2022 Indian FTR 1200 Review – First Ride
Minneapolis brings the corn fed, 'Merican bred muscle
Different is good. Change is good. Not fitting precisely into a predetermined category is good. That was the take-away from many when the Indian FTR1200 hit the market in 2019. Made in America with naked bike styling, a flat-track-esque wheel combo, and a rowdy performance-focused V-Twin engine, the FTR was unlike anything to come from an American manufacturer for quite some time – and arguably the best culmination of its mass-produced parts ever assembled Stateside.
2022 Indian FTR R Carbon
Sometimes though, being different for the sake of being different just isn’t practical. Indian, of course, brought the production FTR to market hot on the heels of its ongoing success in American Flat Track. With its launch, Indian wanted to imbue the production model with as much flat track DNA as possible. Win on Sunday, sell on Monday, right? The FTR’s raucous V-Twin and 19/18-inch wheel combo helped differentiate it from anything else currently on offer around the globe.
Indian hasn’t exactly been tight-lipped with its plans of what now makes up most of the 2022 Indian FTR line, having hinted at a more street performance focused version back in 2019. Pilfered screenshots of an alleged Indian/Polaris presentation confirmed this with a 2021 model year designation. Also of interest was the inclusion of an FTR-based adventure model to follow in 2022. These timelines have likely been pushed due to COVID-related circumstances, but with the models we were fortunate enough to test in Arizona this month now surfacing, we’re hopeful that the rest of the purported plans are underway as well.
2022 Indian FTR
The Indian FTR line has undergone a bit of rearranging. Three of the four FTR’s get the street-focused overhaul while the FTR Rally will continue on as it were – mostly. The FTR, FTR S, and FTR R Carbon are the new monikers. With the new names comes a welcome slew of changes to make the machines better on the street and easier to live with. To set up the FTR’s new street focus, the bike’s geometry was scrutinized. The new 25.3°-degree rake is a full degree steeper than the previous model thanks to the shorter suspension and smaller wheels, and trail is now just over a full inch shorter at 3.9 inches. This change combined with more standard 17-inch cast wheels (wrapped with Metzeler Sportec rubber) and less suspension travel – down from 5.9 inches to 4.7 – has resulted in a reduction to seat height of nearly 1.5 inches. We’re told the footpegs are ever so slightly higher for increased cornering clearance, and the handlebar is narrower (to the tune of 1.5 inches), while the former was negligible, the latter works in conjunction with the aforementioned changes to help transform the riding experience of the Indian FTR.
These changes mark a vast improvement in the FTR’s approachability and the likelihood of more riders feeling comfortable with the machine. I recently read a comment on our site that a prospective FTR buyer who was short of inseam had his dreams of ownership dashed after throwing a leg over one at a local bike night. The bike was too tall. This should no longer be an issue for many interested parties.
What I was most interested in couldn’t be ascertained from simply sitting on the new FTRs. There was one nagging issue that soured the Indian FTR for me when I first managed to pluck one away from my colleagues, and that was centered around fueling and throttle response. I had the chance to sample the base version, the race replica, and Rally at different times, and they all seemed to suffer from the same problems, but at varying severity. The base model that I had in my garage would die just seconds after being started every time I pulled it from the garage, sometimes more than once while waiting for the bike to “warm up.” (JB doesn’t remember having any issues with the bike dying, but they say memory is the first thing to go…) All of them suffered from abrupt throttle response at low rpm, though the Rally version that we tested back in October of 2020 seemed to be the least affected. I could look past it to enjoy the motorcycle for what it is while it was freely placed in my garage, but it wasn’t quite up to par with what the motorcycling public has come to – and should – expect from a major manufacturer these days.
So, naturally, when the Indian execs told us these issues – which they have heard from editors and customers alike – had been remedied, I could not wait to have a rip on the new and improved FTR. The Rally model will remain relatively unchanged with its 19/18 inch wire wheels and high handlebar but will receive the engine tuning updates as the other models have.
Other updates for the 2022 model year include fully adjustable suspension: ZF Sachs on the FTR and S models with Öhlins bestowed upon the R Carbon model. Akrapovič silencers are now found on the S and R Carbon models as well. As before, moving up from the standard model gets you a 4.3 inch touchscreen display as well as IMU-based ABS and TC in addition to Bluetooth connectivity. TC is either on or off on these models, and ABS cannot be disabled. Otherwise, the machines are much the same as they were in previous years.
Ready to rip
Since producing an event of any type is hard these days, and given the measures that Indian went to in order for the assembled test riders to have a go at their new FTRs, I was forced onto the top-o-the-line FTR R Carbon for the duration of our test ride and did not have the opportunity to ride the S or base model while at the event. Woe is me.
When I was told we would be based out of Phoenix for the press ride, I must admit I was curious how the riding would pan out. I’ve never spent a whole lot of time in Phoenix or the surrounding area so I didn’t really know what to expect. Turns out, the fact that we would have to do a bit of bobbling around town followed by time on the freeway to and from some spectacular riding gave a great all around test of the machine. One that even the afternoon’s treacherous haboob couldn’t sully.
As you might expect, sitting on the machines is a completely different experience from the previous models. The low seat height and narrow bars feel a bit more in line with what one might expect from most standard/naked bikes on the market. The motorcycle’s weight feels nicely balanced as well. To further drive the point home of the difference in rider triangle and seat height, Indian had brought out a few Rally models for a seat-to-seat reference. While the handlebar bend is different, there is still a massive difference between the width of the grips and of course the seat height.
Inching forward as we took off, the clutch engagement point is still really close to the handlebar, and it’s as grabby as it always had been. Still, it’s really something that you warm up to quickly and that I’ve come to enjoy.
Rolling around town at low speed through construction with a large group of riders quickly showcased that the low rpm abruptness in fueling was a thing of the past. It also fired up ferociously and without stumble – from cold – before we left. Had my prayers been answered? It seemed at that point my prior niggles with the bike had been worked out. With the rear cylinder deactivation feature turned on (which deactivates the rear cylinder when the bike is at a standstill), the bike never got too hot in town either.
Just as we managed to get out of town onto some curvy roads, it was time for a break. The long sweeping corners we’d made it through didn’t do much to convey the potential performance enhancement that the smaller wheels would provide, rather it was just a tease.
Before too long we were separated into smaller groups and let loose on one of the most fun roads I’ve had a chance to ride recently, and I finally got a chance to test the FTR R Carbon’s performance.
I’ve always likened the FTR to an American muscle car. Its snarling V-Twin lope is reminiscent of some big-block V8. The hit of acceleration that one experiences from the FTR is also similar. It is a beast, and now, with the stuttering fuel issues and abrupt throttle gone, one can take full advantage of letting the torquey V-Twin dip low into the rpm-range to rocket out of each corner. The smaller wheels do make the FTR feel like a more nimble dance partner, and the entire package feels slightly more refined as though its rough edges have been smoothed out just enough, but not so much as to take the excitement out of the machine.
For sporty riding, the Öhlins units on my R Carbon could have been stiffened up a bit, but overall, the stock setting was just fine. I felt the underside of the exhaust bottom in the middle of an apex with a nice dip in it, but the suspenders kept things copacetic. Still, damping was smooth and never felt harsh. Smooth is what you need to be with the FTR too. The S and R Carbon still have Rain, Street, and Sport riding modes. There were some on our ride who kept Rain selected the entire time as the kick in the seat from Street or Sport was too much. For the folks in our group it was Sport mode or nothing at all. This is where being smooth helps. The FTR is a serious motorcycle with a serious wallop of power low in the revs. In order to ride the machine fast, smoothness is preferred. Whack the throttle before you’ve given up enough lean angle and dire consequences are inevitable. Even TC won’t save you from yourself.
While we aren’t peacocking Stylemas, the Brembo braking components, braided lines, and radially-mounted master cylinder and calipers do just fine to get the FTR’s 320mm front rotors slowed in a hurry. If I wanted to nitpick, the initial bite is somewhat soft, but the power is there promptly and confidently slows things down. Without a lot of weight over the rear it’s easy to dip into the rear wheel’s ABS, but again, the bike doesn’t have any issues stopping.
On the FTR R Carbon, with a thoughtful right hand, the entire ride was a visceral experience. From idle to full throttle through the canyons, the 1203 cc V-Twin delivers performance and sound unlike anything else. Its delivery of torque is brutish and exhilarating, and while it peters out toward redline, a quick shift (not to be confused with quickshift because we’re still doing things manually in that department) brings the feeling back. The confidence-inspiring suspension and braking components allow the ride to be uneventful if you respect it. Not to mention the R Carbon is dripping in its namesake, and its metal flecked paint damn near had me drooling at every stop. She is a looker, no doubt.
An emotional experience
The emotion that the FTR stirs up inside of me is similar to that of the 2015 Aprilia Tuono V4R sitting in my garage that I bought new back in 2016. That’s not to say that the Indian could hold a candle to the outright performance of the Aprilia, but both powerplants, the level of finish, and the happiness that I get from riding them, or hell, even being around them are similar, but at the same time different. The R carbon that I rode in Phoenix is actually a fair bit more expensive than that Tuono. At $16,999, it’s not cheap. While the top-of-the-line FTR has remained unchanged in terms of pricing, the base and S models have dropped $500 putting them at $12,999 and $13,999, respectively.
I don’t think the 2022 Indian FTR is about outright performance though. That’s not me making an excuse for the machine either because it doesn’t need any. It’s about how you feel when you’re riding it and what twisting the throttle does for you as you hustle through a set of curves. It’s about turning around for one last glance across the parking lot or garage as you walk away from it. It’s about being proud of an American brand pushing the performance envelope in a new way. If a motorcycle doesn’t make you feel some sort of way, what’s the point? As I said to my wife right before I started this review, “The FTR is just a lot of f*cking fun.”
2022 Indian FTR
- Rowdy V-Twin will have your back in a bar fight
- Looks to get the girl/guy
- In R Carbon trim, easily keeps its sh*t together
- Not exactly a cheap date
- Drinks a lot
- Could stand to lose a few pounds
2019 Indian FTR1200 Specifications
|MSRP||FTR, $12,999, FTR S $14,999 / FTR R Carbon $16,999|
|Engine Type||1203 cc liquid-cooled 60-degree V-twin, DOHC, four valves per cylinder|
|Bore and Stroke||102 x 73.6mm|
|Rear Wheel Horsepower||120 hp (claimed)|
|Torque||87 lb-ft at 6000 rpm (claimed)|
|Transmission||6-speed, slip/assist clutch|
|Final Drive||#525 chain|
|Front Suspension||43mm ZF Sachs Fully Adjustable Inverted Telescopic Cartridge Fork 4.7 in. travel / 43mm Ohlins Fully Adjustable Inverted Telescopic Cartridge Fork. 4.7 in. travel|
|Rear Suspension||ZF Sachs Fully Adjustable Piggyback IFP, 4.7 in. travel / Ohlins Fully Adjustable Piggyback IFP, 4.7 in. travel|
|Front Brake||Brembo Dual 320mm t5 Rotor, 4-Piston Caliper|
|Rear Brake||Brembo Single 260mm t5 Rotor, 2-Piston Caliper|
|Front Tire||Metzeler Sportec M9 RR 120/70ZR17 58W|
Metzeler Sportec M9 RR 180/55ZR17 73W
|Rake/Trail||25.3°, 3.9 inch|
|Seat Height||30.7 in.|
|Curb weight||514 lbs / 513 lbs (claimed)|
|Fuel Capacity||3.4 gallons|
|Warranty||2 Years, unlimited miles|
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More by Ryan Adams