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Supporting Cast

While the primary differentiation of these cruisers from a functional standpoint comes in the form of their diverse engines, the frames are all remarkably similar tubular, double-cradle steel construction – with one exception. Part of the way the Scout is able to sneak onto the scales at 562 lb. is through the use of its cast aluminum frame. Additionally, Indian didn’t choose to keep the frame hidden away under non-essential covers, either.

The Moto Guzzi’s powerful dual, radial-mount Brembos aren’t something you see very often on cruisers. Too bad.

The Moto Guzzi’s powerful dual, radial-mount Brembos aren’t something you see very often on cruisers. Too bad.

The cast components are hanging out in full view and are actually made part of the bike’s styling. The frame’s steering head and the cast plates under the seat perform functions that are vital to the integrity of the frame but are usually hidden away because they were welded together by a robot working through a hangover. Instead, the steering head’s shape grows to include the radiator shroud, while the rear plates have support ribs that are integrated into the plates. The Scout isn’t alone in the high-tech frame construction department, though. The Night Rod’s steel frame is hydroformed into shape.

So, does the Indian’s fancy frame set it apart from the other more conventional cruisers? The Indian handles nimbly, but that is largely dependent on its short wheelbase. Only the Sportster’s is shorter, and not surprisingly, it feels pretty sprightly, too. No doubt the Scout’s 29° rake also plays a role in its quick steering nature. Only the Sportster, with its 30° rake is in the same neighborhood. The rest range from 32°–34°. Unlike the Sportster, the Scout didn’t show even the slightest sign of chassis flex

Still, the Scout’s top ranking comes with a caveat directed by riders on the far side of 250 lb. Our resident Large-Sized American, Sean Alexander, noted that for someone of his build, aftermarket shocks were a requirement – not an option – particularly if riding aggressively. Alexander pointed out that simply sitting on the Scout ate up most of the suspension’s limited travel. So, the fix would be buying longer travel shocks or high-quality stock-length aftermarket units to keep your rear end from being introduced to the hard stop of bottoming shocks.

Modern engine, shapely frame and engine castings, supple leather seat, and inadequate rear suspension.

Modern engine, shapely frame and engine castings, supple leather seat, and inadequate rear suspension.

Settling the Score

When the scorecard numbers are consulted, the Scout easily wins the handling category with the Gunner trailing five percentage points back. Although a couple editors said they thought the Gunner was almost as ungainly as the raked out Stateline at parking lot speeds, the bike’s character changes once on the road. Said Duke, “Although not a small machine, the Gunner feels remarkably adroit at all speeds.” However, the Gunner’s more limited cornering clearance ended the party prematurely. Rousseau concurred, adding, ”It isn’t the lightest-steering unit here, and it doesn’t have the most ground clearance, but it will still carve corners effectively at the speeds traveled by most cruiser pilots, and it’s as stable as an aircraft carrier to boot.” However, the short-travel, stiff rear suspension moved the Gunner to mid-pack when the road was anything less than billiard-table smooth.

Close behind the Gunner, the V Star’s handling again proved the bike’s overall competence by placing third. Rousseau’s comment that the Star “delivers a planted feel with slow yet relatively precise steering” was echoed by other testers. When the suspenders were considered, the Star inched its way into a close second. Siahaan believes the V Star ”has the most compliant suspension in the bunch. Bumps on the freeway that would normally upset any of the other bikes, the Star just soaks up.” Duke went even further, saying the Star is “one of the few bikes here suitable for long-distance travel.” Get off the superslab, and the Star works well until it runs out of clearance. In higher-speed sweepers, the chassis displays some “cruiser flex” (though not as much as the Stateline and the Sportster) while still tracking true.

We think the Gunner’s cast aluminum wheels look terrific.

We think the Gunner’s cast aluminum wheels look terrific.

Ironically, the Sportster tied with the Star in handling scores but dropped once the suspension was considered. The much-maligned rear suspension travel truly limits the environments in which the 1200C can be enjoyed. Our testers concurred with Siahaan when he said the Sportster’s “short-ish wheelbase, normal-sized tires, and bars with an agreeable width actually make it a very competent handling bike.” Popular consensus also stated that the Sporty flexed the most noticeably when any rear cornering force was fed into the chassis.

Odd Ducks and Other Strange Birds

The Moto Guzzi is an odd duck when it comes to handling and suspension. Our riders rated it third from last in handling but first in suspension. Huh? The culprit here is the California’s massive 708 lbs. of two-cylindered love. The Goose was a workout just pushing it around in the garage or navigating low-speed maneuvers. Duke refers to it as “rangy and a little awkward at slow speeds in tight places.” However, Troy says, ”She’s a big girl, but once rolling, she’s mighty comfy.”

Imagine feeling every engine pulse through your kneecaps. Long-legged riders get to experience the sensation first-hand.

Imagine feeling every engine pulse through your kneecaps. Long-legged riders get to experience the sensation first-hand.

“Out on the road the Guzzi hides its weight fairly well,” noted Rousseau. “Its handling is deliberate, and transitioning from one side of the tire to other is slower than most of the bikes in this test, but added, “The California is one plush machine front and rear. It gobbled up every bump I could throw at it.” The only bike in the septet with a (primitive) cruise control, all the Guzzi needs is a windshield and some soft bags to make a competent tourer.

Tied for last place in handling, the Stateline and the Night Rod suffer from being a bit too different from the other bikes. The Harley and the Honda represent the second longest and longest bikes, respectively. The Night Rod’s wheelbase combines with the 240 rear tire to make it feel wonky in corners. In its defense, the Night Rod doesn’t do anything evil, but the sensations transmitted to the rider’s butt is just so different that it takes some getting used to. The Honda suffers from having wheels that feel like they are living in different time zones. There is a noticeable pause between when the rider initiates the turn and the front wheel begins to react.

Some riders felt the Stateline’s beach bars spread them out too much in the wind. Others thought they were kinda cool.

Some riders felt the Stateline’s beach bars spread them out too much in the wind. Others thought they were kinda cool.

Back in the Saddle

While cruisers are supposed to be about a relaxed and comfortable ride, our shootout covered the whole enchilada when it comes to riding positions. The V Star and the Scout were headliners in the comfort regard, with the Star aided by roomy floorboards that allow multiple leg positions and the Scout’s peg placement accommodating a wide variety of leg length. Where the ergonomics scorecard winner, the Star, put the rider in a comfortably laid-out position for watching the world go by, the Night Rod’s feet-way-forward position combined with a reach-for-it drag bar made the bike unsuitable for all but short rides.

One might expect the Guzzi, with its cushy suspension, to rank as high as the almost as nicely suspended Star, but that would be wrong. Riders on the tall side ran into an issue with the 1400’s heads either limiting their legroom or actually hitting their knees – a problem that got old very quickly. Riders of average height or shorter, like Rousseau, found themselves “with a fairly roomy cockpit layout and nice floorboards.” Larger riders on the comparatively diminutive Scout may have looked a bit outsized, but they remained comfortable.

The Gunner’s mid-pack score here is largely due to the long reach to the pegs for shorter riders combined with a firm seat that wasn’t comfortable if it didn’t exactly conform to the shape of the rider’s buttocks. Sportster riders who were short of inseam found the bike’s pegs to be nicely located. The softly padded seat also offered a respite from the harsh rear suspension. According to Rousseau, “Those rear shock absorbers need all the help they can get.” Opinions were divided on the mini-ape handlebar. Some felt they helped to maintain a relaxed upper body while others found them awkward.

Yeah, that back tire is massive, but so is the power that the Night Rod delivers.

Yeah, that back tire is massive, but so is the power that the Night Rod delivers.

Ooh! Shiny!

Since the aesthetics of a cruiser motorcycle are most certainly in the eye of the beholder, we’ll cover these seven machines in broad strokes since readers will either think we’re geniuses because we agree with them, or they’ll call us idiots because we don’t. Under the auspices of “Cool Factor,” a category that includes appearance, desirability, poser factor (i.e. attention-attracting), etc., we combine all those intangibles and try to bring order to chaos. This shootout, with its seven disparate entries, proved to be a challenge – again, with one exception. The Indian Scout trounced the competition collecting 90.71% of the available points. The California and the Gunner tied for second in appearance, trailing the Scout by 14.28%.

Could this mark the end of liquid-cooled cruiser engines trying to look air-cooled?

Could this mark the end of liquid-cooled cruiser engines trying to look air-cooled?

The Scout’s price tag played an important role, here. For $10,999, the Scout features a technologically advanced engine in an attractive – and completely functional – wrapper. The cast aluminum frame is stylish, light and hella strong. The Indian sports premium features like a leather saddle (while more expensive contestants had vinyl). All the little details appear to favor the Scout: lines that harken to the original Scout, yet remain completely modern; eye catching instrumentation; and tons of Indian badging. The California has the benefit of Euro-styling and nice details, like having Moto Guzzi in red on the black cast aluminum wheels. The Gunner’s lines combine with the blacked out chassis and engine to give a menacing style that is softened by the silky semi-matte green paint. And the wheels are the coolest.

Although the massive rear tire may have hurt the Night Rod’s handling, it clearly helps in its attitude. The Sportster proves, yet again, that no other OEM knows paint the way that Harley-Davidson does. Siahaan sums up the 1200C’s styling perfectly: “It’s dated, but it has aged well.” The Stateline’s raked out lean look still catches the eye, even though cruiser fashion has moved on from choppers to a more bobbed appearance. (Oh, and trading some of the plastic components for metal would help, too.) The V Star, as polished as it is, suffers from dated tank graphics and too many years between refreshes.

It’s not a biker gang. Just the MO staff out on another seven bike shootout.

It’s not a biker gang. Just the MO staff out on another seven bike shootout.

Circling the Wagons

In our recent shootouts, we haven’t been sure of which bike was going take home the title until we got back to our respective offices and crunched the numbers. This time, however, we all had a pretty strong idea which way the results were going. The scorecard only solidified our hunches. On its way to victory, the Scout won six of the 11 subjective categories and two of the four objective categories – though the other motorcycles were never far behind. MSRP clearly played an important role in the Scout’s showing, impressing us with how much performance, style and premium feel Indian was able to lavish on the least expensive bike in the shootout. With the established order shifting, we expect to see the other manufacturers step up their game in the 1300cc cruiser class. Having a new for 2015 motorcycle model – from a manufacturer that only opened its doors in the 2014 model year – win this shootout shows how serious Polaris is with pushing the Indian brand. After this performance, we can’t see what the folks in Minnesota have up their sleeves next.

Now that the Scout is on the road, what does Indian have up its sleeve, next?

Now that the Scout is on the road, what does Indian have up its sleeve, next?

Shootout at the MO Corral Scorecard
Category Harley-Davidson
Sportster 1200
Harley-Davidson
Night Rod Special
Honda Stateline Indian Scout Moto Guzzi California 1400 Custom Star V Star 1300 Victory Gunner
Price 84.6% 66.5% 90.5% 100.0% 71.0% 97.4% 84.6%
Weight 98.7% 84.9% 83.6% 100.0% 79.4% 84.7% 84.7%
lb/hp 66.6% 100.0% 0.0% 90.8% 71.9% 62.4% 76.0%
lb/lb-ft 84.6% 77.0% 0.0% 79.2% 74.0% 77.7% 100.0%
Engine 68.9% 86.6% 68.9% 90.4% 83.9% 78.6% 86.4%
Transmission/Clutch 67.1% 77.1% 79.6% 82.9% 76.4% 80.4% 63.2%
Handling 76.4% 63.6% 63.6% 82.1% 71.8% 76.4% 77.1%
Brakes 70.7% 81.1% 72.5% 80.4% 86.4% 80.0% 75.0%
Suspension 62.1% 70.7% 74.6% 59.3% 79.3% 78.2% 73.6%
Technologies 34.3% 52.9% 35.7% 50.7% 80.6% 37.1% 34.3%
Instruments 59.3% 63.6% 63.6% 63.6% 74.3% 60.7% 62.5%
Ergonomics/Comfort 71.1% 60.0% 63.6% 76.1% 73.9% 79.3% 72.5%
Quality 80.4% 84.6% 83.9% 86.8% 82.9% 80.0% 81.1%
Cool Factor 64.3% 75.4% 53.6% 90.7% 76.4% 46.7% 76.4%
Grin Factor 60.0% 72.9% 48.6% 87.1% 74.6% 53.6% 70.4%
Overall Score 80.9% 87.0% 74.5% 95.3% 91.6% 84.1% 86.9%
Price and weight are scored based on objective metrics. Other scores are listed as a percentage of editors’ ratings in each category. The Engine category is double-weighted, so the Overall Score is not a total of the displayed percentages but, rather, a percentage of the weighted aggregate raw score.
Harley-Davidson
Sportster
Harley-Davidson
Night Rod Special
Honda
Stateline
Indian
Scout
Moto Guzzi
California 1400 Custom
Star
V Star 1300
Victory
Gunner
MSRP $12,999.00 $16,549.00 $12,150.00 $10,999.00 $15,490.00 $11,290.00 $12,999.00
Engine Type Air-cooled, Evolution, 45 degree V-twin Liquid-cooled, Revolution, 60° V-Twin Liquid-cooled 52° V-twin Liquid-cooled, 60 degree V-twin Air/oil-cooled with an independent cooling pump, 90° transverse mounted V-twin Liquid-cooled, 60° V-twin Air/oil-cooled, Freedom 106 / 6, 50° V-twin
Displacement 1202 cc (73.4 cu. in.) 1247 cc (76.1 cu. in.) 1312cc (80.1 cu. in.) 1133cc (69 cu. in.) 1380 cc (84.2 cu. in.) 1304cc (80 cu. in.) 1731cc (106 cu. in.)
Bore x Stroke 88.9 mm x 96.8 mm 105 mm x 72 mm 89.5 mm x 104.3 mm 99 mm x 73.6 mm 104 mm x 81.2 mm 100.0 mm x 83.0 mm 101 mm X 108 mm
Fuel System Electronic Sequential Port Fuel Injection (ESPFI) Electronic Sequential Port Fuel Injection (ESPFI) PGM-FI with automatic enrichment circuit, one 38mm throttle body Electronic fuel injection, closed loop/60 mm bore Phased electronic Multipoint sequential injection; “ride by wire” 52 mm throttle body, double oxygen sensor Fuel injection Closed loop fuel injection, dual 45 mm throttle bodies
Ignition Digital with 3-D mapping, two spark plugs per cylinder Integrated management of 3 engine mappings, traction control TCI: Transistor Controlled Ignition
Compression Ratio 10:01 11.5:1 9.2:1 10.7:1 10.5 : 1 9.5:1 9.4:1
Valve Train Pushrod-operated, overhead valves with hydraulic, self-adjusting lifters; 2 valves per cylinder DOHC, solid tappet with shim-under-bucket lash adjustment, 4 valves per cylinder SOHC, 3 valves per cylinder DOHC, 4 valves per cylinder SOHC, 4 valves per cylinder SOHC, 4 valves per cylinder DOHC, 4 valves per cylinder, hydraulic lifters
Emissions Catalytic converter Catalytic converter Catalytic converter Two O2 sensors, one each bank, single three-way catalyst in each muffler Three-way catalytic converter with double lambda probe Catlytic converter Catalytic converter
Horsepower 61.6 hp 107.6 hp 55.6 hp 83.0 hp 82.8 hp 67.3 hp 82.0 hp
Torque 67.6 ft-lb 71.5 ft-lb 72.2 ft-lb 62.5 ft-lb 73.6 ft-lb 72.4 ft-lb 93.2 ft-lb
lb/hp 9.24 6.15 12.09 6.77 8.55 9.85 8.09
lb/torque 8.42 9.25 9.31 8.99 9.62 9.16 7.12
Transmission 5-speed, Multi-plate, wet clutch 5-speed, 9-plate, wet, clutch with Assist & Slip 5-speed 6-Speed, wet, multi-plate clutch 6 speeds with final overdrive, single-disc clutch with integrated anti-vibration buffer 5-speed multiplate wet clutch 6-speed overdrive, wet multi-plate
Final Drive Belt Belt Shaft Belt Shaft: double cardan joint and fixed bevel gear seat Belt Belt
Front Suspension Telescopic fork, 39 mm diameter, 4.12 in. travel 43 mm inverted, 4.0 in. travel 41mm fork; 4.0 inches travel 41 mm fork, 4.7 in. travel 46 mm telescopic fork, 4.7 in. travel 41mm Telescopic fork; 5.3-in travel 43 mm telescopic fork, 5.1 in. travel
Rear Suspension Dual shocks, coil-over; preload-adjustable, 2.12 in. travel Dual shocks, preload-adjustable, 2.9 in. travel Single shock, preload adjustable, 3.9 inches travel Dual shocks, preload-adjustable, 3 in. travel Dual shock absorbers with adjustable preload and rebound damping, 4.3 in. travel Single, preload-adjustable shock; 4.3-in travel Single, mono-tube gas, cast aluminum with rising rate linkage, 3.0 in. travel, preload adjustable
Front Brake Single 300mm solid, uniform expansion rotor; dual-piston caliper Dual 300mm one-piece, floating rotor; 4-piston calipers Single 336mm disc with 2-piston caliper Single 298 mm rotor with 2-piston caliper Dual 320 mm stainless steel floating discs, Brembo radial callipers with 4 horizontally opposed pistons Dual 298mm disc, 4-piston calipers Single 300 mm disc, 4-piston caliper
Rear Brake Single, 260mm solid, uniform expansion rotor; dual-piston front caliper Single, 300mm uniform expansion rotor, 4-piston caliper 296mm disc with single-piston caliper Single 298 mm rotor with 1-piston caliper Single, 282 mm stainless steel fixed disc, Brembo floating calliper with 2 parallel pistons Single, 298mm disc, 2-piston Caliper Single, 300 mm disc, 2-piston caliper
Front Tire 130/90 B16 73H 120/70 ZR-19 60W 140/80-17 130/90-16 72H 130/70 R 18 130/90-16M/C 67H 130/90 B16 67H
Rear Tire 150/80B16 77H 240/40R-18 79V 170/80-15 150/80-16 71H 200/60 R 16 170/70B-16M/C 75H 140/90 B16 77H
Rake / Trail 30° / 4.2 in. 34° / 5.6 in. 33° / 4.6 in. 29° / 4.7 in. 32° / 6.1 in. 32° / NA 32° / 6.7 in.
Wheelbase 59.8 in. 67.0 in. 70.1 in. 61.5 in. 66.3 in. 66.5 in. 64.8 in.
Seat Height 28.0 in. 26.6 in. 26.7 in. 26.5 in. 29.1 in. 27.2 in. 25.0 in.
Measured Weight 569.4 lb. 661.7 lb. 672 lb (spec shootout) 562.0 lb. 708.1 lb. 663.2 lb. 663.2 lb.
Fuel Capacity 4.5 gal. 5 gal. 4.4 gal. 3.3 gal. 5.4 gal. 4.9 gal. 4.5 gal.
Tested Fuel Economy 36.4 mpg 26.1 mpg NA 35.1 mpg 37.4 mpg 39.6 mpg 38.3 mpg
Available Colors Brilliant Silver Pearl/Vivid Black, Mysterious Red Sunglo/Blackened Cayanne Sunglo, Vivid Black, Amber Whiskey, Superior Blue Deep Jade Pearl, Superior Blue, Black Denim, Vivid Black Blue Metallic Thunder Black, Indian Motorcycle Red, Silver Smoke, Thunder Black Smoke Basalt Black, Mercury Gray Candy Red Suede Titanium Metallic with Black, Suede Green Metallic with Black
Warranty Two years Two years One year Two years Two years One year One year

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