Victory Octane vs Indian Scout vs Harley-Davidson Sportster Comparison

Just announced a few weeks ago, the Victory Octane looks set to capture a new generation of cruiser riders in America. It will be Victory’s most powerful, fastest and lightest bike yet – all the while being the cheapest, too. And while the Victory Octane does have many similarities to the Indian Scout, its real target is Harley Davidson and their Sportster 1200.

Harley-Davidson has come under increasing pressure from Polaris and their two brands, the resurrected Indian Motorcycles and their home grown brand, Victory. The reborn Indian has been a huge success for Polaris with the Indian Scout receiving glowing reviews and selling well, too. It’s for this reason we thought we’d take a look at the just released Victory Octane to see how it compares to its stablemate, as well as the highly popular and long established Harley-Davidson Sportster 1200.

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Choosing what bike to compare the Scout and Octane to was in itself a challenge. HD’s range is so wide with so much choice within each line that it’s hard to really narrow it down. And while the Sportster approaches the game quite differently with its air-cooled twin valve donk as opposed to the liquid cooled engine found in the Victory and Indian, all three bikes are designed to be gateway motorcycles to their respective brands.

But even then, the Sportser range offers six different choices of model to choose from and it is definitely one of the biggest advantages that Harley-Davidson offers – choice. Yes, Both Indian Motorcycles and Victory offer a large range of factory equipment and accessories to customize your bike, but no one does range and choice in the motorcycle world like Harley-Davidson. And even once you’ve decided on which of the six Sportster models to go with, the accessories (both factory and aftermarket) available to buy are unmatched. For the purposes of this comparison, we’ve chosen the Sporster 1200 Custom which from an ergonomics and general feel perspective seems to best match the two other bikes we’re looking at here best.

Engine

Both the Victory Octane and the Indian Scout use the same basic engine – and it’s a good one. There’s no sluggishness here which you can sometimes find in HD motors as the engine in both the Octane and Scout provides strong pulling power while remaining flexible across pretty much the entire rev range.

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The Octane’s engine is a 1,179cc V-twin, slightly larger than the Scout. Other differences include its own camshafts, a 2mm larger bore as well as redesigned cylinder head and engine cover castings. Those translate into subtle rather than earth-shattering differences between the two although you would have to consider the Octane as feeling more sporty. The Octane produces 104 horsepower, the Scout slightly less at 100. The Sporster has a rather sad by comparison 62 horses..

The Indian Scout is no slouch compared to the Octane and will hit the metric ton in a shade under 5 seconds. Not sportsbike quick by a long shot but it’s over half a second faster than the Sporster. But that’s not the only negative when it comes to the Sporter’s performance when compared to the other two machines here. The Sportster just feels sluggish down low and to really get things moving you need to keep the engine spinning in the top to mid-range. That then provides it’s own problems as the already noticeable vibrations become even more worse.

There’s just no getting around the fact that despite having a slight displacement advantage, the Sporster has a rather anemic motor and is completely outclassed by both the Octane and Scout and out of the two choices between the Octane and Scout, the newer Octane just edges out its brother.

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Handling

The front end feel of the Sportster is just too soft and squishy. Front end dive even under moderate braking is more than should be acceptable on a modern bike. The rear too leaves much to be desired and bounces and moves around enough that it doesn’t provide a great deal of confidence, especially when the road gets a few more corners. Most of these issues would be solved by the use of better quality springs – something you’d expect from a not inexpensive bike.

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In comparison, the Scout feels far more capable and it doesn’t sacrifice any comfort to do so. Both the front and rear suspension work very well together and provide a near perfect compromise between handling and a plush ride. There’s also far more options when it comes to suspension adjustment and despite sitting lower to the ground than the HD, actually has better corner clearance.

The Octane takes it up another notch again, although it’s still far from a sportsbike. That’s probably more to do with the ergonomics rather than the componentry of the bike though as both the peg and bar positions are slightly more aggressive than either the Sportser or Scout. As far as cruisers go in fact, the Octane is right up there among the most sporty we’ve come across and in fact many traditional cruiser riders would probably struggle to scrape the pegs or exhaust cans on it unless they really tried. It does feel a little harsher than the Scout though which in our opinion is a perfect blend of comfort and handling for a cruiser.

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Brakes

All three bikes provide fairly mediocre performance in terms of braking. All run with single discs both front and rear and it’s especially poor of the Octane not to run a twin disc setup at the front given it’s the fastest of all three bikes here – in fact it gets to the 60mph mark nearly a second quicker than the Sportser and a few tenths than the Scout. American cruiser riders have become accustomed to just single discs up front, but that doesn’t mean it’s the right way to go about it.

Worst of all, the Octane doesn’t even provide ABS as an option – a ridiculous proposition for a brand new bike in the year 2016. The Scout’s brakes feel slightly better than offered by the Sportster and that’s probably due to the fact that the Harley weighs a tremendous 587 lb – nearly 30 pounds more than the Scout and nearly 40 more than the Octane.

winner indian

Customizing

It goes without saying that a big part of the cruiser scene is based around customizing and it is where Harley-Davidson rules supreme. Given their time at the top of the market, HD not only has huge amounts of official customizing options, but the third party market is also massive. That’s not to say that you can’t customize your Scout or Octane, it’s just that your options may be more limited than what is available on the Sportster.

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That is especially true for the Octane – at least at this stage. Your only customizing kit for now will be what Victory has available. Aftermarket options will no doubt eventuate should the Octane prove a popular model – just like they have for the Scout – but for now it’s comparatively slim pickings if compared to HD.

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Value

Both on paper and in the real world, the Sportster 1200 Custom just doesn’t offer the same value as either bike from Polaris. Starting at $10,899 in the US (but that’s before any options that commonly apply to Harley’s), it is $400 more than the Victory Octane. It is cheaper than the Indian Scout by $400 itself, but for that saving you are getting a bike with an engine, suspension, brakes and potentially reliability that is inferior to both the Octane and the Scout – sometimes by a large margin.

For us, the Victory Octane is the winner here. At $800 cheaper than the Scout but sharing many of the same components, it’s clear that Polaris is positioning this bike to capture new and young riders who otherwise might be consider the Street 500.

winner victory

Overall

In the end, it will probably come down to personal preference whether you fork out the extra money for the Scout which is a more traditional cruiser (both in looks and style) or the Octane which is designed for cruiser riders wanting to release their inner hooligan just a bit more.

The Scout probably comes out as the better bike than the Octane – but only just. It feels just slightly more refined than its new sibling which is perhaps trying to be a bit too raw in some respects – most notably in the handling department. That and the lack of ABS as even an option sees us tilt our head ever so slightly towards the Scout.

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Indian Motorcycle Announces the 2016 Indian Springfield

Indian Motorcycles has announced another bike to its burgeoning lineup, this one playing up the history of the company itself which was founded and still remains headquartered in Springfield, Massachusetts. The Indian Springfield joins the 2016 lineup of bikes on offer by Indian Motorcycles and is a classically styled tourer that has a huge range of options available to customise it.

The Springfield is based off the Indian Chief platform and is described by Indian as being a hard bagger. However, the Springfield can be quickly converted into a cruiser with the quick-release windshield and saddlebags removed, or transformed into a high-capacity touring model with genuine Indian Motorcycle accessories.

“The new Indian Springfield wasn’t designed to fill a space in our lineup; it was built to fill a space in the hearts of riders who value the rich heritage and fine craftsmanship of Indian Motorcycle, and who want both a pure touring bike and a sleek urban cruiser,” said Peter Harvey, Country Manager.

Cheese aside, Indian says that the bike was designed for an unobstructed view of the road ahead and comes with a quick release windshield that creates a large air pocket for rider and passenger comfort. Other comfort features such as remote locking hard bags and adjustable passenger floorboards come standard along with real leather seating, ABS, tire pressure monitoring, electronic cruise control, and a powerful headlight and dual driving lights. Standard front and rear highway bars allow mounting of accessories and offer valuable protection from tip-overs.

It’s powered by the thunder stroke 111 engine, has cartridge forks up front and an air adjustable rear shock with 113 mm of travel at the back. Accessories include heated driver and passenger seats, soft lowers, a 64 litre accessory trunk and heated grips. Pricing in the USA will start from $20,999 and in Australia will commence from $33,995. In the UK, it will set you back circa £20,000. It will hit showrooms this month.

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This is the 2017 Victory Octane

After months of build-up which first began when Victory took on the Pikes Peak Hill Climb, we now have a brand new cruiser from the American company and it’s called the Victory Octane. Despite the hype, what we have here is essentially Victory’s version of the Indian Scout – but that’s not necessarily a bad thing – and it’s priced very competitively.

Despite the obvious styling cues from the Indian Scout, as well as the engine coming from that bike too (which ironically came from a Victory bike to start with), there’s a very strong chance this will be the best bike Victory has yet produced. The Victory Octane has a number of firsts for the manufacturer – first-ever liquid-cooled engine, most horsepower ever for a Victory bike and it’s also the lightest.

First to the engine. As mentioned, it is liquid-cooled with 4-valve heads and dual-overhead cams and it produces 104 horsepower and 76 foot-pounds of torque. Geared for quick acceleration, the Octane sprints down the quarter-mile in 12 seconds and rushes from 0-60 mph in under four seconds.

In relation to the chassis, the engine is a stressed member that connects cast-aluminum front and rear frame sections, with twin tubular-steel backbones for added reinforcement. Up front are 41mm forks and behind it is a  laydown shocks mounted 53 degrees off-horizontal, also equipped with preload-adjustable dual-rate springs. Stopping power is by way of a single 298mm disc brakes at both ends connected by stainless-steel lines.  The 18-inch front wheel wears 130/70-18 rubber, while the 17-inch rear wheel is wrapped with a 160/70-17 tire.

Probably the biggest news is the price. At $10,499 it’s the cheapest Victory yet and it’s surely going to send a few shivers down the spines of HD dealership owners. And while we’re a little disappointed that Victory didn’t come up with something more left of centre given their projects prior to the reveal, it seems certain that Victory isn’t going to rest anytime soon and will continue with their new model drive over the next few years. Here’s hoping for an American sportsbike (one that doesn’t go bankrupt).

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Have Your Say in the First Global Custom Indian Scout Dealer Contest

Last November, Indian Motorcycles launched their Project Scout competition to give dealers around the world a chance to showcase not only the Indian Scout, but their design and creative flair. As an open ended contest, the only rules were the use of an Indian Scout (or new Scout Sixty) as well as three genuine accessories.

It’s now January and the entrants are in – an eclectic collection of 35 bikes entered by dealers in the US, Canada, Switzerland, Germany and other countries. As one would expect when a competition like this is open to people from all over the world the themes and ideas are very broad and the dealers have come up with some truly wonderful custom bikes.

From now through Friday 19th February, Indian Motorcycle fans can vote for their favorite Project Scout by visiting http://www.indianmotorcycle.com/en-us/project-scout. On Saturday 20th February, the top three Project Scout finalists as voted by Indian Motorcycle fans will be announced. The dealers behind these three machines will then receive an all-expenses-paid weekend trip to the 75th annual Daytona Bike Week.

Indian Motorcycle will host a special award ceremony in Daytona Beach on Friday 11th March, during which a panel of celebrity judges will select the ultimate winner of the ‘Project Scout: Build a Legend’ program, with party goers voting for the winner of the Fan Favorite award.

Reid Wilson, Marketing Manager for Indian Motorcycle commented: “The response from our dealers to the Scout Custom Series and now this Project Scout program has been incredible. Watching these builds come together from around the world has been amazing. It’s clear that the passion and talent for customizing Indian Motorcycle models is built into our dealer base, and we know that people will be fired up when they see the final Project Scout builds.”

Below is just a sample of some of the bikes you can vote for.

Harley-Davidson Continues Profit Slide at the Hands of Victory and Indian Motorcycles

Harley-Davidson, who commands a massive 52 per cent market share in the United States is facing growing headwinds in part thanks to increasing competition from Victory and Indian Motorcycles, both companies under the Polaris umbrella. HD’s global sales were down 1.4 per cent in the third quarter while profits fell 6.5 per cent. And the trend looks unlikely to reverse anytime soon.

For those hoping that HD might see this as an opportunity to improve their product offering, think again. Instead, CEO Matt Levatich announced 250 job cuts (equating to roughly 4% of employees), the savings from which will be funneled into a huge marketing spend – up a massive 65% for next year.

Which really highlights the issue with Harley-Davidson – its continued reliance on style over substance. No doubt, Harley-Davidson’s image is its biggest draw, but it’s also its greatest weakness. Essentially, you either love Harley-Davidson’s or hate them and hence why Polaris has made such inroads with both Victory and Indian. Polaris has created one brand and resurrected another and have relied instead on good quality motorcycles at fair prices.

Not only has it captured some older riders who previously would have opted for a Harley, it’s grabbing younger and newer riders for the brand before HD gets a chance due to their cost. Polaris reported just two days ago that its motorcycle sales jumped 154% in its latest quarter to $160.4 million and given that Victory sets to expand its range to sportsbikes plus their acquisition of electric manufacturer Brammo, that momentum is likely to continue.

In fact, buyers in the US and other countries can now get a brand new Victory or Indian bike that is sometimes cheaper than a second hand HD. And when your bikes continue to suffer quality concerns, that second hand purchase is increasingly risky.

Harley-Davidson have often been criticised for the quality of their bikes. Some of that is undeserved as they do make some good machines. But it’s also fair to say that some of their bikes are overpriced and below par. The statistics back this up. Recalls of Harley-Davidson bikes have increased tremendously over the last few years. All manufacturers issue recall notices but HD has stuck out like a sore thumb in recent times.

According to an article in the Wall Street Journal, 210,000 HD bikes were recalled in 2014 and 312,000 have been recalled this year as of September. That compares with an average of 94,000 annually in the 10 years through 2013. Recent Harley recalls have involved problems including a faulty cylinder that could prevent the clutch from disengaging, a defective fuel-pump seal, and a clasp that could allow saddlebags to fly off the back of the bike. Harley reported 35 crashes or other incidents from the defects and six minor injuries.

The article further stated that the recalls have cost Harley-Davidson about $30 million in the three years through 2014. That is up from $7.9 million in the three years through 2004, even though Harley sold about 27% more motorcycles in the U.S. in the earlier period.

So what can Harley-Davidson do? It needs to realise that the baby boomer generation that was behind so much of its success is waning and they need to completely overhaul their image for broader appeal. To do that they need to start making quality bikes with technology that comes from the 21st century and isn’t priced so far ahead of competitors. So far, Matt Levatich doesn’t seem to be too interested in rocking the boat. Let’s hope it doesn’t spring too many more leaks.

Roland Sands Design Chief Racer is Made for the Dirt

Indian Motorcycles announced that they would head back to flat tracking racing late next year with what we’re expecting will be an all new model. In the meantime however, Roland Sands Design and GEICO have teamed up to create their interpretation of a modern Indian bike for dirt-track racing, converting an Indian Chieftain into what they call the Chief Racer.

But calling it a converted Indian Chieftain wouldn’t really do it justice. Just about everything on this custom is original save the engine in true RSD style. The original tank was used and reshaped to create a slimmer capsule that covers the engine. Other additions include prototype Roland Sands Racing quick-change flat track wheels at the rear, coupled with a solo RSD brake caliper and Lloyd Brothers Motorsports / Johnny Lewis drilled, slotted & vented brake disc.

Even the engine got a bit of custom treatment. The Chief Racer gets a hand-fabricated aluminum and carbon-fiber intake, a custom exhaust system, unique cams, chain, seat and so on. While not exactly practical, the seat looks fantastic, being a piece of sculptured timber from skateboard maker Paul Schmitt with an air shock underneath to make it bearable.

The bike will be on display until the end of the week at the Buffalo Chip

Indian Continues its Custom Series With the Black Bullet Scout

Indian Motorcycles has released the second bike in its Scout inspired custom series and it’s a beauty – the Indian Black Bullet Scout. Built by Jeb Scholman, the bike was pretty much built from scratch around a standard Indian Scout engine and the result is a hot rod inspired work of art.

Indian Motorcycles launched their custom built series in May and each bike in the series is designed to celebrate an important Indian Scout milestone or achievement since its debut in 1920.

The Black Bullet Scout’s metalwork is completely custom made and reflects designs of motorcycles made for going fast in straight lines from the late 50’s and early 60’s. Bikes with a similar design ethos took to land speed and drag racing tracks across the country in the day. Many will no doubt think of New Zealander Burt Munro and his land speed record at the Bonneville Salt Flats – which was made in 1967 and still stands today.

Other features of the Black Bullet Scout are a custom windscreen that wraps around the front of the bike to fair in the headlight. Tight clip-ons and footrests mounted to the rear axle makes for as streamlined a riders position as possible. The minimal seat, controls and shapes all lens themselves to the single mission of exploring this bikes top speed. It was created to be beautiful and fast. Scolman even cast a custom intake manifold to turn the throttle body sideways and allow for an even tighter engine packaging.

The Black Bullet Scout will be on display in Sturgis and is destined to see the salt. It was built to race and continue the tradition of an Indian Scout ripping across the Bonneville Salt Flats.

 

Indian Motorcycles To Return To Flat-Track Racing

In an interview with Alan Cathcart (see here) at CycleNews it has been revealed that Indian Motorcycles will go racing in the AMA Pro Flat-Track series either late next year or early in 2017. Indian and Harley-Davidson went head to head in flat-track as early as the 1930’s – now that rivalry looks set to be reignited.

“I don’t have anything more to tell you at this stage, beyond the fact that the decision has been made, and we’re definitely going racing with Indian in the oval-track world with a factory-supported team” said Steve Menneto, Vice President of Polaris Industries’ motorcycle division.

But what would Indian enter into such an event? They currently sell nothing that would be suitable for oval dirt track racing both in engine capacity or chassis design. Rumors have been circulating for the last year or so that Indian would launch a competitor to Harley-Davidson’s Street 750 and Menneto certainly hinted that might be the case. Yes, a circa 750cc Indian V-Twin is on the cards.

It’s been a huge year for Polaris Industries. Firstly they announced the purchase of Brammo’s electric motorcycle division and subsequently entered the Isle of Man TT with a Brammo powered Victory motorcycle. Victory also entered the Pikes Peak Hill Climb with a prototype machine (titled Project 156) – which has now been confirmed as a 1200cc engine that will be used in an upcoming Victory motorcycle some time next year.

One last little tidbit from the interview was the mention of the Victory Core – a brilliant concept bike made way back in 2009. Menneto stated “I’m interested in producing it, because it says a lot about the Victory brand from a marketing perspective, so I’ve got the team looking at doing that. Are we going to build the Core? We’re trying really hard to figure out a way…”