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INDIAN SCOUT BOBBER | Bike Tests | Latest Tests

Indian is the latest manufacturer to jump on the bobber bandwagon – we checked out the new stripped-back Scout at the world launch

Better late than never could be the call as Indian Motorcycle finally arrives at the worldwide ‘bobber bash’ with the new-for-2018 lowrider version of its midsize Scout model platform. Luckily, Indian knows how to make an entrance, in this case by presenting the new model to the world press at a classy launch in Cannes on the French Riviera.

By expanding its Scout troop, Indian hopes to capture an ironically more youthful customer corps than the many thousands who’ve so far bought this best-selling model since its 2015 debut. Ironic, because to attract the millennial mob representing its target audience for this new lowrider model, Indian is seeking to encapsulate the spirit and ethos of a type of biking that had gone out of fashion by the time said audience’s parents were born.

But of course, everyone is doing it. One of Harley’s recent best-sellers has been the bobber-style Forty-Eight, now joined by the well-priced 750 Street Rod. And while the Moto Guzzi V9 Bobber and Yamaha XV950 Bolt have both done well, the massive success of Triumph’s Bonneville Bobber must have really sharpened Indian’s focus on this ‘so cool right now’ market segment. Triumph has sold 6000 Bobbers up to the end of August, making it the company’s fastest-selling model ever, an accolade that Indian would surely love to match with this machine.

However, unlike the authentically styled Triumph, which screams ‘bobtail’ at you aesthetically as soon as you lay eyes on it, its Indian counterpart is much more restrained – low key, almost. Thanks to the bulky and definitely unlovely stock rear numberplate holder fitted to Euro-compliant bikes and reaching back behind the cut-down rear mudguard, it doesn’t even look particularly well bobbed unless you go shopping in Indian’s aftermarket catalogue and fit the side-mounted licence-plate holder. It’s more of a stripped-down single-seat custom from the dark side.

Not that it’s any the worse because of that, just that the term ‘bobber’ used to be applied to a very definite type of motorcycle that kickstarted the post-WWII custom bike culture (see breakout), whereas nowadays it’s a designation that manufacturers attach to a model to broaden its clientele – like scrambler or café racer. So, is this variation of the Indian Scout really a bobber? No, not really. Is it a cool-looking variant of the chunkier-styled stock Scout? Absolutely.

To achieve this, Indian’s 31-strong design team led by ex-Fiat and BMW stylist Greg Brew – the Director of Industrial Design at Polaris Industries – stripped away the Scout’s frills and cut back on chrome. Almost everything on the original Scout that was previously painted silver, chromed or made in polished alloy has gone black on the Bobber, including the tubular steel frame and hefty chassis castings, the long twin-stack exhaust silencers and headers, both 16-inch cast alloy wheels, the fork sliders and triple clamps, the radiator shroud, the laydown Showa shocks and coil-over springs, plus the swingarm they’re mounted on, the entire engine except for the welcome contrast of the bare alloy cylinder head covers and cylinder ribbing, the taper-section one-piece handlebar and grips, the footpegs, rear brake and gear levers, the clutch cover, ignition cover and headlight nacelle, the drive belt and all its related hardware including the large front pulley cover, and the 12.3-litre fuel tank carrying a new Indian badge with the name in a different font, plus both mudguards on the two all-black models(glossy and matte). There’s also a black speedometer face instead of the usual red and cream on the stock Scout. Phew! That’s a lot of black, Polaris. 

Read the full story in the current issue of AMCN (Vol 67 No 10) on sale now

TEST ALAN CATHCART     PHOTOGRAPHY ALAN ROMERO