The development of Indian Motorcycle takes another leap with the arrival of a new bike, the 2019 Indian FTR 1200. “FTR” stands for “Flat Track Racer,” which describes the bike’s inspiration, if not its function. To fully appreciate the new bike, you need some background information about Indian’s heritage and current status, as well as its racing activities.
Indian Motorcycle was originally founded in 1901, predating rival Harley-Davidson by two years. Indian thrived through the first part of the Twentieth Century, then stumbled in the post-World War II years, ultimately caving to bankruptcy in 1953. Multiple attempts were made to keep the brand alive over the next seven decades, with the Indian logo appearing on a variety of motorcycles during that period. In 2011, Minnesota-based Polaris Industries purchased Indian and developed an all-new Indian Chief and Indian Chieftain, which debuted as 2014 models. The Indian lineup has expanded to include the Roadmaster, Scout, Springfield, and several variants.
During the first half of the Twentieth Century, Indian and Harley-Davidson battled each other on the racetrack with factory-sponsored and privateer efforts. The most storied battles took place on the flat track racing circuit. Indian’s team, nicknamed “The Wrecking Crew,” captured signature victories in the late 1940s and early 1950s, cementing the brand’s connection to the dirt oval racing competition. The new Indian put together a New Wrecking Crew for a return to Flat Track racing in 2016, and developed a new bike, the FTR750, for the effort. The race team and bike have had great success, which led to the creation of the FTR 1200.
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The FTR 1200 made its debut at Intermot, the European motorcycle show in Frankfurt, Germany last September. It’s no accident that an American bike debuted overseas, as the FTR 1200 is Indian’s next step toward global sales and marketing. Indian senior designer Rich Christoph, a veteran of Harley-Davidson’s design team, led the design of the FTR. The new bike takes cues from the FTR750, but is more of a standard than an actual flat-tracker. It features an exposed trellis frame, a flat seat and wide flat-track style bars, with a mid-mount foot peg position. The bike has a visual energy and flow that leads up toward the rear, with exhaust pipes that are sensibly routed low along the bottom of the engine, then tailing up at an angle with twin mufflers – much better for heat management than high-mounted pipes would have been. Cast aluminum spoke wheels are fit to the FTR 1200 and FTR 1200 S, better to wear tubeless tires than the available wire wheels. Street-legal amenities like turn signals and mirrors have sensibly and attractively been fit to the bike, too.
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FTR 1200 is all-new, with a new engine, chassis, bodywork and design, none of which are shared with other Indian models (nor with the FTR750 race bike). The engine is a liquid-cooled 1,203-cc 60-degree V-Twin with four valves per cylinder, closed-loop fuel injection and dual throttle bodies, tuned to produce 123 hp and 87 lb-ft of torque. Primary drive is by gear; final drive is by 116-link chain. The six-speed transmission uses a power-assist, multi-plate slipper clutch. Front suspension is a 43-mm inverted telescopic cartridge fork with 5.9 inches of travel, while rear is handled by a single side-mounted monoshock, also with 5.9 inches of travel. The front wheel is 19 inches by 3 inches, while the rear wheel is 18 inches by 4.25 inches, each wearing a new, specially designed Dunlop DT3-R Radial tire with a flat track-inspired tread block pattern. Dual-disc brakes with Brembo four-piston calipers are mounted directly to the front wheel, while a single disc with a two-piston Brembo caliper slows the rear. Non-linked ABS is standard.
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There are two trim levels of the new FTR, plus a race replica based on the upper trim level. All of the bikes have the same engine, transmission, clutch and brakes. The 3.4-gallon fuel tank is hidden under the bike’s seat, while the filler neck snakes to a keyed, locking gas cap in the center console. The engine’s airbox is concealed behind the painted plastic faux gas tank panels. Full LED lighting, cruise control, flat-track-styled aluminum handlebars and a 2-1-2 brushed aluminum exhaust system are standard. FRT 1200’s suspension is non-adjustable, while FTR 1200 S’s front and rear shocks are adjustable for preload, compression and rebound.
FTR 1200 starts at $13,499, and comes with a four-inch analog gauge with a USB fast charger port, and comes in Thunder Black only.
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FTR 1200 S starts at $15,499, and comes with a new customizable 4.3-inch Ride Command LCD touchscreen display with Bluetooth and a fast charge USB port. It is also equipped with ride enhancing technologies, including stability, traction and wheelie mitigation control, along with the ability to disable ABS. Three ride modes are selectable: Sport; Standard; and Rain. Each mode delivers unique throttle response and traction control intervention levels.
FTR 1200 S is available in Indian Motorcycle Red over Steel Gray or Titanium Metallic over Thunder Black Pearl paint, while the Race Replica is painted in Indian livery (starting at $16,999).
Indian has launched a full line of accessories in four collections (Tracker; Rally; Sport; and Touring) for the FTR, including paintable airbox covers, wire wheels, Akrapovic high-mount exhausts, luggage racks and more.
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Despite its flat track inspiration, the FTR 1200 is not a race bike. It is really more of a naked standard – which is a good thing if you want to ride it in the real world. It starts up easily, and right off the bat impresses with a throaty V-Twin roar. Peak torque arrives at 6,000 rpm, while peak horsepower comes on a 8,250 rpm. The torque curve feels very flat, not at all spiky, so power comes on predictably and just keeps on coming through the revs. Fellow riders demonstrated that wheelies are on tap – though we chose not to explore that capability. The bike is nicely balanced, and side-to-side transitions are drama-free. The unique tire treads deliver true tracking in a straight line, and great grip in turns. This is not a light bike (488 lbs dry), but its weight is very manageable at all speeds. The rich exhaust note and enthusiastic engine bring the fun. High-speed travel is stable and secure, even though there’s not even a hint of wind protection in stock form. The flat seat gives some room to move around, though its thin padding starts to feel inadequate after about 100 miles into the day’s ride. That’s okay – this bike isn’t meant for touring, it’s meant for blasting from one place to another, sharing some fish tacos with friends, then blasting on to the next fun spot. The low-fuel light comes on at about 90 miles, which leads us to believe that fuel economy is in the low 30s – Indian didn’t provide that specification.
Though FTR 1200 is the company’s first attempt to build a global motorcycle, Indian will always be measured against the other American brand, Harley-Davidson. There isn’t really a bike in the current H-D lineup that matches up well with the FTR. The closest would probably be the Sportster Forty-Eight or maybe the Fat Bob. The late-lamented XR1200 would have been a closer match, but that bike came and went in 2010.
The Europeans do naked bikes well. The Aprilia Dorsoduro 900, Triumph Speed Triple, KTM 1290 Super Duke R, Ducati Monster 1200 and BMW S 1000 R fit the bill, and the BMW R nineT Scrambler and Ducati Scrambler embrace a dirt track aesthetic. Japan serves up the Kawasaki Z900, Suzuki GSX-S1000, Yamaha MT-10 and Honda CB1100EX.
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The 2019 Indian FTR 1200 is an important bike for the evolution of the modern Indian Motorcycle brand. It is reasonably priced, fun and easy to ride, good-looking enough to earn a place in most garages, and intriguingly unique and capable. It is a niche bike, but the niche may be pretty wide. Is it for you? Only a test-ride will reveal the answer.
Jason Fogelson writes about luxury automotive, motorcycles and lifestyles. His first book, 100 Things for Every Gearhead to Do Before They Die, was published by Reedy Press in 2016.