2020 is a big year for the Indian Scout as Indian Motorcycle celebrates the 100th anniversary of the Scout. It started in 1920 with a 37-cubic-inch side-valve V-twin with a rigid frame and only a rear brake. We’ve already ridden the Scout Bobber Twenty, which also celebrates the Scout centennial.This time, we are riding the unambiguously named 2020 Indian Scout 100th Anniversary motorcycle, and it most directly resembles the original Scout, even though it has suspension and disc braking. Our mission was to find out if the Scout 100th Anniversary is a compromise-laden styling exercise, or simply a better Scout.
The 2020 Indian Scout 100th Anniversary is not a rehash of the Bobber Twenty. The big differences are that the 100th has longer-travel rear suspension, a higher seat, sportier tires, and considerably different ergonomics due to the handlebar. The Scout 100th Anniversary has a handlebar bend that recalls the 1920 Scout, where the Twenty’s mini-apes have a wholly different function and appeal. The solo seat and cargo rack on the back speak directly to 1920 sensibilities.
Let’s sit back for a moment and ponder 1920. Crazy Blues by Mamie Smith tops the charts, Igor Stravinsky’s Pulcinella ballet debuted, D.W. Griffith’s silent feature Way Down East starring Lillian Gish was the top box office film at $4.5 million, the Dow Jones was around 1,000 points, Woodrow Wilson was President, and the Treaty of Versailles went into effect, ending WWI. All in all, perfect timing for a great new American motorcycle.
If you’re looking for a superb urban motorcycle, the Scout 100th is a fantastic choice. First of all, it’s a striking motorcycle. We repeatedly heard “nice bike” at stoplights, the gas stations, or in parking lots. If you like strangers validating your purchase, the Scout 100th fits the bill nicely. Further, it’s a lightweight cruiser at less than 600 pounds, so it’s agile in traffic. Its upright seating position offers a good view of the proceedings, even as the seat height is a low 27.4-inches. Finally, the short-stroke motor has manageable power at low rpm, and stands ready to spin up at a moment’s notice.
Long days on urban streets are possible with the Scout 100th Anniversary. The tall, wide bars keep you upright and comfortable, while the forward pegs are within reach for most riders. Indian offers a reduced-reach seat for shorter riders, or those who prefer the grips and pegs placed closer to their bodies. The leather seat is spare yet supportive, so it doesn’t become a pain in the posterior. The friendly ergonomics, and the knowledge that you look great on the Scout 100th, are enough to make you want to spend entire days tooling around the city.
Perhaps the biggest surprise is that the 2020 Scout 100th Anniversary is the sportiest of the Scouts. What undoubtedly started as a sales gimmick blossomed into a fun canyon carver. We’ve always been happy with the Scout chassis and motor; with the 100th, we get ergonomics that work in the twisties. Sure, the cornering clearance is limited, with your bootheels touching down sooner rather than later. So, you operate within the confines of the design, and find out that it works quite well inside those boundaries. The handlebar is the secret sauce, with the bend giving leverage and the crossbar offering cornering stability. The conservative 29 degrees of rake enhance dexterity nicely, and plenty of traction is provided by Pirelli Night Dragon tires. There is nothing better than a pleasant revelation, and every ride called for a spin on Mulholland Drive along the ridge of the Hollywood Hills.
Freeway runs have a unique feel. With the solo seat, the low-slung chassis, forward control, and the broad bars, the Scout 100th doesn’t feel like much underneath you. At first, it seems like you’re piloting a powered barstool. After a bit of time, you get used to the sense of vulnerability, and enjoy the spare ride. Eventually, you feel like you’re on a 1920 Indian Scout, tooling down the highway without a care. Stability is excellent, and the 69-cubic-inch DOHC V-twin is not lacking for power when the speed limit is 65 mph or so. The non-adjustable suspension does a credible job—the fork better than the twin shocks—and the plump Pirellis aren’t too concerned with seams or rain grooves.
Everything works as expected. There is nothing untoward from the ABS-enhanced brakes, clutch, gearbox, or the 100-horsepower motor. It all works transparently so you can focus on the task at hand—enjoying yourself on two wheels. Yes, the shocks that we always complain about on Scouts still aren’t great—there are plenty of aftermarket options.
The beautiful Iconic Indian Red tank with gold pinstriping gathered universally positive reviews, and the wire-spoke wheels look the part. The Scout 100 Years logo on the air intake cover is a nice touch, with the look of the large chrome mufflers leaving some room for improvement—aurally and visually. Again, there are lots of choices on the market, including from Indian.
The authenticity of the riding experience is what makes the 2020 Indian Scout 100th Anniversary work. The seating position and appealing rumble of the motor genuinely make you feel like you’re riding a 100-year-old motorcycle, except that all the negative aspects inherent in a vintage vehicle are erased. You start to idly wonder if you could enter the Motorcycle Cannonball without anyone noticing you’re on a new machine. The idea of strapping a bedroll to the rack on the rear fender is almost irresistible. Is it possible to ride across rural America on a Scout 100th? Absolutely, if you have the 1920 mindset. Heck, throw on a few Indian accessories—a fairing, plus highway bars and pegs—and see where the 2020 Indian Scout 100th Anniversary takes you. For us, it felt like the ultimate time machine.
This week we ride two genre-departing motorcycles from the established American manufacturers. Jess McKinley gives us his thoughts on the all new Harley-Davidson Pan America Special, and Ron Lieback gives his on Indian’s latest version of the FTR 1200 S.