Legacy. In the annals of American motorcycling history, Harley-Davidson and Indian stand head-and-shoulders above the rest. Both forged American motorcycle culture as we know it, from coast-to-coast cannonball runs to dangerous dashes on board tracks to ripping up nigh impossible inclines. Rivalries and alliances have been forged, roots that run deep, Wrecking Crew and Jackpine Gypsies deep, deep as the dominance of Joe Petrali and the determination of Ed Kretz.The Harley-Davidson Sportster and Indian Scout are a major part of that motorcycle legacy. It’s hard to match the Sportster’s production run. Born in 1957, it has made the cut for 58 years running now and shows no signs of slowing down. It has thrust terms like “Ironhead” and “Peanut Tank” into the biker vernacular and continues to be a favorite platform for customization for shops like Led Sled Customs and Roland Sands Design. In 2015, there’s six different versions of the Sportster available, a strong indicator of the motorcycle’s significance to Harley-Davidson.
The Indian Scout has its own storied past, many recognizing the 101 Scout as the best motorcycle Indian ever made. Produced from 1920 to 1949, its agility and handling endeared the Scout to hillclimbers and racers alike. Thanks to the land-speed record breaking exploits of Burt Munro and a little movie called “The World’s Fastest Indian,” the Scout saw a resurgence in the American motorcycling psyche.
You can still find 101 Scouts climbing the perilous planks of the Wall of Death sideshow thanks to daredevils like Charlie Ransom of The American Motor Drome Co. But the model lay dormant for nigh on 70 years until Polaris Industries, the new keepers of the Indian Motorcycle Co. namesake, resurrected the model last month in Sturgis.
Cornering is a strong point with the Scout as is feels very connected to the road.
As soon as we heard the announcement of the new water-cooled Scout, we smelled a Harley/Indian comparison brewing. The million dollar question was, which Harley do we compare it against? Because the Scout shares the same 60-degree architecture and water-cooling as the V-Rod, some assumed it to be the most logical choice to compete against the Scout.
But the V-Rod is more of a pure muscle cruiser, has a huge 240mm rear compared to the Scout’s 150mm rear, weighs over 100 pounds more and costs about $5500 more. Both the Sportster and Scout are base models for their respective companies, gateways to what the OEMs hope is a long-standing relationship.
From riding position to wheel size to torque output, the Sportster matches up better to the Scout than the V-Rod. Though the two admittedly aren’t carbon copies, the Sportster running an air-cooled, two-valve engine as opposed to the liquid-cooled, four-valve engine of the Scout, we believe it’s the match-up more motorcyclists want to see. Game on.
So we rounded up a 2015 Indian Scout and 2015 Harley-Davidson Sportster 1200 Custom, and road tested them on the mean streets of LA and around the San Gabriel Mountains. In addition, we conducted performance testing and gathered data on the MotoUSA dyno and scales. We broke down a couple of our own misconceptions, first being the measured curb weight differences between the two.
Filled with fuel, the 2015 Sportster 1200 Custom tipped our scales at 568.5 pounds, while the 2015 Scout was only four pounds lighter at 564.5 pounds. Secondly, the 2015 Sportster actually put out more torque to the rear wheel than the Scout, the Sporty measuring 65.16 lb-ft @ 3800 rpm on our DynoJet 200i while the Scout spun the drum a fraction less, measuring 63.53 lb-ft @ 5900 rpm. On the other hand, our test did confirm some of our suspicions.
The Scout decimates the Sportster in horsepower, the Indian putting out 84.88 hp @ 7900 rpm while the lower revving 2015 Harley tested out at 60.78 hp @ 5800 rpm. It did so while winning the efficiency battle as well, the 2015 Indian Scout getting 39.63 mpg while the Sportster was close behind at 38.1 mpg, although with a 3.3-gallon tank you’ll be seeking out gas stations on the Scout more frequently than the Sportster with its 4.5-gallon fuel tank.
That said, the gloves are off and the battle has been waged. Let’s take a look at what we discovered in this match-up between American-made cruiser motorcycles.