Indian Motorcycles stole the show at Sturgis during the first few days of this year’s rally — introducing the reborn bike maker’s first true urban cruiser and (more importantly) a genuine entry level motorcycle to get riders into the brand sooner.
During a special weekend event attended by Indian enthusiasts Mark Wahlberg and American Pickers star Mike Wolfe, the Polaris owned builder unveiled the Indian Scout — the modern day return of a bike out of commission since 1949.
A popular antique collector’s bike, ye olde Scout was an early classic — an early sport bike that would help to lay down the blueprint for the prototype sportsters. The new Scout steps away from its more primitive routes with a 100 horsepower, liquid cooled engine and electronic fuel injection.
While its external styling is modernized with modern technology and federal riding requirements, there are some nods to the classic Scout. That wide leather seat wears the same natural color scheme. The front and rear fenders keep it retro, while the wide front headlight would fit on a bike from any bygone era.
The new Scout is also much easier to ride than its ancient predecessors. The transmission is smooth, and the interlaced torque high enough to forgive a missed gear change. The balance is spot on and the maneuverability easy.
The ergonomics are adequate for cruising and urban use, but not ideal for long hauls or touring rides. The leg forward position causes occasional cramping. Of course, this rider is 6’3” and 250 lb. on a good day, and this bike is a little small for a rider of that proper stature.
That bulk might explain why the bike felt occasionally underpowered on includes during my ride through the Black Hills surrounding Sturgis. I had to downshift and open that throttle full along some of the combs coming in and out of Deadwood. The experience only further served to confirm the view that this is really a bike for urban cruising. Its speed is more than spot on in those circumstances.
Since Indian Motorcycles returned to the market, the Minnesota-based company focused on big, luxuriously decked out touring bikes — personal statements meant to be rolling works of art as much as means of transport. They’re largely staying true to that market after also introducing the new Roadmaster at Sturgis this year.
As a result of committing to larger motorcycles, the Indian brand stood mainly as a niche or boutique builder — aiming their expensive machines to a small clique of older, well-heeled riders looking for maximum comfort while showing off a more unique aesthetic than the more common and often less striking Harley-Davidson.
The Scout is a massively important introduction for Indian because it’s a grab for the lower end of the consumer market. With a starting price of $10,999, a new economic class of riders — and, more importantly, younger riders who might stick with cheaper sport bikes if they couldn’t see a bike they could afford in the Indian line.
We’ll be watching how the Scout fares in the modern market — and whether Indian is inspired to introduce an even more affordable entry-level bike in the future.