RIDING DIFFERENT BIKES. RACING SOME
When one thinks of Indian Motorcycle, one often quickly thinks of big cruisers. But did you know there is also a sporty side to the oldest American motorcycle brand? Meet the FTR. How sporty is it, really?! Let me tell you all about it in our Indian FTR 1200 review.
I have to be honest with you. I did not know what to expect from the FTR. It seemed like a bad joke. “We normally make huge motorcycles, especially big cruisers. But this time, we made an awesome, sporty bike. We’ll promise you it’s good.”
But then again, I never knew Indian Motorcycle had a history in Flat Track Racing. And was so successful at it. And at that time, I also wasn’t aware of people actually racing the FTR on ‘normal’ tracks. Or racing baggers!
But let me also tell you, that I did not agree to write an article about it. That’s my own initiative. Because why wouldn’t I?! Any time I get the chance to ride a motorbike, I just love to share my experiences with you. Because, just maybe.. you are in the market for that specific motorcycle. And you wonder what people think about it. People who have ridden it. Who have experienced it for a longer period of time than just 30 minutes. Any feedback might provide useful information, right?!
I was asked to be the TV host and rider for a promotional video for the FTR. We would shoot some video material on the roads and on a smaller race track in Berghem, the Netherlands. A few days in advance, I already got to take the FTR 1200 home with me. To get acquainted, one could say.
So I put it to the test on my local roads. The ones I know very well and have ridden with a variety of motorcycles. So comparing the handling of motorbikes gets more and more fun, since I have more and more experience with different bikes to compare it with.
Since this is no sponsored article, or written after an invitation for a demo ride or anything, I can tell you all the good and the bad about the FTR. No censorship, just my honest opinion and experience.
So there we go! My review of the Indian FTR 1200, the Sport variant.
I do not hide my preference for good looks. I know many prefer functionality and looks to be in some sort of balance. But I don’t mind giving up a bit of comfort for the sake of better looks.
And man, oh man, do I love the looks of the FTR! I really love it. The sporty rear end, the narrow profile.. It looks superb, if you ask me. I love the hints to the flat track history of the FTR. But I also appreciate the modern, almost racy looks. In terms of semi-naked bikes that is. You can’t compare it to actual sport bikes, of course.
But I think Indian Motorcycle did an excellent job designing the FTR. It is different. It is long. A bit too long maybe, for what we are all used to. But it is cool. And when I look at it, I just can’t stop thinking about all the things you could do with it. One could go crazy, when customising this bike.
Engine: 1.203 cc 60 Degrees V-Twin
Power: 120 bhp @ 6.000 rpm, 117.9 Nm @ 6.000 rpm
Seat height: 780 mm / 30.7 inches
Fuel tank: 12.9 litres
Dry weight: 223 kg / 490 lbs
Top speed: approx. 147 mph / 220 to 230 kph
So there we go. I hop onto the FTR. The FTR Sport that is, to be exact. And guess what?! I can actually reach the ground on this thing. I can’t flat foot it, but it is no tip toe situation either. I’m 1,68 m short, in case you are wondering.
The steering bar feels wide when you grap the handlebars. It probably won’t be wider than on the regular naked bike or streetfighter. I’m just not really used to it. But it does give you an ‘elbows out’ vibes. Without giving away too much, it turned out that is exactly how you should ride it. More on that, later.
Put your feet on the foot pegs and you will notice that they are quite low to the ground. Which gives a bit more space for taller riders. So if you are tall, you might find the FTR to be quite comfortable. I spoke with a gentleman who owns and FTR, and who is quite tall. 2m, to be precise. And he found the FTR the most comfortable naked bike he has ridden so far. And he rode quite a few, since he was in a desperate search for a naked bike that suited his length.
Once you put it in first gear and ride off, you immediately notice it is sporty on the throttle. The Indian FTR 1200 hosts a V-twin engine which feels really, really smooth. It growls nicely, yet gently.
It was a hot day when I took the Indian FTR home with me. And at the first traffic light, I noticed the engine ran in higher rpm than I expected with the throttle closed. I wasn’t sure what to think of it, so I let it be. At the second traffic light, I got a bit nervous. I noticed an icon on the dash with a red cross through one of the cylinders in the little V-twin icon. “Did I mess things up already?!” I thought..
After a quick check, it turned out to be a standard thing. The rear cylinder turns itself off, in order to prevent the engine from overheating. And to prevent the rider from cooking. It’s a thing most V-shaped engines have. It is hard to cool the rear cylinder. Indian Motorcycle created a system, where the rear cylinder turns itself off when standing still. Quite smart, if you ask me. But something you have to get used to, when you take the bike out for a first ride.
Does that right hand of yours also have the tendency to be a bit heavy? Welcome to the club. In that case, you will notice one thing aboard the Indian FTR. It is a true torque party. The 1200 cc V-twin engine works hard for you. It does not only provide you with 120 ponies to play with, but also 117.9 Nm of torque, all to your assistance at 6.000 rpm.
Let’s put that in perspective. That’s slightly more torque than my own Aprilia RSV4 manages to provide (which is 117 Nm at 10.500 rpm). And definitely a lot more at 6.000 rpm. It also tops the BMW S1000RR. And comes awfully close to the 2023 Ducati Streetfighter V4S. Not bad, for an American V-twin, if you ask me.
I owe you a proper top speed test. I didn’t really get the chance to give that one a try, yet. But I probably will ride the FTR again, so as soon as I got that one tackled, I’ll let you know.
I keep getting into this subject. More than I’d like, sometimes.. but.. The Indian FTR is a great bike for smaller riders. Its seat height is only 780 mm, or 78 cm. Which is not high at all. It is a slightly wider bike, so I cannot flat foot this one. But you will reach the ground with both feet if you stand around 1.68 m tall.
Are you a bit shorter? Then you will still reach the ground, but you will be on your toes. No worries, there are some lowering options available. I’ll dig into that one, to tell you more about it in a different article.
I have a second confession to make.. I do not like riding naked bikes. There you have it.. And yes, I know. I am an odd one out. I do not like riding naked bikes, in general.
If I wanted something sporty, I would get myself a sport bike. I see no need for combining sporty riding with comfort. I can see the benefits of sitting a bit more upright. But since I don’t feel like I need that (yet), I’d rather ride sport bikes.
And I definitely don’t see the need for a 200 hp naked bike. It is heavy and it won’t have the ground clearance you’d want it to have if you’d properly want to use all that horsepower. I know it is an unpopular opinion, but I’d choose sport bikes over naked bikes any day.
That said, I did like riding the FTR. And I think that is because you sort of have to wrestle it. Don’t get me wrong, riding comes easy on this fellow. But if you want to ride it fast, you do have to muscle it around.
Not because it is that heavy. But because of its slightly longer wheelbase. And I like that. It feels different. It’s a bit of ‘elbows out’ riding, which I love.
It is just different. It looks different, it rides different. And it intrigues me.
Is it perfect? No. No bike ever is. Honestly, there is always something to whine about. And since I am a Dutch; let’s start whining.
1. The FTR doesn’t have a big fuel tank. So if you plan on riding 500+ kilometres with a group, keep in mind you will have to fill up more often than they have to. Great excuse for an extra cup of coffee, though.
2. It does not have a quickshifter. I have to say it, and since most will point that out as a con of the Indian FTR, I’ll say so as well. But I’ve got a little message for you too..
“Grow up. Don’t be lazy. Shift gears yourself. Use the clutch. If you don’t know how to use a clutch properly anymore, then get off that bike and get yourself a car.”
In my – probably very unpopular opinion – quick shifters are highly overrated on the roads. Unless you are a true street hooligan who races the roads on early mornings. In that case; I get you. You’d want a quickshifter. But since 9 out of 10 riders are not, and do not have the skills to do so, I’d say “Use the f*cking clutch, you lazy. And stop whining about it”.
3. The lower placed foot pegs ensure lots of scraping pegs business. It would be one of the things I would change, if I would get myself an FTR 1200. Add a great aftermarket rear set which let you adjust the peg height and get going.
You could just use your body and keep the bike more upright, of course. And that will do on the roads. So it is not like the standard pegs will get in your way while road riding, if your body posture is right.
But since I always look at road bikes – especially slightly sportier bikes – as a substitute for my race bike (in case I decide to crash my race bike), I keep things in this in mind. And on your occasional track day, those lower pegs could get in your way. Especially if you pick up some speed.
But that’s about it, really. Can’t think of more cons.
I know this part is very subjective. But yes; I would buy the Indian FTR. And that is the first time I say that about a naked bike, or a semi-naked, if you will.
I love it. It is fun, it looks brilliant, and it allows for some great customising. You could go wild in designing the FTR to your preferences.
Let me visualise for a moment.. Take the mirrors off. Add some bar end mirrors below the steering bar, add an aftermarket rear set (a black one, please), get an awesome paint job that screams ‘road hooligan’ and maybe, just maybe, add some Öhlins suspension. The latter isn’t necessary if you only ride it on the roads, though.
But I’d get one. Especially now I am going to ride my Aprilia RSV4 on track. If that one suits my riding on the circuit, I won’t want to change it back to a road bike after every track day. I’d just leave it in its track set up. So I am secretly searching for a new road bike. And the Indian FTR makes a huge change to be chosen.
The Indian FTR. Whether you take the FTR 1200 base model out, or the FTR Sport, or the Carbon version.. it looks really, really well. I know that is a matter of opinion, but I love the different looks.
I think that is what defines the FTR. It is different. It is fresh. It is a stubborn take on the modern naked bike. It’s got all the stuff you need. It misses some of the stuff you’d want – think quickshifter, but let’s face it. Most of us don’t need it. Or in all honesty, should not use it.
The FTR requires you to muscle it around a bit, when picking up speed on narrow twisties. But in a rather charming way. I know most people won’t think of Indian when looking for a naked bike. But give the Indian FTR a change. I promise you, you won’t regret it. You might even take it home with you.. All I can say it; it is addicting.