A few days back, the long awaited Indian Demo day at American Heritage Motorcycles (AMH) had finally arrived. Naturally, the heart of Tropical Storm “Bill” was slowly creeping over southern Ohio, poised to spoil the event. From what I can tell, Polaris is one of the few manufacturers that offers a Motorcycle Demo event; however the insurance policy requires that the roads are dry in order to participate. I ran errands and lingered around the house most of the morning and early afternoon waiting for the weather to finally blow over; around three the clouds finally parted and the sun arrived to dry the roads. With the sun shining, I grabbed the keys and scrambled south to the AMH dealer in Loveland, Ohio.
I had originally planned on showing up first thing in the morning, that way I would have multiple attempts to ride each bike, take notes, and offer a fair assessment of Polaris’ new Indians. With the weather being what it was, I had to settle for whatever I could get, therefore I will consider this a “first impression”.
Arriving at the dealership, I could see that Demo rides had already begun, and the crowd of participants was starting to build. Fortunately, Indian brought a substantial fleet of demo bikes, despite the fact they basically only offer about four models. I have been itching to test ride the new Scout all winter, unquestionably it would be first. Considering the limited time, I mounted the Scout to my closest proximity, preferably without a windshield. For whatever reason, I was unable to start the first bike. I checked the kill switch, placed the key in three different positions, kicked up the side stand… nothing (Nerves? Never did figure out what the problem was.). Wanting to stay with the ride, I darted over to the next empty Scout, this one mounted with a windshield, and unbeknownst to me, reduced reach controls (special seat along with closer bars and pegs). Thumbing the start switch, the new 69 Cubic Inch (1130 cc) engine spun to life, I was rewarded with the familiar sounds of DOHC, but the throaty grunt of increased displacement and the added bonus of a stage 1 exhaust (~$800 add on).
Taking the Scout out onto the road I immediately noticed the power of the Scout’s engine, combined with its nimble maneuverability. Other than the fact I was sitting on a decreased reach model (seemed a bit cramped, took me half the ride to notice the tag), I felt perched in a more neutral riding position than I normally would on a feet-forward cruiser. Similar to the Victory Gunner, I felt more on the bike than in it, which is typically not the case for most cruiser’s I’ve mounted in the past. Part of the “on-it” feeling is exaggerated by the fact that the Scout feels small; I don’t mean that in a bad way; I tend to lean toward the “lighter is faster” mentality, so being small helps the Scout redefine the way people perceive cruisers. Compared to my current ride, the Scout has a shorter wheelbase (61 vs. 63 inches), and a more acute rake (29 vs. 33 degrees). I assume those two factors, combined with less weight than I’m accustomed to, and narrower bars, really enhanced the “sporty” feel of the Scout.
Twisting the throttle I was immediately rewarded with an eager lurch forward from the new Indian mill. Similar to my Speedmaster power plant, the new Scout mill is eager to rev, all the way up to 9,000 RPMs (easily a thousand over my Triumph). While I assumed the Scout would parallel Victory in that additional revs would be required to get the torque I’m accustomed to, the Scout’s grunt can be felt low in the rev range, and feels linear throughout. If I could sum up the Scout in one word, it would be “rocket”; mind you “pocket rocket” is probably more appropriate considering the Scouts stature, but I was immediately enamored with the new Scout’s engine.
I didn’t get the opportunity to scrutinize the fit and finish to the level I would normally dedicate to such a review, but I admit I am divided over some common issues. The Scout’s bars, headlight, mirrors and levers appear to be all metal design, a nod to the “American made” heritage. At the same time the radiator, and aluminum cast frame are somewhat a glaring symbol of the future. While not a fan of the big front radiator (an inevitable side effect of performance), I do like the hard lines and deliberate throwback profile of the original Scout. I am even more impressed by the liberal use of distressed leather. As a guy who’s typically not a huge fan of leather fringe and studs, as I said before, the classic distressed leather is unapologetically Indian. The grips on the other hand appear cheap; I recognize that Indian is attempting to replicate the classic look, but the overly simplified grips seem a bit “budget” from my perspective. I assume this is probably because the left grip was not properly secured on my demo model; hopefully not a fair representation of Indian craftsmanship. On the other hand I was extremely pleased with the windshield, despite that fact I was attempting to avoid a bike with a shield so that I could better contrast it against my current bike or the Victory Gunner. Obviously I have a minimal shield (fly screen) on my Speedmaster, so windshields are not really my thing, but somehow Indian managed to find a nice medium between a fly screen and a big cruiser sail. This Scout shield is actually the first factory screen I’ve been behind that is the correct height that I looked over it instead of through. Not only was the screen the correct height, it was also slim, just like the bike.
While enamored with the engine, and pleased with the Scout’s maneuverability, I was concerned by the bike’s front end. While on the demo ride I kept hearing some random “ticking” noise from the front end. I couldn’t establish if it was something like an unsecured cable, or a loose connection, but there was an obvious metallic “click” from time to time during the ride. Similar to the left, grip, this too could have been another symptom of the demo fleet. In general I felt that the levers were somewhat stiff compared to other bikes I’ve ridden, however they were certainly nowhere as stiff as various Harley’s I’ve been on. While I was impressed with the very limited, yet adequate, rear end suspension (3 inches of travel), I felt that the nose of the bike tended to dive while braking. Other reviews I have read suggested that the front end forks were more progressive, I personally felt that the first couple inches of travel vanished with the slightest pull on the brake lever. Worse still, there was a very audible “clap” with each pull of the brake lever as the caliper piston made contact with the brake pad; something I’ve never experienced before.
The Scout was an absolute gas to ride, despite some quarks that I would prefer to blame on side effects of the “demo fleet”. Trapped in the predetermined route mandated by the demo ride, the Scout was anxious to be unchained to permit the sporty chassis and spirited engine to show their full potential. I admit that the slender frame, light weight, and minimalistic seat may limit any long distance prospects, but around town and single day rides would be exhilarating on a Scout. Recently I had made the comment that I would have directly compared the Scout to the Speedmaster had the both been on the market when I bought my Triumph in 2013. Considering that I have vastly altered my taste and knowledge since 2013, it’s probably only fair to Indian to suggest that it would still be a dead heat between the two from the perspective of initial purchase. That being said, I don’t think I would jump on the Scout over the Speedmaster based on front-end performance I experienced at the demo. Considering how much I value the heritage of Indian Motorcycles, that spectacular engine, and the otherwise good looks of the Scout, I feel it only fair to postpone any final judgement until I get a second taste.