The US motojournalist/influencer corps doesn’t look much at all like the people in the ads for Indian’s new Scout Rogue and Rogue Sixty. Carey Hart did meet us for lunch in Ojai during our ride, and he’d fit right in. The former MXer/freestyler not only looks the part, he actually builds custom motorcycles in his own big shop.

But most of the rest of us are quite a bit older, less tattooed and pierced, and make our living typing and politicking instead of grinding metal and being cool. It’s impossible for us to maintain that fashion-model scowl when we’re riding around on free motorcycles on a beautiful spring California day with our old besties.

You may be shocked to learn that most of us, truth be told, aren’t the biggest cruiser fans either. But all of us are willing to play along to keep this most excellent ball rolling, and the fact is the modern cruiser is a far more engaging thing to ride than most earlier efforts. You could almost credit Indian for that. We named the all-new Scout our Motorcycle of the Year in 2015, and the pressure that bike put on Harley-Davidson couldn’t have gone unnoticed when it was time for the new Sportsters just now rolling out. Also, Indian’s success following Victory’s failure might have even caused the Japanese to ponder, what’s in a name? A lot, apparently.

Reinvent the wheel

Swapping different components on the same motorcycle is a time-honored way to keep things fresh, and so here we arrive at the third or fourth Scout, in the wheeltracks of Scout Sixty, Scout Bobber… behold Scout Rogue. It’s a Rogue because it’s got a lot of blacked-out components, but mostly because a 19 x 3.5-inch front wheel and 130/60-19 Metzeler Cruisetec tire replaces the 16 x 3.5 inch front wheel and 130/90-16 front tire of the other Scouts. Out back, the 16 x 3.5 in wheel and 150/80-16 tire remain undisturbed.

Full Rogue at left with cool mirrors and more chrome; Rogue Sixty at right less cash, less flash.

Then there’s your “mini-ape” handlebar and the addition of a quarter fairing to shield a bit of wind. There’s also a new sport seat, which is supposed to provide better long range comfort, with a more pronounced rear lip to better keep you from falling off the back.

Your powertrain remains the same, and that’s not a bad thing, since we’ve been big fans of Indian’s 60-degree DOHC 8-valve V-twin ever since its inception. In the Rogue, you’ve still got your choice of 60 or 69-cubic inches (999 or 1133cc), the former with a 5-speed gearbox, and the bigger engine with a 6-speed. The 69 is rated at 100 crankshaft horsepower and 72 pound-feet of torque; the 60 at 78 hp and 65 lb-ft. We dyno’d both in 2016.

Yes there’s a left side, and on it there’s a nice low-maintenance belt drive. You can actually flip those mirrors side to side, and on top for a better view to the rear.

Harley’s cheapest new Sportster carries an $11,299 price tag; Indian will still fix you up with a Scout Bobber Sixty for $9,499, or the new Sixty Rogue for $500 more. The big-engine Rogue carries an $11,499 sticker.

Rogue state

Indian chose to hold the press ride in Ventura, California, which allowed me a nice relaxing Amtrak ride up the coast, and gave all of us a nice blast up and down California’s excellent Highway 33 the next day. If somebody introduced a new dump truck on that sinuous piece of pavement art over the coastal mountains, you’d love the dump truck too – especially since the whole road was freshly repaved not long ago.

Going into it, the claim was that the new non-fatty tire up front was going to lead to quicker, more nimble handling – and I can’t argue that’s not the case. The overall diameter of the new 19-in and the preexisting 16-in tire, we’re told, is the same; the only difference is that the new wheel/tire combination takes about 1.5 pounds out of the spinning, unsprung equation (and the fork tube spacing and axle are even the same, which means you can swap 19 for 16 at will).

Cruising

I could be wrong in thinking the vast majority of buyers of cruisers don’t much care about how we do it in California, but that didn’t stop us from testing the Rogue like we test every bike. Even if you set out with the intention to enjoy the scents of the orange blossoms and wildflowers while trying to get your chakra aligned on a leisurely cruise, that’s all out the window as soon as some punk starts throwing footpeg sparks in your face. Why I oughta…

The forwardish footpegs make decent highway ones if your legs are about 30 inches like mine. On smooth pavement.

Like any cruiser, the footpeg feelers will let you know when doom is impending from either side, but lately cruiser manufacturers seem to have been paying a little more attention to the sporting side of things too. Like the new H-D Sportster S, you’re motoring at a reasonably brisk pace when the Rogue feelers signal, but the pegs do of course fold, and gauging how much farther you can lean before something solid contacts the road is up to viewer discretion: I never found out.

The fastest riders in our group (one of whom claims to ride 33 three times a week) quickly checked out, not to be seen again until back at the Marriott – where he said he was surprised by how really competent the Rogue was. And where his footpeg feelers, along with some of the rubber, was completely missing on both sides, and the exhaust pipe cover gouged on the underneath right side of the bike.

My little group felt like we were motoring along fast enough at our slightly reduced pace, which is defined more by sight lines and old-age self preservation than by how far the Rogue will lean most of the time: In tighter curves, you definitely have to account for available lean as you calculate entry speed, but in faster ones you can mostly keep the gas on and keep pretty impressive roll speed up.

At all speeds it’s capable of, though, the chassis remains unflapped on the smooth, flowing pavement that is Highway 33. The 41mm conventional fork up front and twin rear shocks do a reasonbly good job keeping things nicely balanced and on even keel.

Planet of the Mini-apes

Somewhat surprisingly, everybody seemed to like the mini-ape handlebar Indian chose for the Rogue, which lifts your fists six or seven inches compared to the usual Scout bend, and brings them a bit closer to your body, too. On the Rogue, the mini-ape feels a bit like a dirt bike handlebar, and rotates you back into the same sort of in-control feeling of omnipotence over the front tire. The ergos combined with the lighter, quicker-turning 19-in front tire, makes it easy to bend the bike into turns, and the Metzeler Cruisetecs are more than sticky enough given the limited ground clearance. Given what’s available, steering is direct and crisp, and light mid-corner braking with front or rear brake or both results in just the kind of non-dramatic decel you’d hoped for. Compared to the 16-inch fatty tired Scout, the Rogue does feel more accurate, precise, and sportier in general.

When it comes to stopping hard in a straight line, you won’t mistake the single 298mm disc up front (the rear’s the same size) and its low-tech two-piston caliper for the latest Brembos, but jumping on both ABS-equipped brakes stops the bike pretty hard anyway, thanks in part to the long lowness of the thing. Indian does fit steel brake lines as standard, and the lever is firm and linear-feeling.

Ride modes

We don’t need any stinkin’ ride modes. Throttle response is crisp yet jerk-free (depending on the jerk twisting it) and power is adequate for heady propulsion but not really enough to have you worrying about spitting the rear tire out – on dry pavement at least.

It’s surprisingly calm behind the quarter fairing. One nice round dial gets the job done, especially if you’re technophobic. Can we do something about these wire cables? Has anybody ever done exhaust wrap on their ape hangers?

Nor have we got any IMUs or traction control or any of that. One of the beauties of cruising is that the motorcycle is low and long of wheelbase, which tends to keep things in line and happy.

When I reviewed the first Scout Sixty way back in 2016, I remember feeling like I didn’t miss 5th gear or the extra 135 cc much at all – but at that launch we rode more urban environs and Las Vegas backroads at a more leisurely pace. This time, stretching the throttle cables of the 69 and 60 engines back to back up to 7000 feet, well, it’s hard to keep up on the 60, especially uphill. And I do believe the bigger engine runs a tad smoother as well. Both bikes are way smooth at lower revs and around town. But you do feel some vibes up beyond 6000 rpm or so, and at speeds above 80 mph through the footpegs and grips. Not enough to be a problem for most people.

Overall, it’s such a nice motorcycle to ride, it’s a shame Indian can’t throw on standard cruise control like it does on all the FTRs, but you knew I was going to say that. With the mini-apes and the new fairing/windscreen (not to mention all the cool accessory luggage options), you could easily go places. The seat’s comfy, the cockpit’s calm if you’re 5-feet-8-ish, and the ergonomics aren’t bad at all for a cruiser.

Local only

For short bops around Ventura, bikes like the Rogue make all kinds of sense, particularly for short people thanks to the 25.6-inch low seat. And also because torquey V-twins are just cool around town. But even more to the point, for people who could be mistaken for the models in Indian’s ads, the Rogue really is one cool-looking bike, with its blacked-out trim and really handsome styling. The mini-apes keep your armpits aired out. Carry Tic-Tacs and you’re ready to mingle.

It’s easy to get carried away trying to beat Harley-Davidson at its own game, though, which is the only reason I can produce for trying to figure out why the new Rogue gets 2 inches of rear-wheel travel, instead of the 3 inches of the regular Scout. (The Scout Bobbers also have just 2 inches travel.) I mean, they claim 25.6-inch seat heights for all of them. (This just in from Indian: 25.6 inches is the laden seat height, so they’re saying the longer shocks settle more than the short ones when you climb on, I guess. Whatever, man.)

Three inches rear travel isn’t enough either, but it’s a 33% improvement over 2 inches. It wasn’t a problem at all over 33’s smooth pavement, except in a couple of big g-outs and pavement changes, but around Anytown, USA anymore, and on plenty of other bumpy roads, be sure to put your coccyx on high alert, as we will be crashing into the bumpstops. The Rogue bottoms out relatively gently, but it does it a lot.

Accessorize

Maybe they do it so you’ll buy the $829.99 Adjustable Piggyback Rear Shocks, which give a sweeter ride along with, that’s right, three inches of rear wheel travel.

Ahhh, much better with the longer piggyback shocks. The “love seat” is the best-selling accessory, for reasons that can go unstated.

I managed to get on a bike with them for a short while, and the longer shocks are a big improvement. There are plenty of other accessories and luggage options on Indian’s site, of course.

The Choice

If it’s a small(er) American cruiser you want (which is exactly what the original Scout was decades ago), there are only two games in town, which is literally 100% better than all those years when there was only one. And it’s even nicer that with the Rogue, Indian’s giving you a choice of Scouts: The Scout and Scout Bobber are great motorcycles in the style department, but if you want sportier handling along with your style, you’ll find the Rogue even more lovable. It really is a cruiser for the cool kids that even us sportbike squids can get behind.

And as we speak, young Ryan Adams is off riding new Sportsters. Epic cruiser deathmatch to come…


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