2018 Indian Scout Bobber

First Ride Review

When Indian launched the Scout for 2015, it was only a matter of time before spin-off models followed. Just a year after introducing the big, air-cooled Thunder Stroke 111 V-twin and the three-model Chief lineup, the reinvigorated Indian Motorcycle brand—given a new lease on life by deep-pocketed Polaris Industries—rolled out a second all-new engine and motorcycle platform. Powering the midsize Scout cruiser was a liquid-cooled, 1,133cc (69ci) 60-degree V-twin with DOHC and 4 valves per cylinder that made a claimed 100 horsepower and 72 lb-ft of torque.

First came the Scout Sixty, a smaller-displacement (999cc/61 ci), lower-priced model introduced last year that’s aimed at entry-level and/or budget-conscious riders. A higher performance model called the Octane, which shared a striking resemblance and 35 percent of its parts with the Scout, was introduced by Indian’s sister brand Victory, but its run was cut short when Polaris shuttered Victory Motorcycles last January, shifting those resources over to rapidly-growing Indian.

Although some folks have been clamoring for a high-piped tracker version of the Scout to celebrate Indian’s success in American Flat Track racing, that isn’t to be (for now). Instead, during the X Games in Polaris’ hometown of Minneapolis, where Indian’s Wrecking Crew of Jared Mees, Brad Baker and Bryan Smith finished 2nd, 3rd and 6th, respectively, in flat track racing, Indian unveiled the new Scout Bobber.

Inspired by motorcycles stripped-down and hot-rodded by young veterans after World War II, the Scout Bobber takes a dark, less-is-more approach to styling. There’s less chrome and fewer shiny bits, the fenders have been clipped and the riding position is more aggressive, with a longer reach to the tracker-style handlebar but a shorter reach to footpegs and controls that have been moved 1.5 inches back. An inch of travel has been taken out of the lay-down rear shocks (down to 2 inches), but seat height is actually a bit taller (25.6 inches) because the new, two-tone leather seat is thicker. The non-adjustable fork offers the same 4.7 inches of travel, but it now has a cartridge design for better compliance.

To set it apart from the standard Scout and give it an appropriately urban vibe, the Bobber’s exhaust, frame, handlebars, mirrors, cast aluminum wheels, primary and clutch covers, headlight nacelle and single-gauge instrument are all blacked out, the chunky tires have a semi-knobby tread pattern and the rear end has been cleaned up with a pair of LED stop/turn/tail lights and a side-mount license plate.

On a hot, bright, humid morning after the Scout Bobber was unveiled at the Indian Hometown Throwdown Powered by Maxim, a big warehouse party packed wall to wall with motorcyclists, young X Games fans and “influencers,” we gathered in a gritty parking lot full of Bobbers in various colors and degrees of accessory adornment. For the base price of $11,499, the Bobber comes in glossy Thunder Black. For another $500, its available in glossy Indian Motorcycle Red, matte Star Silver Smoke or matte Bronze Smoke, all three of which have a cool black fade on the side of the 3.3-gallon steel tank. For $12,499, the Bobber comes with ABS in matte Thunder Black Smoke only. Giving the Bobber a distinctive look is an Indian Scout logo in block-style lettering on the tank. Bobber-specific accessories include a springer-style saddle, apehanger handlebars, a passenger seat and pegs, a solo rack bag for the rear fender, a solo saddlebag and spoked wheels. Most other Scout accessories will fit the Bobber, including Extended Reach foot controls (but not Reduced Reach).

Settling into the Bobber’s seat, my first adjustment was to the bar-end mirrors, which knocked into my knees in the below-the-grips position that looks so cool in photos. Using the hex wrench under the quick-release seat (which doesn’t lock, by the way), it’s easy to unscrew both mirrors, swap them left and right, and put them in the above-the-grips position. Being 6 feet tall with a 34-inch inseam, my primary issue with the Bobber is the same one I have with the standard Scout: it’s too compact for my rangy frame. With the pegs moved back and the handlebar moved forward, I’m more stretched out up top and more cramped down below. It’s fine for a short ride, but after about 30 minutes my back and shoulders needed a break and the small kick-up on the back of the seat had done a number on my tailbone. Such is the price we pay for style.

Knocking around the streets of downtown Minneapolis on the Scout Bobber is fun, but there are are limits. Boot heels and peg feelers drag in all but the most gentle of corners, the single front disc with 2-piston caliper doesn’t offer much power or feedback, and the short-travel rear shocks bottom easily when riding over beat-up pavement, offsetting the better compliance of the new cartridge fork. But with such a lively, responsive engine, easy-shifting 6-speed gearbox and modest curb weight (554 pounds, claimed), those limits don’t feel all that limiting. This is a cruiser-based bobber, after all.

Out in the countryside is where the Bobber impressed me most. Despite its urban styling, the Bobber is better suited for the smooth pavement, gentle curves and rolling farmland outside of Minneapolis. Its V-twin makes plenty of power and torque with a responsive connection between the right grip and the rear wheel, but sound and feel—like the standard Scout—are too muted, especially for a bike with such rough-n-tumble curb appeal. A few test bikes were fitted with the accessory Performance Air Intake and Stage 1 exhaust, which add a bit more bark and bite.

Given the popularity of bobbers, café racers and scramblers these days, Indian’s new Scout Bobber will no doubt sell like ice cream on a hot summer’s day. (And I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see café racer and scrambler versions of the Scout in the lineup soon.) My issues with comfort will be of little concern to those who place a higher priority on style, but the good news is that those concerns can be addressed with accessories. How will it fare against the Triumph Bonneville Bobber? We’ll have to do a comparison test to find out