2015 Indian Scout – Road Test Review

A motorcycle is never just a motorcycle, and the all-new 2015 Indian Scout takes that truth to its extreme. The Sturgis Rally started 74 years ago, during the last moments of the original-lineage Indian Scout’s production. This year, after waiting nearly all of those seven decades, the rally was reunited with this sporty old friend. Sounds romantic, doesn’t it? But it’s complicated.

Until last year, the mud and clay and gravel the Indian name has been dragged through for fully half of its history had been caked on thickly. Polaris, Indian’s newest owner, has done an excellent job of hosing the brand clean and giving it the fresh start it deserved. The Chief and its Chiefy siblings did that by being a new old that’s an updated reflection of the last Springfield design, using a flat-head look for its fully modern air-/oil-cooled, pushrod, OHV, 49-degree V-twin engine, with those big fenders and much chrome. But it’s not news that heritage American iron is a hot seller.

Taking a bolder route, the new Scout desires to be the potential future of a past that never happened, looking for an acceptable narrative to span back to the bike’s far-off beginnings. So does this Scout convincingly carry the Indian heritage forward, and is it functionally a motorcycle you’d want to ride?

The Scout is a modern interpretation of how the evolution of the American V-twin might have gone, without following the calculated semi-Luddite lead of the Chief. The Scout gives a modern answer to this historical question, trying to be what it would be if the model had evolved organically without interruption. There are a thousand answers to this proposition, and all of them are colored by romance, desire, and longing. So don’t insist that Indian’s answer is right or wrong; this Scout is a modern cruiser, its chassis a refraction through the lens of history, its engine a nod to modern times, its EFI for the EPA, all topped off with a damn nice old-school seat.

We’re here to tell you the bike feels good, and a primary part of this is the 69ci (1,133cc), liquid-cooled, 60-degree, V-twin engine that uses chain-driven DOHC and four valves per cylinder fed by a single 60mm throttle body. It’s a semi-dry sump design with a 9,000-rpm redline. High-ish 10.7:1 compression makes it hungry for high-test. The Scout produced 86 hp at 7,730 rpm and 64 pound-feet of torque at 3,320 rpm on the CW dyno. The bigger story on the torque curve is that there are more than 60 pound-feet from 2,400 to 7,400 rpm, and it is a gorgeous straight line of smooth delivery. The cylinders and heads have no fake cooling fins but do have structural ribbing and other aluminum-colored accents.

A six-speed transmission and a left-side final-drive belt transmit power to the rear wheel. The Scout is geared to comfortably roll along at 70 mph in sixth gear at 3,750 rpm, yet with that broad torque production it pulls away easily from a stop. Clutch feel is good, and engagement is smooth and easy.

The suspension is pretty conventional at each end: 41mm fork legs up front and dual, spring-preload-adjustable shocks out back. There’s a claimed 4.7 inches of front-wheel travel and 3.0 inches of travel at the rear. Notice the extreme rake of those shocks, to mimic the hardtail lines of the 1920s Scout. With preload in the delivered setting and without a rider in the saddle, the Scout’s rear suspension tops out with zero sag. With my 150 pounds on board, the rear end tops out on rebound when riding over large bumps. Heavier testers on staff did not experience this. A preload wrench is supplied, but there is no provision to store it on the bike.

The Scout has a single 298mm rotor at each end, with a two-piston caliper up front and a single piston out back. Other notables include a super-low 27.0-inch brown-leather-seat height (as measured in the CW shop with rear spring preload set as delivered; claimed height is 26.5 inches). The seat is so low that swinging a leg over it is no different than stepping over a crack in a root-heaved sidewalk. It’s also covered in more weather-resistant leather than that used in 2014.

The Scout has a multipiece aluminum chassis that saves weight through rational design. The front downtubes are a one-piece casting that incorporates the steering head and additionally serve as the radiator shrouds. Out back is a one-piece casting that includes the swingarm plates and tailsection. These front and rear castings bolt to the bottom front and rear of the engine, which is a stressed member without frame elements beneath it. Two side-by-side, multipiece backbones from the steering head to the rear casting tie the structure together above the engine.

Wheelbase is a rangy 61.0 inches, and the Scout is relaxed in rake and trail, having 29 degrees of the first and 4.7 inches of the latter. The wheels at both ends are of the same dimensions—16 x 3.5 inches—but carry different size Kenda tires: a 130/90-16 72H up front and a 150/80-16 71H rear. These fat tires on little wheels disguise the Scout’s smaller-than-normal size; it’s a 7/8-scale cruiser, à la Smokey Yunick.

Indian, of course, targeted the Sportster, and most of the rest of us will make that comparison too. This is valid in the market and in our minds, but the riding experience really is very different. Still: Compared to the last Sportster 1200 Custom we tested, the Scout is about 6 pounds lighter, made 18 more horsepower and 9 less pound-feet of torque, has a sixth gear, and costs $300 more than a 2014 model. Plus, there’s got to be an easy additional 40 hp hiding in this engine. Basically, it’s untenable that Indian could create the overriding competency of this bike yet have the converse incompetence for its modern, efficient powerplant of 1,133cc to not be capable of 140 hp. It’ll be interesting to see what happens to output on this engine in future models or when breathing on it, remapping it, etc.

The Scout is one of the best-balanced shapes of any cruiser-type motorcycle made, successfully carrying forward the lines and proportions of the 1928 Scout to work in the modern world, as the designers intended. The headlight is basically a copy of the one used on pre-war models, and the forward-slanting fuel tank maintains the original Scout’s go-fast look.

We were first given the chance to ride the Scout on the winding roads of South Dakota’s Black Hills then got one back at our Southern California HQ for full instrumented testing and more mileage. The seating position is right on for a 5-foot-10 rider, with a comfortable reach to the bars and foot controls, and Indian offers fitment options for riders at the far ends of adult sizes. The stock solo leather seat is grand, and after a long day on the road there was none of that burning-cheek feeling. (A passenger pad and pegs are available.) The non-adjustable hand levers are well placed, and the mirrors provide a good rear view, though adjustment tended to wander if the stalks weren’t set to allow the mirrors to be in the center of their swivel-ball adjustment range.

The Scout is smooth and swift from a dead stop. The EFI is crisp across the rev range, transitioning from on-off changes without the hesitation or glitch. The throttle has a linear, almost rheostatic relationship to engine output. At low rpm, engine vibration is close to nil. At high revs, particularly 5,000 rpm and up, the engine did produce quite a bit of a buzz. At 70 mph in sixth, the Scout engine is smooth, but a few testers sensed some buzz at 75-plus.

On the quiet end of the rev range, the Scout is tame and can be ridden as a comfortable, easy-to-handle cruiser for beginners, or it can be railed down a twisty highway as a low-slung performance bike, perfectly behaved at both ends of that scale. Third gear works great for bombing corners on a winding road, and 6,500 to 7,500 is the sweet rev range for instant-on power and prime engine braking. This is not air-cooled V-twin instant low-end response like from a 1200 Sportster.

The transmission on the Scout we rode around Sturgis was certain and smooth with short throws and no missed shifts. The 450-mile testbike we got in California was inconsistent on the 1-2 upshift and could be a bit vague on other shifts. We’d like to see more positive shift action front this gearbox.

It’s surprising that a bike so heaped with historical responsibility can also be such a hoot at bombing the twisties. The 16-inch tires work great with the well-damped suspension to make for sure handling and no skittishness in fast corners, with neutral chassis behavior even when trail braking hard down to the apex. Cornering clearance is decent for the class, but the handling character makes you wish for more lean angle.

Steering at low speeds is light and precise, and the low center of gravity rewards the use of both brakes. Although the single front disc has good feel and light effort, a second front disc would be welcome.

For comfortable, sporty cruising, and for carrying the Indian torch, the new Scout succeeds. It’s a modern interpretation of the name, a reflection of heritage, not an imitation of outdated technologies. Fit and finish is excellent, and colors include red and black plus matte finishes in smoked black and smoked silver.

Indian has made a big bet with the Scout and worked hard to make a statement at its Sturgis launch. It hired the American Motor Drome Company’s Wall of Death and Charlie Ransom (who looks as though he just stepped out of Ray Bradbury’s Something Wicked This Way Comes) to take a modded version of this bike to the boards. That was seriously impressive. It’s not common for a manufacturer to associate itself with a daredevil sideshow, yet Indian rolled out its Scout in old-school carnival style: scary, dangerous, fantastic, with no hands. And it was real. If this were the only true beginning of this Scout’s history, it’s a damn great start.

As read on: http://www.cycleworld.com/2014/10/30/2015-indian-scout-road-test-cruiser-motorcycle-review-photos-specifications/

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