Top 10 Terribly Cool Things About the New Indian FTR1200

John Burns
by John Burns

It was rough duty suffering the slings and arrows of trans-Atlantic air travel to bring back news of Indian’s exciting new FTR1200, but somebody had to do it. Aer Lingus, formerly the state airline of Ireland and consistently posting superior passenger BAC levels for decades, has gone the way of the world: Nary an empty seat on the Airbus A330, and barely a drop to drink all the way to Dublin. I pressed onward in spite of it all. We published all the press kit info here October 1, the day of the big coming-out party. Here we take a slightly deeper dive, with Indian’s Ben Lindaman, International Product Director, on the opening day of the Intermot show in Cologne (though a bunch of the photos are from the coming-out party the night before).

10. Swingarm through engine cases

“Lots of people have done it; we did it because we wanted to shorten up the total package, shorten the wheelbase up so the bike’s more nimble, more agile. It also makes the whole structure really stiff. We also wanted to do it with the tubular steel design to carry the look and feel of the race bike.”

They did shorten the FTR wheelbase from the Scout’s 61.5 inches down to 60 – but that’s still pretty long for a sportbike. About 1.5 inches more from contact patch to contact patch than a Monster 1200.

9. Non-archaic electronics

“With the S model, we have stability control, traction control, ride modes, ABS of course. What’s cool on the S model is you can turn off the ABS, so if you do want to take it off-road, take it to a circuit or something, you can turn that off and have the bike’s unrestricted capabilities.

“Another thing everybody wants is USB. That’s right here in the front, it’s a fast-charge USB. On the S model, it’s also a data link, so you can link up to your phone.”

Jared Mees on line one.

8. Sachs suspension

“The base suspension is really good, a Sachs 43mm inverted fork and 150mm travel front and rear (5.9 inches). Upgrade to the S, and you get the gold finish, and fully adjustable both front and rear.”

Indian’s not marketing the thing as an ADV bike, or a dualsport one – but 5.9 inches of wheel travel at both ends is only about 0.4 inch less than the Suzuki V-Strom 1000 XT we just loved on in the big ADV comparo. The FTR’s 19- and 18-inch wheels and “flat-track” tires look like they’ll work reasonably well off-road. And the FTR’s claimed 489-lb dry weight might be a bit much for a real “sportbike,” but it’s not at all out of line for a 1200cc ADV bike, is it?

7. Nice details including one Important One

“With four bolts you can take that headlight nacelle off, and there’s a cool, classic round headlight underneath with Indian branding. Cruise control: We weren’t planning on doing that, but we talked to customers and lots of riders, and it’s overwhelmingly, people like having cruise control. It’s a fairly easy integration once you’re doing fly-by-wire.”

Honda didn’t bother on the new CB1000R.

6. Wheels and tars

“For the racebike, they like heavier wheels and tires, they like inertia. For us, we wanted the look of flat track, which is why we went with the 19-inch front and 18 rear. Then we worked with Dunlop, we wanted to carry on that dirt-track tread pattern, but obviously that race tire isn’t going to last long on the road. So we changed the tread blocks – the spacing and depth – changed the compound. This one performs a lot better on the road and will last a lot longer. So they’re a little heavier than a 17-inch, but that wasn’t an intended goal like it is with the race bike. 43 degrees of lean angle. 43 degrees is probably taking those tires right to the limit, but they’ve been optimized for street use. You’ve got to really push it, but those peg feelers will drag.”

5. Shrinkage

“We wanted to take a lot of weight out of the engine. On the cruiser, we had a lot of aluminum in places to make it look good. On this one, the idea was to shrinkwrap it – and then secondarily, how do we make it look good? We also did magnesium side covers and valve covers. [That gray paint is close to magnesium’s natural color. Gold is for the Gucci loafer set.] Overall, this engine weighs about 10 kg less than the Scout’s (about 22 pounds).”

4. Mees Seems to Genuinely Dig the FTR

“We tried to carry on the inspiration of the race bike. 1203cc is obviously a much bigger package. A couple of interesting things to me; the airbox is directly on top of the throttle bodies which is where the lack of mass and the volume helps the most. Moving the fuel tank under the seat helps keep that mass very centralized in the bike, a thing that really helps with its agility, and the lower cg makes the whole thing feel lighter than it is.”

Two-time Indian AFT champ Jared Mees is obviously on the payroll, but his affection for the FTR seems completely genuine. Though it’s obviously a lot more motorcycle than his 375-pound, 750 cc FTR, he says the balance is definitely there.

3. Very nicely finished

“So, we offer three paint schemes. Most of the metal, all the bodywork is liquid paint; the frame and swingarm are powdercoated. An important thing was to make the bike easy to customize. The license plate bracket is a necessary evil, we have to do it for compliance. But we made it really easy to take off, and it’s easy to relocate under the fender, and attach to these handholds. We’ve got mounts to replace the whole thing to give the rear a tighter, less-OEM look.

“Also, what’s traditionally the fuel tank is a pair of airbox covers. You can take them off, both halves, in like five minutes. They’re plastic and you can paint them, whatever you want to customize them, have a couple sets, and totally transform the look of your bike.”

2. Great ergonomics

“I get a lot of questions about competitive bikes and which ones we were comparing to. We obviously buy a lot, we bought a wide spectrum of bikes to look at. But our main intent with this bike was to make something completely unique, and we wanted it to feel like the racebike. A lot of that comes through the ergonomics. You’re very upright, you’re very agile, in a ready position just like the racebike. But we also had to make sure it’s comfortable, and I think we got a really good balance of agility and comfort.”

I think Dan’s right. All the geezers I spoke to, including myself, loved the bike’s ergos, bar bend, seat height and shape.

1. Power!

“Something like 80% of the parts in the engine are different than the Scout engine. Basically, they’re both 60-degree liquid-cooled V-Twins, and that’s where the similarity ends. We built new high-flow cylinder heads to work with the new dual-throttle body intake, two 53mm bodies. There’s a new low-inertia crankshaft that lets the engine spool up much faster. The biggest thing on the power increase is the increase in compression ratio, going to 12.5:1. All the extra power is easy to control, though. We aimed for a really flat torque curve, and the slip assist clutch gives you the really light feel and the slip helps with the downshifting.”

Are those stainless exhaust headers double-walled? They look huge.

“No, those are single-wall,” says Dan.

Dang, they look like they could flow a lot more than 120 hp worth of exhaust.

“For sure, people will be able to get more power out of it, a lot more. As an OEM, we can’t. Not legally.”

Not that there’s anything wrong with 120. That’s plenty. Nice work, Indian. Not only is this thing highly original and way more seductive as a final product than expected, it really does look like it’s going to be a blast to ride.

For Indian, the new FTR1200 is kind of a big deal.

John Burns
John Burns

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4 of 99 comments
  • Randy Moran Randy Moran on Oct 14, 2018

    Pipes are wrong, need to route along the under edge of the seat like a flat tracker. I'm sure the bike is nice and all that, but it's not a very good flat track replica because they messed up the one thing they needed to get right, in my opinion.

  • Martin collins Martin collins on Oct 14, 2018

    too heavy and the pipes are wrong. one can be easily fixed, the other not so much.

    • Spiff Spiff on Oct 15, 2018

      Let's see how it carries the weight.