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2015 Indian Scout: MD First Ride

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I was sitting in a conference room in Sturgis, South Dakota last year while Greg Brew, chief designer for Indian, was answering questions from a large group of journalists about the first all-new Indian models developed under Polaris Industries ownership of the brand. A somewhat cocky journalist challenged Mr. Brew by asking whether he had ever designed any other products nearly as significant as the new Indian Chiefs. Mr. Brew didn’t skip a beat when he immediately responded that, while at BMW, he was asked to design the first Rolls Royce after BMW acquired that brand.

I will never forget that exchange for a couple of reasons. First of all, that journalist visibly bowed his head and never asked another question that evening. More significantly, I took Mr. Brew’s response as convincing evidence Polaris was taking every step necessary to achieve its stated goal to develop motorcycles worthy of the most premium brand in the motorcycle segment.

As a performance enthusiast, I expressed my initial disappointment that Indian’s first models were heavyweight cruisers, rather than sportier bikes that paid homage to Indian’s racing heritage. In the end, I understood the business reasons Polaris led with the Chief models, and MD found them excellent motorcycles for the category in which they compete.

Nevertheless, I anticipated higher performance models and technical innovation from Indian as it moved forward from the Chief models. As an enthusiast, I wanted “Indian to be Indian” and break away from targeting Harley’s huge market share with bikes designed to out-Harley Harley. I wanted Indian to do more than make a better Harley heavyweight cruiser or a better Sportster.  I wanted a modern, technologically advanced kick-ass Indian.

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The new Indian Scout unveiled on the streets of Sturgis last Saturday evening is a modern, technologically advanced kick-ass Indian. This is no Sportster wannabe. Comparing the performance and handling of the new Scout with any stock Sportster is literally comparing apples to oranges … the bikes are in two different leagues.

Harley-Davidson has been massaging the Sportster motor for decades, and even incorporated many of the high performance tricks learned from Eric Buell. Nevertheless, the stock Scout, with slightly less displacement at 1133 cc, makes factory horsepower numbers dramatically higher than a 1200 cc Sportster can from its air-cooled, two-valve engine.

To a great extent, this is controlled by the laws of physics. The Harley Sportster is simply incapable of revving as high as the Scout. Not even close. Indian claims to get 100 hp at the crank (at 8100 rpm) from this modern, narrow angle (60 degrees) v-twin, together with 72 foot/pounds of torque (at 5,900 rpm). The Sportster, on the other hand, reaches its torque peak at a lowly 3,500 rpm, and dyno charts show horsepower peaks at or below 6,000 rpm. The Scout also has a higher compression ratio, another common benefit of liquid cooling.

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On the road at Sturgis this last weekend, I can tell you that the stock Scout seemed to easily power past most air-cooled, pushrod, two-valve motors it encountered, stock or modified. In short, the average guy at Sturgis had absolutely nothing for the Scout with its fuel injected, DOHC, liquid-cooled, four-valve per cylinder engine. From a performance perspective, it generally felt like the Scout was a modern motorcycle toying with antiques.

But don’t think for a minute that the Scout’s new v-twin is tuned to maximize peak horsepower. I suspect this will be a great “blank canvas” for tuners. This engine is extremely flexible. It pulls as well off idle as any motorcycle I can recall riding … you can simply let the clutch out and pull forward without giving the bike any gas. Throttle response is essentially perfect.  Ride as low in the rev range as you like (and choose from among several gears in most situations).

The amazing thing is that the Scout also likes to rev. The engine pulls smartly from low rpm (even spinning up the rear tire on occasion), but just keeps pulling all the way up to its rev limit (9,000 rpm according to Indian).

The motor is also quite smooth, at least until you get above 6,500 rpm (an educated guess … although the Scout has a digital tachometer that you can scroll to in the small LED window, we did not use this feature) where, despite the existence of a balance shaft, you really start to feel the heavy vibes coming off that narrow angle v-twin. On the other hand, this is the rev range where the Scout really boogies … separating itself from the air-cooled crowd.

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As the day wore on, and the miles piled up, I got used to that high rpm vibration, and even began to enjoy it. It seemed to fit the character of the bike, and was never annoying.

The transmission is quite slick, with no clunk or judder when selecting first gear, and easy, almost sportbike-like snicks between higher gears.

The simple, cable-actuated clutch is not the easiest pull, but in typical Indian fashion appears to be overbuilt, and performed well (and consistently) despite the usual journalist thrashing laid out in those glorious Black Hills.

The short suspension travel, front and rear, is actually dialed in pretty well for most bumps. Even medium pot holes, and some railroad track crossings, will immediately bottom both ends, however, so avoid those or lift your butt off the seat on this bike.

The Scout is extremely nimble. Compared to the typical “cruiser”, it has a normal wheelbase  length and relatively standard steering geometry. Those unique tire sizes (both 16 inchers, with a 130 wide front and a 150 wide rear) seemed to contribute to the light, but stable handling. This bike really inspires confidence.

We had no problems with the braking performance during spirited riding, although don’t expect sportbike levels of bite and power.

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The ergonomics seem to work well for test riders of all sizes (including a 6’2″ journalist I spoke with), although Indian offers optional seats and bars, as well as both shorter and longer reach foot controls, to change reach for both shorter and taller riders.

This is a physically small motorcycle in the sense that an older Triumph Bonneville is physically small. Easy to throw a leg over and lift off its side stand, this only adds to the sense of confidence and control.

The feet-forward foot controls are an easy reach, and offer something closer to a standard position than they initially appear to.  We didn’t find this an issue during performance riding, and it undoubtedly increases the lean angle available during cornering (something Indian boasted about). We never worried about dragging parts.

The somewhat boldly contoured seat was surprisingly supportive and comfortable, although it tends to lock you in position. On longer stints, I found myself occasionally stretching my legs and putting my butt up on the back end of the seat for momentary relief.

Gas mileage among the various journalists I spoke with at the press event varied from roughly 40 mpg to 45 mpg. The 3.3 gallon tank therefore will run dry after approximately 130 to 150 miles. A small warning light on the instrument face comes on with approximately 20 miles left to empty (according to a journalist who ran out of gas during the event).

Those oddly sized tires, as I found out, are branded Indian, but manufactured by Kenda. I was not impressed with grip from the rear, although I suspect Indian was running higher tire pressures than I am used to. We will have to investigate this more when we get a longer term test unit here in Southern California.

So the Scout may be telling us where Indian is headed. Gaining confidence, and market share, Indian is becoming Indian and worrying less about confining itself to the elements typically available on other cruisers. We expect other versions of the Scout to come along, perhaps with different ergonomics and engine tuning. In the meantime, this Scout blurs the lines between cruiser and standard. It offers the kind of performance, styling and value that may substantially build the Indian customer base without having to draw too much from the Harley faithful. We see the Scout purchased by plenty of experienced riders that never considered a cruiser previously, as well as entirely new riders who want performance, light weight, styling and easy handling from a single package.

In our opinion, Indian also nailed the styling on the Scout. It looks industrial and purposeful, yet with a refined elegance that is hard to define. You have to see the bike in person.

Take a look at Indian’s web site for all of the details and specifications. U.S. MSRP is $10,999 for the Thunder Black edition, while the other three colors (Indian Motorcycle Red, Silver Smoke and Thunder Black Smoke) are priced at $11,299. Indian will offer several accessories at launch which are described on the website, including saddlebags, passenger seats and wind screens, among others.

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184 Comments

  1. johnny says:

    Ready to trade my 2001 Fatboy for the Scout. Sick of the solid wheels letting me blow from side to side in a crosswind. Plus, at 63 YO & having owned 33 MC’s (so far) , I test rode the Scout at the Victory/Indian dealer & was instantly impressed by it’s agility, lightness, & power. Just what the doctor ordered.i will be scootin’ around on a wheel that weighs @ 200 less than the fattie…can’t wait & excellent job Polaris !!

  2. RideAlive says:

    It’s good to see Indian back in the game and, through Polaris, will continue it’s comeback by being sensitive to it’s enthusiasts desires. To come back at top tier at a time when money really does talk, Polaris will continue to take it’s share of the market. As for Harley, well, they already monopolize the American market, so it’s up to the competition to motivate them through losses, which has already begun. Credit to HD for playing the game well.

  3. Clearwater says:

    I would love to see one of these with some tasteful pinstriping work. The rear fender especially has a big area of unutilized space that would look better if broken up. That and a better looking exhaust. Overall, I really like it; it is a cruiser I would be proud to own.

  4. Dave L says:

    Good on Polaris (Indian). Harley will not change the product they currently have because sales are really good for them. This is the kind of competition that will improve motorcycles for years to come. Look for new Sportsters when this new Scout starts selling like hotcakes and Sportster sales decline. I like it and applaud Indian for their innovation.

  5. Shavuotis says:

    By the way Stuki. Harley already makes a bike that outperforms their other TC bikes by a long shot. It’s called the Sportster. I ride a 1200 Sportster with my nephew who rides a Fat Boy. It can’t even come close performance wise. Sportster smokes it every time. Bigger motors don’t necessarily mean more useable power.

  6. Shavuotis says:

    HD is by no means incapable of better designs. Just unconcerned about providing them to the public. Fact: All of HD big twin motors suffer from plastic cam chain tensioners which sooner or later will fail and their dealerships are very quiet about it. Fact: The flywheels on their big twins are pressed on and can slip. The crank pin shaft is too thin and can also twist. Harley really should think about discontinuing their TC 103 and think seriously about scaling up their 1200 Evolution engine for those whose hormones tell them they need a bigger motor. The 1200 Evolution motor is definitive proof that HD can do better. They just choose not to with their other bikes.

  7. Shavuotis says:

    I like the new Scout. It shows that Polaris/Indian is not afraid to break new ground. Technology wise, one doesn’t have to try too hard to one up HD on their bikes. With all but their Sportster and V-rod running extremely outdated and poorly engineered motors with issues that should have been fixed a long time ago. The V-rod really doesn’t count as an HD design since Porsche designed it. Don’t think for a minute that HD bikes are “American Made). 80-90% of their components are made in Asia and merely assembled in the USA. To me, the 1200 Sportster is the best bike HD ever put their name on and the only one I would spend my money on. Targeting the V-Rod? Laughable. IMHO Indian is doing a great job out of the gate with their motorcycle designs and showing they can make old school and modern styled bikes that still move forward tech wise. Yes, they are competing with HD as well as all other bike manufacturers. Good Job Indian.

  8. A few weeks back I went to the local (Fort Worth) Indian motorcycle boutique. All I saw were some big-fat old bikes with a lot of chrome and fringe. Not much new there. Thankfully, the new Indian Scout looks like a lot more fun and easier to handle. Congrats Indian for creating a more resonable bike. I am sure there will be more versions of the Scout soon.

  9. Pat says:

    The Scout targeting the VRod? That’s simply ridiculous. This is NOT a VRod competitor. It’s a small bike designed to go after an audience who WANTS a smaller, light weight bike. Not everyone wants or needs a big ass cruiser. That’s why they make Sportsters, the Triumph 865 range of bikes, the Yamaha Bolt, etc… And it’s not just for women either. Stickers on the radiator? Come on, pull them off! I rode the thing in Sturgis, and came away mighty impressed, it’s got it all. And priced right to boot. It’s gonna be like ANY other bike out there, you are drawn to it’s looks, or put off by them.

  10. Don M. says:

    V-Rods are hardly popular, who would target them? Polaris/Indian, is gonna’ eat HD for lunch. And, rightfully so. HD is always so far behind the tech curve.I won’t pay for an image!

  11. Skizick says:

    Just another fat cruiser. Scouts were at home on the track. They raced along side the other flat head bikes of their ilk. This looks like any other gizmo ladened, techno device that the average joe hasn’t got a prayer of taking care of or hopping up in his garage. The Indian Spirit of strip down the Scout and race it seems as far fetched as the new 111 engine with the silly flathead looking fins on top. Are they selling Indians or Images.

    • Scotty says:

      Images of course, and bikes second. The last time Indians were at the cutting edge of racing on the road was before WW1!

      • Stuki Moi says:

        And while being at the cutting edge of roadracing may have had some positive carryover for street riding a bit longer than that, by the late 60s that was over as well.

        While the world may not need “just another fat cruiser”, neither does it need another 200hp rocket with handlebars attached to the front axle and pegs to the top of the rear fender.

        A standard that is lightweight enough to be easy to use around town, yet substantial enough for American highway travel in comfort, with handling and power sufficient to be comfortable and fun at a pace somewhere between holding up traffic and getting it’s rider arrested; may however be just what the world does need…..

        The combination of light weight, feet forward, short travel suspension and my achy lower back does concern me a bit, though…….

        I’d honestly like to see this thing compared side by side with the new 6 speed CB1100. Although very different in execution and lineage, they seem to have arrived at something serving a remarkably similar riding purpose.

  12. Bill L. says:

    The Sportster is one of Harley’s best selling bikes. The V-Rod one of the worst. Where do you think Indian is aiming at? This is clearly Indians Sportster in high tech fashion. I’m glad Indian has stepped out of the air cooled push rod box. I think we’re going to see some very interesting Indians in the future.

  13. boscoe says:

    Styling is a half-beat off. And the stickers on the radiators are ugly and cringe-worthy. At first, I thought they were scratches.
    I agree with JVLIV that this Indian is taking aim at the V-Rod, which is faster and better looking.
    Polaris still hasn’t one-upped Harley.
    I rode the touring rigs and came away disappointed by comparison.
    And for the record, I’m not a H-D cheerleader.
    I’m rooting for Polaris to make a GREAT motorcycle. From what I’ve seen and driven, not there…. yet

    • todd says:

      It could be a toss up. It’s only speculation right now that the V-Rod is faster. I’d say it’ll be close with the Scout taking it off the line (unless first gear is super tall) with the heavier yet slightly more powerful V-Rod catching up and overtaking it around 70mph…

      • Blackcayman says:

        “IF”… they go after the V-Rod, it will be obvious – it isn’t much of a sales target

        the very next post on this site speaks to the fact that the motor has a lot more capability…If this was aimed at thr V-Rod, it would at least match the HP#

        • todd says:

          Adding lightness is more effective. No need to match the power if you are already out-accelerating it…

          • Dave says:

            Why is anyone concerned with high HP on a bike like this? Fast cruisers are as purposeful as fast pickup trucks or SUV’s.

          • Tank says:

            Cruisers are like high heel shoes, they look good but aren’t really made for speed.

          • Jeremy in TX says:

            I’d much rather have a fast pickup than a slow one. But that’s just me.

  14. Johnny Smokestack says:

    This is the kind of engineering you would expect from HD by now. But NOOOOOOO! It is the same marginally performing product, year after year. I hope Polaris sells a ton of these!

  15. Magnus says:

    My only question, will the big chief girder front end bolt right on? A stripped down version of the girder would be awesome. Hey Polaris, please look at the Britten and the old Scout to see if you can merge them to beat KTM, Aprilia, Triumph, Ducati, and BMW with a true American style naked. I love my Moto Guzzi Griso but I would trade it in a second for a sportier Indian with a girder front end.

  16. gary ritts says:

    Harley should file for bankruptcy now before their losses increase, the Scout is a beautiful and functional motorcycle, everything Harley failed to engineer.

    • Stuki Moi says:

      More like didn’t see a reason to build.

      HD dipped their toes in higher performance bikes with the VRod, and was in no uncertain terms told by sales that performance wasn’t what their current and prospective customers with actual dollars wanted to spend it on.

      If Harley built a 11K bike that outperformed their various 30K+ CVO offerings, it would likely be a disaster for their brand and product line. Indian, having everything to gain and nothing to lose, is in a different position.

      I’m no HD fanboi, but the idea that they are somehow incompetent at designing, engineering and building motorcycles is just plain silly. As is the notion that technology is necessarily synonymous with going as fast as possible through a twisty canyon. HD was one of the first to offer ABS brakes on bikes. And FI. And belt drive, which has subsequently been copied all over. And air suspension, which makes a fair amount of sense on touring models facing highly variable rear weight. And air cooling in the age of emissions controls, require the application of more advanced technological knowhow than achieving similar results with liquid cooling. HD is not technological laggards. Just unconcerned about how fast their bikes can be ridden through twisty canyons. For better or for worse. Those claiming otherwise remind me of the legions of drones who just KNOW the ‘Vette engine is somehow technologically inferior to some OHC mill, simply by virtue of being OHV.

      • todd says:

        Let’s see, H-D is not in the business of developing ABS modules. I think one needs to pay Bosch or the likes to come up with a working system for your bikes. You can probably Google who Harley buys their fuel injection unit from. Pretty sure Bates designed their belts. It’s hard, really, to think of anything that Harley has really done in the last 30-odd years.

        • Stuki Moi says:

          And Bosch doon’t build them either. Just slap together some pressure vfalves from one supplier, some chips from another, some sensors from a third and pumps from a yet someone else……

          Pretty much no bike maker has done much over the past thirty years, other than piece together componentry sourced from others.

          It’s the purposing and tweaking of existing components into what we recognize as a motorcycle that constitutes motorcycle engineering. Not harvesting rubber that will eventually be put into the bikes tires.

  17. motowarrior says:

    This bike will be a kick to the stomach of H-D, but it will be an absolute kick to the stones of metric cruisers. I can’t see any reason why Indian won’t sell all they can possibly make.

  18. Don G says:

    I agree with jvliv – the Indian motor does remind me of the V-Rod – a bike that leaves the new Scount behind when it comes to overall looks and design…(in my humble opinion)

  19. paleozed says:

    “To give Harley some credit, this bike and it’s motor seem more like competition for the V-Rod than a Sportster. If I remember correctly, the V-Rod’s engine is about the same size and makes a bit more power.”

    Yeah but the VRod weighs 100 lbs more and has a six inch longer wheelbase.

    • Norm G. says:

      re: “Yeah but the VRod weighs 100 lbs more and has a six inch longer wheelbase…”

      …and is also a premium bike with 2 front discs costing $17 grand.

      guys, where’s your moto-IQ’s…? water cooling does not AUTOMATICALLY a competitor make. that’s the disease of “consumerism” creeping in, so stay vigilant. it should be noted, this “plague” is #2 on the CDC’s top-10 list. what’s #1 you ask…? you guessed it, EBOLA.

      • paleozed says:

        Norm G.—>”water cooling does not AUTOMATICALLY a competitor make”

        That was exactly my point.

  20. Richard C Autorina says:

    The New Indian Scout is a fantastic Bike as well as its bigger siblings the Chief line .
    The rear fender and Front Fender resemble the old scouts and I am not referring the Power Plus 100 Gilroy Indians and Spirit Lake Indians either. I worked for a dealer on Long Island Ny AND i HAD A CHIEF with the Power Plus 100 engine and I loved it. When Indian folded I was heartbroken and traded her in for a Harley. I love the new POLARIS INDIANS and the new Scout blows me away. I am a big guy and one day will own a Chieftain but I have to rave about this new Scout and I am looking forward to seeing Scouts and Chiefs on the roads. I hope people will really love the new Indians, they are works of art and the new
    thunder stroke 111 engine is beautiful. The new Scout Liquid cooled engine looks like a winner to me. I am smitten by the new indians and I hope more and more riders will share my love affair with this brand!

    • Scotty says:

      Joing us John and you will be welcome in the Guzzi Borg :-) There ain’t nothing like them.

    • Jeremy in TX says:

      You’ll man down as soon as you twist the throttle on a V7. What a pathetic joke for a power plant. Completely unworthy of such a beautiful bike.

  21. Stan S says:

    Is this solo only? I don’t see any passenger pegs…

    the Indian site has 1 pic showing a pad on the fender – supported by the fender only?

  22. gaham mccullough says:

    the new scout looks great, and so do the power numbers. I can’t for the demo truck to show up at the local dealer!

  23. Artem says:

    Nice. But there is something strange with rear fender. Sorry, but do not like it. Fat.

    • lynchenstein says:

      Agreed. It’s a little strange in the same way as the Victory wheel-to-fender ratio is a little strange. I’m sure there will be a myriad of custom farkles available any moment though, so…

  24. jvliv says:

    To give Harley some credit, this bike and it’s motor seem more like competition for the V-Rod than a Sportster. If I remember correctly, the V-Rod’s engine is about the same size and makes a bit more power.