Preston Burroughs

California Cruising On The Harley-Davidson Street Bob, Triumph Bonneville Bobber, And Indian Scout

We compare these three cruisers with a little boys trip to the desert

There’s something beautiful about the simpler things in life. Maybe it’s because they offer respite from the rest of our complex world or maybe it’s just because being lazy feels nice. But the older I get the more I learn to love the simple things and the way they clear the clutter from moments of my life.

It was in that spirit that, when a weekend freed up unexpectedly, I reached out to the fellas about a little cruise to the desert. My fellow editor Bradley Adams was quick to join, as was my friend Aaron Guardado, and we talked Preston Burroughs into coming along to shoot some pictures in return for as many tacos as he could eat. Adams, per usual, tried to turn it into cruiser camping, because that’s what he does; but Guardado and I convinced him we could get into more trouble in the desert.

Indian Scout
2017 Indian ScoutPreston Burroughs

Guardado is half of Suicide Machine Company, a custom fabrication shop in Long Beach, California, that specializes in customizing cruisers to really perform. If you want to add carbon wheels, Ohlins, Brembos, and a blower to your Harley, they're the guys to do it. On top of that, Guardado races a Harley in the Harley Hooligans and Super Hooligan flat track series and is building a Scout tracker for a customer, so I was curious to get his thoughts on the current crop of showroom-stock cruisers.

Even though Triumph doesn't call its new 1200 cc liquid-cooled parallel-twin motor powered Bonneville Bobber a cruiser, my first experience riding one showed me that not only was it a cruiser, but it was proof that cruisers could be really good. We snagged an Indian's 1200 cc liquid-cooled V-twin Scout, another bike that's been a favorite of ours since its release (or re-release if you count the once from last century) for making cruisers great again. And anyone considering either of these two wouldn't dare overlook The Motor Co so we snagged a Street Bob which, while on the bigger side with a 103 cubic inch V-Twin air-cooled motor, is more true to the feeling the other bikes give.

Harley-Davidson Street Bob
Slipping and sliding.Preston Burroughs

We set our sights on Palm Springs, a place that's simplicity has made it a favorite weekend getaway for us Southern California folk since the 50s. With little more to do than eat and lay by a pool and little more to see than sunbathing retirees and Mount San Jacinto, it’s a cruiser in destination form. Nothing moves very fast, little is asked of you, and it’s all about the vibe.

The first thing we learned about our cruisers is that they didn't take well to cruising—at least not when speeds reached a healthy Southern California 80 mph or so. I was on the Triumph, which threw the first gas light somewhere just shy of 70 miles, and I felt bad about being the "little tank" guy for the next ten or so miles until we found a station. Or at least I did feel bad until everyone popped their helmets off and I could see we were all ready for a break.

Sean MacDonald
Preston Burroughs
cruisers
Gettin' out of Dodge.Preston Burroughs

“I’m a sail on the freeway!” Bradley exclaimed after getting off the Indian. “It’s like one giant lower ab workout trying to hold on.” Aaron was happier than Bradley, but still had a host of things he’d change. “The seat on the Harley sorta puts you on your tailbone and the higher bars really need a fairing, they turn hanging on into a shoulder workout.” The Bobber’s tucked position made it the comfiest of the three, though I can’t say I wasn’t just as ready for a break.

We refueled and made our way to Bombay Beach along the Salton Sea for lunch. In the 1950s and '60s, the Salton Sea was one of the most popular vacation destinations for people like Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby, The Beach Boys, and Sonny Bono. It had the largest marina in Southern California, attracted more tourists than Yosemite, and together with nearby Palm Springs made the California desert one of the hottest places to visit...pun slightly intended.

cruisers
It may look clean and refreshing, but the Salton Sea most certainly isn't.Preston Burroughs
Sean MacDonald
Fine dining at the Ski InnPreston Burroughs

It’s also a few hundred feet below sea level, which is why runoff from half a million acres of agricultural land have filled it with so much salt and chemicals that everything in it died and the beaches are covered in dead fish bones. The whole town was abandoned by the 70s, leaving Palm Springs as the lone desert destination for those in search of heat, a weekend away, or the spring music festival.

We made it to the little bar in Bombay Beach in time for lunch, where Bradley and I felt pretty great about choosing salad after Preston groaned upon biting into his burger. At least until our lunch came out looking like it was from the same bag of salad served in my middle school cafeteria.

Sean MacDonald
Plotting our next move.Preston Burroughs
harley davidson street bob
Preston Burroughs
Cruisers
We did all we needed to do here.Preston Burroughs

With their classic looks, all three bikes garner plenty of attention, even in a place as desolate as this. A group from the Palm Springs Photo Festival was out shooting pictures, but the bikes took centerstage as we wrapped up lunch. Nigel Parry, a famous celebrity portrait photographer was out with a group of students, and spent the better part of an hour admiring the Bobber, asking Aaron where his chaps were to ride the Harley, and spreading the gospel of BMW's new R 1200 RS. As we hung out, most everyone who entered the town stopped to check out the visiting machines, and interestingly enough there was no real winner for favorite bike.

We’d checked the roadtrip part off our list, but still had plenty of mischief and relaxing to get to, so we excused ourselves to go explore the town. With nothing but destroyed and graffitied buildings and dead fish, the whole town sort of asks you to give into your id. It wasn’t more than 10 minutes before I was sitting on someone’s roof watching Aaron do a burnout in the sand while Bradley made the beach his personal flat track race track.

Triumph Bonneville Bobber
The Bobber felt right at home.Preston Burroughs
cruisers
Cruising in no man's land.Preston Burroughs

The locals are used to this sort of thing, even more so if there are cameras present, and they went from annoyed to entertained in as much time as it took to realize at least these boys could ride. They wouldn’t be fishing a bike out of the sand or nursing some poor idiot’s broken collarbone today. If you were to choose a bike to get rowdy in a ghost town these were most definitely not the bikes I’d pick for the job, but their upright ergos and gobs of torque made them plenty adequate for scaring us a bit and putting huge grins on our faces.

Cruisers
A perfect Palm Springs day.Preston Burroughs

We were on a tight schedule (we had relaxing and tequila to get to), so after a little ripping on the beach and a burnout or two inside a half destroyed house, we set our sights on the ACE Hotel in Palm Springs. Not in too big a hurry, however, so we opted for the back way over more freeway.

Ace hotel
Preston Burroughs

Riding around Palm Springs put the bikes back into their groove. The relaxed pace, stop-and-go traffic, and snaking roads trailing along the bottom of the mountain suited the upright riding positions and torquey motors. There’s something about being in a group of cruisers that makes the experience feel more communal than if on a group of some different kind of bike. Maybe it’s the slower pace or the relaxed dress and maybe it’s just that it’s more about taking in the sights and feeling the attitude, but I’ve never enjoyed cruisers more. The Triumph does have some slight twitchiness to the steering at slow speeds, while the Harley has the opposite problem; but both are issues you adjust to quickly.

That night was karaoke night in the hotel bar which, while usually a destination for all sorts of young local from town, was packed with little old ladies with short white hair singing love songs from the 40s. Aaron got the crowd going with a rousing rendition of “Tennessee Whiskey,” during which he managed to flirt with every old lady in the front row. "You're the only ten I see" will even get you a hand shake from the lovely lady's husband, so long as you play your cards right.

Sean MacDonald
Tequila time is one of my favorite times.Preston Burroughs

One came to join our table, curious as to why this group of guys who most definitely didn’t belong decided to make this our place for the night. Marsha, as we would come to know her, told stories that got wilder and wilder as her whiskey-gingers disappeared. Somewhere around the time she told us she was a stand in for Cybill Shepherd on Moonlighting and loved to give massages, we realized it had gotten late and made a plan to ditch Bradley in the bar with her, only somehow it backfired and everyone escaped but Preston (who’d just finished singing Creed’s “With Arms Wide Open”). At that point, it’s every man for himself.

Aaron Guardado
Aaron is always the girls' favorite.Preston Burroughs
Sean MacDonald
Preston Burroughs

The next morning I woke up thankful I had declined the last tequila and roused the boys for some breakfast tacos and to talk routes. One night isn't much of a getaway, but with a little decent planning it can feel like one. The temperatures were already starting to rise at 9:00 am and we decided to ride over the mountain through Idyllwild after I remembered hearing about an incredible burger on top of the hill.

Sean MacDonald
I take ordering VERY seriously.Preston Burroughs

We caught Highway 74, also known as the Palms to Pines highway, in Palm Desert where it snakes its way up the mountain towards Lake Hemet lending way to beautiful views over the desert. The pavement is smooth and open and there’s decent visibility, which is to say it’s the perfect place to push even a lumbering cruiser.

The Triumph really shined in the fun stuff, with a motor that made power across more of its rev range and suspension and a riding position far more apt for riding leaned over. But, while the Bobber was the best when things got competitive, I also really enjoyed my turn on the Scout when our pace went from “who can go the fastest” to “I want to feel the pace.”

cruisers
Heading up the hill.Preston Burroughs
Triumph Bobber
The Bobber is actually pretty proficient in the curvy stuff.Preston Burroughs

Aaron wasn’t so quick to agree. “With the bars so swept back, it makes it feel like the front end is more raked out than it is. That combined with the forward pegs make it just feel really unsure to me. I do like how the Harley feels though,” he responded when I asked how it was going.

Bradley added, “The Harley is actually pretty fun, though those high bars and low hard parts do really limit you. The motor on it, actually all of them, are really nice.”

cruisers
Preston Burroughs
Harley Street Bob
Harley-Davidson Street BobPreston Burroughs

The 74 ascends into the Santa Rosa Indian Reservation before it dumps you into ranch country surround lake Hemet. The road is lined in white or red painted wood fences with large ranch gates and horses put out to pasture, American flags flying high from the houses set into the hillside. In the distance, the mountain peaks have remnants of snow yet to melt and on this fine sunday, a cloud of fog enveloped as we entered the pine tree lined sections as we climbed into Idyllwild.

Sean MacDonald
Burger time is the only thing I love as much as taco time.Preston Burroughs

Most places made famous for a five pound hamburger aren't known for their quality, but I'll stack the Lumber Mill's burgers against anything you fancy. We opted for burgers of the sissy-sized half-pound variety, but they were plenty to make me wish I'd either saved half for later or had time for a snooze. Again, the bikes became a talking point for people walking around the town, only it was the Scout that drew the most attention up in these parts (which made sense the more we saw Harleys with bags lumber past us).

Cruisers
Ready and waiting for us to go.Preston Burroughs
Triumph Bobber
Bobbering and weaving?Preston Burroughs

There comes a time in every weekend getaway where your brain turns from trying to satisfy the need to rest, relax, and enjoy oneself to preparing for the week at hand and that time hit us all after lunch. Aaron was off to race in Phoenix and Bradley and had a magazine to ship, and we spoke of making a beeline for home, finishing the 74 to the coast where it ends in San Juan Capistrano.

The weekend wasn’t done giving yet, and halfway down the hill I saw too large containers filled with soil that perfectly matched the colors of the Triumph. A quick photo stop turned into seeing who could drift through the sand covered lot the best, a contest which Bradley’s talents easily won on the Scout.

Indian Scout
There are lots of times I wish I could ride like that guy. This is one of them.Preston Burroughs
Indian Scout
Full send it mode engaged.Preston Burroughs

We spent the better part of an hour sliding in the sand, throwing rocks at each other, and making fun of each other before we realized we might actually lose the sun and we better start acting like adults. Thankfully, our route today had been windy enough to keep the speeds more cruiser friendly, which made our bikes nearly perfect for the job (if only there was somewhere to strap a bag).

Overall, the Bobber emerged as our favorite. The engine delivered the broadest power and sounded great. While the rear suspension was a bit on the punishing side on the freeway, overall handling was superb, and fit and finish and styling details are top notch. This all made the bike, as an overall package, the most appealing and fun to ride. The Harley works well, it’s Dyna platform giving good handling and its 103-inch engine delivering big on torque. And with its classic American bobber styling, definitely made me feel the coolest—as both the Triumph and Indian have some trying-too-hard styling elements. The Indian’s neutral steering was maybe the most natural in town. It has a lovely motor and refined power delivery, and the chassis delivers nice feel. It doesn’t necessarily do much wrong, but it doesn’t make us feel as cool either of the other two or make up for it in performance.

Harley Street Bob
Aaron moves pretty quick, even when he isn't on the dirt track.Preston Burroughs
cruisers
Finally time to head home.Preston Burroughs

I’m not a fan of comparisons without a clear winner, but I honestly couldn’t fault anyone for picking any of our three steeds because they each make you feel slightly different things. The Indian and the Triumph both feel slightly more poseury next to Harley that’s refused to change its style for decades, which adds a certain layer of cool factor. But the Indian’s relaxed riding position and super neutral steering provide the cruiser experience without the tough guy. All three have their place, so long as you pick the one that you vibe with best.

We entered civilization just as the sun set, flashing burst of pink and orange light over the mall at the Irvine Spectrum adorned with lights to match. It hald only been 48 hours, some tequila, gasoline, and a whole lot of tacos and burgers since we’d this all in our rear view mirrors, but a lot of times it’s the simple things that bring the most feelings and joy.

cruisers
Preston Burroughs

Sean's Gear

Bradley's Gear

Aaron's Gear

harley davidson street bob
Harley-Davidson Street BobCourtesy of Harley-Davidson
THE NUMBERS
Price $13,849
Dry weight 640 lb.
Wheelbase 64.0 in.
Seat height 27.3 in.
Fuel capacity 4.7 gal.
Fuel mileage 38 mpg
1/4 mile 13.47 sec. @ 95.93 mph
0–60 mph 4.5 sec.
Top gear 40–60 mph 5.3 sec.
Top gear 60–80 mph 5.7 sec.
Horsepower 65.0 @ 4500 rpm
Torque 88.0 lb.-ft. @ 2920 rpm
Braking 30–0 mph 32 ft.
Braking 60–0 mph 128 ft.
indian scout studio side view
Indian ScoutCourtesy of Indian
THE NUMBERS
Price $11,299
Dry weight 538 lb.
Wheelbase 61.8 in.
Seat height 27.8 in.
Fuel capacity 3.3 gal.
Fuel mileage 42 mpg
1/4 mile 12.64 sec. @ 105.03 mph
0–60 mph 3.9 sec.
Top gear 40–60 mph 3.9 sec.
Top gear 60–80 mph 4.7 sec.
Horsepower 82.7 @ 7440 rpm
Torque 63.9 lb.-ft. @ 5570 rpm
Braking 30–0 mph 33 ft.
Braking 60–0 mph 131 ft.
triumph bonneville bobber studio side view
Triumph Bonneville BobberCourtesy of Triumph
THE NUMBERS
Price $11,900
Dry weight 523 lb.
Wheelbase 59.5 in.
Seat height 28.3 in.
Fuel capacity 2.4 gal.
Fuel mileage 47 mpg
1/4 mile 12.47 sec. @ 103.33 mph
0–60 mph 3.6 sec.
Top gear 40–60 mph 4.4 sec.
Top gear 60–80 mph 4.8 sec.
Horsepower 72.5 @ 6130 rpm
Torque 73.6 lb.-ft. @ 3700 rpm
Braking 30–0 mph 31 ft.
Braking 60–0 mph 127 ft.

THE NUMBERS COMPARED

Harley-Davidson Street Bob Indian Scout Triumph Bonneville Bobber
Price $13,849 $11,299 $11,900
Dry weight 640 lb. 538 lb. 523 lb.
Wheelbase 64.0 in. 61.8 in. 59.5 in.
Seat height 27.3 in. 27.8 in. 28.3 in.
Fuel capacity 4.7 gal. 3.3 gal. 2.4 gal.
Fuel mileage 38 mpg 42 mpg 47 mpg
1/4 mile 13.47 sec. @ 95.93 mph 12.64 sec. @ 105.03 mph 12.47 sec. @ 103.33 mph
0–60 mph 4.5 sec. 3.9 sec. 3.6 sec.
Top gear 40–60 mph 5.3 sec. 3.9 sec. 4.4 sec.
Top gear 60–80 mph 5.7 sec. 4.7 sec. 4.8 sec.
Horsepower 65.0 @ 4500 rpm 82.7 @ 7440 rpm 72.5 @ 6130 rpm
Torque 88.0 lb.-ft. @ 2920 rpm 63.9 lb.-ft. @ 5570 rpm 73.6 lb.-ft. @ 3700 rpm
Braking 30–0 mph 32 ft. 33 ft. 31 ft.
Braking 60–0 mph 128 ft. 131 ft. 127 ft.