… it rides great, it starts, stops, functions. But if theres no emotional connection, you don’t buy it. And that for me is the visual love affair you tell upon that first look. Love at first sight.
The Scout has been on sale in Europe for three years now and is proving very popular, selling over 5,000 units. Did you expect this model to do so well ?
Of course we expected it to do well. We know the chassis is great, the engine is smooth and powerful, and it is a simple and clean motorcycle. Not too complicated, and the chassis is modular, which makes it extremely easy to customise. The introduction of the Bobber has gone really well, and that only adds to growth. You get a lot of motorcycle for your money, and it is a premium offering. A good bike will catch on, just give it time. They both have the right look, and tell the right story.
You started out working at Polaris from 2001 to 2003, before heading off to another brand for seven years. What made you want to return in 2011 ?
There are a few once in a lifetime moments that come and go. Some of these moments are about history, and greatness, and an opportunity to change the face of the motorcycling world. For some of them, it feels like fate and your path in life, have prepared you for a specific moment. I did all I could do in Milwaukee, and it was fun, but with Indian, there were no bikes. That meant, no matter what, they were going to build brand new, ground up motorcycles. And to be a part of two of the most iconic American motorcycle brands in my one lifetime, it was something I needed to look at. I liked the energy at Indian, the scale of it all as well. Small teams, quick decisions, passionate people, and an opportunity to help reshape a new chapter in Indian’s great history. It was too good to pass up.
How did you go about soaking up the classic spirit and vibe of the Scout to design this 21st-century version, without breaking away from its historic roots ?
I’ve always felt like I was born with an old soul. Like I should have been born in 1901, and been there with Charles Franklin. It’s easy for me to see and feel the classic lines of Indian’s historical bikes in new sheet metal. To feel the simplicity of the shapes, and silhouette. I’ve ridden almost as many old bikes as I have new, and I respect all the details of the pattern makers hands, and understand why they look and feel like historical machines.
At the same time, I was born in 79’, so I got the chance to grow up and ride newer machines, sport bikes, super bikes, dirt bikes, etc. So I feel like I am connected with modern technology in the way I understand how that needs to be involved in a layout. So for me, it is easy to get a blend of classic – modern visually. The bike very much feels classic, grand, graceful, and flowing like an Indian. But with liquid cooled pieces, and a “clean” engine, you lose the details of fin packs, and mechanical details. So to be successful, I need to tell the story of the
engineering visually through form.
How do you balance a model’s design, engine specs, and chassis in the concept so you end up with a realistic product that can be manufactured ?
This is where the heavy lifting comes in. Its a team effort, and it takes balance. You can’t have too much influence of one or the other. Engineering, Design, Marketing and Product Management. Greg Brew, the VP of design, said it is like the three legged stool. Too much or little of one or the other takes away that balance, and that is very true. For a lot of motorcycles, it comes down to emotion. 90 percent of the purchase is usually emotional for one reason or another. Sure, it rides great, it starts, stops, functions. But if theres no emotional connection, you don’t buy it. And that for me is the visual love affair you tell upon that first look. Love at first sight.
Do you have any good stories to tell us from when the Scout was designed ?
Yes, great story. The place in Milwaukee when I left, took 5 years to do new bodywork, other misc. updates, etc. Rushmore basically. Then I got here, and they said you have 27 months to do an entire motorcycle, clean sheet, engine too… and I was like….F@%K!!! Taking crazy pills. There is another story of great team members, great CAD guys, and a close team that could make decisions quickly without layers. I can remember all the critical decisions, one room, one outcome, move forward. That is probably the best story of SCOUT. A company can get focused on layers, adding people, etc. But in the end, a small, tight, focused team that can make decisions, will always kick ass. Period, over any other setup.
We instantly associate the name Richard Christoph with the Scout – will we also see your stamp on another kind of Indian model ?
Well, I would have to say I’ve been blessed with so much. And it’s a result of hard work, being relentless, promoting those around you, and building relationships. The next one for me that will change my life at least and make me proud to be in this game, is the FTR1200. The FTR1200 Custom was a pure expression of creativity, and I’m also proud to be attached to that. The production version captures that bike perfectly. Its a game changer, and its a legit motorcycle all the way around. The way it looks, the way it makes you feel, the way it rides, engine, chassis, etc. A properly fun motorcycle in a new segment for an American Company that combines the right look, the right performance, and the right price. So if I could get another chance to stamp, that would be the one.
I’ve been waiting my whole life to design this bike, the stars have aligned beautifully.