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What it's Like to Crash a Motorcycle

“Damn it. John Burns thinks I’m a dick.”
That was one of the predominant thoughts going through my head as I slid down a Florida highway at 60 mph back in March.
It’s weird how the mind works. Time slows in a crash. Every tiny image burns into memory, so your brain can replay it over and over and over at night for the next who knows how many weeks.
In the moments before I crashed, I was riding the Harley-Davidson Street Rod along County Road 34 in central Florida. I’m not sure which county. The accident report simply records it as “County Code 61,” but the internet can’t agree on which county that is. Maybe I was in Indian River County; maybe I was in Suwannee County; maybe I was in Flagler County; I don’t know. I guess it doesn’t matter; I was somewhere. The road passing through that somewhere was long and straight – not the sort of place where one usually crashes – and the weather was perfect.

“My God, I am so happy,” I was thinking. “I am so incredibly lucky to be here – to live t…

What I want: Indian Scout

The new Indian Scout, bedecked with accessories
Ladies and gentlemen, I'd like to introduce you to my next bike. I don't know when it will be available in the United Kingdom, nor how the hell I'm going to pay for it (a), but genuinely: this is the bike I want. This is the bike I need. As I said on Twitter, when I woke up on Sunday to learn of the existence of the new Indian Scout, I felt like Ralphie in A Christmas Story. It's as if Indian pulled this motorcycle from my feverish, wishful mind.

Those of you playing along in the United States will see the Scout arrive in dealerships in time for Christmas, according to Indian. So, you might want to make use of the interim time to ensure you've been extra good this year. And if Santa does roll up at your house with one of these, you will have in your possession a bike that is unquestionably the best in its class.

I say that with a caveat, of course. As of this writing, no actual ride reviews of the bike have hit the web. Expect to see them popping up over the next week or so, including a report from fellow blogateers Tina and Steve. But, based on how well received were the Chief and Chieftain (the former earning Cycle World's Best Cruiser of 2014 accolade), it's a fair guess that this thing will tick a lot of boxes.

In its own promotional material, Indian is pitching the Scout as "mid-size," which, in light of the amazing bike it's produced, is possibly a definition that is too confining. But, as I say, within such a class (mid-size cruiser/standard) it is unquestionably the best.

"I think it's f*ckin' sweet," said Rich Christoph, lead designer on the Scout.

The new Scout has a water-cooled, V-twin engine that houses 69 cubic inches of power -- or 1133 cc for those of us living in NotAmericastan. Keen eyes will note that the numbers "1200" are branded on the Scout's engine cover, which helps you to guess the bike most people see as the Scout's primary target in terms of competition: the Harley-Davidson Sportster 1200.

I'm not sure Indian really sees it that way, though. If it does, it's brought a rocket launcher to a knife fight, because the Scout's water-cooled engine allows it to produce 100 horsepower. Whereas the Sportster's air-cooled V twin produces 67 horsepower. Indeed, using horsepower as a metric, the Scout even outclasses larger bikes. For example, the nearly 1800-cc Victory Judge (rest in peace) produced 95 horsepower.
  • The Scout out muscles the Yamaha XVS1300 (aka Star Stryker) by 28 horsepower.
  • It beats the much larger Kawasaki Vulcan 1700 by 27 horsepower. 
  • It beats the the Suzuki Intruder 1500 by 22 horsepower. 
  • It beats the Triumph Thunderbird by 14 horsepower. 
  • It tops the Honda CB1100 EX by 12 horsepower. 
  • And it even manages to churn out 4 horsepower more than the much-heralded Moto Guzzi California, a model that landed on a number of publications' best-of lists when it was re-launched a few years ago.

Meanwhile, the Scout produces 72 lb. ft. of torque, which is the same as the Sportster. It seems the only place Harley-Davidson has the edge is in price. In the United States, a standard Sportster costs $350 less than a Scout. Here in the UK, the price disparity is greater, with the Harley-Davidson managing to come in at £1,200 less than the Indian (b).

I love the look of the exhaust.

My guess is that the price difference is so much greater in Her Majesty's United Kingdom because our versions will come with anti-lock brakes. Or so it would seem if you look at the specs sheet on Indian's UK site. It lists ABS as standard (c). That makes sense; from 1 January 2016, anti-lock brakes will be required on all new bikes sold in the European Union.

This feature is not standard on the U.S. versions, however. Probably because Indian is keen to compete on price point. To that end, I'm very much looking forward to the ride report from Bryan Harley of Motorcycle USA, who told me on Twitter (d) that he would find out whether ABS will be offered as an option. I hope it will be. In everything else, I feel Indian has produced a bike that easily vindicates the steeper price tag. It is faster, it is lighter and, in my opinion, it is better looking.

Six speed, belt-driven, and offering an upright riding position on par with the Sportster, Bonneville or XV950, the Scout weighs in just shy of 550 lbs. No, that's not exactly scooter territory but it's still lighter than any comparable bike I can find. And it's just so much better than those bikes. I really can see this being the bike I've hoped for, especially when bedecked in the accessories you see in the picture at the very top of this post. I mean, can we just take a moment to appreciate how cool that bike looks? Click on that picture for a better view.

I think it's the woollen blanket that serves as the cherry on top for me. It's like when Lucky went into full geek mode for a Ural that was sold with a Pendleton blanket. Except, in this case Indian don't sell blankets (maybe it's a Fairbault Woolen Mill blanket), and the bike isn't woefully outdated.

I imagine those bags would look pretty cool after being distressed by British weather.

Not too long ago, I was lamenting the divide between my desire for a bike that I think looks cool and my desire for a bike that can function according to my existing environment and needs. On the face of it, the Scout (with accessories) is the bike to bridge that divide. The bike that can take me to Scotland and Ireland, etc., and the bike I want to be seen on.

I have already e-mailed the folks at Blade Motorcycles in Swindon to ask that they get in touch as soon as they know of the Scout's arrival in Blighty. I am desperate to test ride the thing and thereafter (most likely) hand over all my money to them. Though, there are a few things that I'll be paying particular attention to on that test ride:

Firstly, are those rear shocks sufficient? The same sort of question applies to the Scout's 3.3-gallon fuel tank: is the fuel consumption stingy enough to milk, say, 180 miles from a fill-up? And lastly, is that single front brake enough? It seems to me that 100 horsepower is a lot of "go" which really should have the additional "whoa" of two discs up front. 

Nothing, it seems, is perfect. The Scout, however, feels pretty close. I can't wait to learn more about its ride and performance in the coming weeks, and can't wait to test the bike for myself. Hopefully, in the not too distant future, I will be the proud owner of one. I certainly like the idea of such a thing: of being one of the first to take part in this reinvigoration of history.

The more I look at it, the more I love it.

____________________

(a) The longer it takes for the former to occur the more it will aid the latter, giving me time to save money.

(b) Typically, the numbers for dollars and pounds match up. That is to say, if something costs $100 in the United States it will cost £100 in the United Kingdom. That's somewhat unfair to us because the pound is actually worth more than the dollar. So, that $100 item is costing us $160. 

(c) I have a rumbling fear of this being a mistake. It seems to me the standard equipment blurb was cut and paste from that of the Chief Classic, because it also lists as standard a light bar and keyless start -- two things the Scout most obviously does not have.  

(d) Humblebrag

Comments

  1. This bike has been on my radar for a while and I was itching for the reveal to finally happen. Unfortunately the lack of ABS is a total deal breaker. I can't believe that it isn't even offered as optional equipment like H-D. While some people may complain about ABS, my kids and wife don't. We see ABS as an insurance policy, there for the time it saves your life. Twenty five years filled with practiced panic stops is no substitute for a computer. Sorry.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I totally agree with you, John. Lack of ABS is a deal breaker for me, too. Thankfully we will be getting it here in Europe. To that end, I have to think Indian will offer it as an option in the United States. I think they've not said anything about it straight away because they are hoping journalists will stick to the "affordable" talking points. I'd not be surprised, though, to see it offered once the bikes start coming to dealers in November.

      In the meantime, make sure Indian hears your voice. Tweet them, etc., and let them know this is an important feature for you.

      Delete
    2. They have my business. After I read the announcement yesterday I tore open a jar and stuff money in it. Come hell or high water I'm gonna be riding this out of the dealership in March! (Indian Motorcycle Red, of course!)

      Delete
  2. Understanding that ABS is important to many people, I've never owned a bike that had them. My Honda ST is the non-ABS version, and yet it stops pretty darn well without them. And in my 29 years of motorcycling I'm not sure any of my crashes would have been avoided by them. Certainly ABS will give you more control in panic stops, but I'm just saying an awful lot of great motorcycling fun is being passed by because of one sticking point. But I tend to think that you're right, Indian will add the option in due time.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I really like the Scout and I hope that you're right about the ABS option later in the year. I'm not an engineer but I can't help think what polaris is capable of doing with a liquid cooled big V-twin. The freedom 106 is a great engine. I've seen a few tuned ones that deliver massive power, but as we all know more power is more heat and liquid cooling is more efficient. They can claim 100 HP and 72 ft-lbs of twist with 1133cc Just the thought of "what if" makes me all giddy inside.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I count myself among the eager yet waiting customers. Lack of ABS in the US is a deal breaker for me. The statistics are just too overwhelming for me to ignore such an important safety feature. What's most frustrating is that the Scout HAS an option for ABS and it's being installed in the US factory right alongside the domestic bikes yet Indian doesn't offer a paid-upgrade for US customers to get one of these ABS equipped bikes. Instead these wonderful ABS models are crated up and shipped oversees. Until the ABS option comes to the US, I'll continue to ride my current bike and hope Indian comes to their senses.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I feel your pain. I'd be very frustrated if I were in the States and eager to buy a Scout. Though, it's my understanding that Indian are struggling to keep up with demand at the moment, so perhaps they just don't feel there's an incentive to add the feature. Hopefully things will change soon. I mean, Harley-Davidson offers ABS on everything but its Street models. Indian really should be able to compete on this one.

      Delete

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