When I was 21 years old, I decided I no longer cared about political science and dropped-out of classes at my dreary college in Northern Minnesota on the promise of working in a tourist trap at Lake Tahoe.
I packed a duffle bag, told my roommate he could keep, sell or trash everything else, and spent several days making my way to the Silver State. My pickup truck had no air conditioner or radio; everything was barebones.
I often look back on that trip, and my decision to make it, as being a pivot point in my life. In the Story of Chris, it's impossible to get here –– to the person I am now –– without first going there. So, I'd never undo the experience. But if I could be 21 now, in 2016, I'd make a change: I'd sell my truck and get to Nevada on an Indian Scout Sixty.
Because the Sixty is that kind of bike. It is a cross-the-country-and-figure-out-who-the-hell-you-are bike. A tell-your-grandkids-about-it-in-60-years bike. A motorcycle of the sort that inspires people to write novels and listen to The Sam Chase on repeat. A motorcycle your girlfriend will accuse you of loving more than her; and deep down in your soul you'll know she's right.
It's not perfect. The Sixty's chassis doesn't quite live up to the engine's promise, and Indian has cut some odd corners in keeping the price low, but it is a very, very good bike.
It's strange to call the Sixty small. It has a 1000cc engine, weighs in at 561 lbs. wet, and is 4 inches longer than a BMW R1200GS. It's not small. But when you drop yourself down onto its solo seat, just 25.3 inches above the ground, "small" is one of the first words that come to mind. Or, it is if you are 6'1".
The good news is that it doesn't feel cramped. With its standard set-up, the Sixty is not really designed for someone my size, but it works well enough. Extended reach and reduced reach options are available to fine tune things. I have a friend who is 4'11" and she swoons over her Scout, which is effectively the same bike, save the engine.
When I first picked up the Sixty in London, facing a 200-mile journey back to my home in Cardiff, Wales, I made a promise to myself to stop every 40 miles to stretch. I expected this motorcycle to cause ache in knees and back. To my utter surprise, more than 100 miles passed before I even started to look for a place to stop.
Engine and Transmission
The Sixty's liquid-cooled 999cc V-twin is undoubtedly the star of the show. Unless you hate happiness, you will love this engine. Effectively the same lump found in the full-size Scout but with different bore and stroke, it puts out a claimed 78hp and 65 ft.-lbs. of torque. I'd say those numbers are more or less accurate. More important, however, is how usable are the power and torque.
Power delivery is stupid smooth. For the most part; I found anomalous jerkiness when maintaining 30 mph in third gear. It's very subtle, though (I only noticed late into my time with the Sixty –– when I was searching for negatives so as to avoid having this review come off as a lovefest).
At that speed and in that gear, the engine is barely ticking over idle. The Scout's rev limiter kicks in north of 8,000 rpm but you'll never get there by accident. The engine is surprisingly relaxed even at highway speed –– 70 mph sees the tachometer only flirting with 4,000 rpm.
All this means you don't get the rattling performance that some manufacturers claim as character. The engine simply does what an engine is supposed to do: it goes.
For me, the smoothness and calmness of the engine make it ideal for the bike's stated purpose of cruising. But don't be fooled. Twist the grip with a little more enthusiasm and the Sixty takes on a different personality; it's like that scene in films my fraternity used to watch, where the librarian tears her dress and lets her hair down. Something deep within this bike whispers to the rider: "Hey man, let's play."
And it is a whisper. The Sixty's exhaust won't get you in trouble with neighbors. The sound of the engine is that of a sleeping lion, a bass that rattles deep within an enormous set of lungs. A part of me would like pipes that allow the Sixty to roar, but I'll admit there's a certain charm in being understated.
Meanwhile, the transmission is smoother than I remember on the Sixty's larger sibling, the Scout, which means it is pretty much the smoothest American transmission I've encountered. First gear is announced with a gentle clunk, but shifting up and down in heavy traffic requires no greater effort than in many other bikes. Clutchless upshifts are manageable outside of first and second.
The Sixty is equipped with just five gears. But the nature of how those gears are set up means you genuinely don't miss sixth. If you're a cynical person like me, you'll suspect I'm stretching the truth when I say that. Certainly that's what I thought when someone first told me such a thing. But, to my complete surprise, it's true. The Sixty manages to do it all with five gears. Really.
Ride Quality and Brakes
Within the realm of what it's supposed to be –– a cruiser –– the Sixty's suspension performs admirably well, especially considering its price tag. On good, fair, or decent roads it handles imperfections with relative ease. Lean angle is generous enough that standard curves are welcomed and enjoyed.
But things get downright hectic when you push beyond those happy boundaries. Whacking into potholes will leave you struggling to stay in your seat, taking sharp corners with too much gusto will shred the pegs and put you in a panic.
That's what people always say about cruisers, though, and I feel the need to stress that these faults present themselves later than they would on, say, a Harley-Davidson Sportster, Yamaha Bolt (aka XV-950), or Triumph America. The problem is that the Sixty's engine is so much better than in any of the bikes I just mentioned. It wants to play. And that creates situations where the Sixty can suffer an identity crisis.
"Let's go, baby! Let's do this!" the engine will say as you power hard toward a bend in the road.
"Sweet Lord in heaven! What is wrong with you?!" the suspension will yelp as you go all kinds of wrong in said bend.
In other words, if you limit the Sixty to the sort of activity it was designed for, everything will be fine. Its fantastic engine will sometimes make that difficult.
The engine's being liquid cooled means no heat is felt on the legs, even when sitting still in heavy city traffic. However, I wonder if a passenger would be as happy; the Sixty's pipes get pretty hot. The plus side is that the bike still makes that air-cooled "tink-tink-tink" noise when you shut it off after a long ride. I loved this aspect of the Sixty and if Indian did it on purpose I think its engineers are geniuses for accomplishing this level of old-school feel on a modern bike.
The balloon-like Indian-branded Kenda tires are something I'd look forward to replacing if I owned a Sixty (which I've been seriously considering). They've earned a particularly bad reputation amongst British moto-journalists because they lack feel and grip in the wet. Having ridden the Sixty in Britain and Ireland I can confirm the tires' wet-weather inadequacy, but will say they aren't as bad as expected.
The Sixty feels far more flickable than it looks, but also suffers a bicycle-like "floatiness" at speeds in excess of the legal limit. Not so much, however, that I would describe it as unsteady or worrying.
Brakes, meanwhile, are adequate. Especially within the aforementioned boundaries. You won't be doing any stoppies with the single-disc front brake, but I suffered no panics. In Europe, the Sixty is equipped with a rudimentary anti-lock braking system that is about as unobtrusive as ABS can be. Indian does not yet offer the feature on bikes sold in the United States, but I reckon it's only a certain amount of time until they do. And I'll bet the feature will be retrofittable.
The Sixty weighs a hell of a lot when you're muscling it around a driveway –– especially if that driveway has an incline. On the move, though, the weight is no hassle thanks to a low center of gravity. Filtering (aka lane splitting) is easy. I mean, really, really easy. Off the top of my head, I can't think of a motorcycle I've ridden that's more effective at navigating through thick traffic. Though I wouldn't complain if the clutch lever were a little less stiff.
Continue Chris' review on Page 2 below
Comfort and Features
As mentioned above, the Sixty is more comfortable than expected. I am too tall for the standard set-up and had no screen, but was able to clock up just shy of 2,000 complaint-free miles over the space of a week.
Though the Sixty's seat is comfy it keeps the rider in a set position; you can't help but squirm after a while. Discomfort sets in at roughly the 100-mile mark, which I think is pretty good for a bike that wasn't set up for me and isn't targeted at long-distance riders.
Its 3.3-US-gallon tank is evidence of the latter. I'd normally complain about such a small tank, but the Sixty isn't too thirsty; 130 miles can be had before the fuel light comes on. So, something like 45 mpg reliably. Judicious riding will deliver better results.
Sans screen, the Sixty is most comfortable below 70 mph. Above that, you feel strain in your forearms. The good news, though, is I didn't experience the infamous cruiser head waggle at higher speeds.
The bike is minimalist, with a single display up front in the form of an analogue speedometer with digital information below. Mileage, trip meter, tachometer, engine temperature and gear indicator are all available via the display. The gear indicator isn't terribly reliable but you soon get used to the old-school method of keeping count in your head. Whereas the speedometer is spot-on accurate.
Out of the box, there's not much more to the Sixty in terms of features. Even bungee points are hard to find. I ended up strapping my bag to the rear shocks.
You wouldn't necessarily think of a cruiser as an all-the-time everyday machine, but the Sixty could easily fulfil that role. Especially if you're willing to splash out on an accessory rack and windscreen. It's ideal for lane splitting, it's comfortable, and it's relatively economical in terms of fuel consumption. It would be a great way to commute in style.
Thanks to its simple design, the Sixty is really easy to clean –– just hit it with a hose –– and belt drive means you never have to fuss with a chain. Changing the oil requires minimal effort, though you'll need a pretty shallow oil pan to accommodate the bike's ground clearance.
Rear tire valve access to check tire pressure requires a certain amount of dexterity and is all but impossible if the exhaust is hot, but I suspect I'm the only person in the world who checks tire pressure as much as they tell you to. The old-school-styled round headlamp is surprisingly good at throwing light.
The Sixty is built to a price point, which is something you notice a little in the tires, suspension and aesthetic minimalism, but it is high-end inexpensive. The overall feeling is one of quality and durability. You could drop this bike and not have it bite you in the wallet.
In addition to the five-gear transmission, cost has also been saved in eschewing the chrome engine covers and cylinder heads found on the Scout. And the Sixty's seat is vinyl rather than leather. Personally I prefer the Sixty's look, and I feel that vinyl is less hassle –– especially considering how easy it is to remove/steal the Sixty's seat (no tools or keys required, just yank on it).
However, my biggest complaint about the bike is the cost saving that resulted in the Sixty's ugly, loose-wire-laden triple tree. It's a blemish on an otherwise beautiful bike and feels like a particularly strange cost-cutting measure.
On the larger Scout, the tree wiring is covered by a simple plate. Indian will sell you that plate, which pops right onto the Sixty, for roughly US $50. The absence of the plate feels like cost cutting for the sake of cost cutting.
Though, to be fair, it's hard to think of anything else Indian could have shaved off on such a minimalist bike. Plus, it's an aesthetic sin you don't notice when riding the bike and it's easily covered. I found that space was perfect for a Kriega US10 dry bag. And, really, if the worst thing you can say about a bike is that it has some unsightly wiring, you're not doing too bad.
Chatting with a dealer about it, he and I half wondered if Indian didn't leave the wiring exposed on purpose, to serve as a quirky feature of the bike. Perhaps in 70 years a retro movement will see bikes of all brands copying the look of the Sixty's loose wires.
Taken for what it is and what it is supposed to be, I'd argue that the Indian Scout Sixty is one of the best bikes out there today. Yes, you can get bikes that are faster, bikes that are cheaper, bikes that come equipped with more standard features. But overall, total package, the Sixty is hard to beat. Very few of those other bikes will have people running out into the street to talk to you about it.
The Sixty can frustrate when its delightful package leads to thoughts beyond the perimeters of what it is and what it is supposed to be. I sincerely hope Harley-Davidson sells a bajillion Roadsters, if not simply to convince Indian that doing the same thing with its Scout/Scout Sixty platform is a good idea.
Back within the reality of what the Sixty is –– a cruiser –– one thing I really appreciate is how good a motorcycle it is at base price. You can always improve a motorcycle with aftermarket modifications, but I'm of the mind that the basic package should be good enough that those modifications don't feel like requirements.
You can add to the Sixty, certainly. But you don't need to go diving into your pocket straightaway. The Sixty is there to be enjoyed and loved as is. Simple, easy, fun, and very, very good.
Learn more about Chris and the rest of RideApart's excellent staff here: The RideApart Team