South Grade Road along Palomar Mountain perhaps remains as the most popular stretch of pavement in Southern California among sport bike riders. Up until now, I hadn’t ridden it.
Officially designated as San Diego County Route S6, the short 7-mile stretch is perhaps the most technical riding there is in Southern California, as well as the most intellectually demanding. If you’re going to test your skills and stretch your boundaries, you have to keep both eyes on the road and both hands and feet ready to shift and break in a fraction of a second.
Otherwise, riding up and down Palomar Mountain is just like any other layer of mountain road. It can be dangerous to ride, or a piece of cake. It just depends on how fast and crazy you want to go. The way things are with South Grade, there are hundreds of riders on a weekend who make several trips up and down this road in an afternoon looking to sharpen their skills and shave seconds off their time. If you want to take a it slow, you better expect to get passed by a dozen or more bikes.
It seemed fitting that South Grade Road would be the ultimate test of twisty riding for the Indian Scout. OK, I knew it would handle this road easily. It’s just that I needed to experience it for myself.
And what an experience it was!
This little 1133cc spitfire was made for a road like this. The Indian Scout is a true roadster in the classic sense. The thrills I got leaning its 550 pound aluminum frame into each switchback made me scream out several “Woo Hoos!” and “Yee Haws!”. The way my short 4’11” body sits low into the Scout’s saddle, with my legs kicked out front, makes it feel like I’m strapped into a P-51 Mustang doing dive bombs and barrel rolls.
Meanwhile, the gears on the Scout’s transmission are so long in the tooth that I never actually got out of 2nd gear. For the entire distance up the mountain and back down, I kept the engine revving high so as to keep the response instant, and found I didn’t need to use the brakes as much.
The Scout handled these tight turns so well, that I found myself with far more confidence than I thought I had. It actually makes a novice into a better rider. Turn after turn, my husband Steve, who had ridden far ahead of me at the start, was getting closer and closer. This is a bike that wants to scrape its pegs and grind its chicken strips.
At the top of South Grade Road lies Mother’s Kitchen Restaurant. It’s where dozens of riders take a break, show off their bikes, and talk about their spills. Many were curious to see the 2015 Indian Scout in person, having only heard about it from others or read about it in the magazines. Even though they were all sport bike riders, and might not be interested in a cruiser in this stage of their lives, I couldn’t help planting seeds into their brains that the Scout was a thrill to ride up the mountain.