Indian Scout joins the Bobber revival
The "bob-job" described a style of custom motorcycle that first appeared in the 1920s, when bikes first began to be stripped of superfluous bodywork, exposing more of their tyre treads for a more minimalist and dynamic appearance.
It's a style that predates the other custom themes that followed, notably the cafe racer that became popular in the 1960s in Europe, and the chopper movement that occurred at the same time on the other side of the Atlantic. Over time, bob-job became bobber, and the tag was first applied to factory-produced machines in 2008, when Harley-Davidson released a new series of Dark Custom models.
Three of those bikes were Bobbers - the short-lived FLSBST Cross Bones with its "springer" front suspension, and two Softail-based Bobs, the Fat and the Street, both of which are still available in showrooms today.
Little did Harley know back then that these models would inspire what is becoming a whole new streetbike niche almost a decade after their debut. For 2017 has seen a host of factory-made bobbers arrive, with new off-the-rack variations on the theme from Moto Guzzi, Triumph, and now, Indian.
At $20,995, the new Scout Bobber will land in similar pricing territory to the Triumph Bonneville Bobber ($20,990) when it arrives in New Zealand showrooms in October, leaving the Moto Guzzi V9 Bobber (currently $13,990) as a more affordable alternative.
Consider the new bobbed Indian middleweight to be the bad-ass sibling of the existing Scout (also $20,995). Its cut-down fenders, lower-profile tyres with knobbled treads, slammed rear end, bar-end mirrors, and blacked-out finishes definitely add street cred. For those seeking a more traditional-looking mid-sized Indian, the existing Scout should retain its appeal with its emphasis on brighter colours and finishes, full fenders, and a more cruiser-like appearance.
Both Scout models share the same 1133cc liquid-cooled dohc V-twin engine, developing 70kW (94bhp) of Harley-humbling power. Different exhaust systems have created a slight variation in the delivery of riding force. Both bikes develop a maximum torque output of 97Nm, but the Bobber delivers this peak 300rpm earlier in the rev range, at 5600rpm instead of 5900. Not that anyone's really going to notice given that Indian's 69 cubic-inch V-twin likes to rev out, the 9000rpm rev range instantly branding it as more of a competitor for Harley's now-defunct V-rod range rather any of the air-cooled products from the Milwaukee motor company.
However, the ratios of the six-speed transmissions will define different riding personas for both Scouts. Although both share a 2.357:1 final drive ratio, the Bobber features lower ratios for every gear, a hint that Indian considers that the target market will be more inclined to ride the bike on urban roads than in the countryside. But don't think that the Bobber will be compromised as an open road cruiser by those lower gears. My slide rule tells me that the engine will be ticking over at a cruise-friendly 3750rpm when the bike is travelling at 100kmh in top gear.
Potentially, the Bobber also has a more comfy riding position than the un-bobbed Scout, judging from the relationship of the handlebar grips to the seat. Although the Scout was my personal 2015 Bike of the Year, one thing that annoyed was the distance of the stock handlebar from the rider. This really stretched out the arm attached to the outside hand-grip when performing a U-turn.
Not that this matters anymore now that Indian's comprehensive personalisation program is up and running. You get whatever handlebars, seats, luggage systems and mufflers you require when you order the bikes. Although the stock Scouts feature solo seats only, pillions can be quickly catered for.
There will be differences felt in the way the two bikes handle due to the subtle changes in rear suspension and front tyre profile. To slam the back end of the Bobber down by 25mm, Indian used shorter shocks for the back end. As a result the 150/80-16 rear tyres adopted by both Scouts have 50mm of travel on the Bobber, and 76mm on the original Scout. This is probably the greatest limitation to the ability of the Bobber version to sustain rider comfort on a long run.
Oddly, this lowered suspension didn't result in a lower seat height for the Bobber. The rider's perch is located 649mm from the ground, compared to 635mm on the Scout.
Up front, the lower profile tyre of the Bobber (130/60-16 versus 130/80-16) should quicken the steering of the bike when compared to the model that provided the platform. However, winding roads could see that slammed back end come back to bite it, as it lowers the maximum lean angle available from the 31 degrees of the non-bob to 29. According to the American journalists who attended the launch of the Scout Bobber in North Carolina, the bike is more biddable than the Scout thanks to the firmer set-up of the suspension. Most also report that it doesn't run out of cornering clearance as readily.
We'll find out when the bike arrives in Spring. The Scout instantly impressed from the time I first rode it on a NZ road, and I can't wait to see if this more muscular looking variant can live up to the Triumph Bonneville Bobber by being an even more intriguing ride than the bike that donated the platform.