MCN Fleet: Something cool and carbonated - Ben sees how the other half lives with top-spec Indian FTR Carbon

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One of my favourite things about the Indian FTR S is that it handles better than its looks lead you to expect. On paper, a long, low heavy American bike shouldn’t want to go around corners but the FTR – with its sporty riding position and 17in wheels – loves it.

Admittedly, you do have to grab it by the scruff of the handlebars to make it change direction quickly, but that’s all part of the fun of riding an inappropriate machine at pace.

But when I discovered that our sister publication Bike magazine had an FTR Carbon on their test fleet, I got straight on the phone to arrange a temporary swap. The carbon weave on the tank, headlight cowl and front mudguard is mostly for show (the bike is a mere kilo lighter than standard) but what intrigued me was the shiny, gold Öhlins suspension.

Indian FTR Carbon on the road

Mind games

Unless I’ve developed otherworldly weight perception, the sensation of lightness I felt when I first picked the Carbon off its sidestand was all in my head.

Either that or it was due to the fuel gauge needle being buried deep in the red. Either way, I don’t think it was down to the true weight of the bike. Once rolling, however, the Carbon does hold its mass better than the S.

Where the standard bike needs cajoling – or coercing – into a tight corner, the Carbon can be placed with precision. Likewise, the S can’t wait to get you back upright at corner exit and requires a little inner bar pressure to hold its line, whereas the Carbon holds whatever angle of lean you require until you’re ready to stand it up.

Indian FTR Carbon front

You chuck the S into a corner but you place the Carbon. There is less fork dive on the brakes, too, with the Öhlins holding everything flatter and allowing you more braking pressure before the ABS cuts in.

Eye of the beholder

I appreciate a nice bit of carbon weave as much as the next man, but I’m not sure the FTR is the right place for it. I love the clash of old-timey Americana styling with modern elements on the bike but the carbon finish on the top-spec edition is a little crass – especially combined with the ‘Premium Seat’, which would look more at home on an MV Agusta.

The red frame and gold fork combination is a winner though and it’s not a bad looking bike by any means, just a tad ostentatious.

Indian FTR Carbon seat

At what cost?

The Carbon FTR does handle better than the S, but does it handle £2000 better? For my money, no. I’m so smitten with my long-term test bike that I’ve been putting serious thought into buying one but I’d go for the S.

Part of the fun of it is slinging it into the corners and having a bit of a wrestle on your hands. I’ve never wished for better suspension. So, I wouldn’t spend an extra £2k to get it – especially when it comes with a load of added chintz.

Bafflingly, if you add the Öhlins to an S to avoid the carbon it’ll cost you £3430 so if you’re desperate for some Swedish bling, the Carbon is incredible value!


Update three: Exploring B-road Wales – Trip across the border brings a chance to stretch the Indian’s legs

Published 22.09.22

Indian FTR S on Welsh coast

Since I took on the Indian FTR S as a long-term test bike I’ve been inundated with emails, letters and phone calls begging to know what it’s like for riding with two Porsches and a Mustang in Wales. Ok, that’s not true. And as consumer journalism goes, I’ll admit, it’s pretty niche. But taking the Indian on a ‘driving’ trip with some of my car-loving mates did give me an opportunity to see how it handles the twisty stuff when the pace is… spirited.

The rolling hills and plunging valleys of the mid-Wales coast are the perfect playground for just this kind of exploration but before all that we needed to travel almost the full width of England and Wales and had already decided that the M6 was off limits due to being dull.

Some A and B-road shenanigans and mild roundabout tomfoolery revealed that the bike was more than a match for the four-wheelers (in the dry, at least) but after more than five hours on the road I was noticeably more dishevelled than the others. They were surprised that a bike that looks like the Indian handled as well as it did – going so far as to say it looked weird leaning over.

Indian FTR S on Welsh road trip with cars

We celebrated our arrival in Wales pretty hard and I lost the second day of the trip to a hangover. So, I was looking forward to a proper ride on day three. One of our group lives in Wales and knew a way to link up some truly excellent roads including a dramatic stretch of coastline that put me in mind of the Pacific Coast Highway in California.

What did I learn?

Firstly, I may be able to drink like I could in my twenties but I definitely don’t recover as well. Secondly, and more importantly, the FTR has an insatiable hunger for twisties. On tricky roads I didn’t know, taking a wide and late corner entry, the big Indian stays poised on the front brake before tipping in effortlessly once you can see through the apex.

There’s plenty of engine braking to pull you round the corner off-throttle but not so much that you have to barrel in like you’re on a racetrack. If you have carried a little too much speed, a dab of rear brake pulls you in yet tighter without troubling the ABS.

Indian FTR S by the sea

Very bumpy sections betray the firmness of the suspension and it can crash through the most severe undulations but it’s not so bad you can’t ride around it and it’s the only time the weight can really be felt – which at 233kg is astonishing.


Update two: ‘Asking for the Czech’ – Ben takes the Indian FTR S on a European road trip

Published 28.06.22

Indian FTR S in Budweis, Czech Republic

One of my greatest pleasures in life is to pack up a few belongings and ride somewhere far away on a motorbike. You can keep your Sunday blasts, trackdays and bike nights – I much prefer to explore somewhere new at a brisk but relaxed pace.

There’s something incredibly zen to building a rhythm on the road and committing yourself to a whole day in the saddle. Once you shed the imperative to cover ground quickly and submit to the journey rather than the ride it’s hard not to be seduced by motorcycle touring.

So, when I heard that there was a festival for Indian riders to be held in Budweis, Czechia, I leapt at the chance to see how the Indian FTR S would cope as an overlander.

Indian FTR S on the Channel Tunnel

Due to time constraints I had to use the motorway there and back with a chance to explore a little of Czechia while I was there. I planned a route that would take two days, using Cologne as a stop-over, stuffed a few pairs of pants in a rucksack and headed for Folkestone.

Despite leaving home with an almost full tank, it felt like no time at all before I was pulling onto a petrol station forecourt. This was a feeling I’d get to know very well over the coming days…

Range anxiety

I rode off Le Shuttle in Calais to glorious sunshine and sailed past the first few service stations on my way towards Brussels. By the time the fuel light came back on I felt ready for a comfort break anyway. But unfortunately, the next sign I saw had a picture of a fuel pump next to the text ‘27km’. Merde.

Indian FTR S after arriving at Indian Riders Fest

Once the FTR’s fuel light flashes the range figure on the dash is replaced by the word ‘low’ and you have just the red (digital) needle on the display to go by, which I don’t really trust, so I’ve never pushed it. Even in my arithmetically challenged brain I could work out that 27km was under 18 miles and this felt borderline achievable.

It’s not like I had any choice by this point anyway, so I soldiered on. By the time I reached the 5km board I was drafting behind a lorry and trying not to move the throttle at all. I eventually crept into the services presumably running on the idea of petrol rather than any actual liquid – but still moving under my own power. Phew. Lesson learned, I would not take another fuel risk on the trip…

Comfort and style

Despite its total lack of wind protection, the FTR performed wonderfully as a long-range bike. I generally rode at 130kmph (a little over 80mph) on cruise control and found this plenty to make progress but not so fast that I burned myself out in the wind.

Indian FTR S at the side of a Czech road

I couldn’t resist stretching the FTR’s legs on the German Autobahn and discovered that the top speed of 135mph can be reached quickly but then you hit the limiter like a brick wall.

I was apprehensive that spending four days on the motorway on the FTR would leave me deaf, dishevelled and less enthusiastic about the Indian. But actually, it was comfortable, capable and entirely feasible as a touring option. If you added Indian’s small wind deflector you could probably improve it even more.

Fuelling around

Across the 1800-ish miles of the trip I refuelled 18 times, using 80-litres. So, I averaged just 100 miles per 11-litre tank-full. That’s a rather paltry 41.2mpg but not too bad for a 1200cc V-twin.

The tank size is more of an issue than the economy and holds you back when you’re on a long trip. The fuel filler neck is also incredibly annoying and makes refills excruciating, but I’m assured by Indian that future models will have the problem addressed.


Update one: It’s a case of love at first ride for Ben and the Indian FTR S

Published 28.04.22

Indian FTR S on the road

The last few weeks have felt like the start a promising relationship. I’m in that part where you play down how excited you are to your friends and family in case it doesn’t work out and you look like an idiot but really you think you’re in love and you want to shout it from the rooftops.

The thing is, I know there’s a honeymoon period when you ride a new motorcycle and I don’t want to jump the gun, but after putting the first thousand miles on the Indian FTR S I’m starting to look for insufficiently secured fire escapes I could scale and I’m warming up my voice.

It shouldn’t come as a complete surprise that I like this latest version of the FTR, I rode the previous model (before it dropped the 1200 from the name) and my only issue with it was that it felt a little loose on its flattrack-style tyres and 18/19in wheels.

Indian FTR S dash

The new bike comes with Metzeler Sportec M9 RR-shod 17in rims which means the handling is vastly improved. What’s more, the rear is a fatter 180-section profile that copes better with the Indian’s liberal slathering of V-twin torque.

Thinking of the ex

I thought on the back of last year’s Kawasaki ZX-10R that the FTR would feel lumpen, flabby and loose (or is that the tester?) but I can’t believe how wrong I was. There’s no denying that it’s heavy – 233kg claimed at the kerb – but once you’re rolling it wears it really well.

The riding position is poised rather than sporty with upright bars and the pegs slightly behind your hips. The riding experience isn’t a million miles away from something like a Yamaha MT-09, but I know which one I’d rather look at in the garage.

But by far the biggest surprise came after the first service (oil change and check over at 500 miles) when I could start exploring the upper end of the rev range. As a big fan of the way V-twins deliver their power I had been merrily rolling around at half throttle until this point, enjoying the visceral growl from the end of the Akrapovic twin cans.

Indian FTR S exhaust

There’s no need to change down from sixth gear to nip round traffic above about 45mph, you can just surf round on an oceanic wave of torque. But I was pleasantly surprised – delighted in fact – to discover that when you turn up the wick and chase the redline the FTR is an absolute rocket.

The fly in the ointment

Even the most perfectly matched couples can squabble at times and it has to be said that I’m not loving the FTR’s 11-litre tank. Every time I ride it, I have to allow time for a fuel stop. I live around 45 miles from MCN Towers and so I either need to fill up just before I get home on the way back or get home on the fuel light and head directly to the garage on my next ride.

The filler pipe design also means that you can only get around 8 litres in before you have to start trickling in the fuel to avoid it spraying out over the tank. It takes ages to trickle in 3 litres of petrol but if you don’t do it you’ll just have to stop again even sooner. It’s like having an electric bike!


Contact: ben.clarke@motorcyclenews.com

I’m a newbie to American bikes and have previously been a little sceptical – I’m not really a chaps and fringe jacket kind of a guy. I plan to throw myself into the scene, so lots of meet-ups and bike nights as far afield as I can get. Yeehaw!