2015 Indian Scout | FIRST RIDE

Cheap, Quick, Friendly, and Fun—the Scout Scores

Indian's Scout was in many ways America's first sportbike. Created in the 1920s as a lighter, faster, more athletic alternative to the dominant 1000cc V-twins, this is the bike that made Indian's "wrecking crew" famous for almost five decades (Sport Scouts were still qualifying for AMA Grand National flattrack races as late as 1969). Burt Munro 's 200-mph "World's Fastest Indian" streamliner began life as a Scout, and the Scout was the bike of choice for early stunt riders, too.

To underscore this last point, Indian debuted its all-new Scout in spectacular fashion at the Black Hills Rally in Sturgis, where we watched Charlie Ransom ride a specially prepared version of the liquid-cooled, 1133cc cruiser in his legendary American Motor Drome "Wall of Death" thrillshow. Watching the red, white, and blue Scout defy gravity and zoom around a vertical wall 15 feet off the ground, we knew immediately this new bike wasn't just another metric cruiser.

This latest Scout is officially classified as midsize cruiser, and built to satisfy the expectations of that category—one where the vast majority of buyers have been riding for less than a year, Indian tells us, and in many cases are buying their first motorcycle. Though this is definitely a novice-friendly motorcycle, the new Scout hardly a beginner’s bike. With a claimed 100 horsepower and 72 pound-feet of torque on tap, a stiff aluminum frame, and a lightest-in-class claimed wet weight of just 558 pounds, the Scout is very entertaining for experienced riders, too. And with an MSRP of just $10,999, almost anyone can play along.

The first thing you notice about the Scout is its size. This is a tiny bike. The seat—made from genuine leather, no less— is the lowest in the class at just 25.3 inches off the ground, with an equally easy reach to the pullback bars and forward-set foot controls. Indian says the Scout is designed to fit riders between 5’ 4” and 6’ 0”, and indeed it fit this 5’ 7” tester perfectly. Optional “fit kit” accessories extend that range four additional inches in either direction.

The second thing you notice about the Scout is that exceptionally nice to look at, with a fit and finish closer to Indian’s $18,999 Chief Classic than anything else in this price bracket. The styling is raw, unpretentious, and honest, with the same forward-leaning lines as the original Scout to make it look like it’s going 100 mph even when standing still. The cast aluminum frame is a central design element—those aren’t covers beneath the seat or surrounding the radiator—and the roughcast texture is unique to each bike. The smooth-sided V-twin engine is almost sculptural in presentation, with each line shaped to suggest what lies within, and small details like the fuel filler cap, willowy speedometer mount, even rubber grips and footpegs that are ribbed to match the antique Scout all show tremendous attention to detail. Any evidence of cost cutting is predictable and easily correctible, like plastic turn signals that wrap around the fork legs and rotate whenever touched.

The all-new, 60-degree V-twin—Indian’s second new engine platform in as many years—is current state-of-the-art with four valves per cylinder, chain-driven dual-overhead cams, and electronic fuel injection operated via ride-by-wire throttle. Thumb it to life and enjoy the rich, slightly lumpy exhaust signature, and note there’s almost no vibration until you approach the 9,000-rpm redline. Low-end power delivery and initial throttle pick-up is soft and definitely beginner-biased (ride-by-wire mapping has not been finalized yet, Indian told us), so if you ride the Scout like a traditional cruiser, short-shifting and gently rolling the throttle, it’s an extremely easy bike to ride. Indeed, you can pull away from a stop just by releasing the clutch, no throttle required.

That would be a shame, however, because this engine really comes alive above 4,500 rpm, with robust midrange and a healthy top-end that pulls right to the soft rev limiter around 9,000-rpm—which you’ll hit almost every time, because the digital rpm readout simply can’t keep up with the quick-revving V-twin; the highest readout we saw was 7,500 rpm. Perfect throttle response, a smooth-shifting, close-spaced six-speed transmission paired with lash-free belt drive, and decidedly light engine braking—which we loved, but which gave many of the American V-twin editors fits—make the Scout surprisingly fun to ride hard.

The cast aluminum chassis is very rigid, and with a short, 61.5-inch wheelbase—not much longer than the latest Ducati Monster, incidentally—and sporty-for-a-cruiser rake and trail figures of 29 degrees and 4.7 inches, the handling is unexpectedly athletic, too. Steering is neutral at any speed if a touch heavy right off vertical—blame that fashionably fat 130/90-16 “Indian” front tire—and cornering stability even at triple-digit speeds is steely solid. The geometry is dialed. The springs, however, are soft at both ends—again, suggesting a beginner-biased setup—but damping is sufficient; even with just three inches of travel in the laydown rear shocks, which are preload adjustable, the rear never bottomed out and the fork resisted plunging even under hard brake inputs.

This might partially be because the brakes on the Scout are not especially strong. With just a single, two-piston disc up front and a pad compound that feels formulated either to last forever or not frighten new riders, the braking response is soft and a quick stop requires a firm grip, despite the braided stainless brake line. Antilock brakes are not available, but also not entirely necessary.

A fellow journalist caused a jinx when he walked up at the first rest stop and verbalized my exact thoughts: “this bike really reminds me of my first-generation SV.” That’s not to suggest the Scout is anything like a naked standard—it’s very much a feet forward cruiser, with all the contentments and compromises that implies. But it has that same all-things-to-all-riders X-factor as the early SVs, which were gentle and friendly enough for newbies but playful enough to plaster a big smile on even the most-jaded motojournalist’s face. A more common comparison—and one that Indian encourages—is to the Harley-Davidson Sportster 1200. With 32 more horsepower, one additional gear, five extra degrees of lean angle, and 26 less pounds all for just $350 more than the Sportster, you can see why.

The Scout is an impressive bike, cleverly conceived and impressively executed, with a level of quality and performance that’s unexpected in this class and at this price point—again, just $10,999 in black, or $11,299 in red, matte silver, or matte black—especially for a bike made in the USA (in Spirit Lake, Iowa, to be precise). America’s first sportbike is back.

PRICE $10,999
ENGINE 1131cc, water-cooled 60° V-twin
CLAIMED HORSEPOWER 100.0 hp @ 8100 rpm
CLAIMED TORQUE 72.2 lb.-ft. @ 5900 rpm
FRAME Cast-aluminum semi-double-cradle with tubular-steel backbones
FRONT SUSPENSION Indian 41mm fork; 4.7 travel
REAR SUSPENSION Indian shocks adjustable for spring preload; 3.0-in. travel
FRONT BRAKE Indian two-piston caliper, 298mm disc
REAR BRAKE Indian one-piston caliper, 298mm disc
RAKE/TRAIL 29.0º/4.7 in.
WHEELBASE 61.5 in.
SEAT HEIGHT 25.3 in.
CLAIMED WEIGHT 558 lb. wet
AVAILABLE December 2014
CONTACT [Indian Motorcycle][]