Test ride: 2020 Indian Scout 100th Anniversary

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Indian’s establishment in 1901 technically makes it America’s oldest motorcycle manufacturer, despite a tumultuous on-again, off-again history. Laying claim to that milestone (provisos or not) means it can draw from many years of inspiration.

The recent flat track-inspired FTR1200 mines the maker’s racing heritage, while the Scout Bobber 20 showcases old-school custom style in honour of the Scout’s 100th birthday. The similarly new-for-2020 Indian Scout 100th Anniversary is a period piece that recalls a simpler time when men rode down to the soda pop shop in a tweed suit and a flat cap.

See the specs for the 2020 Indian Scout here

“Sorry love, no room for you on the back. You’ll have to drive yourself to the restaurant.”

The 1,000cc Scout Sixty starts at $10,999. The 1,133cc Base and Bobber can be had for $14,499. The Bobber 20 goes for an extra $500, but opting for the special edition involves a significant jump to $19,499, if you can get your hands on one. There’s no official word on how many will be coming to Canada, but total global production will be limited to only 750 units.

The Bobber 20 is sold in Thunder Black, Sagebrush Smoke and Burnished Metallic, but the 100th Anniversary model is painted solely in Indian Motorcycle Red accented by Anniversary Gold trim. Both get a hovering leather seat and black wire wheels wrapped in Pirelli Night Dragon rubber.

The difference between the Bobber and the Anniversary edition seems to be limited to the special “100” emblems, the luggage rack, beach bars, fenders, exhaust pipe colour and paint. Indian motorcycles are already a pretty rare sight on the road in Canada, but the added exclusivity of the 100 Anniversary comes at a steep cost.

The bike captured a great deal of attention over the course of the week in Los Angeles, with its low, sweeping style. And that’s not an easy city to stand out in.

It doesn’t really look all that comfortable, and trust us, it isn’t.

1920s retro

The standard Scout is the only model for the 2020 model year with a pillion seat capable of carrying a passenger, while the Bobber 20 and 100th Anniversary get a solo seat that looks great but is about as comfortable as it looks. Which is to say, it isn’t. Particularly on longer rides.

Offering little to no cushioning in the seat, thankfully the Scout’s suspension (with non-adjustable 41mm telescopic forks up front and dual coilover shocks in the rear) is smooth and compliant, soaking up bumps, so your spine doesn’t take all of the impact.

The 696mm (27.4-inch) seat height makes it accessible for those short on inseam, or for newer riders looking for something with a low centre of gravity.

The look and feel of the wide backswept chrome bars may hearken back to a bygone era of motorcycling, but they are certainly not well suited to lane filtering in today’s congested Los Angeles. Despite the classic stretched-out riding position, it’s actually a surprisingly agile and easy bike to ride once the road opens up ahead of you. It will let you lean up to 31 degrees until you start scraping pegs in the corners.

New for the 2020s

The entire Scout lineup gets some enhancements for the 2020 model year, including new brake calipers, floating rotors and master cylinders. Indian says these upgrades improve braking over the 2019 models, but it could still use some extra bite. Each engagement of the ABS under heavy stopping could be measured by counting One Mississippis.

There’s 100 horsepower in that V-twin engine, which is 10 times more than the 1920 original.

It isn’t sprightly, tipping the scales at 256 kg (565 lb), but it’s definitely got some get-up-and-go for a heritage-inspired cruiser. The cosmetic updates may be for show, but this isn’t simply a collectible to park in your man cave. You’ll want to spend equal amounts of time looking at it and riding it.

The liquid-cooled 60-degree V-Twin features 1,133cc of displacement, making (appropriately) 100hp at 8,100 rpm and 72 lbs.-ft. of torque at 6,000 rpm. The original Scout, introduced in 1919 for the 1920 model year, was powered by a 600cc 42-degree V-Twin making a paltry 10hp.

I can’t speak of the redline, or where in the powerband the bulk of the power was felt, because there’s no tachometer. Seat-of-the-pants acceleration felt responsive and more than ample off the line through the low- and mid-range up into highway speeds. Clutch feel is light and smooth, while gear changes through the six-speed transmission are deliberate and precise.

Minimalist style

2020 also brings about a number of accessories, including a quick release fairing and saddlebags, a shorty slip-on muffler, and two-into-one full exhaust system. They are said to add 10 per cent more horsepower and a deeper tone.

Information on the analog chrome display is limited to just a speedometer. Below the speedo is a digital gauge reminiscent of a Casio wristwatch from the 1980s, which features a temperature gauge and a gear indicator that aren’t made easy to read. Truthfully it diminished the feeling of quality in a bike that otherwise offers a relatively decent level of fit and finish. I also can’t recall the last time I rode a motorcycle within spitting distance of $20,000 that didn’t offer a fuel gauge.

Yes, that’s the ignition key in the side of the engine beneath the tank. At least the fob won’t scratch the paint.

Given its elementary inspiration, it is fitting that the 100 is free from rider aids and electronics. No cruise control, or traction control, variable timing or ride modes. With an MSRP of almost $20,000, it certainly isn’t the most affordable motorcycle in this category, but it is unique.

If you happen to be in search of a distinctive solo-seat boulevard cruiser with ample performance that’s reminiscent of a bike from the 1920s, combined with more contemporary riding characteristics and reliability, but without all the modern riding modes and techno nannies, then the 100th Anniversary may fit the bill. In fact, it very well may be the only bike that does.

See the specs for the 2020 Indian Scout here

Just in case you forgot when the Scout was first built, Indian’s happy to remind you.

3 COMMENTS

  1. It’d be so easy to have seat suspension, even something like the specialized robaix set up (carbon fibre spring).
    Yamaha 700 tenere for less money and 3x the capability.
    They never made money with victory. If you are in a hole, stop digging.

  2. Way over 20 grand out the door, uncomfortable seat, no tach or fuel gauge. Not for me. I bought a Ducati Scrambler 2 years ago, better form, better function, a real history, much cheaper. Cam

  3. $3500 difference between the sixty and the scout. For that you get 133 cc and 1 extra transmission gear. Then a further $5000 for some trim pieces. Welcome to the Harley school of pricing.

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