By Guido Ebert
Native Americans utilized Scouts for reconnaissance and as lookouts, messengers and guides. They were a fast-moving bunch that proved expert in traversing vast distances atop what were deemed the quickest, most nimble of horses.
Flash forward past the industrial revolution to 1920 and the introduction of the Indian Scout motorcycle, a two-wheeler that was to possess the positive attributes of the four-legged transport used by its Native American namesake.
Within the next two and a half decades, racers, hill-climbers, trick riders, messenger & postal services, police departments, and the military all utilized a version of the agile Indian Scout. In fact, the U.S. Armed Forces used 30,000 to 40,000 of them during World War II.
While mass production of the Scout first ceased in 1946, Polaris Industries’ resurrected Indian brand, for 2015, introduced a Scout that was meant to serve as a modern interpretation of its forerunner. How well does it achieve its goal? Read on.
The first things you may notice about the 2015 Indian Scout ($10,999) are its dimensions. Despite the numbers, it’s low and it’s narrow.
The second thing you may notice is Polaris Industries’ attention to detail in the design and creation of the bike. Check out the intricate 69 cu. in. V-twin engine and its polished jugs, the line that runs from the gas tank down through the rear shock as tribute to the original G-20 model’s classic rigid chassis triangle, the fat tires and black wheels reminiscent of the 101, retro badging, the belt cover tribute to the Sport Scout, the sparing use of chrome highlights … even the original-look desert tan leather saddle that sets off the aesthetics.
Despite its 558-lb. wet weight, the Scout’s low-slung center of gravity contributes to a lightweight feel. Yeah, it’s a “lightweight” 550-pounder. The thing is, with its low C.O.G. and diminutive height, the bike feels daintier the taller the rider.
Once astride and seated on the Scout with its factory settings, taller riders will feel as if they’re “on top” of the bike rather than “behind” the bars while shorter riders will enjoy more of a < position.
The triangle made between the seat, handlebar location and foot controls had this 5’9” rider in a nearly standard seating position, with legs compelled only slightly forward. My 5’3” wife fit on the bike in more of a flying Vee, with an easy reach to the grips and the pegs. At a standstill, she was also able to drop her feet off the pegs for flat-footed assuredness.
The Scout stands only 47.5 inches at the mirrors. The factory-set seat height is 25.3 inches. Wheelbase is 61.5 inches.
My friends Corey and Jay are longtime riders. Corey, who comes from a sport bike background, is 6’2”. The factory settings had him seated upright, with his bent knees raised to accommodate the peg position. He said he thought the bike felt short. Jay, who has owned only American V-Twins, is 5’2”. The factory settings put him in an aggressive < position. He remarked about what he felt was a long wheelbase.
One neat aspect of the Scout both Corey and Jay were glad to hear is that the factory ergonomic settings can be easily manipulated to perfectly fit a wide range of rider sizes. The handlebars/controls can be adjusted, the seat can be adjusted fore or aft, and the position of the footpegs/controls can be moved up to three inches.
No matter an operator’s size, anyone who rides the Scout is sure to raise an eyebrow at its performance.
After my inaugural 15-mile jaunt atop the Scout, I returned to the office and put out on social media that “This is a bike cruiser-haters need to ride.” It may be a “cruiser” motorcycle, but it performs like a middleweight “sport” bike. Seriously.
Powering the Scout is a quick-spinning, counter-weighted 1130cc V-twin engine that not only sits like a jewel within the center of the chassis but also delivers a 100hp punch that scoots you down the road without hesitation. There’s no big, “torquey” thrust, just a “mid-sized” American V-twin that responds immediately to accelerate quickly and smoothly.
Power is “tractable” – start in second if you want – the bike is geared high. In sixth, I saw 4,200 rpm at 80mph. Want to go faster? No need to shift into a lower gear “ just hunker down, give the throttle a twist and you’re at 100 mph. Maximum torque of 72.2 ft. lb. comes on at 5,900rpm “ right around the time the engine sounds like it’s going to stroke itself into oblivion. It won’t, though, because it will keep pulling, reach peak 100hp at 8,100rpm and finally shut itself down at 8,600rpm “ when the limiter kicks in to avoid any type of disastrous scenario.
The clutch and slick-shifting six-speed transmission offer what have to be among the smoothest gear changes I have experienced on a two-wheeler. Whether you’ve got the throttle at full twist and hooning up through the gears or are on a subdued ride clipping gears as speed dictates, the engagement feels positively greasy in its fluidity. No click. No clunk. Just slick engagement.
The Scout’s 130/90-16 front and 150/80-16 rear balloon tires – an Indian proprietary tread pattern manufactured by Kenda – don’t seem to impede the bike’s prowess, but actually seem to help cushion the ride. There’s certainly plenty of rubber to utilize. In my opinion, cruiser style motorcycles have for too long featured big rear tires and skinny fronts (in which world of physics that make sense, I don’t know). Whereas riders on those skinny-tire steads are busy looking for longitudinal roadway irregularities, the Scout’s rubber had this rider smoothly sailing over MN’s finest roadway cracks and joints.
Cornering? Taking the bike into river valley twisties, I found the 41mm damper rod fork and dual 42 N/mm (240 lb./in.) chromed rear shocks well tuned to their duties. The bike’s size, output and chassis design offer optimal maneuverability and fluid handling. Indian says lean angle is 31 degrees, and you’ll know you reached it when the spring-loaded, rubber-coated footpeg starts applying pressure back to your boot.
Braking comes from a 298mm single disc with two-piston caliper front and a similar size disc with single piston caliper in the rear. That may not sound like a lot of clamping force – especially for a 550-lb. bike that begs to be hooned – but the system worked well in every situation I asked it to.
When riding in “cruiser” style rather than that prescribed by the MSF – mostly using the rear brake to slough speed, employing the front brake only sparingly – I’ve often experienced easy rear wheel lock-up on various Victory models, like the Hammer, Judge and Highball. The Scout’s braking felt much more progressive and controlled.
Finally, as for sound: Don’t expect an air-cooled aural assault. What you can expect, though, is a controlled baritone that hums respectfully at low rpm yet offers an ever-louder “roar” once out on the road and adding engine speed. My neighbors didn’t seem to mind my 7am departures, and I thoroughly enjoyed the range of symphonic tones that could be found across the rev range.
“Wow! Is that the new Indian?!”
I put a little more than 1,200 miles on the ‘15 Indian Scout, mainly using the bike for my daily commute and running around-town errands.
The bike attracted whistles and walk-ups nearly every day. While some of that may have come as the result of my homestead’s proximity to Polaris HQ in Medina, it seemed an overwhelming number of kudos came simply from motorcycle enthusiasts who keep tabs on the industry “ folks in pick-ups, delivery drivers, suited executives in sedans, gas station customers and, of course, other motorcyclists.
So who’ll buy this bike? The Scout’s smooth engine and transmission supply fine performance, and its size and weight distribution offer ideal control. Throw in a relatively approachable price and customizable rider triangle, and you have a bike that’ll fit ladies and gentlemen of any size and experience level.
Polaris has received a lot of guff about having two motorcycle brands that each offer the American V-twin experience in cruiser form. The thing is, the manufacturer has proven in other areas that it does indeed have the recipe for performance. And you can feel that in the liquid-cooled Scout – a modern cruiser with a retro name that you may find manages to out-sport the Sportster.
Scout Sets Sights on Sportster 1200
Looking at Harley-Davidson’s line-up, it appears the 2015 Indian Scout would be targeted at buyers of the Milwaukee manufacturer’s Sportster 1200. Lets take a look at the numbers.
- The Indian Scout retails for $10,999 while the H-D Sportster 1200 Custom retails for $10,649 in Black and $10,999 for an alternate color.
- The Scout features a liquid-cooled 69 cu. in. V-twin versus the 1200 Custom’s air-cooled 73.4 cu. in. engine.
- The Scout puts out 72.2 ft. lbs. of torque at 5,900 rpm compared to the 1200 Custom’s 70.8 ft. lbs. at 3,500 rpm.
- The Scout weighs 558 lbs. weight compared to the 1200 Custom’s 584 lbs.
- The Scout’s maximum lean angle is 31 degrees compared to the 1200 Custom’s 28.3 degrees.
- The Scout is belt-driven while the 1200 Custom is chain-driven.
- The Scout has an unladen seat height of 25.3 inches compared to the 1200 Custom’s 28 inches.
- The Scout’s rake/trail equate to 29 degrees/4.7 inches while the 1200 Custom’s are 30 degrees/4.2 inches.
- The Scout’s wheelbase is 61.5 inches compared to the 1200 Custom’s 59.8 inches.
- The Scout carries 3.3 gallons of fuel while the 1200 Custom fits 4.5 gallons.
- Both roll on 130/90-16 front and 150/80-16 rear tires, and both feature a single disc front and rear brake.
While Indian has its sights set on gaining a larger share of the shrinking American V-twin market, the brand still has a long way to go, as Harley in 2013 shipped just over 50,000 Sportsters (out of 260,000 total motorcycles). Indian in 2015 could easily capture 2% of that Sportster total. Can it capture 5%?