Motorcycle of the Year: Indian Scout

What’s this? A cruiser claims the Motorcycle of the Year title even though we’ve called 2015 the year of the Superbike? Yes, it might provoke a little cognitive dissonance until you think a little further. First, because the Indian Scout was introduced at Sturgis this time last year, many riders mistakenly thought of it as a 2014 model. To qualify for a MOBO, a motorcycle must be on sale to the public prior to the nominating process at the end of each July, and the Scout wasn’t available until late last year. Additionally, our MOTY must be something special, and the Scout is more than just a class-beating cruiser.

Best Cruiser Of 2015

First, the Scout shows that Indian is in the motorcycle production game for the long haul and that its parent company, Polaris, has the willingness – and the ability – to continue to invest in growing the marque into a potential challenger to that other huge American cruiser brand. For example, developing an engine is the most costly process in producing a new motorcycle, and having Indian release its second created-from-scratch powerplant in just two years speaks of the commitment and the understanding on Polaris’ part that it will take years to recoup the expenditure. Lets just say that, after decades of being the name of a former motorcycle manufacturer, the Indian brand has some unfinished business in the American-made cruiser market. We look forward to watching this play out.

2015 Indian Scout First Ride Review

Then there’s that little thing about the choice to move beyond being just another tribute band playing massaged versions of the Indians of yore. Yes, the Chief models are a look back at the classic Indian motorcycles through modern cruiser spectacles. Yet, when the Scout steps onto the stage, with its liquid-cooled engine and plainly visible die-cast aluminum frame, and announces it is the Indian of the 21st century, we know that the company is looking ahead to what the Indian line can be and not just counting on the golden oldies.

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Hardware isn’t the only new material that Indian is performing before the riding public. The Scout’s $10,999 price tag undercut all of the competitors in our shootout and scored higher on quality than those six bikes, some costing several thousand dollars more. The fact that an American motorcycle can be manufactured domestically and sold at a class-beating MSRP, while still delivering a premium feel, in a time when many of the majors are looking to developing Pacific Rim countries for production savings should be praised.

Shootout At The MO Corral: A Bout With The Scout + Video

Additionally, having the ability to share resources with other Polaris-owned entities will, no doubt, prove to be beneficial to them all. To see an example of this, just take a look at Victory’s recent Project 156 Pikes Peak International Hill Climb race bike that appears to use a Scout-based engine. Chief Editor Duke believes a version of that motor will power the next new Victory we see, as he theorizes here.

However, all of the lofty words about what the Scout portends for the Indian brand and Polaris’ future products recede into the background the moment the Scout’s starter button is thumbed. The Scout delivers strong performance in a lightweight chassis all wrapped in an attractive, yet non-traditional cruiser package – a fact that has caught the eye of riders who don’t necessarily want a retro motorcycle but are nonetheless looking to step in to the cruiser fold. Additionally, Indian somehow managed to provide  premium fit and finish while still beating the price of the other cruisers in its class. For these reasons and more, the Indian Scout earns the title of 2015 Motorcycle of the Year.

Honorable Mention: Kawasaki Ninja H2

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Kawasaki’s radical H2 is undoubtedly a special motorcycle – there is nothing else in production like it, and it’s likely to stay that way for some time. The H2’s unique supercharged engine is clearly the headline here. Kawasaki’s aerospace division was able to develop a centrifugal blower that doesn’t require an intercooler, a feat that manufacturers of superchargers said was impossible. The exquisitely machined-from-billet impeller is like jewelry for gearheads, boosting the 998cc engine to 194 horsepower at its rear wheel. Its torque output is even more incredible, pumping out 92 lb-ft. of twist, considerably more than any other literbike.

We’ve heard some critics say they’d never pay $25,000 for a Kawasaki, but we’ve never heard someone say that while looking at the H2 in the flesh. Its fit and finish detailing is nothing less than stellar, drawing in eyes from its LED-headlight nose to its butt-cradling tailsection. Its mirror-finish paint (with a layer of pure silver) is unique in the motor-vehicle world, and its trellis frame is created from laser-cut and robotically welded tubes that are lovingly finished off by skilled human hands.

2015 Kawasaki Ninja H2 First Ride Review + Video

No matter where one looks, the H2 demonstrates the high level of quality usually found only on high-end exotics from Italy. Brakes are Brembo M50s, calipers that are as good as they get, while clutch and brake master cylinders are advanced radial plungers also from Brembo. The inverted fork keeps its air and oil separate – a system used here for the first time ever on a streetbike – to reduce stiction as much as possible. Wheels are brilliantly highlighted by machined accents, the rear proudly exposed by Kawasaki’s first-ever single-sided swingarm. Upon close inspection, the H2’s $25k MSRP almost seems like a bargain.

Kawasaki also upped its electronics game with the H2, providing not only adjustable traction control, but also launch control, Engine Brake Control and Kawi’s first-ever quickshifter. The H2 also styles with bespoke switchgear and slick LCD gauges.

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The H2 might not be the ultimate track tool that some enthusiasts wish it could be, but it’s important to remember Kawasaki bills it as “the ultimate road-going motorcycle.” Imagine a burly Star VMAX with 20 hp extra and 160 fewer pounds! With the H2, you’re swinging the biggest club on the block.

We appreciate the audacity of building something as outrageous as a supercharged literbike, and we hold in high regard technological innovation that push the boundaries of what’s possible. The uniquely fantastic H2 is a landmark motorcycle that will forever be seen as special. It’s an instant collector’s item.

Motorcycle.com Best of 2015 Categories

  • JMDGT

    The fact that Polaris has invested in the development of Indian speaks volumes. They are serious. There is a market out there for cruisers. Why not go after it with an iconic American brand name and a modern inexpensive quality machine. Good luck to them.

    • Karen

      Nicely put. I love my Indian and the dealership. Honest and forthright. They won’t let you down.

  • John B.

    I am not a cruiser fan, but love everything about the Indian lineup including the Scout. Nevertheless, I would have picked the H2 as motorcycle of the year. At $25,000, it’s a relative bargain. More importantly, the H2 will motivate other manufacturers to innovate. I saw an H2 up close at the motorcycle show and it’s amazing.

    • TheMarvelous1310 .

      25,000 is a better bargain than 10,000?

      I can afford a Scout. I can’t afford an H2.

      • ‘Mike Smith

        Sell one of your kids. I kid, I kid…

      • John B.

        I would agree $25,000 is more than $10,000, but which bike is a better value depends on what you get for your money. Based on MO reviews and what I saw at the motorcycle show, it would seem both bikes provide great value. Obviously, I know nothing about what you can or cannot afford. The Yamaha FZ-07 won best value right?

  • Alexander Pityuk

    If I was ever to consider getting a cruiser, it would be definitely thanks to Indian. Love those things. And that cruiser would be an Indian one for sure.
    I feel a bit controversial about H2 not taking the first place, yet I am so sick of H2’s overinflated hype bubble (not to mention those 100 videos), that this seems a well deserved punishment for it.

    • Gabriel Owens

      Have you sat on a triumph? lol.

      • Alexander Pityuk

        Why would I?

  • frankfan42

    The Indian wins because it’s more significant number wise- most people buy cruisers. But the H2 and H2R point to the future, not the past. Technology is going to enable bikes to do some amazing things, it already does.
    A case can be made that Indian is making better cruisers, and they will sell MANY, deserverdly so. But for those of us who like bikes the Kawi twins really point the way forward.

  • kenneth_moore

    The Scout MOTY makes sense, but I’m glad you gave the bike that truly deserved it Honorable Mention. IMO, nothing about the H2 is hype. It’s a breakthrough, a paradigm shift, a game-changer, (insert your cliche here). The Scout is a nice bike, but it’s not a bike I’d sell a kidney to buy. The H2 is. Someday one will be mine.

    • Tim Sawatzky

      I think that’s part of the decision, the Scout is a bike you don’t have to sell a kidney for. It’s a fantastic bike that is reachable to the masses. The H2 is not only very expensive, but way to much bike for the majority of riders. Yes it pushes the technology envelope, but the Scout pushes it in a way that is reachable to more people.

  • SteveSweetz

    Can someone explain the H2 to me? From what I read, it’s not as good on the track as lighter superbikes. Yet it still has track bike ergos so it’s not like you’re going touring with it and it has more power than you would ever be able to sanely use on the street anyway.

    It makes me think of the Bugatti Veyron. Not as fun as dedicated track cars, not as comfy as a dedicated GT, not nearly as pretty as other supercars. Pretty much just status symbol for the grotesquely rich who are buying a collection of big numbers on a fact sheet that they will never truly use.

    The H2 is of course far more obtainable than the Veyron, but it seems to serve the same purpose. Well, if it is just the ultimate poser bike, at least it’s a heck of a lot cooler than a Hayabusa.

    • DickRuble

      80% of street motorcycles are poser bikes, traveling once a week to the donut shop and back. For that purpose, the H2 will stand out in the parking lot.

    • kenneth_moore

      I think it sets a bar for and points to the future, both for Kawasaki and for motorcycling in general. Much like when the Hyabusa came out and did the same. Or the 916, or the original H2, or even the CB 750.

      • SteveSweetz

        Sets what bar though? Because it’s not raising the bar for track bikes and I’m not sure what meaningful bar it’s raising for street bikes. I didn’t really see anyone trying to emulate the Hyabusa for years and I don’t really know of any bikes being particularly inspired by it (my knowledge on this is admittedly limited, if there are examples of how it meaningfully impacted the market at large, I’d certainly be willing to listen).

        I appreciate the H2’s technology in terms of electronic rider aids – but they’ve been around for a while. We don’t need them on another halo bike, it’s already time for them to start trickling down to “normal” bikes.

        Forced induction in a production bike is cool (though Honda made a turbo’d bike as far back as the 80s), but I’ll be excited when a manufacturer uses it to get say, 80hp/50ft-lbs out of a 400cc bike that weighs <400lbs – something usable to it's full extent on a street and a meaningful difference compared to naturally aspirated on bikes in the same weight or size class. If the H2 is a necessary step on that path, well ok then, but with the way things are designed these days I'm not sure if implementation on a halo product first is actually a necessary step anymore.

        Personally I think the FJ-09, relatively mundane as it may be, has raised more meaningful bars for motorcycles this year. Traction control, ABS, throttle-by-wire (though still needs work), and a fantastic engine in a bike that can be had for $10K. The mid-range that most of us shop in is where I want to see bars raised.

        • TalonMech

          The only advantage I see in having the supercharger on the street legal H2 is torque. There are other normally aspirated bikes that produce similar hp numbers, but look at the torque numbers.
          I took a close look at an H2 at a local bike hangout. The build quality, fit and finish are fantastic. But I still think it’s butt ugly.

        • kenneth_moore

          All the things you like about my FJ 09 originated on “Halo Bikes” like the H2. One look at either version of the H2 convinced me I was looking at the future. If Kawi can produce a modern forced induction production bike, Suzuki’s turbo Reversion can’t be far behind.

  • Buzz

    I like the looks of the Scout and the price is right but I can’t say I’ve seen more than ONE on the road around here. I’ve seen a handful of Chiefs but the Scout can’t seem to get out of the TeePee

    • Kevin Duke

      Demand currently far outstrips supply, so they say, and I believe them.

      • Buzz

        Those demanders might want to head to the local dealer here since four of them are sitting on the floor.

        Those kind of answers are a way for manufacturers to keep from giving actual sales numbers.

        I’ll bet they sold 100% more than last year too!

        • Old MOron

          Maybe people in your area bought up all the H2’s.

          • Buzz

            They give ’em out free here. Like Thanksgiving turkeys.

        • Kevin Duke

          C’mon, Buzz, you know that just because one dealer has four Scouts doesn’t mean dealer demand has outstripped the factory’s supply, right? While I don’t have access to sales numbers, there are things I learned from being with Indian and Victory staffers over the first half of 2015 that has me confident I’m not getting snowed. If we’re lucky, perhaps a Polaris rep might read this and shine some light on the situation.

          • Buzz

            I know that Kevin. But I’m always reluctant to believe non-specific remarks regarding sales.

            Harley releases actual units sold every quarter. It shouldn’t be that hard for everyone else to do it.

          • Robert Byrd

            Agreed that they shouldn’t be ashamed to post sales, but you have to consider the Scout was only JUST released for sale and Indian dealers are far and few between. We just now got an Indian dealer in Denton, TX and now there are almost as many Scouts bobbing around town as HDs, honest! (I’m not an Indian fanboy, ride a Honda)

        • Evans Brasfield

          FWIW, a friend of mine waited several months after signing on the dotted line and putting his money down earlier this year to get his Scout.

          • Buzz

            I know this is all anecdotal. I just expected to see more of them around considering the price and it’s a pretty cool bike.

            I guess i better hit the Burger Barn tomorrow night and see who shows up.

      • Karen

        That’s it Kevin and they also have the limited edition in the Scout. Nice motorcycle for the price. Hearing more new riders are purchasing the Scout.

  • Goose

    I haven’t a clue if the Scout should be MOTY but I really admire your balls in picking it.

    • Kevin Duke

      It’s been some time since my balls were admired. 😉

      • Goose

        Hey, it doesn’t mean you’re a bad person.

      • http://www.motorcycle.com/ Sean Alexander

        …and for good reason!

  • Old MOron

    Hey MOrons, I found a video of MO’s MOTY decision process. Unbelievable!

    http://www.grapheine.com/bombaytv/identity-en-ac8f9a158823231837e5fbf0058102df.html

    • Kevin Duke

      Yep, something like that!

  • Gabriel Owens

    Wow. the scout. I’ve never been disappointed with this publication before and I’ll get over it quickly but that bike has a huge design flaw and most, if not all, owners are sqwaking about it. the rear suspension is complete garbage and borderline dangerous.

    • DickRuble

      You have actually seen owners of the scout? They are rarer than the Dodo bird. We hear about them but no one has been ever able to verify they exist..

      • Gabriel Owens

        yep. actually saw a few last night in Fargo. sitting next to a dark horse, those scouts look tiny.

      • Leah A. Staudt

        Owner here, this bike is amazing and I don’t find the rear suspension to be junk. I believe most of those complaining about the suspension are over 160 lbs. I ride my Scout Monday to Friday on the LI Expressway. This bike is fast and nimble. I honestly believe it has helped me be a better rider.

    • Kevin Duke

      People who say that probably haven’t ridden the Scout’s competition to understand the state of that art.

      • Gabriel Owens

        it is a matter of geometry. the scouts is impossible.

    • Bruce Steever

      Don’t forget the high-rpm vibrations…

  • Michele Picchioni

    Mhhh, an American cruiser that does what Japanese (and European) cruiser have been able to do for years clearly deserves the MOTY award!

  • DickRuble

    I read three times the rationale for declaring the Indian Scout bike of the year, just to make sure I understand, and it seems to come to this: It’s made in America, not too expensive, and a similarly looking engine was used in a hill climb competition. And .. Kevin Duke hangs out with the Polaris crowd.

    • Evans Brasfield

      I find it funny how people always have some conspiracy theory when we publish something they don’t agree with. For the record, I was the editor who initially pushed for the Scout as MOTY, not Duke. After much discussion (and a little stamping of feet and threatening to hold my breath until I turned blue), the rest of the staff came around to the correct point of view (mine). I had nothing to gain from the selection of the Scout other than satisfaction in believing we made the right choice. Oh, that and finally understanding what my daughters discovered a long time ago: intense, dedicated pouting is a great technique for getting your way.

  • Larry Alvey

    The Scout is more of an entry level cruiser and gets compared to Sportsters… Motorcycle of the year? Kidding me? I would have guessed FJ-09 or Kawasaki Versys 1000.

  • Michael Mccormick

    I really like the Scout. Hope Triumph finally releases a liquid cooled twin to give it some competition.

  • Heroe73

    Yes, a cruiser as the bike of the year! How much is motorcycle.com getting paid in commission? Innovation, demand and/or sales should, perhaps, dictate the motorcycle of the year; however, motorcycle.com has chosen a motorcycle from the USA based on nothing. The reasons they give are so baseless only blinded fan readers can agree with it. In a year that we saw tremendous amount progress and innovation, a cruiser was chosen. Again, how much is Polaris donating to this publication. More readers should scrutinize this farse.

    • Evans Brasfield
      • Heroe73

        This makes it more clear that you guys are part of the polaris company or have stock riding on the company because you could have provided similar links for motorcycles that are more deserving of the title: Yamaha, Kawasaki, KTM, Aprilia, Bmw, ducati and so on…but you just want to push a domestic brand due to a sentimental value neglecting evidence that would had lead on a different direction. Perhaps, next year you guys should select a scooter.

        • Evans Brasfield

          Got that tinfoil helmet strapped on a bit tight, don’t you?

          • Heroe73

            Perhaps you need to start wearing a helmet: too many hits to the head!

        • Robert Byrd

          Would you like some meat with your salt? There’s no meat to this argument…

      • Heroe73

        Mr. Brasfield:
        I needed to write to you, and perhaps, apologize. I hope you read this post because I wanted to tell you that I stand corrected, the scout is a great bike! I think on power alone, the bike is better than its competition. I think the bike has risen the bar for other bikes in its class and buyers will be very happy with their purchase. Furthermore, this bike is a good compromise for those of us who are coming from other bike genres into the cruising category. This bike is a really nice surprise!.

        • Evans Brasfield

          Wow. Thanks for the follow up! I think most people wouldn’t have. So, thanks again. Even though no apology is really needed.

          What brought on your change of heart?

          • Heroe73

            When looking at this bike we must look at its competition first, then, look at its attributes. It was hard for me to accept this publication’s conclusion due to my own bias. I decided to find out why you guys chose the bike; however, looking from various perspectives. When looking at the bike in a different light, I came to realize that The Scout is a gem. This year the the amount of amazing bikes in the market was/is mind blowing and the underlying themes of speed and technology has changed the way we look at bikes forever and this is where the scout enters the picture: It does what it needs to do well.

  • Old MOron

    Fellow MOrons, leave us consider recent MOronic history:

    2014 MOTY: KTM 1290 Super Duke R
    2013 MOTY: BMW R1200GS
    2012 MOTY: Kawi ZX-14R
    2011 MOTY: BMW K1600GT/L
    2010 MOTY: BMW S1000RR
    2009 MOTY: Triumph Street Triple R

    Well shucks, I was going to try to argue that the Scout was not entirely out of line with MO’s previous choices. But the Scout doesn’t fit in with previous winners, does it?

    Oh well, I didn’t ride the bike. Certain things in life are more than just the sum of their parts. Maybe the modern expression of back-to-basics pleasures, maybe riding the bike and appreciating it within the context of its history, maybe embracing the promise it holds for future American bikes, maybe it really does add up to MOTY.

    Hey, at least John Burns didn’t talk the other MOrons into voting for the Street 750!

    • Kevin Duke

      Great to have an archivist, Ol’MO! Our past winners have had a decidedly sporting bent, but that’s largely because progress is most clearly seen from that angle, as sporty machines are regularly upgraded with the latest and greatest hardware. The Scout’s clean-sheet design really wowed us when we put it in the shootout linked above. In terms of which of the seven bikes we liked best, the Scout was the easy winner even though it was the least expensive of the bunch. In most every shootout, the results aren’t so definitive. The Sportster is the bike in Indian’s crosshairs, and the Scout trounced it in every measure. I imagine many of those who decry the Scout’s MOtY honors aren’t cruiser riders. For them, we encourage them to refer to one of the 11 other categories of award winners!

      • Old MOron

        You know, if people are upset that your MOronic choice does not match theirs, that’s probably a sign they they have a vested interest in you. I mean, in order for them to feel disappointed by your choice, they must regard MO with esteem and affection.

        Kind like when your favorite band goes commercial, boy do you feel betrayed. Don’t ever go commercial, you MOrons.

        (I know you’re a commercial entity, but you know what I mean.)

  • Heroe73

    This article is such a load horse manure. The attributes given for the selection of the bike have to do with the company and its commitment to prduction rather than the actual bike and its attributes. The Category it’s about the attributes of the bike not the company so please right about the bike and not about the company. If the category where about the company with a good plan for the future, then, give the award to Polaris but the awards for the best bike is not the one motorcycle.com chose.

  • Alexander Pityuk

    Wow, this thread is getting hot. We need some proper liquid cooling here. Like on the Scout. It has the best liquid cooling evar, ya know.

  • TheMarvelous1310 .

    I would definitely get a Scout, but for two things.

    For one, I’m huge. Six two, three hundred something, makes this a really small bike for me, but that’s nothing that a seat and a lift can’t fix-

    -Which brings me to the second thing: That wierd rear shock angle. How do I lift the height where I want it-two inches higher than stock, with me sitting on it-without ruining the body line?

    I really, r3ally want a Scout… But I’ll probably end up on a Dyna bobber with mid controls and Sputhe stabilizers. At least until the Scout develops an aftermarket.

  • Timu noke
  • Mike

    I have rode Harley bobbers since the mid 60’s. Now I’m in my mid 60’s, A ridged frame and suicide shift are starting to wear on me! I will be taking A close look at this one! The price is great, I can still keep my bobber, and have something new comfortable look’s great for A good price!

  • QuestionMark666

    I’m 62, I ride a 14 year old ZRX1200 with a few modifications and a 2010 BMW S1000RR, stock except for a pipe. I have owned a lot of sport bikes Bimota SB6, 916, “Busa and R1 and the Indian Scout is the most likely purchase I would make right now. If it had a less forward location of the foot controls, I would have bought one already.

    • schizuki

      Agreed. I’ve always thought a new Scout should be more of a roadster than a cruiser. Pull back the pegs and push the bars forward.

    • Kevin Duke

      Wow, from your perspective and background, that’s great support for our choice! Let’s all endorse riding whatever floats our boats!

      • QuestionMark666

        Thanks, I don’t care what you call what I ride, I ride for fun and a Scout is cool looking and 80hp is enough to be fun.

        That said, I am going to look at a 2013 Diavel tomorrow