2016 Indian Scout Sixty – Ride Review
When I was 21 years old, I decided I no longer cared about political science and dropped-out of classes at my dreary college in Northern Minnesota on the promise of working in a tourist trap at Lake Tahoe.
I packed a duffle bag, told my roommate he could keep, sell or trash everything else, and spent several days making my way to the Silver State. My pickup truck had no air conditioner or radio; everything was barebones.
I often look back on that trip, and my decision to make it, as being a pivot point in my life. In the Story of Chris, it's impossible to get here –– to the person I am now –– without first going there. So, I'd never undo the experience. But if I could be 21 now, in 2016, I'd make a change: I'd sell my truck and get to Nevada on an Indian Scout Sixty.
Because the Sixty is that kind of bike. It is a cross-the-country-and-figure-out-who-the-hell-you-are bike. A tell-your-grandkids-about-it-in-60-years bike. A motorcycle of the sort that inspires people to write novels and listen to The Sam Chase on repeat. A motorcycle your girlfriend will accuse you of loving more than her; and deep down in your soul you'll know she's right.
It's not perfect. The Sixty's chassis doesn't quite live up to the engine's promise, and Indian has cut some odd corners in keeping the price low, but it is a very, very good bike.
It's strange to call the Sixty small. It has a 1000cc engine, weighs in at 561 lbs. wet, and is 4 inches longer than a BMW R1200GS. It's not small. But when you drop yourself down onto its solo seat, just 25.3 inches above the ground, "small" is one of the first words that come to mind. Or, it is if you are 6'1".
The good news is that it doesn't feel cramped. With its standard set-up, the Sixty is not really designed for someone my size, but it works well enough. Extended reach and reduced reach options are available to fine tune things. I have a friend who is 4'11" and she swoons over her Scout, which is effectively the same bike, save the engine.
When I first picked up the Sixty in London, facing a 200-mile journey back to my home in Cardiff, Wales, I made a promise to myself to stop every 40 miles to stretch. I expected this motorcycle to cause ache in knees and back. To my utter surprise, more than 100 miles passed before I even started to look for a place to stop.
Engine and Transmission
The Sixty's liquid-cooled 999cc V-twin is undoubtedly the star of the show. Unless you hate happiness, you will love this engine. Effectively the same lump found in the full-size Scout but with different bore and stroke, it puts out a claimed 78hp and 65 ft.-lbs. of torque. I'd say those numbers are more or less accurate. More important, however, is how usable are the power and torque.
Power delivery is stupid smooth. For the most part; I found anomalous jerkiness when maintaining 30 mph in third gear. It's very subtle, though (I only noticed late into my time with the Sixty –– when I was searching for negatives so as to avoid having this review come off as a lovefest).
At that speed and in that gear, the engine is barely ticking over idle. The Scout's rev limiter kicks in north of 8,000 rpm but you'll never get there by accident. The engine is surprisingly relaxed even at highway speed –– 70 mph sees the tachometer only flirting with 4,000 rpm.
All this means you don't get the rattling performance that some manufacturers claim as character. The engine simply does what an engine is supposed to do: it goes.
For me, the smoothness and calmness of the engine make it ideal for the bike's stated purpose of cruising. But don't be fooled. Twist the grip with a little more enthusiasm and the Sixty takes on a different personality; it's like that scene in films my fraternity used to watch, where the librarian tears her dress and lets her hair down. Something deep within this bike whispers to the rider: "Hey man, let's play."
And it is a whisper. The Sixty's exhaust won't get you in trouble with neighbors. The sound of the engine is that of a sleeping lion, a bass that rattles deep within an enormous set of lungs. A part of me would like pipes that allow the Sixty to roar, but I'll admit there's a certain charm in being understated.
Meanwhile, the transmission is smoother than I remember on the Sixty's larger sibling, the Scout, which means it is pretty much the smoothest American transmission I've encountered. First gear is announced with a gentle clunk, but shifting up and down in heavy traffic requires no greater effort than in many other bikes. Clutchless upshifts are manageable outside of first and second.
The Sixty is equipped with just five gears. But the nature of how those gears are set up means you genuinely don't miss sixth. If you're a cynical person like me, you'll suspect I'm stretching the truth when I say that. Certainly that's what I thought when someone first told me such a thing. But, to my complete surprise, it's true. The Sixty manages to do it all with five gears. Really.
Ride Quality and Brakes
Within the realm of what it's supposed to be –– a cruiser –– the Sixty's suspension performs admirably well, especially considering its price tag. On good, fair, or decent roads it handles imperfections with relative ease. Lean angle is generous enough that standard curves are welcomed and enjoyed.
But things get downright hectic when you push beyond those happy boundaries. Whacking into potholes will leave you struggling to stay in your seat, taking sharp corners with too much gusto will shred the pegs and put you in a panic.
That's what people always say about cruisers, though, and I feel the need to stress that these faults present themselves later than they would on, say, a Harley-Davidson Sportster, Yamaha Bolt (aka XV-950), or Triumph America. The problem is that the Sixty's engine is so much better than in any of the bikes I just mentioned. It wants to play. And that creates situations where the Sixty can suffer an identity crisis.
"Let's go, baby! Let's do this!" the engine will say as you power hard toward a bend in the road.
"Sweet Lord in heaven! What is wrong with you?!" the suspension will yelp as you go all kinds of wrong in said bend.
In other words, if you limit the Sixty to the sort of activity it was designed for, everything will be fine. Its fantastic engine will sometimes make that difficult.
The engine's being liquid cooled means no heat is felt on the legs, even when sitting still in heavy city traffic. However, I wonder if a passenger would be as happy; the Sixty's pipes get pretty hot. The plus side is that the bike still makes that air-cooled "tink-tink-tink" noise when you shut it off after a long ride. I loved this aspect of the Sixty and if Indian did it on purpose I think its engineers are geniuses for accomplishing this level of old-school feel on a modern bike.
The balloon-like Indian-branded Kenda tires are something I'd look forward to replacing if I owned a Sixty (which I've been seriously considering). They've earned a particularly bad reputation amongst British moto-journalists because they lack feel and grip in the wet. Having ridden the Sixty in Britain and Ireland I can confirm the tires' wet-weather inadequacy, but will say they aren't as bad as expected.
The Sixty feels far more flickable than it looks, but also suffers a bicycle-like "floatiness" at speeds in excess of the legal limit. Not so much, however, that I would describe it as unsteady or worrying.
Brakes, meanwhile, are adequate. Especially within the aforementioned boundaries. You won't be doing any stoppies with the single-disc front brake, but I suffered no panics. In Europe, the Sixty is equipped with a rudimentary anti-lock braking system that is about as unobtrusive as ABS can be. Indian does not yet offer the feature on bikes sold in the United States, but I reckon it's only a certain amount of time until they do. And I'll bet the feature will be retrofittable.
The Sixty weighs a hell of a lot when you're muscling it around a driveway –– especially if that driveway has an incline. On the move, though, the weight is no hassle thanks to a low center of gravity. Filtering (aka lane splitting) is easy. I mean, really, really easy. Off the top of my head, I can't think of a motorcycle I've ridden that's more effective at navigating through thick traffic. Though I wouldn't complain if the clutch lever were a little less stiff.