Indian FTR 1200 S ride review: A flat track racer for the street
But do you really want a flat track racer for the street?
Indian has been building motorcycles for almost 120 years, off and on. In that time there have been a few ups and downs, a few bankruptcies, several ownership changes, and two World Wars. But there have also been a lot of racing wins, particularly in that crazy sideways dirt-flinging festival of flat track racing. In fact, since Indian Motorcycle’s return to the sport in 2017, it has won all three Manufacturer’s Championships and all three Twins titles in the American Flat Track series.
So why not capitalize on that?
The result is the FTR 1200 S you see here, a bike that pays tribute to and draws styling inspiration from the very FTR 750 ridden by current flat track champ Briar Bauman.
It has a stout steel trellis frame cradling a 1203-cc 60-degree liquid-cooled V twin that makes a mighty 120 hp at 8250 rpm and 85 lb-ft of torque at 6000 revs. Output goes to a six-speed sliding-mesh manual transmission with a power-assist slipper clutch “inspired” by the clutch on the actual flat track race bike.
Suspension in front consists of 43 mm upside down cartridge forks while the rear rides on a race bike-inspired tubular steel swing arm with a monoshock controlling movement. Both front and rear ends offer 5.9 inches of travel. The wheelbase is 60 inches. Tires are also styled after the race bike’s Dunlop DT3s modified for street use. Big Brembo dual disc brakes in front and single disc rear stop the bike.
It’s a recipe for performance. So is it a performance bike?
Well, it is first — and for some foremost — a very stylish machine. Many, many people stopped and asked about it during the week I had it. Some claimed they were inspired to buy one of their own. And you can see why. It looks very cool, with an aggressive street stance. Its 60-inch wheelbase looks like it’s all in the rear wheel being pushed aft on that long swing arm. It’s an appealing look. Those windy exhausts snake up and down like a Ducati (“How dare you, sir? How dare you!”) And that 26.3-degree rake and 5.1 inches of trail in front make the whole thing look downright lowered.
It’s hard to imagine that some people would take these off-road. Flat track is, by definition, flat, and on a track. Yet the FTR’s press launch ride earlier this year included 40 miles of dirt road in Baja. During my week with the FTR, it never seemed suited to going off-road in Baja. I cannot see this thing being seriously considered an adventure bike, despite the chunky flat-track-style tread blocks on the rear Dunlop DT3.
The first place I took it was home from Indian’s PR agency, which meant a lot of LA freeway. Right away I liked the 33.1-inch seat height (I have longish, spindly legs) and the upright riding posture, with foot pegs right below the seat where you have more control over the bike. I was warned that clutch engagement was really quick, but I got used to the clutch almost immediately and started to enjoy the 85 lb-ft of torque in L.A.’s stop-and-go crowded freeways, even as the clutch handle was a workout for the tendons in my left hand (but wouldn’t be a problem for your meaty paw).
That engine is powerful, but it gets a lot of its power in the mid-range, halfway to its 8250-rpm peak. Torque peak is up at 6000 revs, and consequently I often found myself revving toward those power and torque peaks. The big Indians like the Scout offer prodigious torque right off idle, which is perfect for street cruising. The FTR engine also vibrates a heck of a lot around that part of the tach. It’s a kind of mid-frequency vibration, not the low-end whump-whump of a Scout or a big Harley. But it passes traffic from 60-90 mph with ease. Published figures also say it does 0-60 in 3.4 seconds. Yow!
My next ride was 176 miles up and over the San Bernardino Mountains, past Silverwood Lake, Lake Arrowhead and Big Bear Lake and thence down the north side of the mountains, out into the desert and south to Joshua Tree. That route encompassed a lot of twisty mountain roads. A sport bike here would be really fun. But if the FTR (Flat Track Racer) wasn’t really a dirt bike, neither was it as much of a sport bike as that route demanded. It was fun, and never felt scary, and if you don’t like the setup the S model’s front and rear suspension is fully adjustable.
But the specs of the bike are more street cruiser than sport or sporty bike. For instance, if you look at how much the front fork pokes forward, the rake is 26.3 degrees and the trail is 5.1 inches on the FTR. Pick a sport bike, any sport bike: how about the Honda CBR1000RR? Just for comparison’s sake, that has 23.3 degrees rake and 3.8 inches of trail, a much more upright front end that will turn quicker and more precisely. The CBR rides on a 55.3-inch wheelbase, too, while the FTR is 60 inches. The FTR’s turning is more muted than a shorter, tighter sportier sport bike. So I’d have to say that for these particular short, tight turns the FTR wasn’t the ideal choice.
It was perfect for cruising Joshua Tree’s main drag on a warm fall night, or for cruising any cool urban street at any time of the day or night. It’s a bike that, while inspired by sport, is most at home and most appreciated on a city cruise, where people can enjoy its stylish appeal.
Pricing starts at $13,499 for the base model and $15,499 for the FTR 1200 S. The S includes traction control, ABS, an IMU, three power modes and that fully adjustable suspension, not to mention a really cool 4.3-inch RideCommand LCD touch screen display that works with gloves on or off. My bike also had a very handy cruise control.
I might have ordered the optional wind screen for longer rides, too. You can take it off when you’re back home cruising Main Street and fielding questions about where people can buy one of their own.