Indian Scout 100th Anniversary celebrates a century of riding in style
Indian’s big city cruiser garnered lots of longing looks during our test ride
While Indian motorcycles have been built off and on since 1901, the first Indian Scout rolled off the assembly line in 1920, almost 100 years ago. To celebrate that milestone, Indian has created this stylish street cruiser loaded with retro cues.
The original Scout was produced from 1920 to 1946 and was famously the bike of choice for Kiwi record-setter Burt Munro at Bonneville, as featured in the movie, “The World’s Fastest Indian.” So there’s heritage here in spades. To commemorate it, this new 100th Anniversary model comes with styling features that will take you back to the bike’s beginnings: deep-walled fenders that swallow the spoked wheels and wide Pirelli MT60 RS tires, a perfectly contoured and tapered gas tank, and red paint with gold striping for the retro “Indian” script on the sides. The single leather seat is what’s called a floating saddle, and it carries your keister suspended over the rear fender like a miniature UFO. The handlebars are raised up and swept back in a style known as “beach bars” on the Indian spec sheet.
It all adds up to an appealing visual feast. Indeed, never has a loaner bike garnered so many thumbs up and compliments as this one did in the couple of weeks I had it. At least not anything I’ve ever ridden. Your bike, sure, everyone loves that thing. But everyone also loves the look of this rolling moto fashion statement.
The specs are powerfully Indian, too, with loads of torque riding on a long, comfortable wheelbase. The black-cased, liquid-cooled 60-degree V-Twin makes 100 hp, one for each year of the Scout’s existence. It also makes a healthy and meaty 72 lb-ft of torque at 6,000 rpm, most of which is available right off idle, it seems. With closed-loop fuel injection, there’s never a worry about firing it up and keeping it running. It’s as reliable as any modern car, or at least it was during my tenure with it.
This is a big bike, 91.6 inches long and a handlebar-scrapin’ 40.5 inches wide. That’s 7.5 feet by 3.5 feet. The wheelbase is a leisurely 62 inches. Combined with an appropriately streety rake and trail of 29 degrees and 4.7 inches, and a curb weight of 565 pounds before you fill up the 3.3-gallon gas tank, this is an industrial operation on wheels, albeit a stylish one. The Scout is all about city cruising.
I picked it up way down in Orange County, about an hour’s ride from home. The low seat height of just 27.4 inches is about the lowest you’ll find on a production bike short of a Honda Monkey. It opens the Scout up to all sizes of riders. If you’ve had trouble finding a bike on which you could put your feet on the ground, try a Scout – you’ll fit. Feet ride on pegs way up forward of your sitzplatz. The beach bars reach back to greet you. Twist the key on the side of the engine, touch and release the start button just once to fire the twin, and you’re ready to ride.
The seating position is immediately comfortable, if somewhat slippery. The prodigiously low torque band makes stop-and-go traffic a breeze – just let the clutch out anywhere above idle and roll out. So easy. You’ll never stall. Cruising around Costa Mesa’s afternoon traffic was like riding on Capt. Kirk’s command chair.
Once I hit the freeway, though, the hard leather seat felt downright slippery. Likewise, I found myself gripping the wide handlebar ends like the frog in Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride. With no windshield (two windscreens are options from Indian) the wind blast was constantly trying to slide me off the bike. Luckily, SoCal traffic slowed down once again on the 405. Lane-splitting was just a little more challenging with these wide handlebars, but you can still do it.
Later, just because I could, I rode it up to Newcomb’s Ranch at the top of Angeles Crest Highway. Lean angle on this is officially 31 degrees. After a few turns, I got the hang of not scraping the footpegs, though I occasionally still did. It was not designed to be a sport bike or even a sport tourer, so you have to take turns slowly and at 31 or fewer degrees. Later still, I took it up to the Rock Store in Malibu and found that a couple week’s familiarity didn’t make it lean any better. Which is fine. It’s a fabulous street cruiser, man, not a sporty sport bike.
Would this be better than a Harley-Davidson Softail, Kawasaki Vulcan or Suzuki Boulevard M109R? It may be the most stylish of those, at least in a retro way. And I loved the low-end torque. The 100th Anniversary Scout stickers for $15,999, which is a bit pricey. If it’s out of your range, consider the similarly stylish but far-less-expensive Scout Sixty, which steps down to 78 hp but with a very reasonable sticker price of $8,999.
Happy anniversary, Scout!