Motorcycle reviews are like stories. Stories of a motorcyclist’s interaction with a motorcycle. And stories have to have something to revolve around i.e. the title. So, the title of this one, while a bit misleading, is what this story or review revolves around. The outlier is the Indian FTR 1200 and the story… it will unfold as you read on.
The first clue to the title of this review comes when one takes a look at the Indian FTR 1200. The reason being, Indian Motorcycle has always been associated with cruisers and classic touring motorcycle. Big, imposing, classy, comfortable and with engines that displace… a lot, that is the image associated with Indian Motorcycle. One look at the FTR 1200 and it does not feel Indian. Even though the large script logo that says Indian on the tank should be a dead giveaway, it is still a bit hard to believe.
So, the FTR 1200 is inspired by the Indian Scout FTR 750 dirt track racer. Indian Motorcycle began working on the FTR 750 in 2016 and the reception that it got was probably the biggest reason behind the birth of the FTR 1200. But usually, when you have a great concept motorcycle or a racer, it is easy to mess things up with the production version but fortunately, Indian Motorcycle didn’t. There is one question that comes to one’s mind though. Why not the FTR 750 for the streets and why not the FTR 1200 for the track? The answer probably is emissions and the fact that the 750 might not have sufficed for the roads. And then there must be regulations that need to be followed in flat track racing but more than that, 1200 would have been a bit too hefty for the track.
Coming back to the point, the tightly packed engine and other components, lithe and minimal body, exposed frame and the slightly raised tail, the FTR 1200 is as close to its track racing cousin as it could be while still being street legal. The 19” front wheel, 18” rear wheel, tyres from Dunlop that were specially designed for the FTR 1200 and the wide handlebar make the FTR look like it means business. Everything about this motorcycle is a departure from others in the stable of Indian Motorcycle.
So, the motorcycle, especially in this livery, looks fantastic and it is beyond a shred of a doubt that it is going to attract a lot of eyeballs on the road. The only gripe we have in the looks department is the rear-view mirrors. No matter how many times we looked at them, they always looked a bit out of place. But all that and looks are subjective aside, this is one motorcycle that we believe is going to garner universal acclaim in the looks department. The fit and finish of the motorcycle is also top-notch and complements the beautiful aesthetics of the FTR 1200.
Saddle up and there’s your second clue to the title. The seating position of this motorcycle from Indian is… sporty! But we say that because we did not see that coming from Indian. It is not overly sporty but then, it is no cruiser either. Perfectly balanced, just the way we like it. The footpegs fall naturally under the feet and the wide handlebar promises a lot of leverage over the motorcycle while changing direction. The FTR 1200 that we got to ride was the S variant and it had a 4.3” Ride Command LCD touchscreen display. The brightness of the screen is commendable because even under the harsh sun, one does not have to bother because the screen and the information on it would still be legible and that is not even the best part. The screen can be operated via buttons and it is touch-enabled too. One can even operate the touch screen with gloves on! Now that… is nifty.
Thumb the starter, let the bike warm up, blip the throttle, take a listen and there is your third cue. The soundtrack is different from other motorcycles from Indian in the sense that it has a visceral identity to it. While a lot of speculations before stated that Indian Motorcycle has used the engine from the Scout for the FTR, we have ridden the scout and these two engines are worlds apart and not just visually either. It is a 60-degree V-twin that displaces 1203cc. The high compression and a plethora of changes in the scout engine provide the FTR 1200 with 120 Ps of power and around 117 Nm of torque.
Slot into the first gear, let the clutch go and the FTR 1200 immediately clears its intentions. The engine is eager to get going and the motorcycle gathers revs quickly. And there’s another clue. Now, the FTR may be a peaky one compared to its family members, but the torque is available right from the lower revs which is enough to propel this rather hefty motorcycle to very respectable speeds… and a few wheelies too.
This motorcycle is a torque monster and it felt like it was born to keep the front wheel up as we witnessed the journalists who came to review the motorcycle was wheelie-ing into and out of the corners with relative ease! The engine is also quite refined and the motorcycle can do highway speed all day long without being stressed. The clutch, slipper kind, is also very light and the gearbox, positive. What we’d have liked to have though, is a windscreen would have helped a lot in tackling the windblast on the highway.
While the engine of the FTR 1200 was a revelation, the handling was something else. When one invites journalists from all over the world to test a motorcycle like the FTR 1200 in the twisties and mountainous roads of Santa Monica, they cannot expect them to take it easy. In short, we went all out, and since no one had any unexpected moments, we can safely say that the FTR 1200 handles like a dream.
Considering the type of motorcycle it is and the heft it carries, it just goes around bends like it was nothing. It is no supersport of course, but then it isn’t meant to be that and this turned out to be the next clue for the title of this review. The tyres from Dunlop, which seem like they’d do better off the tarmac than on it, provide a fantastic grip on the roads.
The FTR 1200 features considerable suspension travel and the setup is very compliant. But show the FTR 1200 some corners and it deals with them with elan. That is how well balanced the suspension setup is on the FTR 1200. The dual Brembo Monoblock 4.32 four-piston calipers are fantastic and bring the motorcycle to a halt in a jiffy with no drama. Only if they had just a tad bit more feel on the lever. The ABS system on the S variant is switchable and it can be toggled on or off using the touchscreen.
When does one switch off the ABS? When they plan to leave the comforts of tarmac and look for something more… rugged. Unfortunately, we did not get a chance to ride the FTR 1200 off-road. But we do believe that with the almost dual-purpose tyres, relatively long suspension travel and the dynamics it possesses, it would be pretty good. But one should not try to go MX or SX on it! The safety and technological advancements are not limited to that. Indian FTR 1200 gets a 6-point IMU (Inertial Measurement Unit) and Traction Control in addition to a Wheelie Mitigation system that prevents the front wheel from lifting up uncontrollably and at the same time, ensuring maximum acceleration. The 3 riding modes, Sport, Standard and Rain ensure safe riding in all types of road conditions.
That brings us to the conclusion of this story/review which is going to rest our case of calling it an outlier. So, the FTR 1200 is a fantastic handler but it is not a sportbike. But then, it is not going to have you aching after a short duration like sportbikes do. It can go off-the-road too and hold its own, but it’s nowhere close to being a dirtbike. But then, it does not scare the bejesus out of you at highway speeds. And lastly, it can munch miles on highways day in and day out, but it is no cruiser. But then, it is not going to feel like you need Mjolnir to actually have it go around a bend.
So, the FTR 1200 is an outlier in a sense that it can do little of all the things that we mentioned above and won’t feel too out of place. There isn’t a direct competitor for the Indian FTR 1200 in India, the Triumph Scrambler 1200 (its price will be revealed tomorrow) and the Ducati Scrambler 1100 can be considered spiritual competitors for it. But it does not fit the bill of any of the categories mentioned above and yet, it can become any of them with the 4 collections recently introduced by Indian Motorcycle Recently; Tracker, Rally, Sport and Tour. But even then, the Indian FTR 1200 is a motorcycle in a league of its own and a class of its own, quite literally. But most importantly, it is pure joy to ride the FTR 1200 and it has been quite some time since we felt that way about a motorcycle, an outstanding outlier.