Published on May 20th, 2019 | by Boris0
2019 INDIAN FTR1200S REVIEW – UPON THE WARPATH
Indian’s flat-track-inspired FTR1200 has been the most eagerly anticipated motorcycle since the time of Christ – which is unapologetic hyperbole, but it’s kinda true.
Here was an entirely new style of bike from a factory that made its very recent bones building traditional cruisers for a very traditional market.
The FTR is such a departure from what you’ve come to expect from Indian, its advent caused social media to stop celebrating the eating of dishwashing liquid, and to start high-fiving itself in anticipation of the FTR’s arrival.
Which was by no means certain.
But the wheels were certainly in motion a few years back.
In the background, Indian was busily beating Harley-Davidson to death on the flat-track circuits of America with its potent 750cc dirt-weapon.
But since this part of the world doesn’t follow the US flat-track circus all that much, many people here would have been entirely unaware of this.
Still, images of the brutally gorgeous and unconquerable flat-tracker were appearing on the Internet, and lots of folks were making “Hell, I’d buy that in a second!” noises.
Those noises are normally hard to ignore for a bike manufacturer.
And as the worldwide motorcycle market tightened, I couldn’t help but wonder if they would be ignored in this instance.
Bringing something like the FTR to market would be a huge investment for Indian.
LET’S SEE THE BALLS
Would it have the balls to make that investment?
Would it fully commit to making a product actually worthy of such an investment?
After all, if Indian was going to play in this entirely new playground – a naked, ballsy, corners-are-important, and “We’re Not In Kansas Anymore, Dorothy” playground – the FTR had to be ‘right’.
If Polaris ballsed this up…well, that eager USA All The Way cheering would have dwindled into a terrible silence full of recriminations.
A lot of people were watching that space.
They can stop watching now.
Indian got the FTR damn right. And in the process, has created an unique niche for this very unique bike to occupy.
The size of Indian’s balls and commitment cannot be questioned.
The FTR cannot be compared to another bike, because it is completely unlike anything I have yet ridden.
It is not, as some would have you believe, a tyre-frying naked sportalicious scrambleriffic hypermotarded slayer of KTM Superdukes, Tuono Factories, and Triumph Scramblers.
It breathes a delightfully different air altogether.
An entirely American air.
Will it shame itself in such exalted company?
As always, the answer to that question is entirely in the hands of the rider. But on general principles, we all know that very few people can ride the aforementioned weapons anywhere near their limits on the road.
TRUST IN JESUS AND DUNLOP
The limits of the FTR1200S I rode in the hills behind LA will appear before the limits of the above – but then so will most everyone else’s. Make no mistake, a good rider on an FTR will be a match for just about anything you’d care to name.
Like I said, Indian got this package damn right… in a uniquely American way.
But as I gazed at the weird-arse tyres after a 14-hour flight, a three-hour exit from LAX, and a dose of jet-lag which had me speaking Serbo-Spanish to the bloke who carried my bag into the hotel, I had my doubts.
“What’s going on here?” I asked one of the Indian media-launch shepherds. “What kind of silly gringo bull-rubber have you pendejos fitted to this motorcycle? Do you want me to die?”
An English pendejo called Ian assured me the chunky, flat-track-inspired Dunlops would surprise me.
“By high-siding me into Kim Kardashian’s front gate?”
“Hopefully not,” he said, looking mildly alarmed. “How do you even know where she lives?”
“How do you not?” I countered.
Of course, the tyres are one of the things that make the FTR so unique.
The front 120/70-19 looks kinda normal, but the back 150/80-18 looks straight off the Sacramento Mile.
It’s got big square shoulders, the tread is block-like, and its upright contact patch appears much larger than the standard palm-size oval of salvation you’ll find on a normal tyre.
But what was going to happen when I leaned into a corner and that massive contact patch began to shrink – unlike a normal hoop, where it actually gets bigger?
How was this bizarre vulcanisation exercise going to work with the tubular frame and its stressed-member engine, the tubular trellis swingarm, and that serious-looking front-end?
“COME AT ME, KIM”
Part of me kinda looked forward to a Kardashian giving me mouth-to-mouth with her monkey-gland-filled lips while Kanye sang dreadful songs in the background. It would have been something to remember for all of us.
But the Dunlop rubber surprised me.
It didn’t at all behave like I thought it would. It offered relatively high levels of grip, good stability despite the flat-track-type tread, and amazingly smooth transitions from side to side as I negotiated a wealth of bends up behind Santa Monica and Malibu. I wasn’t hanging around, either. The pace the English pendejo set was lively.
The Dunlops were designed and made for the FTR by Dunlop North America. They are as American as baseball. But like baseball, they do have their entertainment limitations.
The FTR will lean to 43 degrees. Not because its pegs or undergarments will start to grind, but because you have come to the edge of the tyres.
As Hedgie at MCNews observed, this would only become very exciting if you were getting your Hell on in a decreasing radius corner and just ran out of tyre.
No, I do not know what happens if you try pushing past that cliff-face. I’m sure someone will find out. But that someone will not be me. You know why? Because by the time you reach the outer limits of the tyre, you are really shuffling along. Like, really.
Could you change the tyres to more conventionally profiled hoops? Well, the sizing is a bit weird, but the Internet will certainly assist you in your searches.
Do you need to do this? I don’t think so. I reckon the tyres suit the FTR and its performance perfectly. The engineers who made this work need to be congratulated. This was no small feat. The package is sure-footed, predictable and very easy to get familiar with fast. I was confident to push on pretty hard pretty quickly.
TORQUE TO ME
The engine, which is not the Victory Octane or the Scout variant, is its own unique sunbeam. It’s thick with easily available torque, like a linebacker cracking quarterback spines. And while it only revs to 9000rpm, it revs lively and willing, and you can really feel some urge start to kick in over the mid-fives. Or you can just leave it in third or fourth and surf the fat wave, man.
The fuelling is pretty good, but I noticed some vague anomaly getting sharply on and off the throttle in moments of sublime madness. Like I said, that English pendejo wasn’t hanging around. There was no hunting at low speeds, and it pulled clean and very hard when I needed it to, so I’m thinking maybe it was just my unfamiliarity with the unique way the FTR went about its business.
And these were pre-production models.
I only rode it for 160-odd kms, and I would certainly like to spend a lot more time on it before making any major calls.
But what I noted with real pleasure was how smooth it was. At lane-splitting low speeds it was flawless. At 100km/h it was seamlessly chortling along at a shade over 3000rpm.
The brakes are great (the rear is one of the best I have ever used), the handling is stable and precise, and the Sachs suspension is actually pretty special. None of the potholes I rode into upset it or tossed me off my line. I imagine it would only be improved by some fettling.
LESS THAN PERFECT
The side-stand is fine – but getting to the bastard is unnecessarily awkward. Another joint in my foot would have been helpful at hooking it out of its hidey hole.
It was also kinda tight getting your hand to the ignition key tumbler.
And the engine gives off a bit of heat. This was noticeable in the traffic crawl coming out of Santa Monica. It’s nothing intolerable. You just feel the warmth.
But these are really niggles. I have adored bikes with far more issues than these little foibles.
I loved the snazzy TFT dash (I only rode the up-spec S version. The base model gets an attractive round-faced dash for you to look at), and its multiple ways of getting to and adjusting things.
I was confused at first because new things frighten me, and was scrolling ham-thumbly through options using the switches on the left switchblock.
My confused techno-phobe bleating attracted the attention of Australian and New Zealand Country manager, Peter Harvey, who was along for the ride – along with a bunch of other Indian execs; which I always think is pretty beaut, actually. It’s great to see upper management on press launches. It demonstrates their faith in the product and their saint-like patience with the freeloading media.
“I use the touch-screen to change modes and things,” he said quietly.
Serves me right for not paying more attention at the previous evening’s presentation.
My life was suddenly made immeasurably more simple. The TFT dash was immediately the easiest dash to navigate through. Ride modes, switchable top-spec ABS (which is easily turned off for madmen), lean-angle traction control, the option of two screens, auto-dimming and night-day alternatives – all of this and more awaits you on the S version. The base version gets none of the fancy stuff – not even traction control, which can be a great thing for some people. But not for me.
I AM SIMPLE, LIKE A PIE
The FTR is not electronically overdone or over-complicated in any way, which is a huge part of its appeal. I have simple needs. I do not need 28 variations of traction control.
I liked Sport mode the best. It proved the most responsive and eager for my jet-lagged inputs – which was basically moments of high lunacy punctuated by periods of blank exhaustion. A great and righteous way to ride endless unforgiving and unfamiliar corners.
But the gearbox is brilliant. As is the slipper clutch, and the clutch action is girl-hand friendly. I was expecting a far more man-grip-needed thing, it being American and all. Instead I got a delightfully light clutch-pull and a gearbox full of happiness.
By the end of the day, after some of the most challenging corners I have ever ridden, I was a bona fide FTR fan.
Indian has bloody well done it, I thought, rolling back into the hotel.
I honestly didn’t think it would have pulled the FTR off as well as it had.
Here was a totally unique bike, brilliantly executed.
Ergonomically, I could tell you it felt like an MV Brutale. But if you’ve never ridden a Brutale, it would be a pointless comparison. The bars are wide, the seat is quite comfortable, and the head-shoulders-arse-thighs-knees-feet relationship is pretty spot-on. I think even bigger riders will be very at-home astride it.
The FTR felt…well, proper. And finished. And not a simply design exercise. It is far, far more than that.
GO BOLDLY WHERE NONE HAVE GONE BEFORE
A lot of thought and some very high-level engineering has gone into making it the way it is and the way it works. New ideas have been tried and new ground has been broken.
There are host of accessories (including wire wheels if you’re like me and that way inclined), and I would think Indian will be spinning several other models from these first steps upon a brand new warpath.
And make no mistake. These are bold steps. But they are purposeful and resolute.
The FTR is a pleasure to behold and to ride. The finish is exceptional (the paint has got to be seen in sunlight to be properly adored), the bike’s integrity is iron-clad. It does not have an errant bone in its beautiful body, and it rides and behaves like…well, like the unique thoroughbred it truly is.
This is the bike America needed to build, and the world now needs to ride to appreciate.
This is the bike Indian has actually built – and I am standing and applauding.
|FTR™ 1200||Thunder Black||$ 20,995|
|FTR™ 1200 S||Titanium Metallic over Thunder Black Pearl||$ 22,995|
|FTR™ 1200 S||Indian Motorcycle Red over Steel Gray||$ 22,995|
|FTR™ 1200 S||Race Replica with Akrapovic Exhaust||$ 24,995|
WARRANTY: Two years, unlimited distance and includes two-years roadside-assist.
SERVICING INTERVALS: First 800km, second 4000km, third 8000km, then every 8000km.
ENGINE: Liquid-cooled 60-degree V-twin, 4-stroke, DOHC, 4 valves per cylinder, graded buckets
BORE x STROKE: 102 x 73.6mm
POWER: 91.7kW @ 8250rpm
TORQUE: 120Nm @ 5900rpm
TRANSMISSION: Six-speed, assist and slip wet multi-plate clutch, chain final drive
SUSPENSION: Front, 43mm inverted fork, adjustable preload and rebound, travel 150mm. Rear, monoshock, adjustable preload and rebound, Piggyback IFP, travel 150mm.
DIMENSIONS: Seat height 853mm, weight 222kg (dry), fuel capacity 13litres, wheelbase 1524mm
TYRES: Front, Dunlop DT3-R Radial, 120/70R19 60V. Rear, Dunlop DT3-R Radial, 150/70R10 70V
FRAME: Tubular steel
BRAKES: Front, twin 320mm discs with Brembo M4.32 4-piston calipers. Rear, 265mm disc, Brembo P34 2-piston caliper.
FUEL CONSUMPTION: 6litres per 100km, 95 Premium unleaded
THEORETICAL RANGE: 200km
COLOURS: Thunder Black (base model), Red over Steel Grey, Titanium Metallic over Thunder Black Pearl (S model)