Photography: Asad Ali
Text & tester: Syed Shiraz
I have never been a fan of trophy bikes — you know, the ones you would keep in your drawing room, only to spit and shine occasionally, with your shiny leather jacket and matching open face helmet placed carefully alongside in full view, and reminisce the rides that you could have taken while you were still young but couldn’t because, deep down, you always preferred power steering and air-conditioning to counter steering and, er, conditioning by the elements… But you still got to display your love for two wheels, right? Hence that bike in that aforementioned space, which should have been occupied by a piece of furniture. Ideally.
Well, that’s the picture I get when I hear that someone somewhere has a bike in their living room, especially when their last name is not Agostini, Spencer, Hailwood, Munro, etc… I also believe that the odo reading of such bikes would be less than 100 miles, and I can almost bet that the mph figure achieved in that span would be even lesser. Anyway, the point is — unless you have achieved something really great on that motorcycle, you have no right to park it anywhere inside your home but the garage. And no, a stationary burnout; lidless wheelie; Ladakh trip with your buddies; a long ride with your girlfriend (unless she is Amber Heard), etc., don’t classify as ‘great’.
However, such prerequisites become immediately redundant when the bike in question is this — the Indian Scout. A bike so beautiful that I wonder if anyone in their correct frame of mind would want to park it anywhere but in their living room? No, make it the bedroom. I mean, just look at it — don’t you just want to keep staring at it until it files for sexual harassment? I don’t know about you, but to me it seems like this piece of art can turn complete teetotalers into severe alcoholics; atheists into believers, and most probably, car guys into bike aficionados…
And I am not the only one who thinks this way; ALL (and I really mean ‘all’ with absolutely no exceptions) the people I met, whilst I had the Scout with me, had a similar opinion. In fact, let me also tell you here that Delhi’s four- and six-wheeler traffic is not very accommodating of bikes and bikers, but, despite that, it miraculously stood still while I went from the bicycle lane (don’t ask me what I was doing there…) to the right-most lane before requesting them, by a hand gesture, to allow me to cross, perpendicularly all the way!
If you’ve ever gone on a wildlife safari and witnessed an exquisite wild animal crossing your path, while those green Maruti Suzuki Gypsys and Eicher Canters stop in awe — that’s the scene I am talking about. Only this once, you are on the other side; the rest of the world playing paparazzi from a distance… So yes, it wasn’t civility at its best by Delhi traffic; they were just gobsmacked by the low slung beauty or perhaps quite intrigued on seeing a Stig-like creature on it…
But real bikers would want to know more about how she goes and stops, than how she looks. Okay then, so how does 140 km/h in third gear sound to you? With three cogs still remaining? That’s fast, by any standard. Of course, it won’t rival a superbike by attaining another 140 in the next three gears, but it certainly has the ability to transport you from point A to point B, C, or Z in a fairly quick manner.
That 1,133 cc motor is a rev-hungry unit, unlike most cruisers and the smallest in the Indian Motorcycle’s Indian lineup. I touched 180 km/h on the speedo and it had felt that the needle could do the full swipe to 200 km/h, if it’s an ego tussle you wish to engage in with the wind blast. At the same time, like most cruisers, you can trundle around at 60 km/h in top gear at around 2,300 revolutions of the crank. Best of both worlds? You bet! Here, if I have to really nit pick, I would say the Scout is quite quiet for an American cruiser. But that’s nothing that a Stage 1 exhaust can’t take care of, while also liberating a few more ponies…
The Scout’s six-speed gearbox is the slickest I have sampled yet on a cruiser and, together with the not-so-hard clutch lever, it makes city commutes a cinch. But the heat from the engine, despite liquid-cooling, does not. The Scout heats a lot in traffic and I don’t know if that is because of the high (for a cruiser) compression ratio (10.7:1) or because of it being a new unit (less than 800 km on the odo) and still getting thrashed at the hands of auto hacks, but the heat was a problem in our test unit. That’s surprising actually, because its bigger brethren, the Indian Chiefs, despite being air- and oil-cooled, maintain a much cooler temperament, no matter what you throw at them.
This motorcycle comes with a single pod instrument cluster that houses the speedometer and tell-tale lights, and also a rectangular black & white screen that shows which gear you’re in, and the rpm. Or you can toggle and set it to display the odometer or trip readings, etc. It’s all good, but the absence of a fuel gauge is sorely missed. All manufacturers need to understand that the low-fuel warning light is really not dependable, and they must provide a fuel gauge, analogue or digital — it’s their choice, but it has to be there. That being said, I see an analogue fuel gauge in the accessories section, but again, it needs to come as standard equipment.
But all is forgiven once you swing a leg over the incredibly low (635 mm) and inviting tan leather saddle. A seat height of just 25 inches meant that even someone as vertically challenged as me could plant both feet firmly on the ground. A comfortable reach to the handlebar had initially fooled me into thinking that the foot controls would also be somewhere nearby… But they were in a different timezone altogether — perfect for anyone over 5’6″ I reckon, but difficult for anyone shorter. But fret not if you are someone who is not blessed with a good inseam. Indian Motorcycles has been extremely thoughtful of us midgets, and will provide the Scout with the handlebar and foot controls set within a closer reach for shorter riders. That translates into a rideable motorcycle for anyone between 4’5″-6’5″! I wonder if there is any bike on the planet that can claim to be so accommodating.
And this is a lithe motorcycle folks. Okay, it still weighs 253 kg with a full tank of petrol but even then it is the lightest motorcycle in the segment. That, coupled with the low seat height, makes parking lot maneuvers (read ‘pushing the bike back with your legs while seated’) a doodle. And you would be doing a lot of that, unless your driveway immediately leads on to Highway 401, thanks to the Scout’s turning radius which is as good as the Jawas’ of yore… But you definitely won’t be bothered because you just won’t feel the weight of the motorcycle even in the tightest of them alleys. This weightlessness at slow speeds is an almost magical feat achieved by the Indian Motorcycles R&D team. Without boring you with physics, let me just tell you that employing a light two-piece chassis, and placing the engine as a stressed member quite low down between those two pieces, has helped.
Therefore, while on one hand, the heaviest (and most beautiful too) part of the bike keeps the center of gravity where it should be ideally — in the center and as low as possible — that makes the bike as planted in a straight line as an extremist’s belief in his religion, the light chassis and taut suspension, on the other, allow it to change directions quicker than a young BPO employee switches companies.
Of course, the reassuring stability of the Scout is also aided by the fantastic grip (in dry; couldn’t check the same in wet) offered by the fat Kenda tyres — 130/90-16 and 150/80-16 at the front and rear, respectively — but everyone knows that even the best gripping rubber is of no use if the chassis is unwilling to play ball. So, full marks to Indian for the sublime chassis, and weight distribution!
Again, the bike is phenomenally composed on straights as well as in corners and, talking about the latter, let me bring your attention to one more thing — the lean angle. It’s not for nothing that Indian proudly mentions a 31-degree lean angle (for perspective, its immediate rival, the H-D Forty-Eight Sportster offers 27.8 degrees at max.) in the Scout’s specs sheet; it’s like a subtle official teaser on the lines of “it will lean, but do you have the, er, heart?” Well, the pictures, above and below, should hammer the point home.
This is one cruiser that you can take to the hills; scrape off the foot-pegs’ rubber on your way up, and grind them further on your way down to gradually add more millimeters to the lean clearance…
And don’t panic if you see a Tom or Dick (pun intended) suddenly becoming stationary in your path while you are way above the legal speed limit. Straighten the bike up (if leaning) and drop the anchors as hard as you can; two same size (298 mm) rotors, one at each end, plus ABS will save the day. The brakes, though lacking in feel like most cruisers, do the job well. Still, we suggest you ride within the speed limit, and find alternate solutions to address our population woes…
Thanks to ABS, I was able to save a canine, the bike, and myself too. You may check the unplanned video above this statement. If you face any issues, directly view it at YouTube.
Now, I am sure when I had mentioned ‘taut suspension’ and fantastic handling earlier, most would have thought that the ride quality would have suffered, right? Wrong! The Scout dismisses most imperfections of the road without tossing itself or the rider. Of course, you will be aware at all times of what is going on underneath the Kendas, but it won’t ever be enough to hurt your wrists, bums, and spine, unless you’re a complete buffoon and gun it through a real bad patch. Take it slow when the surface gets rough, and you shall have no complaints with the suspension tune. Heck, even the ground clearance of the Scout, at 135 mm, is pretty neat for what is such a low-slung cruiser. You’d appreciate that figure even more upon learning that the Harley 48, on which you sit higher (710 mm seat height), offers only 100 mm of ground clearance!
Coming down to the fuel efficiency, I must say that I had high expectations from the Scout. I mean, if the big burly 1,811 cc Chief could yield 15 km/l within city and an astounding 21 km/l on long hauls (a 1,500 km trip qualifies as a long one, no?), the smaller and lighter sibling should have bettered these numbers.
Well, I am happy to report that it did. I could not test the highway numbers as the test bike was made available for a short span, but getting 17.54 km/l in chaotic city traffic was a delight in itself! I can vouch that this figure will only get better for customers who won’t be ‘testing’ a new bike like we do. Expect 18-20 km/l in city then, and add another five for your highway rides. So, a tankful (12.5 liter) should see you riding for around 300 km or more before needing a refill.
At the outset, the Scout, at 11.99 lakh (ex-showroom) is around three lakh rupees dearer than the 1,200 cc H-D 48. That would simply compel the prospective buyer to go cartwheeling to a Harley showroom. But, if he pauses for a moment and looks around, he would find that the Indian produces 100 bhp (with stock exhaust system) as compared to the 68 bhp of the Harley. For most buyers, the battle might end there.
The others would further compare and find out that the Scout’s 97.7 Nm torque is also better than the rival’s 96 Nm. They would also notice the 9,000 rpm redline of the Scout, and also the extra cog in its precise gearbox; better ground and cornering clearance; lower seat height; extended/reduced reach ‘bar and controls; fantastic handling; much better fuel-efficiency (Harley claims 16.47 in combined city/highway cycle for the 48, and I extracted more than that within city confines, and that too from a bike that perhaps was not in the best shape…), and that mesmerizing styling.
The Harley is more vocal, the Indian has more substance. Case closed!