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Indian Scout 90 - 1st 500 Miles


At the beginning of August I went to Robinson’s in Canterbury to look at new Moto Guzzis.  After being less than impressed I was invited to take an Indian Scout 60 out for a test ride and on the strength of this short ride decided that this was the bike for me.
For various reasons I ordered a Burgundy Scout 60 with Krusher pipes from Krazy Horse in Welling and, apart from joining the club I Also signed up to the IndianMotorcycles.Net forum which appears to be the largest and most active online forum for Indian riders.  While it is American in origin and emphasis, its scope is broad enough to be of use to any Indian rider and it has specific forums for various models both vintage and Polaris.  The Scout 60 forum was unsurprisingly very positive about the bike but posts did identify various issues.  These included soft suspension, most particularly the rear shocks but front forks too, poor quality OEM (Kenda) tyres under performing in wet weather, poor headlight, seat comfort and difficulty starting the bike after the low fuel light has come on (there’s no reserve tank).
I bought my bike at the beginning of August and took it back to Krazy Horse for its 500 mile service at the beginning of October having ridden at a little under 50 miles a week in fairly cautious style during the running in period.  The weather over this period was mild and dry for the time of year though I had been caught out in a couple of heavy showers.  I have yet to ride the bike at night.
The foremost impression this bike seems to make is on those who see and hear it.  Far more people than I imagined were able to correctly identify the bike and were aware of Indian motorcycles in general.  I have been left on my own in a pub twice while staff and customers went outside to admire it.  No-one mistook it for a Harley as I’d been told they would and, most gratifying of all, I’ve had nothing but positive and appreciative comments from Harley riders themselves.  To some degree I guess this may be because there are still only a few Scouts about yet, at least down here in Maidstone but with Robinson’s at Canterbury and Krazy Horse in Welling I’d expect to see a few more locally as time goes on.
Another early effect of the bike I’ve noticed is the change in my riding style, with the low seat and feet forward position this was only to be expected of course but it has to be experienced to appreciate the laid back attitude that this encourages.  This in turn has caused me to leave the sensible riding gear at home in favour of a cut-off denim jacket, t-shirt open face lid and shades.  While I may or may not be suffering from some Easy Rider fantasy this demonstrates that Polaris’ marketing has pitched the Scouts as much on lifestyle and cool as the heritage and history of the marque, perhaps hoping to hoover up disgruntled Harley riders and Hipsters (whatever they are).  There is undeniably a theatrical aspect to biking recognised as much by car drivers as bikers themselves and I’ve noticed that my new bike, look and riding style have gained me more deference and consideration from car drivers than ever before and that can’t be a bad thing.
How much I will ride as winter comes on I don’t know, previous bikes have been required for commuting to work as well as pleasure and left at home only in the very worst weather.  I don’t work anymore so fun is the primary reason for my returning to biking though it’s unlikely that I will leave the bike stored over the winter, not least because I don’t have a garage and moving the bike indoors wouldn’t be easy.  I also now wash and clean the bike every week, something I never bothered with before.
The bike is excellent for riding around town in busy traffic, it has a narrow profile and the acceleration is superb for quick bursts of overtaking in heavy traffic.  The front and rear single discs are more than adequate though the rear one squeaks a bit, something else identified in the forums.  The gearbox/clutch is better than most I’ve had with gear changing being slick but positive and neutral easy to find.  There’s enough torque for those occasions when I’ve found myself in the wrong gear.  Years ago I did a stint as a dispatch rider and developed a necessarily aggressive filtering style and I’m pleased to find the Scout is good for this and the loud pipes let dozy or texting car drivers know I’m around.  The riding position with feet forward is particularly good for winding country roads though I still find myself wondering about the ground clearance on tight bends.  I haven’t grounded the pegs yet but my boots have caught the road surface a couple of times when cornering.  On motorways and dual carriageways speed is no longer a big issue as the style of the bike has modified my need for speed.  It will get up to 85 mph and stay there easily enough.  The acceleration which seems to be available in all gears enabled me to sneak up on a couple of Harleys, wave hello and leave them way behind on a little pleasure jaunt up the M20 about a month ago.  What to do when the wind gets up is something I still haven’t resolved since until I approached the 500 mile mark I’ve kept off motorways.  My last bikes were sports tourers (a Triumph Sprint and Honda VFR) and it’s natural to lean forward along the tank at high speeds on these kinds of bikes but leaning forward into the wind feels rather strange on the Scout.

Indian Scout 90 Indian Scout 90

Generally the Scout handles about as well as I expected, not great but better than some bikes I’ve had which brings me to the complaints expressed on the forum.  It’s true that the suspension is too soft though I believe the comments were about the 2016 Scout and the publicity from Polaris says that this issue was addressed and the suspension firmed up for 2017.  I also assume that the rear shocks were on the standard factory setting and probably need adjusting for me.  I have been caught out on the bike in the rain and did have a nasty rear wobble on my test ride at Krazy Horse but I think the complaints about the Kenda tyres are exaggerated and perhaps come from people whose expectations are too high.  The seat does take some getting used to, feeling impressively padded to begin with but less comfortable as time goes on and rides get longer but again I’ve had other bikes whose seats were less than comfy.  The headlight is also poor and will probably need to be on full beam all the time when riding in poor visibility or at night.  The issue of starting the bike after the fuel level has passed minimum just seems to be a question of priming the fuel pump and the procedure for this is detailed in the owners handbook.  I make a point of avoiding riding on reserve and head for the nearest petrol station as soon as the light comes on.  While petrol consumption has varied quite a lot till now I seem to get about 100 miles between fill-ups of between 8 and 9 litres, not very impressive.
In the past I’ve found that when buying a new bike it’s easy to be overly impressed and to overlook any niggles or shortcomings and despite the good points the Scout has a few of the these.  Particularly irritating given the price of the bike are the examples of gratuitous corner cutting most evident in the omission of the cable cover from the Scout 60.  To add insult to injury this item is ludicrously priced as an extra.  Apart from the comfort issue the seat is poorly constructed on the Scout 60 and the stitching makes it look cheap.  The bigger Scout apparently has a leather seat so perhaps more effort has been put into its construction.  The space under the seat for the fuses, battery and access to coolant is ridiculously cramped.  While the solo seat design is partly the reason for this there is a feeling of good design principles not being applied in this and other aspects of the Scout.  For a bike which is clearly being marketed with quality in mind there is too much corner cutting on items such as the horn, steering lock, grips and indicators.  There are issues of poor design such as the rear view mirrors, particularly affecting the left one which barely gives a useful view.  While these niggles are not uncommon on any make of bike the notion of designing the Scout and Scout 60 to be modern and retro at the same time was quite a feat and largely a success but it should have been an opportunity to re-examine the smaller and more prosaic aspects of bike design, not just those things that are characteristically Indian since a reputation for quality often goes hand in hand with attention to detail and in this Polaris either haven’t bothered or have failed. 
I realise that part of the cruiser ethos is to encourage customisation by an endless supply of overpriced add-ons, supposedly allowing the rider to make their bike unique but in some instances being required to bring the bike up to an acceptable standard of quality.  Knowing this in advance and having bought into it perhaps I shouldn’t complain but there is a difference between custom add-ons and parts that should have been standard kit and of acceptable quality.  At the Bobber launch at Krazy Horse I was pleased to see and speak to a couple of Scout riders who had customized their bikes not with ‘original’ and ‘authorised’ kit but parts that had been adapted or made by the riders themselves.
It’s been five years since I had a bike and for all its shortcomings, so galling because it’s only a whisker away from being as good as the brochures say, I can’t stop riding this one.  Am I now a loyal customer?  Not yet..

Bob Smith Bob Smith



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