Last week Indian Motorcycle unveiled the all-new Indian
Octane Scout Rogue, which it describes as “the most aggressive iteration” of its Scout platform, and which the rest of the world would describe as “the Victory Octane with a different badge.”
The Victory Octane, for those of you with memories that struggle to retain information for more than five years, was an 1179cc V-twin cruiser made by Victory Motorcycles – the now-defunct motorcycle brand created in 1997 by Indian Motorcycle’s parent company, Polaris. Way back in the pre-pandemic Before Times of 2016, Victory launched the aforementioned Octane, which was immediately met by derision from moto-media due to the fact it:
A) Had been overhyped by Victory’s marketing team as some kind of fire-breathing super naked that was “intimidating to stand next to.”
B) It looked a hell of a lot like the 1131cc Indian Scout, which had been revealed two years earlier.
The general consensus of moto-commentators is that the Octane’s then-groundbreaking (for the American V-twin scene, anyway) liquid-cooled powerplant had always been intended to drive a Victory machine but that, upon purchasing the Indian brand, Polaris chose to put the engine in a bike with an Indian badge to help bolster the better-known brand*. In other words, the Octane didn’t look like a Scout; the Scout looked like an Octane.
Whatever the case, the Octane ended up being a flop – despite a general consensus that it was, in fact, a pretty good bike – and likely played a big part in Polaris’ decision to scrap the Victory brand less than 12 months later.
Six years on from the Octane’s reveal, Indian has produced the Scout Rogue – a model that looks so much like the Octane that I feel silly pointing out the resemblance. I mean, who wouldn’t see this? It’s not just that the Rogue looks like the Octane in the way the original Scout looked like like the Octane, but that it looks** exactly like the Octane (save a cut fender and mini ape-hanger bars), right down to the boring grey paint scheme and “looks like you bought it on eBay” accessory tachometer.
Don’t get me wrong: I like this bike. In addition to basically just being an Octane with a different name it is also basically just a Scout Bobber with fairing and better handling. And I LOVE the Scout Bobber – especially when equipped with mini ape-hanger bars. The odds are very good that if I were to ride a Scout Rogue I would litter my social media with images of my doing so and would never shut up about what a great machine it is. Indian has a history of making good motorcycles and I’m confident this is one of them.
(I’m not entirely sure I would pay £13,295 to own a Scout Rogue, but that’s a different discussion)
What I’m taking issue with here is the fact that this is the laziest “new” bike I’ve seen in a long time. Its essential design and the name Rogue were first registered by Polaris in 2014. That doesn’t really line up with the “contemporary style” being trumpeted in Indian’s media releases.
Looking at this, I’m inclined to imagine there is someone in Polaris’ motorcycles division who has a huge chip on his or her shoulder about the shuttering of Victory. I mean, they are salty as fuck about it. And they’ve spent the past half decade carrying around a bitterness and biding their time until they can get their revenge. They’ve worked their way up the ranks and now they’re in the position to push forward this Octane with a different name to prove that it was a good idea all along, goddamnit.
I’m pretty sure the same person was behind last year’s redesign of the Indian Chief platform, which transformed the big V-twin from a somewhat bloated chromefest into a bike that looks a whole hell of a lot like the Victory Gunner. A Gunner with a more powerful engine and better tech, admittedly, but a Gunner nonetheless.
I also wouldn’t be surprised to discover the same person had a hand in the 2018 transforming of the Indian Chieftain, which mimics the Victory Cross Country. But that’s a little beside the point. What’s notable here is that for the past two-ish years Indian’s primary output has been bikes with old designs. Another way of saying that is that Indian doesn’t appear to have spent a great deal of money on designing bikes recently. Heavy emphasis on the word “appear.”
What I am hoping – both as a motorcyclist and self-confessed Indian stan – is that this apparent lack of effort is actually a sign that Indian is very busy behind the scenes – putting its energies into something that is legitimately new.
The question is: what is that something? An electric motorcycle? Or the FTR-based adventure bike that’s been rumored since the FTR 1200 was first released back in 2019? The latter strikes me as most likely. Back in 2019 a leaked planning document showed an adventure machine was on the schedule for release in late 2020, for the 2021 model year.
Understandably, the pandemic probably forced a change in plans for Indian. Certainly that was the case for Harley-Davidson’s adventure motorcycle, which had originally been scheduled for a 2020 release but didn’t hit dealerships until early last year. Indian is pretty much the only major motorcycle brand yet to produce an adventure machine and, considering the brand’s legacy and its parent company’s off-road prowess (Indian Motorcycle is one of the very few Polaris brands that isn’t off-road focused), this sort of thing seems a no-brainer.
But a trademark flaw of Victory Motorcycles was that it had a bad habit of getting people’s hopes up only to dash them by rolling out yet another variation on an existing theme. I worry that in recycling Victory’s designs Indian might also choose to recycle its strategy. I hope that isn’t the case. I really, really hope. I’m not sure when Indian would unveil the aforementioned adventure bike (Polaris has often timed debuts to coincide with Daytona Bike Week but that seems entirely the wrong setting for an ADV), but, man, I hope it’s soon.
* Polaris purchased the iconic Indian Motorcycle brand in 2011 and unveiled its first models in 2013. Engines usually take a long-ass time to develop, so the Scout’s V-twin would have almost certainly been in the works before Indian came into the Polaris fold.
** If I were on Indian’s marketing team I might try to dampen some of this observation by pointing out that the Octane had a (slightly) differently sized engine, with different gearing and (nominally) different power output. But the fact that Indian has made no actual effort to make the Rogue different from the rest of the Scout line-up speaks even more to the laziness of this exercise.