Indian FTR 1200 S First Ride Review | American flat tracker feels as special as it looks

Yes, Indian FTR 1200 series is based on the FTR 750 race bike. Unlike the race machine, of course, the FTR 1200 is fitted with brakes upfront and it has a proper seat. So, what is a flat track-bred street bike like to ride?

By: | Updated: September 7, 2019 8:04 AM

Indian FTR1200S review main

Indian Motorcycle is most popular for its wide lineup of cruisers and baggers but seldom do people relate this American motorcycle manufacturer's name to motorsports or racing. But fact be told, Indian has been stomping authority on flat track race tracks for decades. Most recently, Indian FTR 750 has swooped top spots in flat track racing championships. So, the product department at Indian had an epiphany - 'how about we put together our flat track expertise in a motorcycle for the street?'

Yes, the FTR 1200 series is based on the FTR 750 race bike. Unlike the race machine, of course, the FTR 1200 is fitted with brakes upfront and it has a proper seat. But in all honesty, a buyer will seldom or never be seen taking corners with the rear end out racing the front end like a flat track motorcycle. So, what can a flat track-bred street bike do? As it turns out – a lot.

The first time you see it in photos, you like it and then the first time you lay your eyes upon the FTR 1200, you love it. It is every bit of pretty-looking and every bit of quality fit and finish as well. The FTR 1200 S Race Replica is an even better looker with a red finish on the frame and an Akrapovic exhaust, which I reckon must make it sound better than it already is.

The motorcycle that came to us was the FTR 1200 S in Titanium Metallic over Thunder Black Pearl. This paint job with a difficult-to-remember name looks rather nice but a bit of Indian red would be better.

Indian FTR1200S review headlamp

Now, enough of going gaga over how good it looks, you hop onto the FTR 1200 S and notice the dimensions are friendly. You'll be more comfortable pulling it in and out of parking though if you're taller than my reasonably respectable height of 5.5 feet. The seat is large and so are the footpegs. I wouldn't say it is particularly a very comfortable place to be, but I'd still choose to ride it for long for reasons mentioned below.

Indian FTR1200S review exhaust

The first time you twist open the throttle, you notice the aggression. The 1200cc V-twin packs a healthy 123 hp which may not sound like a very big number on paper by today's standards, but the FTR 1200 S just feels so delightfully sprightly. The top speed is electronically limited to 200 km/h and I don't think it needs to do more. The windblast is so strong, you must hold on to the handlebars with most of your might.

Indian FTR1200S review engine

Indian have equipped the FTR 1200 S with three ride modes – rain, standard, and sport. During my short time on the dirt and gravel, I chose the rain mode which holds back some of the aggression from the throttle. If I am brutally honest for a bit, I get a little nervous when the surface under the wheels isn't smooth tarmac. But after some faffing about on the FTR 1200 S over dirt, I was able to miss tarmac a bit less and try to go faster on that loose surface a bit more.

Indian FTR1200S review suspension

If you must slide the rear out for a cool Instagram moment, traction control and ABS can be shut off. All of this is easily accessible through this fantastic-looking TFT display touchscreen. And, you can use with gloves on, which is cool. The FTR 1200 S also features smartphone connectivity through Bluetooth and an app called Ride Command to easily manage calls and music. It also gets a USB fast charger.

Indian FTR1200S review TFT touchscreen

Must give it to the FTR 1200 S' Dunlop tyres which have been given a customised flat track-inspired tread and have plenty of grip on rough surfaces. Speaking of rough roads, the FTR isn't really an off-road bike and when you do go off-road you see why.

The suspension setup includes telescopic forks with five-inch travel in them and the rear spring strut and swingarm design is much similar to the race bike. The ride can get quite harsh on higher speeds during off-roading. The other reason is that the riding stance doesn't encourage standing on the footpegs to take on off-road much either. It definitely likes the road more and is very fun on twisties as it easily falls into corners, but isn't all that swift to flick from side to side. But then, it was never built to perform like a sportsbike.

Indian FTR1200S review brakes

Brakes are as responsive as you need them to be and the ABS intervention is just right as well. The FTR 1200 S makes it easier to jump on the brakes with confidence if need be. The fuel tank maybe a spot of bother to some as it is only about 13 litres which means a fuel stop at about every 190-200 km will be in order if you must use this as a touring machine. But it's no problem if you like smiling ear to ear between them.

At the beginning of my ride, I had a tough time positioning the FTR 1200 S and its purpose in my mind. But I am glad that I rode it some more to understand the real deal. Even so, it was a short ride and I would want to spend more time with it for I am convinced – there's more to it.

Indian FTR 1200S specs

Indian FTR1200S review full

A lot of people have mistaken the FTR 1200 as an adventure motorcycle built for off-road and in those terms, the FTR is just sublime on hard-packed dirt and gravel. But it is most enjoyable on the street. While those Dunlops promise ample grip on dirt, they are capable of letting the FTR lean into corners with ease.

The FTR 1200 S can very well be used every single day for commutes or get a windshield upfront and luggage at the rear and it is a tourer. It can comfortably sit at highway speeds without the engine feeling stressed at all. And it also features cruise control easily accessible through a toggle under the left thumb.

That's the real deal. You ask one thing from it and it could give you a whole lot more.

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