Last week I attended the Australasian launch of the Scout in New Zealand, the spiritual home of the Scout name made famous by Burt Munro and The World’s Fastest Indian movie. My longer test ride on this occasion not only confirmed my initial assessment of the Scout I rode in the US as a low and mean mid-sized muscle machine but also opened my eyes to a few other traits.
First off, the engine is the main attraction here. It not only looks brilliant with its high-quality sparkling and retro-style ribbed casings, but it’s also a firecracker unit that will send the opposition scurrying.
The Indian Scout has more power and torque than its opposition, is more refined, quieter and far more flexible. It will pull strongly from about 2000 revs and hits the meat of the torque about 3500.
The six-speed transmission has a tall first gear and a short top gear making it a close-ratio box which is unusual for a cruiser. However, it’s so smooth and fault-free you can whip through the gears with alacrity.
The engine is also torquey enough to flick through to sixth at 80km/h without labouring the mill. At 100km/h in sixth, it is revving at 3300 so overtaking is a simple matter of rolling on the throttle.
Top end is stratospheric for a cruiser and you’ll never really need to go there unless you want to take it to the drag strip.
Riding position is also fairly aggressive for a cruiser, with the rider sitting on it, rather than in it. For my 185cm frame, it offers plenty of control and comfort. However, its low seat height and ergonomic rider triangle also make it appealing to a wide range of rider heights.
Optional handlebars, foot controls and seats will make it even more suitable for both taller and shorter riders.
It also feels very slim with no air filters or protruding engine components forcing splayed legs. The handlebar grips are a little on the narrow side, but that will also cater for smaller riders and women who are finally catered for by the venerable Indian brand.
My initial short ride on the Indian Scout felt comfortable but I was concerned about saddle time on a longer trip. Our longer NZ ride didn’t reveal any discomfort, although there is a windsock effect at 120km/h-plus. The optional tall windscreen reduced that, but added some buffeting. There are three screen sizes to choose from.
On the billiard-table smooth roads around Sturgis, I couldn’t fault the suspension or tyres. The Indian Scout felt complaint and plush without wallowing around.
However, the lumps and bumps of the wet and winding roads across the North Island and down to the Coromandel Peninsula revealed a few shortcomings.
The Korean-made Kenda tyres should be long lasting, but they are not the best for grip, especially on the wet and slimy roads we rode. It seems farm machinery and old vehicles had left a rainbow of oil slicks.
Together with periodic showers, it made the ride “entertaining” to say the least. Several motorcycle journalists were highly critical of the tyres, but the next day the roads were drier and the tyres felt much grippier.
Road irregularities also showed the shortcomings of the dual shock suspension. While the front coped quite well except for some dive under brakes, the rear felt under-damped on both compression and rebound. This resulted in pogoing over and after some of the bigger bumps.
Some of the heftier journos among us also complained about bottoming out, but I didn’t experience it until the second day on a frivolous high-speed chase across the undulations down to Waiuku beach.
Most cruiser riders should be satisfied with the stock shock, but the lusty engine cries out for this animal to be ridden harder than normal, so an aftermarket set of shocks will be your first accessory purchase.
Another criticism I couldn’t agree with was the brakes. The steel braided brake lines give the front lever plenty of feel and the single disc seems to have enough effect for my 75kg weight.
If you weigh a bit more and option up to the dual seat and saddlebags, it may feel underbraked. However, the rear brake feels quite wooden and ineffective.
Yet I didn’t once lock up the rear wheel, even under hard downshifts. That’s mainly because the low compression engine means you would really have to be hamfisted with your downshifts to encounter any dramas.
On closer and longer inspection of the build quality I am totally besotted with this bike. My favourite combination is the silver paint that closely matches the beautiful frame and is nicely offset by the tan leather seat. I also like the brown saddlebags which have a serviceable shape to stow plenty of gear and a lid that stays open without having to hold it.
If I owned an Indian Scout, I’d option up the bags, pillion seat and sissy bar with rack which are all quickly removable.
I’d also swap out the shocks, change the tyres, bob the fenders, raise the seat, option the closer foot controls, get higher bars and then find a nice secluded beach like the one at Waiuku and relive Munro’s glory days.
Aussies will get their the first view of the new Indian Scout at the Melbourne Moto Expo, on November 28-30.