Gentle As A Kitten – Powerful As A Stallion
A veteran rider tests the new Indian Scout on highway and cow trail By THEODORE A. HODGDON
Editor’s Note: Mr. Hodgdon is a veteran motorcyclist who has ridden every year since 1919 and has owned in that time 43 motorcycles. Now Vice-President of a nationally known oil burner manufacturing firm, he is still an enthusiast, as you will see by reading what he did to test the new Indian Scout over rough, hilly New England roads.
WE COAST down the gravel driveway into the garage and come to a smooth stop with the engine gently ticking over. After the bright sunshine of several hours on the open road, the inside of the garage seems dim, almost dark. We sit there in the saddle a moment, cock an ear to the sound of the engine, idling with no more noise, it seems, than the purr of a kitten.
Yet only a few moments ago that same engine was yowling like a tiger as we sailed along the broad Boston Post Road at better than 😯 miles an hour. For several more minutes we sit there, listening to the whisper of the idling engine, and we marvel that any engine can have such a tremendous reserve of power, yet be so gentle when throttled down.
Still we sit there, looking around at the “stable” of motorcycles which we own as a hobby. All good bikes, tried and proven over many miles in all weather. Up until today, we have been well satisfied with them-both the American and the foreign models we own.
But now … after the glorious ride we’ve just had on this entirely new kind of motorcycle, all our favorite mounts look strange. As we gaze at them, we realize with a shock that all fall far short of being what a motorcycle CAN BE.
For today we have spent five hours in the saddle of this new Indian Scout Vertical Twin. All our old concepts of what a motorcycle can do are now swept into the discard!
MILE after mile, hour after hour, we have put this new model through its paces. Along broad highways on wide open throttle-up winding mountain trails with the engine screaming in second and third gear — pounding over back-country roads then through miles of deep sand, often in low and second gear for a half hour at a time-and yet here it is at the end of the ride, idling like a kitten, running as sweetly as when it was first started.
Reluctantly, we reach for the ignition switch, and the gentle purring ceases. We lay a hand on the cylinder fins; find them definitely not more than just warm! What a motorcycle! What superb design has been accomplished to make this new motorcycle a reality . . . and what a milestone in American motorcycling this new model will establish!
We did not dream that such a motorcycle could be designed and built but here it is-no longer a rumor, but actually here “in the flesh”.
WE MEET THE DESIGNER
MANY times during the past few years we have read with envy the numerous accounts in motorcycle magazines of the visits of one correspondent or another to some of the most famous motorcycle factories in the world.
We have eagerly devoured the details of the interviews these riders have had-actually standing in the presence of motorcycle designers known all over the world for their achievements.
For instance, think what a thrill it must have been to be taken to the inner sanctum where the “hush hush” models are created on the drawing board-to talk with such renowned men as Signor Guzzi, designer of the famous Italian motorcycle which has blazed its way to fame in European road races, or to see and talk with Joe Craig, famous daddy of one of the most renowned British makes-or to visit with Edward Turner, probably the greatest English motorcycle designer.
Well – today this humble rider has stood in the presence of one who I am positive has, by his great designing ability, surpassed even the canny skill of the great European motorcycle designers.
Today we have talked with the man who created, first in his mind, then on the drawing board, this great new motorcycle.
Early this morning we arrived at the big Indian factory atop the Hill in Springfield and were promptly ushered into the department, which has a bold sign on its door, “Positively no visitors allowed.” We were taken into the innermost sanctum of all the Indian Creative Engineering Department – where great new projects have been brewing for more than two years past-ever since Ralph B. Rogers became Indian’s new President. We were introduced to the man who has been for many years America’s leading motorcycle designer, and who, we are now positive, is the ace of all the world’s top designers of motorcycles.
His name is G. Briggs Weaver, a quiet-spoken, modest man, one time Indianapolis racecar designer and perhaps better known in recent years for his design of the Indian shaftdrive military motorcycle used in World War Two. We have seen him before from a distance, at Laconia — at Langhorne — at Daytona — always with stop watch in hand-quietly observing, ever planning better, faster and more durable Indian motors.
Today we had a chat with Mr. Weaver, and he introduced us to the new Indian Scout Vertical Twin. “You can’t hurt it,” he said. “Our testers have trounced these test models you see here for months-have hammered them over thousands of miles on wide open throttle for hours at a time. You can’t hurt this motorcycle no matter how you abuse it. Use it as you please; find out for yourself just how it behaves under all conditions.”
And that is what we have cloned these past five hours. Here is what we did:
SUPERB RIDING QUALITIES
FIRST impression we got as we glided out through the iron gates of the Indian factory yard was one of confidence in the steering and general handling qualities. The hand clutch lever on the left handlebar requires only a two-finger pressure to obtain full clutch release, and the action of the clutch itself leaves nothing to be desired-no grabbing-just smooth, silky engagement.
Shifting of gears is by the left foot. A touch of the foot downward engages low gear; second gear is up once, third up again, fourth up once more. Yet the gear lever never moves more than an inch, returns to the same position after each shift.
The engagement of all gears is instant and positive-the quickest acting foot shift transmission we’ve ever experienced.
ACCELERATION IS TERRIFIC!
IN THE first mile along the city streets of Springfield we began to feel right at home on this new machine, and we noted that the riding position is extremely comfortable. We seemed to fit into the bike, and were greatly- impressed with the softness of the ride.
Leaning forward, we watched the action of the telescopic front fork over the bumps; we deliberately steered through potholes, the better to see its action. We found it to be “working” every moment-effectively ironing out the road irregularities, with not a single bump being transmitted to the handlebars.
And the rear spring frame was found to work just as effectively, with not a trace of “tail bounce” such as you are sure to get on a rigid-frame machine. At 25 miles per hour the ride is so soft that we promptly begin to wonder how this motorcycle will handle at high speeds. . . . But we will get to that later!
OPEN ROAD AHEAD
REACHIING the outskirts of Springfield, a traffic light stops us and we see the open read ahead; a clear, straight stretch with no cross roads. Ah! Here is a chance to test acceleration and high speed!
The light turns green, and being an old hand at riding all kinds of motorcycles, we do not hesitate to “wrap it on” as we let in the clutch. We twist the throttle all the way, in low gear, till the engine is revving at a scream, de-clutch-snick into second, again open the throttle wide, and find ourselves quickly and suddenly doing 45 miles per hour-still only in second gear! Man . . . What acceleration’. Never have we tasted a jackrabbit getaway like this one.
We go gently up through third to fourth and enjoy the silky drone of the engine from the double exhaust pipes. In fourth, breezing along at 45 we twist the throttle, and zip —all traffic is left behind.
With a clear road ahead we decide to really sample acceleration. Cruising at 50, we really “wrap it on,” and the surge of power takes us by complete surprise. The swift acceleration up to 70 is something that must be experienced to be believed.
At 70 we ease off-cruise for a quarter mile-decide to see what happens when the throttle is “dumped on” while doing 70. Snap-full throttle-and another surge of power makes us speak out loud with amazement! The engine yowls out of both exhausts. We hang on-to be instantly wafted up to 85! And all this power from a compact engine of only 27 cubic inches piston displacement!
Surely this IS a brand new concept in engine power development. Again we say-you will have to actually experience it yourself to be convinced how very real it is.
AS DOCILE AS A KITTEN
BY THIS time, we are frank to say, we began to feel like the farmer who saw his first giraffe. He said, “There ain’t no such animal.” Yet here we were actually riding the animal-riding the LIVELIEST motorcycle we’ve ever ridden. And we have been riding since 1919. Satisfied – yes; amazed – at such acceleration, we decided to try the “stoppers.” using front and rear brakes together, we found they would kill speed like the four-wheel hydraulic brakes of the best cars, with a gradual yet gripping, positive deceleration-a set of brakes well in keeping with the “urge” possessed by this machine.
Now, we realize that not one man in ten will often require 85 miles per hour, but what all riders want is a smooth running motorcycle that will cruise along handily at 30 to 50 miles per hour. So we try the bike for a few miles at 30, then 40, and find no noticeable engine vibration it those speeds-just a smooth, purring drone from the double exhausts as we glide along.
This new Scout is as docile as a kitten, yet she will turn into a yowling tiger with breath-taking acceleration when desired – the ideal all around sports machine.
OFF THE PAVED HIGHWAY
PERHAPS you have read our booklet, “Paved Road Ends here,” a manual this rider produced for military motorcyclists in World War Two to help them muster the art of riding on rough ground, gravel and sand roads. That is just what we decided to do next-find a road where the macadam surface ended, a back country stretch, where we could try out the Scout for handling qualities on real loose gravel surface. Reaching a small town, we saw an inviting dirt road leading off toward a low range of mountains, and down this road we went.
Now, if you are an experienced motorcyclist, you know that the test of good handling qualities in a bike is the feeling you get when you hit the loose, rolling surface of a gravel road. Either the bike feels right on gravel–or it does not. This, then, would be the test! We are perfectly at home on dirt roads, so we eased the speed up to 40 and waited.
The answer came inside a few hundred feet, and we found it in our throttle hand! We were “turning it on”-putting the speed higher and higher! And the bike remained rock steady on the loose dirt of the backcountry road. We grinned, and for the next hour had a whole boatload of fun riding those beaten-up back roads at varying speeds of from 30 to 50 miles per hour, feeling that here is a bike to suit any rider, no matter where he lives or what kind of roads he must traverse. A superb motorcycle for the man who loves a concentrated package of power, and still wants perfect handling and riding qualities.
This new Scout is light in weight, flashy on acceleration, tractable on any road surface. What a surprise the sporting riders of the world will receive when they see and ride this “power house.”
In competition. I predict it will win the famous Big Bear Run, the Langhorne 200 Miler, the Daytona 200 Miler. The Laconia 100 Miler and European road races as well.
DEEP SAND NEXT ON THE PROGRAM
THE spring heel (spring frame) and the telescopic front forks, together with the rubber-mounted handle bars, simply iron out the bumps -with not a trace of rear end bounce. This is a surprisingly smooth riding motorcycle, no matter what kind of rough roads one encounters.
“But how will she handle on deep sandy roads?” we mused. So we searched, rode on and on into the far back country, batting along the farm roads and the copy trails, until we came to the scrub pine lands that indicate sandy soil. Sure enough, here we go through the pines, along a winding sandy road that gets worse and worse.
Into third gear, then second and we really work to keep steerageway, refusing to put a foot down making the steering alone keep the bike in the road. That’s the fun of riding sand . . . keep those feet up practice all your art of steering and throttle control, to keep going through that deep sand And make sure not to let the engine revs get too low, for if you lose speed, you sink in and are done’.
The Scout handled beautifully, and for nearly in hour the engine took a flogging equal to haying a one thousand pound load hitched on behind. If you have ever ridden deep sand. you know what I mean. The farther we rode, with the engine howling along in second and third the more we marveled at the power developed by this 27 cubic inch twin engine.
At no time did we detect the slightest sign of a “tired” engine (and we have flogged many an engine several times as big under similar circumstances to feel and hear it get hot and noisy and tired).
The very complete lubrication system designed into this new engine, which forces oil at 50 pounds pressure to every moving part, and the deep cooling fins on cylinder heads and barrels, are big factors in its seeming indestructibility in the face of such punishment.
WE TRIED BEING A “ROAD RACER”
Back on the paved toads again, headed for home, we decide to see how this bike will handle on the curves at high speeds. We twist the throttle, find ourselves floating along at 65. and heading into a right-hand bend that becomes sharper its we get into it. We heel over at a good angle -the Indian tires are gripping the road surface at a sharp angle—eye hit the ripples in the tarred road. Will she drift outward No; she makes the turn as steadily as if we were on rails.’ How the designer could combine a soft ride with such superb road-holding at high speeds is something far beyond us! Few motorcycles we have ever ridden combine both.
We try several more bends at speeds up to 70, and ride through every one as if we were on rails. Yes-this bike will win many road races, for it has perfect steering built into it.
END OF A PERFECT DAY
WITH some regret, we see the sign, which reads, “City of Springfield-25 miles per hour — and we ease down to 25, once more realizing that this new Indian Scout is as gentle as a kitten. We purr along the city arteries headed for home and fireside.
And thus ends a perfect day of motorcycling sport. We steer up the long winding road to our home on the mountaintop, listening to the hum of this perfectly designed twin as it levels out the grades. “Dang it,” we say to ourselves, “tomorrow we must take this wonderful motorcycle back to the Indian factory-Thank goodness Indian dealers will soon have them to distribute!”