2019 Indian FTR 1200 S first ride review
Purity of intent always makes motorcycles enticing, no? Like flat trackers they were conceived with the sole purpose of going fast on hard-packed dirt. They're not to be confused with dirt or trail bikes of course, as flat trackers typically use stiff suspension setups without much travel, like sportsbikes. That said flat-tracking has never really been popular in our country, being a very small niche. I for one always found myself liking the idea of going fast on dirt though, especially with the rear wheel trying to overtake the front one.
The Indian FTR 1200 is the first purpose-built flat track motorcycle to be launched in the country and is based on the manufacturer's flat track championship winning FTR 750
Flat-tracking requires a specific setup, which is why flat trackers are usually 'garage-built' rather than bought off dealerships. But Indian Motorcycles has just launched the FTR 1200, a motorcycle it says is a flat tracker for the road. Effectively the FTR is the first flat track motorcycle you can buy in India. More importantly, it is based on Indian Motorcycle's flat track championship winning machine, the FTR 750. But does such a heavy focus on one aspect of motorcycling affect a motorcycle's performance otherwise? We swung a leg over the higher-specced FTR 1200 S, to find out.
If looks could kill...
The Indian FTR 1200 S isn't gorgeous in the Italian way but it just looks stunning and has the ability to make you stop in your tracks to soak in the details. In fact, the Ed who converted to being a hardcore car guy eons ago was so blown away by the FTR 1200's looks that he wanted to review it himself! Then there's the overall compactness. The FTR 1200 looks deceptively small and at first glance, it looks as large as a middleweight machine at best. In fact, the low slung stance and rather slim, 150-section rear tyre make you think it is a middleweight motorcycle.
Its the attention to detail and overall compactness that impress so much on the Indian FTR 1200, in fact the bike is so small, one could mistake it for a middleweight machine
The intricateness of the headlamp unit deserves a mention too, especially with the multiple projector beams and thoughtfully designed LED daytime running lamp which integrates the Indian name in its trademark shade of red. Attention to detail is immense and the bike also boasts the same high-end fit-finish and premium quality levels we have come to associate the brand. Palm grips get a chequered flag design to add to the sense of raciness but the grips could have been softer. I also like the tank design it isn't actual tank though, as the fuel tank is placed under the rider's seat for better mass centralisation. Even fluid hoses around the engine are positioned neatly and I also liked the nylon covers for all the wiring.
The intricate design of the headlamp unit on the Indian FTRF 1200 S is a distinct higlight with its multiple projector beams and also the design of the LEDs that function as daytime running lamps and integrate the Indian name, in the exact shade of red used by the brand!
Another design highlight is how tightly packaged the liquid-cooled 1,200cc V-twin engine is and how neatly the fluid hoses are positioned around it
Seat height is rather tall at 840mm and I did not have much trouble putting my feet down at five feet, 11 inches, but I can imagine shorter riders struggling a bit. Overall, the FTR 1200 S looks very alluring from all angles and has a very distinct charm be it with the design, compactness, the quality levels or the fit-finish.
Powerhouse of a powerplant
Nestled under the dummy fuel tank inside a trellis frame is a 1,203cc, liquid-cooled V-twin engine that offers 120Nm. Intriguingly, Indian has refrained from giving out the power output though reports online suggest it is 120PS. For the record, 120Nm is a superbike-rivalling number and even more importantly, it is delivered just 6,000rpm onwards and the outcome is performance that's just nuts! To my misfortune, the day I was testing the FTR 1200 S the rainfall was of biblical proportions which meant I couldn't even put the power down properly, let alone test the FTR for performance. I reckon the bike is capable of hitting 100kmph well under 4 seconds, which is legit superbike territory and the FTR is capable of showing a clean pair of heels to many a sportsbike. The FTR is thus a no-no for inexperienced riders, as careless openings of the throttle especially on wet roads can be a recipe for disaster, even with the electronics working overtime. The 150-section rear Dunlop tyre has a block pattern to look like a flat-track one but the amount of torque being sent to the rear wheel proved to be overwhelming for it, even on dry roads. Engine performance is very impressive to say the least, but can be a handful even for experienced riders.
Given the kind of performance offered by its engine, the Indian FTR 1200 can be terrifyingly quick and is a motorcycle that calls for lots of caution when riding on wet roads!
In fact, the FTR 1200 S is a machine I would like to unleash on a drag strip, given its wet-your-pants quick acceleration. That said, the FTR misses out on a quickshifter which is a glaring omission. A bi-directional quickshifter would have worked wonders for the six-speed transmission, as it offers precise shifts but with some effort. On another note, there's so much shove at low revs that the FTR 1200 feels slightly intimidating in traffic. And that's besides the fact that the V-twin can heat up quite a bit. Which isn't surprising though when you consider that the cylinders displace 600cc each! Out on open roads the FTR has the ability to transform itself into a more mannered beast though. If anything, the huge dollops of performance make swift overtakes ridiculously easy and also help the bike gobble distances quickly, as the motor barely breaks a sweat even at speeds deemed strictly illegal. The manners are helped by crisp fueling which makes for precise throttle control and overall, there isn't much to complain except for the fact that there's too much shove, everywhere!
Another highlight is the instrument cluster. The S version gets a 4.3 inch, full-colour TFT touchscreen. Yes, it is a touchscreen and even works well with riding gloves! The screen looks crisp and has two display modes that can be changed with a swipe. You can access various menu functions via touch or dedicated switches on the console, or the handlebar. In fact, the right side of the handlebar also gets a joystick for the purpose. The screen also lets you connect phones via Bluetooth or USB to offer navigation or control music. Neat! That said, the display could have been larger as the instrument cluster has a lot of empty space.
The instrument cluster on the Indian FTR 1200 S is a 4.3 inch touchscreen unit, works well even with riding gloves!
The instrument cluster is your gateway to riding modes and various settings and also has an onboard USB slot to connect your phone - phones can also be connected via Bluetooth!
The screen is placed slightly below the field of vision though and looking at it requires you to take your eyes off the road. Riding modes include Rain, Standard and Sport. Rain dials power down along with maximum ABS and traction control intervention, while Standard offers the full wealth in a soft manner. Sport has the least intervention and is the mode where 'all hell broke loose' can be redefined. Then there's a Track mode which lets you switch ABS and TC both off, though it isn't something I'd recommend! But Track mode lets you switch both ABS and TC on or off together and not individually so if you turn TC off, ABS goes off too!
The handling is precise, but 26.3 degrees of rake mean the front end isn't sport naked-responsive. On the same note, the 19 inch front wheel is a bit of a deterrent around corners but the suspension is borderline stiff to make for confident handling, and the bike does not disappoint when riding enthusiastically. Of course, the rains proved to be a caveat to the statement in my case, apart from which I was left wanting for some more traction from the rear tyre. That said I can confirm the FTR isn't super quick around bends but feels very planted and will impress more on dry roads.
The FTR 1200 S feels planted around corners as the suspension setup is firm, but a long rake angle and 19 inch front wheel mean it isn't the most athletic when it comes to changing direction quickly. The block-pattern Dunlops also leave you wanting a little in terms of outright grip
The 1200 S is equipped with higher-specced, fully-adjustable suspension, which feels firm even at the softest settings on broken roads. Consequently, you also need to be careful to not damage the wheels. The experience was better as speeds went up though, as the ride quality feels better at higher speeds, and the FTR 1200 feels comfortable if not plush when doing a fair clip on highways. The seating position is comfortable too, with midset footpegs and the wide handlebar that offers easy reach and good leverage. Overall, the setup is on the sportier side, which isn't surprising considering the bike's positioning.
The FTR 1200 comes across as a breath of fresh air in a world dominated by sportsbikes, streetbikes, cruisers and adventure tourers. More so, coming from a manufacturer like Indian, known better for its high-end, sofa-like cruisers. It is a different take on sport riding and uses a powertrain that impresses in heaps, while looking stunning. Add to that a premium build quality and an electronics package that lets you rein the power in well and you have a package that's difficult to fault with. The only chink in its armour is the pricing, given the expensive CBU route Indian Motorcycles has taken. Priced at Rs 15.99 lakh ex-showroom for the standard version and Rs 17.99 lakh for the Race Replica or S version, the FTR 1200 is expensive. Sure, it packs in a hefty punch, but it is significantly more expensive than most litre-class sport nakeds which offer equal or better performance and handle better too. To its credit, the FTR does boast an air of exclusivity and is unlike most other performance machines on sale, but the price is certainly a stumbling block for someone wanting this highly desirable piece of machinery.
Overall, the Indian FTR 1200 S is a very impressive motorcycle and is pretty much unlike any other motorcycle on sale in the country currently. It is a well-built, premium-feeling motorcycle and looks very good, while also offering serious performance, but is priced expensively
Photography by Anis Shaikh