On a hot and sweaty July night in downtown Minneapolis, America’s oldest motorcycle manufacturer pulled the wraps off a low slung, blacked out affair. They told us it was mean, badass and stripped down. They told us it was refined from hundreds of drawings. And that it would expand the appeal of the Indian brand a step or two away from traditional buyers, and lure a younger demographic. They also told us the bike would be called the Scout Bobber.
I feel for the group of minds that signed off the Bobber name. No matter how clear the design, or how capable the bike, they must have known that tagging it a ‘Bobber’ was going to generate a backlash. After all, a bobber is by definition a custom bike.
Or maybe not. Sales of Triumph’s solo-seated iteration certainly aren’t suffering—and Hinckley flat out scripted ‘bobber’ on it. And as for ‘scrambler’…well, that’s a best-selling lifestyle brand now.
If you followed our coverage of Indian’s Project Scout competition, the design of this factory bobber may look familar. There is a strong resemblance to the custom Scout Sixty by Tank Machine of Paris. And from where I’m standing, keys in hand, that’s not a bad thing at all.
This newest Scout has a decidedly muscular stance to it. The lack of chrome is a welcome change in my eyes and, thanks to a shorter pair of shocks in the rear, the Bobber seriously hugs the ground.
Up front, a nacelle surrounds the round headlight, and there are bar-end mirrors mounted to the flat-track style handlebars. It wears the requisite chopped fenders (which undoubtedly convinced the committee of its new moniker) and is delivered with a two-tone leather solo seat which we’ll discuss again later.
Aside from the suspension changes, the differences between the Bobber and the regular Scout are purely cosmetic. This isn’t a bad thing: the Scout chassis is seriously well sorted, so the Bobber is underpinned by a solid riding platform. It doesn’t jiggle like Jell-O when pushed and provides more rider feedback than most cruisers on market. And the engine packs the sort of punch that will have you pushing, all the damn time.
I spent a few days touring through Baja on the standard Scout earlier this year, and was surprised at how willing a dance partner it could be in the peninsula’s twisties.
The wide, blocky Kenda K761 tires on the Bobber are another new addition. They may not be the best choice on a wet day, but the only moisture on our 93-degree ride was running down the arms of my jacket and pooling amongst unmentionables in my leather pants.
The new shoes convey the right attitude for the bike when standing still, and will happily leave their mark whenever you feel like lighting the wick off the hop—thanks to 73 pound-feet of torque from the 1,133 cc V-Twin.
Once in the saddle, the bend in my knee tells me that the controls aren’t as far forward as those on the Scout I took south of the border. In fact, they sit 1.5-inches closer to mid-placement, which is a good thing—because the stretch to the wider, flatter bars is increased a touch.
It creates an aggressive rider triangle that is best suited to bar-hopping and short blasts around town. Which is exactly where you’ll be riding it most of the time.
Any plans for touring on the Bobber will be quickly stymied by those ergos, and the shape of the stock seat. It locks you into position and doesn’t yield any real room for adjustment. There were points in the ride where you could see almost everyone in the group plant their ankles onto the pegs to relieve some cramping, but even that didn’t save my arse and spine.
Riders have previously lamented the Scout’s 3.3 gallon tank, but Bobber buyers might be wondering if they can swap the tank for something even smaller. Thankfully there is an option: a Springer-style seat (below) that’s a touch flatter and wider. I didn’t call dibs quick enough on the press bike fitted with that seat, so I gave up—and gave in to the fact I’d be sore on the flight home.
The new suspension set-up has also all but eliminated travel in the rear. With a scant two inches to play with out back—unburdened, I might add—the Bobber isn’t the happiest on unsettled pavement. And yet it didn’t bottom out once, even with this 200-pounder on board.
A trip back and forth across some railway tracks during a photo stop did have me hoping they’d nail the shot quickly, though. Up front it’s a different story as the new cartridge type forks provided a much firmer and controlled approach, even under heavy braking, despite their 4.7-inches of travel.
On silky smooth pavement, you can grip it and rip it and the Bobber rewards. The lowered stance and firmer ride is communicative and steady. The engine pulls like a freight train through what I can only guess was the entire rev range. A tach can be toggled for on the speedo’s digital display but I wasn’t bothered to look down. Once outside Minneapolis’ grid pattern my eyes were locked on linking lines though the land o’ lakes rural outskirts.
Pushing it through some sweepers, the 29 degrees of lean angle continuously announced itself, via scraping metal and a show of sparks. If you’re wondering, that translates to 60 mph for on-ramps, 30 mph runs through roundabouts, and a grin about 4-inches wide.
It was the grin that remained when I turned back to look at the beast. My knees were sore, my back was aching and my ass kept me standing for the rest of the night. But it didn’t really matter.
Is the Bobber a perfect bike? Far from it, Few that I’ve ridden are. I’ve turned my own Thruxton into a torture rack and I love that thing. Plus most of this Scout’s shortfalls can be easily fixed, thanks to that solid foundation you can build on.
We’ve been told that Roland Sands has partnered up with skateboarding icon Steve Caballero to flex some muscle on the Bobber, and based on RSD’s previous Indian offerings, it should be something dope. So watch this space to see if perfection can be achieved.
The Scout Bobber will be available at dealers in the U.S. and Canada starting in September. Five colors will be available, including Thunder Black, Star Silver Smoke, Bronze Smoke, Indian Motorcycle Red, and a Thunder Black Smoke option with ABS. Prices will start from $11,499 to $12,499.
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