Polaris announced, upon the closing of Victory Motorcycles, that no staff would be cut and that, instead, all efforts would be turned toward making Indian Motorcycle the most potent brand possible. Victory's closure not only freed up staff and resources to this new decree, it also created more space for Indian to stop being the "retro cruiser brand" and just be the "cruiser brand."

The 2018 Indian Scout Bobber is the first step in that direction.

Indian Bobber
2018 Indian Scout BobberCourtesy of Indian Motorcycle

I know what you’re thinking, ‘how can a motorcycle styled and named after a trend made popular in the 1940s, 50s, and 60s usher a motorcycle brand into more modern times’? The answer, at least as I see it, is far simpler than one might expect: the bike may be a little retro, but it’s aimed directly at a young audience.

The Scout dropped like an atomic bomb into the cruisersphere. Headlines both inside and outside motorcycling praised it for proving that cruisers didn't have to be heavy and make little power and for making cruisers exciting again.

Indian Bobber
2018 Indian Scout BobberBarry Hathaway

And, while I agreed when looking at its performance, the Scout’s appearance still screamed that leather fringe, tassels, and a long white ponytail were best to complete the look. Like the rest of Indian’s lineup, the Scout’s styling was designed to invoke the brand’s heritage and fond feelings of America’s oldest motorcycle company.

It’s what you do when competing with a brand whose logo feels almost synonymous with the American flag, but it isn’t the best at capturing newer and younger riders.

So, while Bobbers are inherently retro when looking at the current range of motorcycles offered in 2017, it's the first motorcycle Indian has designed with the goal of appealing to guys like yours truly. Young professionals and Millennials (I learned last week that I'm actually part of the micro-generation known as Xennial) who like stylish things that skew towards the hip. Okay, if I have to say it—hipsters (and hipster-adjacent).

Indian Bobber
2018 Indian Scout BobberCourtesy of Indian Motorcycle

The Specs That Matter

As has become all the rage lately, the Indian Scout Bobber is more of a new derivative of the Scout platform than a new model for the brand. That means it has the same 69ci, liquid-cooled, 60-degree, V-twin engine producing the same 86 hp and 63.8 lb.-ft. of torque (per our dyno). Compared to its brother, the Bobber has been altered to look more muscular, stripping away some of the excess frills and chrome for a more subdued appearance.

Indian Bobber
2018 Indian Scout Bobber.Barry Hathaway

The swept back bars have been swapped for a flatter, tracker style handlebar and the pegs have been moved an inch and a half towards the rider to make for a more aggressive rider triangle.

The rear shocks have been shortened to provide for an inch less travel (two inches instead of three) to give the bike a low-slung stance, and the new black cast wheels are wrapped in more aggressively treaded tires to add to the look.

Indian threw a host of other aesthetic changes at the bike to further differentiate it from the Scout. There are the minimal engine covers and vented exhaust shields on the headers that I dig, as well as a blacked-out instrument panel and exhaust that I love. Indian has also gone with a new font for the tank badging, which gives the bike a more contemporary feel.

Indian Bobber
The 2018 Indian Scout Bobber saddle.Barry Hathaway

Then there’s a headlight nacelle and bar end mirrors which I don’t love (the round headlight was just fine), though the mirrors at least work okay when fixed so they hang above the handlebar.

The Indian Scout Bobber tips the scales at 554 pounds wet, has an incredibly accessible 25.6 inch seat height, and its fuel tank holds 3.3 gallons.

The Bobber is available in Thunder Black for $11,499, Star Silver Smoke, Bronze Smoke, and Indian Motorcycle Red for $11,999, and Thunder Black Smoke (matte) for $12,499.

Indian Bobber
2018 Indian Scout Bobber in Indian Motorcycle Red.Barry Hathaway

We Rode The Thing

To test the bike, Indian brought us to their hometown of Minneapolis, Minnesota to experience a mix of city and country road riding. The fact that the launch took place during the X-Games was only icing on the cake (both in that the flat track racing at the event was a Harley-only event and that they were able to unveil the bike at a party thrown in conjunction with Maxim Magazine).

Indian Bobber
About as much lean as I was willing to carry.Barry Hathaway

After a late night at the unveiling party, we got a late morning start with temperatures somewhere between “hot” and “now I know why everyone rides around this city in short sleeves and no helmet.”

The cockpit is comfortable, even if my feet expect the rearward moved pegs to feel more...moved. Like the Triumph, the result is feeling like a bit of a clamshell, but not so much that it’s terribly uncomfortable.

Indian succeeded in making the bike feel more aggressive overall. Similarly to when we compared the Scout to the Triumph Bobber, both Bobbers encourage you to push it into the next corner where the Scout is happy just cruising along at Sunday putt speeds.

Indian Bobber
You can't take this guy anywhere without him causing a scene.Barry Hathaway

This is the first Indian where I’ve, hypothetically, been so inclined to do a number of standing and rolling burnouts, jump the thing, or tried to see if I can scrape the peg feelers clean off within the first hundred miles. Because, while those hypothetical actions are dangerous and obnoxious, they’re also fun—which is the mindset the Bobber puts you in.

Lots of commenters were up in arms over the shortening of the rear shocks. As one of the main things I had in the back of my head while riding (and the reason for the aforementioned testing, which is once again purely hypothetical), I’m happy to report that they don’t take away from the riding experience—at least not in the way you’d think.

The original Scout is also more of an around-town bike than a touring one, and it was not known for offering a particularly supple ride. The Bobber follows suit, soaking up minor road imperfections with ease and grace, and getting pretty uncomfortable when the road gets rough.

Indian Bobber
Sky rockets in flight, afternoon delight! (at least until the landing)Barry Hathaway

While comfort was not sacrificed too much in the name of aesthetics, cornering clearance was. Lean angle decreases from 31 degrees on the Scout to 29 degrees on the Bobber, which decidedly detracts from your ability to ride the Bobber with much gusto.

What makes up for it, at least a little bit, is Indian’s decision to change the fork/oil type fork utilized on the Scout/Octane for a new cartridge type fork which adds stability, improves road feel, and performs much better when riding aggressively (yes, while the pegs are scraping).

I also appreciated the decluttering of the cockpit. The gauge and mirrors of the Scout felt far inferior to those on the Triumph Bobber, which had a big effect on the perceived quality. Between removing some of that stuff and giving what’s left a black coating, the spartan cockpit actually gets out of its own way and lets you enjoy the road and makes the Bobber feel like it’s higher quality.

Indian Bobber
A welcome sight after an afternoon touring the corn fields.Barry Hathaway

What We'd Change

Overall I was impressed with Bobber, and even in areas I thought I might be disappointed (like the rear shocks).

The footpegs still being fairly far forward were somewhat of a disappointment, but I expect Roland Sands will have a mid controls kit available soon if it isn’t already available.

Indian Bobber
2018 Indian Scout Bobber in Star Silver Smoke.Barry Hathaway

The biggest oversight (outside of missing that second front brake rotor that we’ve all been asking for) was Indian’s decision to stick with the stock gearing from the Scout instead of moving to the lower gearing of the Octane or something different altogether. The taller Scout gearing really lacks low end grunt and detracts from the attitude Indian claims they were chasing with this Bobber.

Finally, and more long term, there are lots of people who have shown that this motor is fairly corked up and can make way more power. Like my friend Aaron and his 93 Octane. If you buy one, go do that.

Indian Bobber
2018 Indian Scout Bobber in Star Silver Smoke with the passenger seat and side bag.Barry Hathaway

You Wanted To Know

I posted a pic of the bike on those social medias the teens are always talking about and asked what your questions were about the bike so I could help tailor the review to what you wanted to know. If you aren't following me on Instagram or Twitter, you really should be. I keep my rants about Game Of Thrones to a minimum, I swear.

"How does a 'stripped down' Scout cost more money?" If I had to guess, I'd say that the new cartridge fork is likely the cost of the price increase.

Indian Bobber
2018 Indian Scout Bobber in Bronze Smoke.Barry Hathaway

"Is it as uncomfortable as it looks in photos?" Like most bikes like this, it's actually quite comfortable around town...for a while. The seat has a decent shape (taller riders said it put pressure on their tailbones), but I was good up until about 45 minutes on the bike.

"Can you live with it in the city? Does it lane split?" Ummm, like is it more of a farm dog or inside dog? Sure, it's a great for city riding. And anything can lane split, but while this thing has an overall width of 36.5 inches, that's only at the bars which means you have some wiggle room.

"Enough performance to not hate myself for giving up my 1290 or RSV4 in order to accommodate the missus? And what color?" Yeeeeesh, that's a tall order. I'm gonna have to pass (unless you combine the 1290 and RSV4 into a Tuono (the best thing ever) and then don't worry about speed at all. Though if the goal is two up, I'd wait for Triumph's impending cruiser. And the black or "bronze smoke" were my favorite.

Indian Bobber
The 2018 Indian Scout Bobber cockpit.Barry Hathaway

"How does it compare to the Low Rider S?" They were hoping you wouldn't ask that. The Harley is faster, stops better, has better suspension, and is way more fun to rip—but it's also way more expensive and looks like you're really into Sons Of Anarchy. I'd buy the Indian and sex it up, or the Harley and try and mute some of the looks.

"Does it come with ugly cruiser face or a factory approved hipster mustache?" Nope! Those jerks made me bring my own ugly face.

"You look damn fabulous." That isn't a question, but I'll take it!

"Is a street legal version of the flat track bike coming?" No amount of begging, pleading, threatening, or bribing has been successful at answering this yet.

Indian Bobber
In technicolor and fully accessorized.Barry Hathaway

Why You Should Care

I read a lot of whining on the internet since we announced news of this bike, with the bulk of it coming from people who felt like the Bobber wasn’t a big enough departure from the Scout.

To me, that sort of thinking seems incredibly short sighted. Indian has made no bones about saying they have some extremely exciting things in the works, and with their track record of recent bike releases I’m inclined to believe in their abilities to discern between exciting and not.

Indian Bobber
2018 Indian Scout BobberBarry Hathaway

Yes, the Bobber is just a stylized derivative of the Scout. This is one of the ways manufacturers develop and release new models to appeal to a wider audience. This isn’t the last we’ll see of this tactic or the Scout powerplant. But that doesn’t mean Indian doesn’t have other things in the works or that they aren’t bigger departures or more modified.

As a style derivative of the Scout, the Bobber opens the platform and brand up to a new segment of riders who previously overlooked the brand. It’s the first bike that feels like more of a Harley-Davidson competitor and, being a well designed and properly performing motorcycle, it will certainly give The Motor Company reason to stop and take notice.

Indian Bobber
2018 Indian Scout Bobber.Barry Hathaway

More granularly (and more importantly), it’s just a really great bike. It makes you excited to fire it up and take it for a ride, the motor is great, and the whole bike just works well. Something that’s been missing from cruisers for way too long. Add in looking great and meeting more of the style desires people have for bikes, and the Bobber is a winner.

The fact that Indian released the bike in Minneapolis on the eve of the Harley-only hooligan series at the X-Games a few blocks awake is only icing on the cake to prove that Indian has some serious style.

Pay attention folks, the cruiser world is about to get really interesting.

Indian Bobber
Cruising through Minneapolis mean streets.Barry Hathaway

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