First ride: Indian Scout Sixty review

Here’s an old news story for you: Indian are back

IN FACT they have been back for a few years now but you might have missed that fact. Since the brand’s recent rebirth at the hands of manufacturing giant Polaris, Indian now have seven models in their line-up and the Scout Sixty is the latest offering.

You might have heard of the Scout, either the iconic 1920s model that your grandad’s mum probably used for the school run or the more recent, 2015 model. Either way, it’s an iconic name in motorcycling lore.

The Scout Sixty shares a great deal with its elder sibling, the Scout. However, the Sixty is ‘just’ 999cc, as opposed to the 1,133cc of the Scout - they use the same block but the Sixty’s bore is smaller. In the parallel universe of cruising, at 999cc, it’s a baby. It makes a sniff under 80bhp and 65lb/ft of torque and in this parallel universe, that’s OK with me.

While the frame, suspension and engine block are the same, the Sixty only has a five-speed box as opposed to the six-speed on the Scout. At 246kg it’s light, for a cruiser but one of the Sixty’s real appeals is its seat height, which at 643mm is practically on the floor. The Sixty’s low stance is aided by the wheels, which are 16-inches front and rear.

The Sixty stops via the single twin-piston brake caliper and 298mm disc and a not-to-be-sniffed-at braided steel brake line. ABS comes as standard.

When comparing the Scout and Scout Sixty side by side, the Sixty features less chrome, it’s more - as the Yanks like to say - blacked out. It’s aiming for a younger generation both in terms of its engine capacity and styling.

Firing it up, I expected the Sixty to clatter away and do its ‘authentic American iron and grit’ bit but perhaps I’ve been too conditioned by the ‘other’ American cruiser brand to expect the bike to crab its way across the car park while sat in neutral on its sidestand.

Mild-mannered and I didn’t expect that. Despite Indian laying on a decent amount of ‘iron and grit’ heritage nonsense in the pre-ride press conference, I expected to feel the engineered-in engine vibrations and carefully tuned ‘clunk’ into first gear.

Far from it. The 999cc twin sits obediently in neutral humming along, barely making a fuss and when I select first gear, the absence of neutral light on the dash is the first sign it’s gone in. There’s no clunk or clatter. Dare I say it, it’s very Japanese.

That’s no bad thing, although die-hard cruiser fans might relate the word Japanese to characterless but equally you could relate it to the words competent, well-engineered, precise.

The fuelling on the Sixty is immaculate - it's one of the best-fuelled, best-behaving engines I’ve ever ridden. Sure, it doesn’t have a LOAD of grunt, but there’s plenty on tap and it’s eager to spin up, a lot more eager than you’d think any cruiser would be. It’s almost impossible to make the motor struggle. Load it up in fifth at 40mph and it doesn’t shake itself to bits and at 90mph it feels fairly happy too.

Third, fourth and fifth gears feel very close and one of the great features of a majority of cruisers I’ve ridden is the final clunk into an over-drive top gear, a gear that feels like you’ve gone from fourth to seventh. I know the Sixty is ‘only’ a baby but the motor is so good, I can’t see it having problems pulling a taller top gear to make the revs drop right down. Winding along at 50mph and a handful of revs is one of the ways any cruiser justifies its existence and it’s sadly lacking on the Sixty.

Although 90mph on a cruiser feels perverse in many ways. Not only are you now the sail on a 90mph boat but the ‘wind in your hair’ feeling quickly gives way to a ‘stuck in a wind tunnel’ feeling, at anything over 70mph.

While the seat is thicker than a bowl of oatmeal, it’s not as comfortable as it looks. Perhaps it’s full of the iron and grit that Indian kept mentioning in the press conference but truth be told, there’s 50 to 60 miles in that seat before I wanted off.

The riding position doesn’t help here either, as my arse felt lower than my knees, especially when we started to get a decent lick on. I guess I’m just used to the arse-up, wrists down nature of sportsbikes. However the suspension at the rear felt overly firm and can only be adjusted for preload. I will mention that at 65kg, I probably need a few more fry-ups to get the twin rear shocks to get into the spirit of things. As it was, it felt like my lower back did most of the shock-absorption.

For a cruiser that, thanks to its low seat height feels 5 times as long as it is high, it’s not too bad in the bends. In fact it’s a bit of a giggle but that giggle comes with one caveat. The Indian-branded Kenda K673 tyres are a bit vague and that’s being generous.

I didn’t have any moments but at healthy levels of lean, I never quite trusted the front. Now, I know, we’re not looking to break any lap records but I certainly wouldn’t want to break any bones and ride on a tyre with any LESS grip. Fine for pottering around on but you’re a braver man than I am if you want to keep up with your mates on ‘not cruiser’ motorcycles in the twisties. Which in a way is a shame because the bike will do it, 16-inch rims and all.

Grip the tank with your knees and use the wide bars to your advantage and you can get the Sixty to flick from side to side underneath you with ease. And I mean underneath you. It feels like you pass the bike back and forth using your knees and little else.

The footpegs go down with ease and a tyre offering more confidence at lean would see you get the exhaust down on the right hand side, so perhaps grippier tyres ought to stay on the shelf after all.

Riding the Sixty with the Remus aftermarket exhausts offered up a bit more bark for a bit more buck and gave the ride a little more feedback. In fact the exhaust offered a tempting glimpse into what this bike could be.

If you’re anything like me, you’ll probably appreciate a few more cubic-inches between your legs and that extra gear, in which case, walk past the Scout Sixty and head for the Scout.

Straight from the showroom, it’s a handsome motorcycle but contrary to the marketing hype, it’s a little bland for my liking. What it’s crying out for are a few tweaks to unleash the noise and get heads turning. The Scout Sixty makes for a great platform to sprinkle in a little of your own character but above all else, it’s a good excuse to head outside and while away a few hours in the saddle.

Model tested: Indian Scout Sixty

Price: £8,999

Engine: 999cc Liquid-cooled V-twin

Power: 78hp at 6,500rpm

Torque: 65lbft at 5,800rpm

Kerb weight: 247kg

Suspension: 120mm travel front fork, 78mm travel twin rear shocks, preload adjustable

Brakes: Twin-piston, single front caliper, 298mm disc

Tyres: Kenda K673

Seat height: 643mm

Fuel capacity: 12.5 litres

Colours: Black/Red/White

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