No more rumors, hints, and foreshadowings! This is it, the Indian FTR 1200, the street-going dirt tracker and the most important model for Indian Motorcycle since it relaunched as a modern motorcycle company in 2013. The Indian Scout FTR750 dirt track racer led the way, of course, but it wasn’t conceived much sooner than this machine. Design work on the FTR750 engine began in January 2016, it was announced in February, and with a tight, dedicated team that included Polaris’ race-savvy Swissauto division making it happen, it was competing on US tracks in just nine months. The raucous reception that had followed Indian’s initial return to dirt track suggested something more: a streetbike derivative.
According to International Product Manager Ben Lindaman, the FTR 1200 engineering effort began in March 2016, hinting that it had to have been a twinkle in someone’s eye from almost the time the FTR750 was approved. But the Hooligan Scouts that Roland Sands had built in 2015 and the FTR750 certainly confirmed and reinforced that there was a lot of interest in such a machine. “We needed to make sure we delivered on the style of the FTR750,” Lindaman said. “We had a world-wide focus group—we got a lot of feedback that the styling was right.”
But it isn’t just styling; with the FTR 1200, Indian is building its first truly athletic motorcycle, a motorcycle that will expand its reach beyond the cruiser and classic touring bike market and play in the streetfighter market. There are two immediate tells on that athletic focus: the riding position and the engine tune and packaging, but more on both later.
One man links all the variants of Indian dirt trackers: Polaris Senior Industrial Designer Rich Christoph, who, working with Jared Mees, packaged and designed the look of the first Scout FTR750. In Polaris’ competitive industrial design process, he had to out-sketch and outcompete other designers to win that right. But once having achieved that, it was a natural for him to do the Scout FTR1200 Factory Custom, the prototype built around an Indian Scout engine that foreshadowed the production FTR 1200. Christoph describes the Custom as one of the best experiences in his design life, having almost complete design freedom; he refers to the production FTR in contrast, as “incredibly painful, but only painful because you [care.]”
He explains that after doing the 750, “I knew where I wanted to go where, where I wanted to take the bike. How the proportions would evolve, how the lines would evolve. How you get hips and a chest related to the proportions of a larger engine. I knew in my mind the silhouette I wanted. I wanted a supporting line to shoot a highlight up through the tailsection because I knew there was going to be something under it.”
But Christoph, who’s as passionate and tightly wound an artist as any you’ll find, had to maintain those under the pressure of packaging everything required for a streetbike into the tight confines of this stark, open style of a track bike. “There were times I was fighting for tenths of a millimeter,” he remembers in his battles with engineers to find a place to put one more component. “But in the end, it’s really good. We won; engineering and industrial design both won.”
Lindaman explains that some of that win were in the choices that engineering made with the engine. While it’s clearly related to the engine in the Indian Scout, it is not a Scout engine. “It’s 80-percent new, with only 20-percent common,” Lindaman said. With the Scout, for a cruiser, visually bulking the engine up was required, with covers that added visual mass. For the FTR, it was opposite, and everyplace the Scout puffed outward, the FTR engine is sucked in. Even the crankcases are new; the Scout engine was too long for a sporting machine, with gearbox shafts all on a horizontal plane. Showing just how serious Indian is with the FTR, new crankcases were designed that restack the transmission shafts more vertically, allowing the wheelbase to be shortened down to 60 inches even with a longish swingarm. Where the Scout had multiple covers on the right side of the engine, the FTR engine has one, cast in magnesium. Rocker covers are in the light alloy as well, and the crankshaft is fully 10 pounds lighter, with much less flywheel effect than that of the Scout. All the hard work brought engine weight down to just 185 pounds—relatively heavy compared to a Ducati or KTM engine, but 40 pounds less than a Scout powerplant.
For power, the new engine was bored out 6mm compared to a Scout, bringing displacement to 1,203cc, and then thoroughly, conventionally hot-rodded. Valve sizes were increased, and compression bumped to 12.5:1, while cam timing is more aggressive. Throttle bores have been enlarged to 60mm. Peak power is claimed to be around 120 hp, and the torque curve shown at the press announcement is broad, with a slight double hump: an initial torque peak at a low 3,500 rpm, the slightest of valleys, and then a second peak at 6,000 rpm with 85 pound-feet. Transmitting this power is a new F.C.C. slipper clutch, with a dual-acting ramp system: It self-tightens during acceleration, slips on back-torque, allowing light springs.
As for the chassis, according to Lindaman, the emphasis was on the machine’s motto: “Born on the dirt, built for the street.” Wheel sizes were chosen at least in part on appearance: 17-inchers at both ends simply didn’t have the right look. So the front was made a dirt track-style 19-incher, and for tire-size commonality, the rear an 18. (There simply weren’t alternative rear tire choices in 19-inch sizing, and Indian didn’t want to box customers into just the OEM tires.) Dunlop designed custom dirt track-replica street tires for the FTR, and a lot of development went into these. The first versions basically evaporated in hard riding. Compared to the real thing, the finished tires are radials and, while having a visually similar tread pattern, have a higher rubber-to-void ratio, with less tread depth—all to get the individual knobs to flex less and allow the tire to last 3,000 miles or more on the street.
The frame is a multi-tubular space frame with the engine as a structural member; the swingarm pivot is carried in the engine cases. The real 3.4-gallon fuel tank begins near the rear of the cosmetic “fuel tank” and tucks under the seat, while the front portion of what looks like the gas tank is filled by a large airbox. Suspension was chosen to go far beyond street needs and offer something that would work on a bumpy fire road, and both ends have Sachs suspension components with 6 inches of travel, more than you’d expect on a pure street machine.
The FTR will come in two versions: the base FTR 1200, and the FTR 1200 S. The base model will offer black paint only, on both frame and bodywork, and a simple round speedometer, while the S comes in various combinations, including the Race version with Indian red frame and white tank panels. The S will also offer a 4.3-inch digital dash with phone connectivity and a touchscreen that glows with a full 1,000 nits, brighter than any iPhone screen (600 nits) and able to be readily viewed in bright sunlight. The touch part of the screen controls a full Bosch stability control system with six-axis inertial sensor and multiple riding modes, while the standard model offers only ABS. The base model is priced at an attractive $12,999, while the FTR S models range from $15,000 to $16,000 depending on paint scheme; the red frame costs $1,000 extra.
Indian offered us a few hours in August to sample early FTR 1200 prototypes, machines close to but not quite production. Sit on the FTR, and you quickly understand its unique positioning. The riding position is active, with the footpegs directly under your center of gravity, just as on a motocrosser or Supermoto machine. The top surface of the peg is even angled downward at the front to match your foot; according to Christoph, he and the engineers at Indian spent a lot of time with riders interacting with the clay model, tailoring a perfect athletic riding position, one that easily allows the rider to move around. The aluminum, ProTaper handlebar is exceptionally wide, in a bend that brings your hands naturally to the grips and offers more leverage than most any other streetbike. The engine thumbs to life with a V-twin rumble, muted by current noise laws, but still clear and alive.
The clutch is exceptionally light, and the FTR accelerates hard through the gears. This is a bike that will likely run a quarter-mile in the 11-second range, and it pulls convincingly through the midrange. Redline is 9,000 rpm, and, even with counterbalancers, some vibration wafts through to let you know that big pistons are being jerked hard up and down below as you approach that redline. At cruising speeds, though, everything mellows.
According to Indian, the bike will come in at about 488 pounds dry, and it feels light. Even with a big, 19-inch front wheel, it turns readily and can be leaned far into corners. Cornering clearance will not be an issue, though the Dunlop DT replicas will not offer the absolute grip of something like a Diablo Corsa. The suspension is firm, and while Indian only took us over paved roads, the FTR certainly feels like something that would be fun to ride on gravel. The first one in California is headed for a fire road!
The digital dash on the 1200 S is a thing of beauty, perhaps the brightest display on a motorcycle, and one that doesn’t wash out in bright light. The touch screen software was still a work in process at the time we rode the bike, but the touchscreen itself works readily, and the Indian team is aiming to give a range of riding modes that make sense while simplifying the interface—there won’t be 21 levels of traction control!
The only thing that feels less than fully sporting is the front brake, which brings the bike to a stop quickly enough but with relatively high lever effort. Given that even the least expensive version of the FTR will come with ABS, we’d suggest Indian should have given it the aggressive brake leverage more typical of supersport machines.
The most interesting thing about this machine, though, might not be just that it exists, but what it suggests about Indian. Given the expense of the new engine and all the other changes, the FTR is clearly part of a new Indian platform. Everywhere your eye falls on the machine—from the 10-spoke wheels to the footpegs to the subframe—suggests extensive engineering effort and the type of whittling away of weight that comes from extensive finite element analysis. This machine is serious and it’s only the first performance motorcycle from Indian. Its bones could clearly be the basis of an adventure-tourer or a streetfighter or even a sport-touring machine. This is Indian’s future, and that future is going to be interesting indeed.
|PRICE||$12,999 (FTR 1200) / $14,999 (FTR 1200 S) / $15,999 (FTR 1200 S Race Replica)|
|ENGINE||DOHC 60-degree liquid-cooled V-twin|
|TRANSMISSION/FINAL DRIVE||6-speed/ Chain|
|CLAIMED HORSEPOWER||120 hp @ 8,250 rpm|
|CLAIMED TORQUE||85 lb.-ft @ 6,000rpm|
|FRAME||Tubular steel trellis|
|FRONT SUSPENSION||43mm Inverted cartridge fork, fully adjustable (FTR 1200 S); 5.9-in. travel|
|REAR SUSPENSION||Monoshock IFP, adjustable preload and rebound (FTR 1200); 5.9-in. travel / Piggyback monoshock IFP, fully adjustable (FTR 1200 S) ; 5.9-in. travel|
|FRONT BRAKE||Brembo M4.32 Monobloc 4-piston calipers, dual 320mm floating discs w/ ABS|
|REAR BRAKE||Brembo P34 2-piston caliper, 260mm floating disc w/ ABS|
|RAKE/TRAIL||26.3 degrees / 5.1 in.|
|SEAT HEIGHT||33.1 in.|
|FUEL CAPACITY||3.4 gal.|
|CLAIMED DRY WEIGHT||488 lb. (FTR 1200) / 489 lb. (FTR 1200 S)|