Indian came roaring out of the gates with a pretty great, muscular, sport cruiser. I had the opportunity to spend a day with a 2018 Scout and Scout Bobber, and came away with a generally positive perception of both motorcycles.
The Scout ticks a lot of boxes. It’s fairly comfortable and easy to ride, has great performance and handling, and looks great.
The one I rode, as far as I could tell, was bone stock in regards to the seat, controls, and handlebars. I though the ergonomics were pretty spot on. The seat was wide and scooped, kind of like a tractor seat. It positioned me nice and upright and distributed my weight evenly across the seat. It felt great while I was on it, and would probably do well for longer rides.
Handlebar position was just about perfect. Not too high, not too low, not too narrow, or too wide. My hands were placed in a comfortable, relaxed, neutral position, and leverage was good for both low speed maneuvering as well as countersteering at higher speeds.
There’s no wind protection to speak of, and the overall aerodynamics are pretty poor (the bike is essentially a long thin rectangle shape), especially with the upright and feet forward riding position that essentially turns your body into a sail and makes it harder to get into a tuck to better cut through the wind. That could be remedied somewhat by adding a windshield or fairing of some sort.
Performance is also admirable. The Scout’s 69ci (1133cc) liquid-cooled, double-overhead cam engine makes great power (about 65lb-ft of torque and 85hp to the wheel), especially compared to the utterly anemic competitors in its class. The six speed transmission shifts smoothly and is geared well. It handles both short-shifting or being rung out to the top end of its 8300 rpm redline well.
Handling and maneuverability is great, especially for a low-slung cruiser with a fairly long 62″ wheelbase. For reference, that’s about 3″ longer than an Sportster Iron 883.
Despite having fairly short-traveling suspension, especially in the rear, the suspension keeps up with even more aggressive riding on less-than-perfect roads. The suspension components are excellent, and spring rates are totally dialed in, making for a great ride.
The aluminum chassis is tight and light, utilizing the engine as a stressed member. The Scout is nimble and agile on its own merits, and dominates everything else in its class in regards to handling. It goes where you point it without too much effort. Flicking its 550’ish pounds through turns never feels like an unresponsive chore.
Its most limiting factor in regards to handling is ground clearance, which I found myself reaching the limits of quickly and often. The feeler pegs had lost a lot of meat by the time I was done riding it for the day. Good thing this was a demo model.
It’s also an attractive motorcycle, with a great old-meets-new aesthetic that seamlessly mixes the lines, curves, fleet-sided fenders, and other details of Indian Scouts from the 20’s-40’s with a modern cast aluminum frame, a radiator for its liquid-cooled engine, and cast wheels. Paint is immaculate and the color and clear coat are rich and deep. The details are all well sorted out, and the Scout’s good looks make a great first impression.
I have observed several issues with the fit and finish of the bikes, though.
Polaris seems to have a tendency to cut corners when it comes to fasteners and other hardware. I’ve seen brand new Scouts that have never left a showroom floor, as well as models used for the Progressive IMS tour that have only ever sat in a transport truck or at a convention center, with rusting and corroded hardware.
I’ve also been witness to the exhaust and exhaust mounts on a friend’s Scout disintegrate to the point where the exhaust was hanging by a thread and had a quarter-sized rusty hole in the muffler. Fit and finish and quality control issues certainly won’t strike every Scout, but it’s something to be aware of.
In regards to maintenance and modifications, my experience, though limited (so take with a grain of salt), indicates its design is a departure from what one might expect from a traditional cruiser.
Servicing the air filter, for instance, is a much more complicated job than it would be on a traditional cruiser, requiring the removal of the seat and gas tank. Other things, like having shared transmission and engine oil, actually simplify things.
As long as you go into it understanding that the Scout is a more modern design, and seems to have more in common with a modern Japanese or European motorcycle, you’ll be fine.
The Indian Scout delivers with performance, comfort, and style. Some questionable fit and finish issues detract from an otherwise tight package.