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Indian FTR 1200 S review

After a long and successful history in cruisers, Indian moved into new territory with the release of the FTR 1200 S.

For an American brand that was built on – and reborn with – cruisers, Indian’s addition of the FTR 1200 range to their lineup was a bold move.

Categorically not a cruiser, the FTR 1200 is a little hard to pigeonhole into any other category, though, as it has elements of commuter, trail bike, racer and even streetfighter. 

When you understand the FTR 1200 was inspired by American flat track racing, the blurring of categories makes a little more sense.

Back to the Track

When Indian was reborn under Polaris ownership in 2013, it was also decided that the brand would return to racing, specifically that most American of competition motorcycle disciplines – flat track.

In its original form, Indian had been Harley-Davidson’s main – and sometimes only – rival in flat track racing and that competition focus continued until Indian shuttered its doors in 1953.

For their return to AMA Pro Flat Track racing in 2016, Indian created the ‘FTR 750’ – a stripped-down, track-only machine ostensibly based on the Scout, but sharing little with that model beyond its name.

Powered by a bespoke 750cc v-twin built to category rules and producing 81kW, the FTR 750 also featured a custom-made steel cradle frame with a shorter wheelbase than any Indian production model. The frame was also designed to allow for a large airbox, while carbon fibre bodywork reduced weight.

The romanticism of Indian’s racing return would have counted for little if they weren’t successful, but Indian hit the ground running, winning 14 main events in the 2017 AMA Pro Flat Track season (their first full season) on the way to that year’s championship and dominating the 2018 season to win all bar one race, Indian’s success continued last year, with FTR 750s winning 16 of 18 AFT Twins main events. Often, FTR 750s locked out the podium, too.

Unsurprisingly, that success saw riders clamouring for an FTR 750 of their own. Indian obliged, offering customer versions of the racer, but being strictly competition only (as well as very expensive), the market was limited. A street-legal version was what punters were after, and Indian duly delivered with the FTR 1200.

Tracker for the Tarmac

Announced in 2017 as the ‘Scout FTR 1200 Custom’ and going to market in 2019, the FTR 1200 shared obvious visual cues with the FTR 750 flat tracker. What only came to light after the FTR 1200’s launch was that it and the FTR 750 were virtually developed in tandem: another bold move and one reflecting Indian’s confidence that a street-focussed version of their flat tracker would find a market.

Described at the time of its unveiling as Indian’s first “athletic” motorcycle, the FTR 1200 is a sports motorcycle first and foremost, aimed at performance nakeds like the BMW R nineT, Triumph Street Twin and Ducati’s Scrambler. As mentioned earlier, the FTR 1200 reaches into naked, trail and streetfighter territory. Whatever “type” of motorcycle the FTR 1200 may be, it’s undeniably a new direction for Indian.

“Our vision from the beginning was to be more than a traditional American V-twin brand. We continually seek to broaden Indian Motorcycle’s reach to a wider range of riders, and FTR 1200 represents a significant step forward in that strategy,” said Steve Menneto, President, Indian Motorcycle in announcing the FTR 1200’s arrival back in 2018.

“Indian Motorcycle was founded on performance and innovation, and we remain grounded by our founder’s mindset of constantly pushing forward. In light of that history, the FTR 1200 is a natural extension for the brand that we couldn’t be more excited about.”

Powering the FTR 1200 is a 60-degree v-twin of 1203cc capacity.

with a 102mm bore and 73.6mm stroke, 12.5:1 compression ratio, high-flow heads, 60mm throttle bodies and aggressive cam profiling, packaged within an all-new crankcase design that’s not only light, but also compact, allowing the FTR 1200 to run a sporty 1524mm wheelbase.

With listed maximum outputs of 120Nm at 6000rpm and around 120hp (89.5kW), the FTR 1200 engine runs, via a slipper clutch, to a six-speed gearbox, with chain final drive.

The trellis frame is exclusive to the FTR 1200 and uses the engine as a stressed member, with the swingarm pivot incorporated into the engine cases. Like the engine, the frame is light for sports handling. All up, the FTR 1200 tips the scales at just 225kg dry.

To optimise mass centralisation, the fuel tank is located under the seat, with much of the “traditional” tank space taken up by the airbox. Further contributing to the FTR 1200’s mass centralisation is the truncated tail, while plastics and other add-ons are kept to a minimum.

A 43mm USD fork and offset monoshock rear suspension are standard on the FTR 1200, but offer a dirtbike-like 150mm of travel at each end. A combination of 19-inch front and 18-inch rear wheel may seem unusual for a bike with sports ambitions, but Indian says this was done for practicality as much as aesthetics, as road tyre offerings for a 19-inch rear would be minimal. Regardless, Dunlop developed tyres specifically for the bike, combining flat track looks with radial practicality. Indian says there’s enough depth in the tread design to handle gravel roads and light-duty off-road work, too.  

For the FTR 1200’s braking package, Indian combined dual 320mm front discs and a single 260mm rear disc with Brembo calipers (4-piston front and 2-piston rear) and ABS as standard.

Ergonomics are neutral, with an upright riding position and broad, low-mounted bars for sharper initial cornering and a better overall feeling of control. If you want to lay the FTR 1200 into bends, it’ll reach an impressive 43 degrees before things start scraping.

Tech assistance is limited to the ABS and cruise control, but step up to the FTR 1200 S and you get a lot more…

S for Sport and Race Inspired

As impressive as the FTR 1200 is in standard form, the FTR 1200 S takes it up several notches, adding full compression, rebound and preload adjustability to the suspension.

In place of the standard model’s analogue instrument pod, the S version uses a 4.3-inch customisable ‘Ride Command’ colour LCD touchscreen. That screen is necessary as the S adds extra tech in the form of stability control, traction control and wheelie mitigation control, measured via a lean angle sensitive IMU.

There are also selectable riding models – Standard, Sport and Rain – that adjust the levels of traction, stability and wheelie control intervention, as well as the ABS intervention. Additionally, ABS can be disengaged entirely on the S.

The Ride Command touchscreen is Bluetooth compatible and there’s a handy USB port for phone charging.

Completing the FTR 1200 trio is the FTR 1200 S Race Replica. Essentially identical to the S on the tech and spec front, the Race Replica adds a colour scheme inspired by the factory FTR 750 flat track racers and comes with an Akrapovic exhaust as standard on Australian-delivered versions.

Launch pricing started at $20,995 for the base FTR 1200, moving up to $22,995 for the 1200 S and $24,995 for the 1200 S Race Replica. (Check with your Indian dealer for current pricing).

Bold New Territory

The ‘born on dirt, built for street’ ethos behind the FTR 1200 carries a lot more resonance in the US than it does here in Australia, but remove the flat track inspiration and what you’ve got in the FTR 1200 is an Indian street bike that’s a million miles away from its cruiser siblings in most areas.

As such, launching the FTR 1200 has been a ballsy move – and a risky one – on Indian’s part, but it’s a way to broaden the brand’s offerings and bring in new, younger buyers who wouldn’t consider a cruiser (and by association, an Indian) for their riding needs.

Undeniably, the FTR 1200 marks a new era for Indian, but does it hit the mark as an American sports motorcycle? Take one for a test ride and find out.

Indian FTR 1200 S Race Replica specs and price

ENGINE Liquid-cooled DOHC 1203cc v-twin POWER – TORQUE 89.5kW – 120Nm TRANSMISSION Six-speed, chain drive CHASSIS Steel trellis frame SUSPENSION USD 43mm fork – 150mm travel, piggyback monoshock – 150mm travel BRAKES Dual 320mm 4-piston caliper, single 260mm 2-piston caliper, switchable ABS WHEELS – TYRES 19-inch, 18-inch – 120/70R19, 150/70R18 SEAT HEIGHT 840mm FUEL CAPACITY 13.0-litre PRICE: $24,995 (incl. ORCs)

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Phil Suriano

Phil Suriano