Review: Indian Bobber – a new avenue of cool
Story: Mat Durrans
If you’re a participant in the planet’s most popular pastime then a bobber is the float on your fishing line, and if you’re into winter sports then it is the person whizzing past you down the slopes on a bobsleigh.
If, though, you are a motorcyclist, a bobber is a very particular type of bike. Along with the European craze for cafe racers the bobber is in the process of going mainstream, manufacturers are now producing their own versions of what was once the preserve of the creative home mechanic.
Initially called bob-jobs, they sprang into life as the original race-replicas. In many ways they are the superbikes of the day, stripped down until only the essentials remain, all excess weight consigned to the bin.
The style began almost a century ago as 1930’s bikers copied the engineering imperatives of the day’s racers – rip everything off that doesn’t help you go or stop. The result is a cruiser (the ubiquitous form of American motorcycling) that is the antithesis of the traditional; short, functional mudguards, matt finishes in place of chrome and a distinct lack of gaudy trinkets and tassles.
Harley-Davidson has the Forty-Eight, Triumph has recently debuted the Bonneville Bobber, Yamaha has its XV950 and now Indian has the Scout Bobber. Based on the Scout which first appeared in 2015, a bike that impressed me with its excellent engine and stereotype-defying handling, I was expecting more of the same but with a healthy extra dollop of cool thrown into the mix.
One man’s cool is another man’s crass, but minimalist design with a hint of retro is always a winner, and this bike has the looks nailed. Does that make it cool? Hard to say, my testing scoresheet doesn’t have a box for that, but I have to admit that I walked with an extra spring in my step during our week together.
You know the feeling, it’s how your favourite pair of sunnies transforms your mood, or a bit of good fortune slaps a broad smile on your face and fills your head with positive thoughts. The feel-good factor starts with the reflected glory of its good looks, is reinforced by a riding position that somehow transforms you into Marlon Brando and then continues with a riding experience that is the epitome of what every child thinks riding a bike is like.
In a mind not yet encumbered by the laws of physics, imagination provides a motorbike that takes no effort to ride and responds intuitively to every command. You may not yet be able to steer the Scout Bobber telepathically, but its low centre of gravity means that for a 255kg lump it is a breeze to ride fast and, more importantly, slow.
The suspension is surprisingly firm, almost sport bike-like, though the reduced travel at the rear over the standard Scout (sacrificed for those all-important aesthetics) means, inevitably, that bumpy roads will shuffle your vertebrae on a regular basis.
Get lucky with a smooth road and some proper corners and the Bobber will flick through them with the kind of poise normally reserved for bikes that don’t come from America. Lunging between the bendy bits the 1133cc V-twin is the perfect partner for this type of riding, dishing out a useful 71Kw and 98Nm, numbers that mean genuinely rapid progress is possible.
More important than the figures is the feeling, and that is of refinement. This is a smooth engine, happy to rev without shaking itself to bits but equally content to behave like a cruiser and surf the torque.
The riding position differs slightly from the Scout, but the effect is to make the Bobber feel noticeably different to ride. The footpegs have been moved closer to the rider, the seat is lower and the handlebar position has been changed, all of which gives you a more hunched, round-shouldered attitude. This is good for higher speeds, and for your best slow speed Brando impressions, but you can forget long distances unless you’re into extreme masochism.
But that’s okay, because that is not what this bike is about. It’s easy enough to ride every day and sporty enough to pump the adrenaline on a Sunday morning. Dynamically I prefer it to the already accomplished Scout, and on an emotional level the Bobber tugs at my heart more effectively.
As a middle-aged man I am no arbiter of cool, but I was young once and the Indian Scout Bobber makes me feel that way again. If that suggests I’m neck deep in a mid-life crisis, don’t worry because I’ve found the cure and it only costs R179 900.
For more: www.indianmotorcycle.co.za
Story courtesy of The Sunday Times
Gallery – click to enlarge: