Indian Motorcycle’s comeback bike the Indian Chief Classic, changed the way I perceived big and old school cruisers. It was fascinating to find that an XXL-sized behemoth could be fun and genuinely companionable, even in Indian conditions. At the end of that ride, I harboured hopes of taking an Indian Chief for a long tour. So, when Indian announced their next bike, it sounded very exciting for a modern urban rider - a smaller, more manageable and more hi-tech bike - the Scout. To get our first taste of the India-bound Scout, we headed to the country that the “Fastest Indian”, Burt Monro, called home, New Zealand.
Classic, but cool
The Scout is a classic cruiser. From its shape to the chrome treatment, there’s no mistaking its traditional cruiser soul. The tapering down of the design as you move rearwards is inspired from the Scouts of the 1920s. But, what multiplies its charisma and makes it truly standout is the brisk modern edge evident in the overall package. The swept tank and the bobbed fenders boast of strong lines. The liquid cooled engine gets chrome trim on it to mimic the parallel lines of the pushrods seen on old Scouts. While there is lots of chrome, the fork sliders and triple clamps are all finished in black.
The solo saddle looks beautiful and is equally well finished. However, I do wish that the black triple clamps and the finish for the cast alloy frame were better done. Also, concealed cables for the controls on the handlebar would have been divine. In size, the Scout is comparable with Harley Davidson’s Forty Eight, so it isn’t the big cruiser to impress bystanders with. However, the chunky front tyre helps it look more weighty.
Bold by design
The Scout may be one of the oldest and most storied nameplates in Indian’s history, but the born again brand has no inhibitions about embracing the 21st century. The Scout’s look is cruiser-like but look closely, and you can see the modern engineering underneath. For instance, the cast alloy chassis is light, and the front end cleverly integrates the radiator at the front. With the engine as a stressed member, the rear cast alloy sub-frame is also hard mounted on the engine. The engine is another bold step forward. Firstly, it is liquid-cooled, not partially, but completely. Secondly, it uses dual over-head camshafts with 4-valves per cylinder. Indian claims that this 1133cc 60 degree V-twin makes 100bhp. Sounds plenty enough!
Scouting for Action
On the winding roads around Auckland, we tested the Scout in a variety of conditions from fast motorways, bumpy B-roads, and snaking hill roads too. The Scout’s motor lived up to its promise, delivering plenty of torque over a wide rev range. We were chugging along at 100kph in sixth, with the digital rev-counter showing about 3300rpm. Only the lightest hint of throttle would send it scurrying ahead. The response was so peppy that a taller sixth gear would amplify its cruiser credentials without giving up on rideability.
The spread of torque is such that you could spend all day in the higher three gears without a problem. While low-end response is nothing to complain about, the pace jumps once past 3000rpm. The counter balanced engine will rev strongly to 8400rpm, but there are a fair bit of vibrations when revved up. But, revving the engine up will rarely be required on this torque laden engine. While the gearshifts aren’t troublesome, shift quality isn’t the smoothest around. What was a bit of a dampener on our ride was the slightly iffy fueling on our test bike, which was evident on a few other test bikes on offer. The engine felt a bit snatchy when prodded by mild off-on throttle inputs as I adjusted speed to the traffic ahead. Since these are pre-production bikes, I guess these issues are expected to be ironed out before it goes on sale.
On the trail
The Scout was very easy to manage all day long. Despite its 258kg wet weight the Scout never felt intimidating or uncomfortable. Overall ride quality was good and the suspension soaked up the bumps at high speeds with a confidence inspiring composure. The Scout felt solid in a straight line too. It was only at slower speeds that the front telescopic forks felt a bit stiff over sharp bumps.
The Scout handled winding roads better than the broad front tyre suggests. A few kilometres in the saddle gets you used to the way the Scout turns (a bit rapidly!) and you learn to ride accordingly. The downside of the broad front-tyre is that it feels a bit lively, especially when going over rough tarmac. Lower tyre pressures should help settle the front and give more confidence to the rider. The ABS equipped single disc at the front offers decent stopping power.
Hunting for success
LI expected the bold new Scout to better its elder brother, the Chief. It didn’t. Yes, it has a few niggles that cloud this smooth, punchy and good looking motorcycle’s appeal. However, what the Scout lacks is the easy going nature and fluidity of the Chief. And that keeps a great motorcycle from transforming into the great companion that you’d choose time and again for the long road home.