It is dark, chilly, and quiet on the outskirts of Las Vegas at 4 a.m. The lights of the Strip twinkle in the distance. I rub my eyes and dream of that steaming cup of coffee waiting for me at the rendezvous point.
I reach for the sky and stretch my arms, shoulders, and back — then settle back into the leather seat and pull my helmet visor down. I am about to start a dawn-to-dusk day of riding on board the Indian Scout Bobber in the deserts of Nevada, and it will not be a leisurely ride.
This whole week is a dedicated media content shoot on a tight schedule that includes freeway stints, curving canyon roads, dirt roads, multiple laps up and down the congested Las Vegas Boulevard, tight formation riding with other riders, and a whole lot of U-turns and quick maneuvers, all in the pursuit of getting “the perfect shot.” Shoots like these create an intimacy with a bike that is unlike any other experience. I need to get acquainted fast with what this Scout can and cannot do, and prepare for an extensive amount of time riding and sometimes just idling in the saddle.
Hundreds of miles and several tanks of gas later, here it is, my “One tank of gas” review of the 2021 Indian Scout Bobber.
As a fully fledged sport bike rider, you'd think I would know a thing or two about uncomfortable riding positions. That’s why when I was told I’d be riding some cruisers for the week in our pre-production meetings, I leaned back in the chair, feet on the desk, grinning. Cruisers are comfortable right? It’s like the whole point of the motorcycle. Let’s just say I was in for a rude surprise.
Particularly for a short rider (five feet, four inches tall here) it seems there are some unique pains that come with the stretched-out ergonomics of the Scout Bobber with the forward controls. To be fair, I have experienced identical pains on the 2020 Harley-Davidson Sportster and 2021 Sportster S with forward controls, as well.
My legs strained to reach the forward controls, which created a pulled hamstring effect just a few miles in, especially on the left leg, which has the burden of shifting gears. At the end of each day a deep muscle-torn sensation plagued my left leg, accompanied by a sore bottom from a seat that is comfortable for about half a day, but not a full one. Then there is of course the downside of the forward controls that all riders will experience, which is every bump on the road sends a shock straight up your spine.
My upper body fared only slightly better. It turns out there is a long reach to the handlebar for my short stature and I experienced an aching between my shoulder blades that felt similar to the pain after a long day on my sport bikes at home.
All of this creates a conundrum. With a seat height of 27.4 inches, the Scout is very approachable for any rider who wants to be able to get both feet flat on the ground. That’s one reason many shorter riders, including many women, choose a cruiser. But it’s a shame that the actual riding position, for a rider of my height, is at odds with that perceived ease of use.
I guess you could say that sacrifice in comfort is all in the name of style. Truth be told, there is something about the stance of the Scout that excites me. It could be that old-school bobber look, the aggressive tread on the tires, or the vintage military spec vibe of the Alumina Jade Smoke colorway and brown leather seats. I’m also a fan of the bold exhaust pipes — not too fat but long, more like the barrel of a rifle. They just perfectly accent the muscular nature of the Scout Bobber in my eyes.
For a fleeting moment, as I walk up to the parked Scout with the sunlight gleaming off its metallic paint, I am excited to ride. The excitement drops off dramatically as the riding aches settle in, but therein is the price one pays for style.
The Indian Scout Bobber as a stunt bike
Alright, so that may be a bit of an exaggeration, but the Scout Bobber and I did have to pull off some unusual maneuvers and deal with some tricky circumstances while shooting on location.
For slow maneuvers, the Scout Bobber was a very agreeable dance partner. With a low seat height and center of gravity, the Scout Bobber was easy to U-turn, duck waddle into position, and push into the frame for composed shots at scenic vistas. It doesn’t “stop on a dime,” per se, but the Scout’s braking capabilities were tested by many emergency stops with no collisions, so I have to give it a decent grade on real-world stopping power.
When it came to up-close shots with the camera truck at a steady 25 mph, six inches off the rear bumper, the Indian held and maintained that exact speed and position with no fussing and a smooth and predictable throttle. While you might not be chasing camera trucks and tucking in to “look fast” at 25 mph, what this all boils down to is that the Scout Bobber has quite the aptitude for your around town stop-and-go.
On the open road
At speed on the freeway, the Indian Scout Bobber’s 1,133 cc V-twin has plenty of oompf, of course, but what the motorcycle doesn’t have is any wind protection. Most mornings at around 4:30 a.m. I had a 45-minute highway commute to our shooting locations, so a full face of wind was on the menu for breakfast. What did impress me was the lack of vibration at high speeds. Not in the handlebar, seat or foot pegs did I experience that uncomfortable numbing sensation that has been known to happen with other V-twins.
Probably the most pleasant riding scenario on the Scout Bobber was the long sweepers on the road leading to Mt. Charleston, right in the meat of the Scout’s powerband and with curves just gentle enough to not challenge the lean angle of the bike too much. With the unlikely backdrop of pine trees and snow on the side of the road (yes, you read that right, snow), I was finally experiencing some of the cruiser euphoria that I’ve heard about.
The most unpleasant riding scenario? A half mile dirt road that was hard packed but sprinkled with jagged, sharp rocks that were jarring and also threatening to puncture tires. This bumpy ride inspired all of us cruiser riders to get inventive in discovering a standing position on a bike with forward controls. My patented riding approach was as follows: left leg on the normal forward foot peg, right foot on the rear passenger peg, and hold the handlebar for dear life in this Bulgarian split lunge position so the feeble suspension could survive the trip. I am sure well groomed gravel or dirt roads are just fine on the Indian Scout, but anything beyond that will require some moto-yoga to endure it.
What I liked, what I didn’t like
This Indian Scout Bobber and I really went through a lot together. Temperatures of low 40s to mid 80s, up 9,000 feet of elevation and back down to the very bottom of desert valleys, and every manner of tarmac in between.
What I disliked most about the Scout Bobber was the stretched-out riding position and the underwhelming suspension. There is not a short enough ride to compensate for the lack of comfort on this motorcycle. You are going to feel it at some point.
What I liked most about the Scout Bobber was the old-school cool styling. It turned a lot of heads on the Strip and I got plenty of compliments on the road. The Scout was also very approachable, with a low seat height, easy maneuverability, and a motor that had some attitude.
After a week of some long days in the saddle, I have an appreciation and respect for the Indian Scout Bobber but I can’t say it’s a top choice for the next long-distance bender. If you want to cruise in style to your favorite local haunts though, saddle up, partner, because this just might be your ride.