After a few thousand miles of seat time in the Indian Scout Bobber, it’s painfully clear that the design brief was to make it as stylish as possible. Even if that meant a major ergonomic and comfort cost to the rider. Meanwhile, it’s low and mean to look at, and has the ability to turn a goober like me into a hardened biker type.
It’s got a sweetheart of an engine and delightful handling, but its stiff rear suspension and forward control ergos mean its more at home on short city street jaunts than cruising the highways. Even with a decently padded saddle, I found rides longer than 20 minutes to be downright painful.
(Full Disclosure: Indian loaned me this Scout Bobber for several months and a few thousand miles of riding. I delivered it back to them in the same shape I received it, minus a few scrapes on the footpegs.)
What Is It?
The Scout nameplate was revived by Polaris-owned Indian in 2015 as a mid-sized cruiser. The Bobber model was first shown last year as a 2019 model. It takes the flash of the Scout and replaces it with some styling cues common in the custom bike world.
With a 69-cubic inch liquid-cooled DOHC V-twin claiming 100 horsepower and 72 lb-ft of torque, it’s got plenty of go-fast to match the hard style. Max torque is available at 3,300 RPM, but continues to rev well beyond that if you desire it to. There’s a six-speed gearbox behind the motor and it helps prioritize that grunt. I spent most of my riding time in the lower revs, just kind of loping along. It’s good at that.
The engine is a stressed member of the chassis, which helps provide the lengthy 62-inch wheelbase plenty of stiffness.
The front and rear wheel guards are chopped down (or “bobbed”), the mirrors are moved to the bar ends, the seat is low, the handlebars are low, and the license plate holder is moved to the left side. The only chrome you’ll find on this bike are the brake and clutch levers, with everything else painted matte or blacked out. It also sits far lower than a standard Scout, with about a third of the rear suspension travel removed entirely.
They really nailed that stance.
Don’t Try This At Home
I will begin by saying that I have strayed far beyond the intended use case of the Indian Scout Bobber. I picked up the bike in Orange County, California and rode it all the way back home in Reno, Nevada; just over 500 miles in one sitting. That’s not a fun ride on anything without a fairing, but when the rear suspension transfers every highway expansion joint directly into your upright tailbone for about 10 hours, it can get... uncomfortable.
But, I relish a challenge. When my time with the Scout ended, an Indian representative asked if I would prefer they send someone to pick up the bike, but even knowing how painful it would be, I still chose to ride the Bobber 500 miles back to the company’s west coast office. As disagreeable as I found the riding position, the bike was still so good that I wanted to spend more time with it before giving it back.
Thankfully the fuel tank is small, because by the time my 120ish miles of range was spent, so was my body. Stopping every 60 miles gets old when you’re riding all day, but staying in the saddle for 120 miles simply wasn’t possible.
Maybe it’s a bit of the midwest sensibilities that are still with me after living in Michigan for most of my life. I’ve always found joy in doing things that are unnecessarily difficult. I’m the kid who wore cargo shorts in January, like a prick. I raced a Crown Victoria. My idea of a good project car is stripped of its air conditioning and comforts and slammed on stiff springs. Things that normal people find intolerable strike my fancy.
Who Buys This?
What is the Scout Bobber good for, then? It’s absolutely perfect for a 20-minute jaunt out for a coffee. Or an adrenaline rush. And it’s even better at looking badass sitting there with the chunky back tire to the curb. If you can grab a sidewalk table to admire this bike’s hard-edged goodness from behind your perfectly styled latte, all the better.
That paragraph may sound sarcastic, but I have no qualms admitting how easy it was for me to make the transition to stereotypical bullshit biker coffee bar hipster. This bike begs to be seen, and it makes you look cool riding it, which so many people want from a bike.
In all seriousness, I frequently found myself making up excuses to take the Bobber for quick trips to the post office or the grocery store to pick up some odd or end. The nearest good riding roads are about 20 minutes away, so I’d ride to the base of one of them, hop off for a stretch at a coffee stop or fuel station for a minute, then run up and back before another stop to stretch.
Now that I’ve gotten across the point that this is not a cushy ride, let’s dig into some other the details. I had plenty of opportunities to explore pretty much every way to use this bike and learned a lot about it and myself in the process.
The engine and I quickly became best friends, as it supported me with a nice and easy powerband that was just full of torque. It’s nice not having to rev a motor out, and instead to just float on a pillow of torque away from a stoplight or effortlessly initiate a pass on a slow-moving car. This motor isn’t too lumpy at low speeds, or too loud at idle. But it does get a bit buzzy on the highway, and after a few hours, my fingers began to numb from the vibration.
It took a few minutes to get used to the forward-control footpegs, but it’s not a bad way to ride once you’re accustomed. The handlebars are in a great place to encourage a forward cant ride position. Arms and legs stretched out in front of you, it feels a bit like you’re hurtling broadside into the wind. I experienced quite a bit of wind fatigue on this bike, particularly in my cold-weather gear. But when there are zero aero fairings, that’s to be expected.
At about 550 pounds dry, this bike isn’t a lightweight, but it’s geometrically shaped in such a way that it still feels somewhat nimble. Find a fun road and give it the beans, you’ll probably be able to keep up with more polished corner-carving machines. The big chunky balloony tires with oversized sidewalls and large tread blocks not only look the business on this bike, but they provide a surprising level of grip and help contribute to the Bobber’s excellent traction. There isn’t much lean over angle available before the wide pegs scrape the ground, but there is enough to make it a sporting jaunt.
If you’re looking for a bike with amenities, look elsewhere. The Scout Bobber brings a rarely paralleled minimalism in the modern world of bikes. You’ve got a single gauge on the handlebars to indicate speed, gear position, time—which was always wrong and I never bothered to figure out how to reset—and mileage.
There are little LED lights to indicate turn signals, neutral, ABS engagement, and a low fuel light. On the side of the instrument is a USB plug you can use to charge your tech. No fuel gauge, and no tach: two things which would have been incredibly useful.
This bike is so bare-bones that everything Indian didn’t ditch has to be good. The fit and finish are pretty solid in this arena. It’s stylistically bold and exciting. My wife liked how this bike looks too, and she’s not usually one to be impressed with hardware like this. It’s tough and approachable at the same time with a nice departure from the chrome and rumble of traditional V-twin life.
The Scout Bobber is unabashedly Hollywood cool. Like, I could see the less-bad Affleck riding one of these around town for the paps to help boost his image. But in a good way?
The switchgear is very easy to memorize because it’s so minimalist, so you don’t have to look down all the time to figure out where the turn signal or horn is. Once you’re running, everything can be done with your left thumb.
The LED lighting means you’re visible.
For what you get here, I think the price tag isn’t too bad. The Scout Bobber starts a bit less than the standard full-fat Scout at $10,999. If you want ABS, tack on $900. If you want matte black, bronze, white, or blue paint for your tank and fenders, pony another $500.
The biggest problem that I have with this bike isn’t the bike itself, it’s that Indian offers the standard model FTR1200 for just a thousand dollars more. I know it’s a completely different class of bike, but if it were my money that’s how I’d spend it. Equally cool to look at, but ergonomically and dynamically better to ride.
Another problem here was my rider comfort. The chassis is so good that I really wanted to explore what it was capable of on some really good roads, but I continually rode past them sticking to the quicker and more direct route because I couldn’t bear adding more miles to the ride.
The bar-end mirrors made lane splitting in SoCal traffic a little more of a chore, but they are actually perfectly functional around town, so I won’t knock points off for them. At highway speeds the mirrors vibrated about as much as my hands did, making an over-the-shoulder check just that little bit more necessary.
The license plate on the side though, while cool-looking, railed my shins about a dozen times.
I’d normally call the 120 miles of fuel range a negative, but as I said before, I was more than ready to hop out of the saddle when the fuel light illuminated.
I know that I’m probably the only one to ever have requested this, but on those two 500 mile rides cruise control would have been nice.
Inexplicably I found myself falling in love with this bike like I had Stockholm Syndrome or something. Or maybe I just like being punched in the perineum. Don’t judge me, I’m working through some things here, man.
The Scout Bobber is just so fucking cool that I wanted to be on it. Maybe subconsciously I wanted to be seen riding this bike. I wanted people to know I was cool by association. Is this what being a poseur feels like? If so, mad respect to poseurs for putting up with this level of pain in the ass to be perceived as cool.
If you’re a city-dwelling hipster with a sub-20-minute commute and prioritize looking cool over your own comfort, this bike is perfect for you. After a few weeks of riding this thing, I think I’ve figured out who I am, because I could totally live with that compromise.
But as they say, beauty is pain.
Having said all of that, Cycle World once called the Scout Bobber “reasonably comfortable” so maybe I’m just the wrong guy for the shape of this bike? I’m 6'2" with a 32" inseam, and I sit behind a desk writing about cars and bikes for a living, so I’m not exactly a picture of fitness. If you love the bike, give it a test ride. Maybe it’ll fit you like an old glove.