Conquering the Urban Frontier
The Indian brand has been in my bloodline for almost as long as the original was in business. Grandpa rode Indians, as did biker patriot Uncle Johnnie, who had the dubious honor of crashing a 1938 Indian Four. It sat literally in baskets, moldering in a New York City basement for decades before he decided to clean out cupboards and donated it to me some 2,500 miles away, but that’s another story. Motorcycle gods blasphemy aside, the wooden bins of what looked like nothing but centuries-old grime and grit-encrusted, disembodied parts looked grim. But there was priceless gold in that dirt, even if it needed some creative coaxing, sacrifice and bags of money.
Fast forward a pile of years and the relaunched marque is rolling out clean and quick bikes worthy of the venerable heritage and the brave and sometimes a bit touched OGs who huffed and chuffed along city and country lane on the way to adventure and parts unknown. The new 999cc (60 cubic inches), 5-speed, belt final drive Scout Sixty lives up to it’s name. It’s the kind of bike you want to reconnoitre new territories, or at least new burger joints and shake stands.
Quick, agile, and possessing a power curve that seamlessly gallops out a claimed 78 horses, the Bobber is a workhorse of the urban frontier. The claimed 65 ft. lbs. of torque (at 5800 rpm) offers the kind of off-the-line grunt that makes motorcyclists smile. It also comes in handy for roll-on passing power or accelerating from onramps. A two-piston front disk and single-piston rear disk reel in the Scout with aplomb. ABS is an option.
The Scout Sixty can also handle itself on the open range, or if you prefer, the interstate. The liquid-cooled, 60-degree, fuel-injected V-Twin rolls up and onward of highway speeds effortlessly, consuming miles like a fat guy at a hotdog eating contest. Of course, the minimalist bobber profile is better suited to cafe racing or other city escapades.
The “everything you need and nothing you don’t” school of biking used to translate to a frame; a brake, perhaps two if you’re fancy; no front fender, unsupported rear fender; a seat the size of a shop rag, a fast motor of questionable lineage and not much more. Unlike true bobbers, however, the Scout Sixty offers some creature comforts and modern tech, including a rear fender that is strong and strutted, capable of carrying an optional seat and optional passenger, and maybe a saddlebag full of wieners. The bobbed front and rear fenders, integrated (brake, signal, taillight) rear LED turn signals and side mounted license plate add to the sinister and shaved look, even if I did keep bashing my knee into the thankfully foldable plate.
The bike’s seat lies at an earth-hugging 26.1-inches above the tarmac, aiding that low center of gravity formula so important to balance and general profile coolness. The puffy seat looks pretty cushy, and for a while it is, but it’s narrow profile is felt fairly quickly in places I would rather not mention. Then again, it is not a touring saddle, and herein lies the inherent quality of bobbers- they are minimalist machines, espousing a kind of no-nonsense, ride hard mantra. Leave the rest of the extraneous bits and pieces at home, or with your momma because they are not needed by big boys and girls.
Bobbers are not cluttered with chrome or windshields or passenger pillions or pegs. There is no sissy bar and if the owner is a real purist, no speedometer, mirrors, front fender or turn signals. Saves weight, looks cool. But factories tend to be more law abiding than grizzled old bikers the likes of me, or crazy new ones. Besides, the DOT doesn’t have much of a sense or humor, or style for that matter. Perhaps in a small gesture to original bobbers, Indian did not include a steering lock, or any place to put a lock except running a chain, bar-lock or cable through the beefy, 16-inch, five-spoke, blacked-out cast wheels. I don’t recall ever getting on a bike that had no lock or any place in or around the steering neck to put a lock, except maybe a couple of homemade choppers too badass to be bothered. I found this quite unsettling.
As for instrumentation, the Scout Sixty has a tricky bit here. The lone pod has a clever switch that toggles to more information than I learned in college. Engine speed (rpm), trip mileage, mileage mileage (odometer), coolant temperature, gear indicator, battery voltage, time-of-day clock, possibly hazard flashers and, of course, speed. Forgive me if I’m forgetting something, my analog bike just indicates speed, and not very well at that, based on the number of mistaken tickets I have allegedly received.
Took a while to figure out how to reset the clock, just in case you ever want to ride off to a new time zone. Ok, I didn’t actually figure it out, I looked it up, in the owner’s manual. Who ever thought about reading those? Anyway, all this data hurts my head and is rather un-bobber like, in the primitive sense of the word. But that is the point, this is a modern bobber, chockablock with power and the brakes to control it; dependable and factory built. The old school bobbers, since they were, well, old and often cobbled together, were not known for great reliability, or any reliability. Electrical failure, engine problems and leaky cases were a real part of their charm.
The Sixty’s ergonomics can be described as a kind of cruiser-forward. Rider pegs have been moved back 1.5 inches compared to the bigger Scout and there is a lean into the handlebar. I guess one might call this a bobber-aggressive position, making it slightly easier to get up on the pegs when going over bumps, dips or potholes, but otherwise feeling a bit awkward. Certainly, any rider over 5’7” is not going to find the leg/knee position too comfortable for too long. Between the seat, handlebar reach and foot peg position, this is not a long-haul machine, although it has the drivetrain to carry you anywhere.
Most classic bobbers were mainly in the range of 350cc to 750cc, although there were always exceptions. Not so long ago, breaching the 1000cc barrier was officially running with the big dogs. Nowadays, it’s considered a fairly mid-size bike. Perhaps the single cubic centimeter under 1000 paid homage to that age, but regardless, it is still plenty of motor to get you to the next coffee shop, or next state with alacrity.
With a 3.3 gallon tank and roughly 40 mpg, range hits around 120 miles before running on fumes, depending how hard you twist the throttle and whether those miles are in town or out. Relatively light at 528 dry lbs. with a 5.1-inch ground clearance and front pegs that fold up with contact, the Sixty can corner aggressively in spite of it’s not particularly spry fatso 130/90-16 front tire up and 150/90-16 rear. The raised script Indian logo on the Kenda rubber is a nice touch. The collapsable rider pegs are a good feature that helps prevent nasty low sides, but my big black boots frequently knocked them up as I returned my leg after a stop. This could obviously be my personal clumsiness, or the pegs could be a bit stiffer.
After living with the beast for about a month, getting in plenty of stick time, I must admit, I don’t like a lot of bells and whistles, and too many creature comforts. They corrupt the purity of riding. Biking should not be too cozy; it should be challenging, an immersion into all our senses. This bike took me there. This is pure motorcycling.
My only remaining question: Can I keep it?
The Scout Bobber Sixty comes in Thunder Black ($8,999, non-ABS); Thunder Black $9,799, ABS); and Thunder Black Smoke ($10,229, ABS).
Check out the Scout line and full slate of Indian models here-
J. Joshua Placa
*Photos by J. Joshua Placa