a very brisk manner. As older and caring fellow motorcyclists, Skol and I chased after him to make sure he was okay. He’d got it all under control at the next red light and we could tell he was alright because he gave us a little nod of his head. Luckily, I was ready in case the young man’s Harley got away from him again. Skol had the same idea, and this time when the light went green, we were both ready to assist the young man in clearing a path for his errant cycle. The Scout was very capable of setting off quickly from the traffic lights. If you went to the drag strip, I’m reliably informed, that low 12-second quarters are easy on the Scout—after all, it only weighs 254 kg fully fuelled.

We we were heading into the Blue Mountains. The Scout was great fun along the Bells Line of Road. The suspension is a good compromise between comfort and handling. At low speed the rear suspension can be a little harsh over sharp-edged potholes and bumps, but once up to speed, the suspension copes with everything that’s thrown at it.

The front is a little under-damped and it can get a little wobbly when pushing on over uneven tarmac but it never threatened to get out of control.

Ground clearance is pretty good with the pegs and exhaust header giving you plenty of warning that it’s lent over about as far as it’s happy with.

The Scout has less rake than a cruiser

I reckon Indian did a great job with the steering. Even with that fat front tyre wrapped round a 16-inch rim, the Scout steers very sweetly. It feels nimble and eager to turn in. Yet, out on the freeway and through longer faster sweepers, it feels planted and secure perhaps due to the fact that Indian gave the Scout 29 degrees of rake, a little less than your standard cruiser.

Dropping down from the Blue Mountains into Lithgow, we took Magpie Hollow Road and then Sodwalls Road into Tarana where we stopped at the hotel for a cold refreshing ale. Well that’s what I had; Skol had a bourbon and coke. As we sat out in the beer garden enjoying the sunshine, Skol claimed to recognise a magpie that had stolen his meat pie two years earlier. Possibly because of this we headed off somewhere else for lunch.

As we were leaving the beer garden one of the other patrons (born in the US of A, judging by his accent) shouted out, “Nice Harley, mate.” No mention of the shiny red and chrome Indian parked right next to it…

We headed further west to the O’Connell Hotel for lunch. The landscape was lush and green with rolling hills, small farms and a twisting tortured road. The surface was cracked and potholed but it didn’t bother the Scout apart from the odd shimmy that just added to the fun. And there was plenty of fun to be had from that engine. It doesn’t have a lot of engine braking but it does have plenty of go.

After lunch we swapped bikes for the trip into Oberon. Riding Skol’s modified 1200 cc Sporty is always fun, but after the Scout, it felt raw and uncompromising. If let’s say riding the Scout was like sitting in an armchair listening to classical music, then Skol’s Sporty is like sitting on a bar stool listening to Blue Grass on acid.

Not an ideal touring machine

By the time we’d got back to Ozbike HQ we’d been riding for eight hours but I could have ridden for a few more. It’s probably not the ideal touring machine—the 12.5 litre fuel tank gives you a range of just over 200 km. I’d had a great day on the Scout. It’s a very easy bike to like and an extremely easy bike to ride.

There’s lots of branding on the Scout with the Indian name or just a stylised letter ‘I’ on lots of components. I like the way Indian hasn’t seen the need to put fake cooling fins on the engine instead giving it an almost ‘steam-punk’ look. The whole bike seems to exude a well-built, solid look about it. It certainly looks like it’ll last a long time.

After five solid days of riding, all it took to change it back into a shiny new motorcycle was a bucket of warm soapy water and some elbow grease. Most of that elbow grease was getting rid of the Kamikaze bugs from the run through the Royal National Park.

I spent the last morning on the Indian running errands around inner Sydney. When I’ve got a bike to review I like to park up close to a café/bar, somewhere busy where I can sit and see the bike. It’s always interesting seeing and hearing other people’s reactions to a particular bike. Sometimes people walk past without even noticing. This didn’t happen with the Scout. Wherever I parked it people would stop and have a gander and some would ask questions. I was amazed how many younger people were interested in the Scout. I suppose what I’m trying to say is, it’s not a bike for the shy or retiring type.

I really enjoyed riding around on the Indian Scout. It’s a thoroughly modern take on the traditional American cruiser. Indian themselves call it ‘midsize’. To me it felt ‘just-the-right-size’. When you first see it, the Scout looks all big motor in a small chassis and that’s pretty much what it’s like to ride. It’s a wonderfully smooth motor and the more you tap into that power above 4500 rpm, the more you want to go there. Anyway, as usual, don’t have to take my word for it—just go to your local Indian garage and take one for a spin.

written by Paul Angus

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