Despite it arriving a little late, I’ve wasted absolutely no time in clocking up the miles on the FTR. I leap at any opportunity to ride somewhere and, after a recent week without it, getting back on the thumping twin brought an instant smile. The first few thousand miles haven’t been without their issues but, my god, it’s been worth it.
When the Indian first arrived its throttle was absolutely loopy but after a few hundred miles it appears to have calmed down. Indian did suggest it might although I must admit I didn’t believe them. I tend to run it in Sport mode 95% of the time, as it takes the lag out of the throttle response that makes it such hard work.
I’m told that if you want to find out what ‘cool’ is, go to the Wheels and Waves motorcycle festival in Biarritz. It’s an annual gathering where the world’s coolest people meet to discuss what is, and, more importantly, what is not, cool. I came away with a great many ‘learnings’, not least that my facial hair is nowhere near ornate enough and that my jeans are at least three upturns light. But more importantly I learn that the FTR1200 is the coolest thing ever made. Wherever I parked it, a gaggle of cooing 20-somethings surrounded it. They extolled in French, Italian, German and Spanish just how cool it was and, by extension, myself. It became clear that this is no bike for shrinking violets.
The only downside to having my unending excellence ratified in the Bay of Biscay was the distance involved. I had the bike transported down by some pals who were racing at El Rollo, both to save the tyres and myself, with the plan of riding the 770 miles back over a couple of days to see how the FTR handled distance. Mercifully, it took everything in its stride. For riding long distances the riding position is excellent – the bars are wide and comfortable, the seat is roomy and the pegs just the right height. The small screen does a good job of handling windblast up to about 85mph, but beyond that it’s a struggle. On the motorway the tank will manage around 140 miles but after that you’ll be ready for a break anyway. The infotainment system built into the dash is excellent, so you can stream music to a Bluetooth headset, charge your phone and, of course, it has the long-distance god send of cruise control. On the second day I covered over 650 miles without any real discomfort. Strap some luggage on and you could have a fun little weekend tourer.
By the time I was back the rear Dunlop was well on its way to square, so I fitted a set of Pirelli Scorpion Trail IIs and they’ve really improved the ride. Without a heavy block pattern they’re much grippier when leant over and the more rounded rear profile delivers a much tastier cornering experience. In the wet they’re an absolute revelation compared to the OE Dunlops. They don’t look quite as cool as the flat track rubber the bike is delivered on but it’s worth it for the improvement in the ride. Now I’ve settled on some new boots, it’s time to get the suspension set up to better suit my riding style.
There’s no point in me hiding it but I’ve been looking forward to Indian's FTR1200S ever since the concept appeared a few years ago. As a man who worships at the big twin altar this bike has always seemed to offer something that others have promised but never quite delivered: function to go with the fashion. The plan for the year is simple – ride the absolute devil out of it. But all stories start somewhere and this one begins at a close call with immolation.
My first ride was a relatively uneventful trundle across central London after picking up the bike from Krazy Horse, my local Indian dealer. I say relatively uneventful, as it’s quite hard to watch where you going when you’re swooning over the glitter paint on the tank.
After 20 minutes of stop and go traffic, I was overwhelmed - not with emotion but heat. I could only think that all my years of journalistic sexing up, truth stretching and fake news had come back to get me as I genuinely believed I was a liar and my pants were on fire. It was unreal. Big KTMs and smoking Ducatis have got nothing on this – it is quite literally the hottest bike I’ve ever ridden.
With the belief that salvation lies in speed, I headed out into the Essex countryside for proper ride. What a joy – finally a bike that has the go to match the show. The front end is incredibly confidence inspiring for an off-road type that hates the twitchiness of 17” wheels. But, as others before me have pointed out, the fuelling is poor. It stutters, hunts and judders just when you don’t need it to. Together with a twitchy throttle and treaded tyres, you’re left with a powerful machine that’s quite a handful. The only consolation being that both should be relatively easy fixes.
Style – Hit
The Race Replica version is nearly £1000 more than the standard S but worth it for the red frame and Akrapovic pipe.
Suspension – Hit
The front end feels great and there’s no complaints from the rear. Sachs might not have the kudos of others but they’re not wanting.
Tyres – Miss
They look cool but the torquey motor and strong brakes show them up, especially in the damp. Awkward sizes to replace too.
Throttle – Miss
Big v-twins can be unforgiving and the choppy throttle makes things worse. Hopefully a dyno run and remap will be the cure.
- Engine 1203cc v twin
- Power 118bhp
- Torque 88 ftlbs
- 231kg (wet)
- 13l (148 miles / 51.96mpg)
- Front suspension Fully Adjustable Sachs USD forks, 150mm travel
- Rear suspension Fully Adjustable Sachs monoshock, 150mm travel
- Seat height 840mm
- Front brakes 320mm discs with four-piston Brembo radial monoblocs
- Rear break 265mm disc with two-piston Brembo
Indian FTR1200S long-term test
I’ve been rather hot for the FTR1200 since we first heard it was happening. Ordinarily the idea of a 1200cc naked would turn my stomach because they can be a bit too one-dimensional, and I’m probably not a focused enough rider to exist only in that one dimension.
However, the genius of the FTR is its ‘inspiration kits’ that turn it into anything you want it to be.
That means – your budget allowing – you could have one bike that wears the Sport kit for doing trackdays, the Rally kit for off-road adventures (I might do Sammy Miller’s Despatch Rally) and then dress it in the Touring kit for something like the Great Mile. It takes versatility to a whole new level, and I’m fascinated to see if it works.