When I was initially asked to ride an Indian from LA to Portland I was offered the full on handbag and tassels Indian Chief. Now while that’s a fine motorcycle, (Club Moto London had one on fleet) it’s not really my thing. I look daft enough already so I asked for the stripped down Scout Bobber.
The minimalist look appeals more to me and while I’m still not a fan of the feet-forward, hunched-over, arms stretched-out oo-er missus check out my wallet chain vibe, at least it’s not shouting ‘Look at my tassels!’
With a 1200 mile journey in miserable conditions ahead it was, in retrospect, probably the wrong decision. ‘Shed Editor Rossco had already done a ride report on the little Bobber but naturally I hadn’t read it. Therefore, I approached the bike with with no prejudices but my own.
‘Swinging a leg over’ is the the wrong phrase. More like ‘step over’ and settle down into the small leather saddle. It’s actually a less excruciating riding position than I expected. A light clutch and shift into first. All good. I’m short shifting, using the grunt and swinging through the LA traffic. It’s at home here. Nipping through gaps, squirting away from stop lights. All the weight is low so it’s easy to balance. The forward controls aren’t too far away and add to the easygoing nature.
I’m ready to write this off as a posers bike or a novice friendly first machine. That is until I discover the Indians party trick. I’ve be tickling around. Shifting at three grand and not thought about it. That’s enough to see off most cars. I pull up at a red. Realise I’m on the wrong side of a four lane road to make my turn. Normally not a problem but the car next to me is a fairly rapid looking import with a ‘Deep House’ soundtrack and a driver intent on making the same manoeuvre. Bugger.
Red. Green. Go! I hang on to first. Expect the limiter to cut in. It doesn’t. Clutch-less shift to second at what I’m guessing is near the redline. Bye bye Forza boy! I hang on to the revs through the gears until I’m well into triple figure speeds and the wind-blast is trying to lever my legs apart with invisible birthing stirrups. I’m chuckling away inside my lid. This little machine has hidden talents. I’m pretty sure it would pull a decent wheelie if I could get my weight further back. I’m fairly confident people will buy this bike and trundle around forever on the torque without ever realising there are another 4000 or so rpms to play with. It’s hilarious and addictive once you know it’s there.
Don’t get me wrong. You’re not going to out-drag your dandy mate on his street triple but if he fluffs the launch you’ll give him a fright. There is a problem with this though. Uncle Ben reckons ‘With great power comes great responsibility’ He should have a word with Indian. I reckon with great power you need great brakes and the Bobber doesn’t. In the classic cruiser style, the rear disc is huge and works well but the front is puny, lifeless and the ABS cuts in as the forks run out of travel.
Then you tip into the first bend. Lift your foot to avoid wearing through the heels. Peg goes down. Lean further,the low slung exhaust digs in and levers you upright. Now you’re running wide and hoping you’ve scrubbed enough speed off so you can tip in again.
Admittedly, I ride like a twat. I feel Indian has given me a big shovel but a shorter ladder than needed to climb out of the hole I’ve just dug myself into. Riding in a more sedate manner is less tiring and probably more appropriate and ridden in this fashion I’ve got no complaints.
The speedo is easy to read and scrolling through the small digital screen gives you the info you need but the tiny rev counter is nigh on useless. On the long journey I got used to the saddle and riding position. The short travel suspension pummels my arse over ridges in a manner any public school boy will be familiar with and the short fenders throw road debris over everything including the headlight which means trying to stand on the forward pegs to reach over and wipe the sludge off. It’s surprisingly difficult.
Like trying to give a fat bloke a reach around I imagine. By the time I hand the filthy, road weary Bobber back to Indian I’ve grown rather fond of it. For somebody who has never owned anything but street-fighters and race-reps this is high praise indeed.
If it were mine I’d want Roland Sands long travel rear shocks, re-route the pipes for more lean angle, move the pegs back, fit a second front disc on a decent front end and a set of Renthal bars. Maybe a sissy bar. Just because.
Not a Scout flat tracker, more of a Bobber that can run the twisty bits in style. How about it Indian?