2018 Indian Scout Bobber Review

Before I ever put the 2018 Scout through its paces I was able to give its stripped-down cousin, the Bobber, what-for.

The two motorcycles are incredibly similar, so rather than totally rehash the whole thing, I’m going to focus solely on what’s different about the Bobber compared to its Scout base model. Hop over and read the Scout review to get a baseline established, then come back here for the breakdown of the Bobber.

All set? Cool, let’s dig into the Bobber.

The Looks

First, the Bobber makes a strong first impression. It’s menacing beauty is industrial and raw. It drips with a mean, blacked-out style and oozes with attitude. The Bobber eschews much of the Scout’s streamlined blend of modern and Art Deco cues for a more contemporary, rugged, and mechanical appearance.

The combination of slammed tracker-style handlebars fitted with bar-end mirrors, dropped rear suspension, chunky tires clawing at the road from beneath chopped fenders, and thick headlight nacelle give it a low muscular stance, and the aggressive look of a predator crouched in wait of prey.

While minimalistic, the attention to detail is thorough. Premium finishes adorn the Bobber in rich blacks and grays. The paint used throughout is mostly matte with a few gloss accents providing contrast. There’s very little bright silver metal or chrome to be found, other than the brake and clutch levers, fork tubes, and machined details on the engine.

Indian’s adherence to the stripped down, garage-built bobber ethos extends to removing items like the chrome ignition and thermostat covers from each side of the engine, leaving the black powder-coated underpinnings and brackets exposed.

It may not seem like much to remove existing components and leave nothing in their place; however, it contributes to the Bobber’s raw aesthetic, and gives one the sense that Indian’s release of this motorcycle may not be as cynical as its trendy name may seem. Perhaps their designers (and marketers) actually understand and take the ethos of garage-built bobbers at least somewhat seriously.

The entire package is tight, with every component hugging the ones next to it or being chopped backed or removed altogether to reveal as much raw mechanical fury as possible.

After taking some time to soak in the aesthetics of the machine and gear up, we were briefed on the route we were taking; roughly 15 miles of North Texas roads, being made up of mostly narrow, twisty, rough, and uneven country backroads with a stretch of highway riding toward the end. The route, while short, would be plenty to put the Bobber through its paces. I fired up the engine and took off behind the Indian rep who was leading the ride.

The Ride

The changes Indian made to the riding position is evident the moment you saddle up.

The bars are lower and the footpegs are closer to the rider than on the standard Scout, making it feel much tighter and more aggressive. My legs were bent at tight angles at the hips and knees, and I was leaned forward somewhat in order to reach the low bars.

The bars are lower and the footpegs are closer to the rider than on the standard Scout, making it feel much tighter and more aggressive. My legs were bent at tight angles at the hips and knees, and I was leaned forward somewhat in order to reach the low bars.

Being hunched over the bike in this manner looks and feels bad ass, and gives a strong sense of connection to the bike. The feedback from the road is unfiltered, presenting a sense of immediacy as you rip the road to shreds.

Weight is shifted forward and more directly over the bike, yielding great leverage over the Bobber, for quick easy steering. The stock seat’s padding was firm, thick, and wrapped in rich leather. The seat locked me in place and further contributed to the feeling of primal connection to the motorcycle below.

The dual rear shocks are bolted to the frame just below the seat, which, despite their scant 2” of travel distance, clearly have a high spring rate, and are remarkably well dampened. They delivered a surprisingly smooth, firm ride. My 250 pound frame was cradled with ease. There was little harshness or bottoming out, even over railroad crossings and larger bumps.

The rear offers preload adjustment. It was fine for my weight at the factory setting, leaving ample room to dial it up for a passenger, heavy luggage, or personal preference. Complementing the rear shocks were premium cartridge forks up front, which, with 4.7” of travel, were the star of the suspension show. They kept the front end in line effectively.

There’s no adjustments available for the front, but I didn’t feel like it was needed. It all added up to a competent and well-sorted suspension package that soaked up the bumps in the road (and if you’re familiar with North Texas roads, this is no small task), and kept everything in place while under rapid acceleration or being pushed hard through corners.

The chassis held up between these suspension components utilizes the engine as a stressed member of the frame, and is light, rigid, and superb in its agility.

That stressed member engine is unchanged from that featured in the Scout. It is the same 69ci (1,133 cc) liquid-cooled v-twin, and it is the star of the show.

The engine exudes the character you’d expect from a modern, liquid-cooled mill with dual overhead cams; which is to say, not very much. It feels refined and very, dare I say it, Japanese. It purrs and hums in a way that belies its true fire-breathing nature.

What it lacks in character, it more than makes up in smooth, linear delivery of its 100 hrsprs and 72 pounds of torque. Responsiveness from the ride by wire throttle was snappy and smooth with no jerkiness, flat spots, or delay between hammering on it with my right hand and the engine’s revs boiling up higher.

This demo Bobber happened to be equipped with Indian’s stage 1 performance kit, which included an altered fuel map. I’d consider this modification a necessity for anyone who wants to make the most of this engine. It improves throttle responsiveness and roll-on power significantly.

This gem of an engine is perfectly matched to a smooth-shifting, well-geared six speed transmission. Clutch pull was light. Upshifts were quick, smooth, and positive feeling. Neutral was also always easy to find, but neutral is only for stopping, and who wants to stop riding a bike this rad?

Downshifts were met with less engine baking than I was expecting, given the size of the engine.

The engine and transmission working in tandem yields a responsive powerplant that is exactly what I look for in a bike. It’s refined, predictable, and workmanlike. I gets the job done and stays out of my way so I can focus on riding.

The raw power the Bobber puts to the pavement needs to be put in check and brought to a stop from time to time, and the Bobber’s brakes handled the job well. Single discs work both the front and back, and are squeezed by calipers fed with braided stainless steel lines, another nod to the premium nature of the bike.

With two fingers covering the lever as I normally would, I found the front brake didn’t quite offer the bite I was looking for. It’s still a cruiser with a long’ish wheelbase, and with so much of my weight being shifted forward, it’s asking a lot from the front brake. The back definitely had more bite. Using both brakes combined with well-timed down shifting made it easy to bring the Bobber to a stop.

All of this adds up to a motorcycle that is lightweight (around 550 lbs. wet), powerful, and agile. It confidently carved through the twists and turns of these country backroads at speeds well in excess of the realm of legality. I had to hold back so as to not overtake the ride leader atop an Indian Chieftain, through both straightaways and turns. The Bobber wants to move, baby.

On the final stretch of the ride, we pulled out from the country roads onto the highway, and turned onto a sweeping on ramp to link up to the stretch of highway that would take us back to the dealership. A quick fistful of throttle rapidly pushed the Bobber above the posted highway speed and to the head of the pack as we returned to the dealership.

The Not so Great Stuff

The Bobber is excellent, highly recommended.

However, it is pockmarked by a few quirks and drawbacks.

While I dug the aggressive riding position for the most part, at 6′ tall, I found it a bit cramped. It wasn’t uncomfortable, but it was awkward at times.

The shift lever seemed to be positioned too high, requiring me to bend my foot at a sharp angle when I needed to downshift. Oddly, the brake pedal was in a more neutral position, so I chocked it up to perhaps needing some adjustments.

It also required more effort from my legs and core to hold the riding position. By the end of the ride, my abs and hip flexors were sore.

The hunched riding position also put a lot of weight on my wrists and forearms. Arm pump would become a concern on longer rides. It also compromises the leverage at the handlebars somewhat. Were it my bike, I’d put some taller risers or bars on it for sure.

At highway speeds, my torso caught a fair bit of wind and became a sail. The Bobber in its stock form is not up for highway touring duty, unless you’re willing to take a beating.

Also, if you plan on taking a passenger, you’ll need a few hundred dollars to add a seat and pegs for your pillion.

Finally, the blocky dual sport tires, while contributing to the Bobber’s bad ass looks, were the worst part of the package. They liked to squirm, especially at low speeds, as their thick off-road tread found every rut, groove, and irregularity in the pavement. This behavior undermined the quality of the ride, and did a disservice to the otherwise taught and agile handling.

The blocky tires did shine through on the stretches of road that were more rough, gravely, and littered with tar snakes. Given that much of DFW is covered in roads that are so awful they’re practically deadly, the tires could be a blessing in disguise.

Final Rating

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Long after riding it, the Bobber, with its raw, menacing aesthetic, is a soul-stirring machine that remains stuck in my head like a catchy song. A part of me will forever want to put one in my garage to make some modifications to it and prove my conclusions about comfort and touring capability wrong.

It’s every bit as good as the base Scout it’s spawned from, and just different enough to justify existing. Though far from perfect, it’s easily one of the best American-made bikes available.

Leave a Reply