Indian Motorcycle goes down in size, scale and price

Charles Fleming
Los Angeles Times

For 2016, Indian has shrunk the Scout. The new Scout Sixty is a 999cc “midsized” bike, with many of the attributes of its big brother and many new ones — including a low price tag — that should attract a host of new riders.

A decade ago, when Indian was still a lumbering lost company that produced massive, overpriced road hogs, this would have been unthinkable. Before the moribund motorcycle company was bought by Polaris Industries in 2011, Indian made enormous, attractive and largely unreliable heavy cruisers.

Polaris, the power sports giant better then known for its snowmobiles, jet skis and Victory motorcycle line, made Steve Menneto chief of Indian, and charged him with bringing the heritage division into the 21st century — or at least the second half of the 20th.

Indian has since rolled out a half dozen new machines, all of them more attractive, better built and more affordable than their predecessors. In short order, they began making heavy cruiser riders out of motorcyclists who had stayed out of that segment, and began taking sales away from the heavy motorcycle leader, Harley-Davidson.

The Scout was the company’s way of going after Harley’s entry-level Sportster line. Like the Sportster, it sits low, weighs less and has plenty of grunt. Both Sportsters and Scouts also cost a lot less than their big-bagger siblings, and attract a younger, more urban rider more interested in jetting around town than taking heavy metal onto the highway.

It proved a smart move. After early production problems that kept the new bike back-ordered, the Scout quickly became the company’s No. 2 best seller, after the big bore touring bike, the Roadmaster. Some months, the company says, the Scout is No. 1.

Menneto said the Scout attracts two kinds of riders to the brand. The first, he said, is “the starting out rider or jump-up rider who wants to move from a 250cc to a bigger bike.” The second? Indian owners who want something smaller. “There are folks who already own Roadmasters or Chieftains and want an around-town bike,” Menneto said.

Now Indian has doubled down on the Scout, and gone further down market. This time, having taken a swipe at Sportster, Indian is taking aim at Harley’s popular Iron 883.

The new Scout Sixty is powered by a 61-cubic-inch engine — hence its name — inside a frame that’s a little more stripped down and basic than the full-size Scout.

It sits at a very low 25.3 inches, and comes off the side stand with minimal effort — effecting a first handshake that should make smaller or newer riders confident.

It rides lighter than its 543 pounds, and feels like a smaller bike. (Curiously, it’s four pounds heavier than the Scout, even though it has a smaller engine and has five gears instead of six. Why? Smaller pistons mean thicker cylinder heads, which weigh more than the empty space inside them.)

Color? Basic black, with a red-and-white version available as an upgrade. Passenger comfort? Forget it. The Sixty comes without a rear seat, and without rear foot pegs, though as on the Scout both area available add-ons.

Then there’s the price tag. The Scouts start at $11,299. The Sixtys start at $8,999.