Indian FTR 1200 S Review
Motorcycle Test by Wayne Vickers
I didn’t really know what to expect with this one. It’s been nearly 20 years since I rode a ‘Murican bike. And I’m pleased to say the Indian is nothing like the ultra-wide-fat-bob-shovel thing that I thought belonged in a bin all those years ago. Polishing chrome is not my thing. Bikes are to be ridden.
I’ve been a fan of the dirt track styling and history behind the Indian ever since it resurfaced. The FTR 1200 S has genuine brand pedigree born from the 750 flat tracker it looks so much like – and it does feel authentic.
Speaking of brand – the showroom in Melbourne is a nice place to spend some time. Awesome fit-out, nice exposed brick, lots of character and jam packed with stacks of top looking bikes and friendly staff. It’s not a sterile surgical showroom as others can be. I dig it. Take your favourite caffeinated beverage along and soak up some joy.
So – the Indian FTR 1200 S. ‘Get some photos before you get it dirty’ said Trev. ‘Hey whaddya take me fo.. Oh yeah, fair enough’. So I dutifully got some morning shots just a few hundred metres up the road on the edge of the National Park.
Then decided it was such a nice morning I might just trundle up a little further to see if I could find another good spot for some more shots. Next minute I’m ripping skids down local tracks getting my King Kenny on. Its that kinda bike.
As far as doing what it says on the box, this is a fun time waiting to be had. Its nice and low, has big, wide Pro Taper bars and plenty of steering lock to keep things pointing where you want them. And yes I had to wash it again straight away when I got home… and I was still smiling.
The dirt track style translates well when you’re back on sealed roads too. I’ve decided it has a bit of a Jeckyl & Hyde personality actually. Happy as a pig in it to lope along, completely unfussed, enjoying the scenery, but at the twist of the mitt there’s a whole world of shove and its party time.
When you want it to, that cruisey little porker is ready to bolt. The little piggy reference seems apt actually. I remember being told once that pigs are the fastest accelerating animal in terms of standstill to flat-out in two strides (I have no idea if that’s true by-the-way but it seems plausible – anyone?) and the FTR will go from cruisey to full noise in a heartbeat. Or two crank revolutions. Whichever is quicker.
You never really forget the fact that you’re sitting on two dirty big slugs and a giant crank. It’s the heart and soul of the bike in every way. From 3500rpm there’s major, instant mumbo. Grunt peaks at 6000rpm with a healthy 120Nm, and holds nicely right up until the redline arrives at 8000rpm. There’s no drop off at higher revs either – a really nice power curve. A touch over 120-odd horsepower. That’ll do.
That heavy crank makes it practically un-stallable on the go. It was actually idling itself up fairly steep hills in first gear as I was mucking about exploring the local National Park trails on it. Traction control works nicely in the dirt too for something with so much roosting ability on tap.
The clutch is nice and light – almost ridiculously so. And the box is a joy to use. Relatively short throw, buttery smooth – but firm shifts. It can get a bit caught up in itself on deceleration, and the transition back onto the throttle could use a bit of tweaking, but it’s nothing dramatic. It’s just a big grunty twin and needs to be ridden as such.
It comes with four ride modes: Rain, Standard, Sport and Track (only track lets you turn TC and ABS off). These modes are selected via the dash – either through a multi-control button on the left stalk or via the screen itself – as its a touch screen. Yep, touch screen dashes are a thing. I’ll come back to the dash in a sec.
I found the standard mode to be spot on for everyday riding and commuting. Fuelling is nice, it suits the cruisy nature of the Jeckyl side of its personality, I didn’t actually rate the sport mode all that much, fuelling felt a little more nervous with not enough gain for me – it felt a little too prone to surging.
Could be that the FTR 1200 S I was riding was apparently still running a US fuel map, but it didn’t gel with me. Track mode on the other hand was ace. It didn’t seem prone to surging at all, and with the electronic fun stoppers turned off you were able to let the inner hooligan Hyde come out and play.
The front comes up at a whim, worth noting that the big crank requires a bit of practice to find the right amount of input for someone like me who doesn’t use the rear brake when lofting it up – and it will seriously drift for days on the dirt.
Many long, lurid, silly grin-inducing slides were laid down. With so much torque, you can be almost walking along in say… third gear, wind the throttle open and the lock on, weaving from one side of the track to the other for a couple of hundred metres at a time… All in the name of research. It’s a tough gig.
Like hell it is.
That dash I mentioned – has two displays that you can choose from that you can change at the swipe of your finger. I found the overall dash design and controls a little wanting but that’s the sort of stuff I do in my other life when I’m not writing about bikes, so I’m particularly anal there.
If you use the buttons to change modes (as opposed to the touch screen) it takes more than half a dozen interactions to change from standard to track and turn the traction control off. On the go, thats too many things to do and takes your attention away from the road for too long. Stick a button up on the right stalk to cycle through modes please. Given that you have to close the throttle to activate the new mode anyway… You know it makes sense.
The dash also includes a compass… because… Actually I dunno. And like too many manufacturers the distance to empty meter changes from a useful number, to ‘LOW’. Which helps no one in the real world. So there’s some work to do there, but nothing that’s particularly concerning.
It does take a while to cycle through to being ‘ready’ on first start, but I was told to let it warm up to 60 degrees before getting moving anyway due to the US fuelling map. Good thing too. That map didn’t like the cold much and would stall a handful of times until it was up to temp. I did have some particularly cold nights that week (got down to three-degrees twice), and there were no such issues once up to temp.
Other FTR 1200 S niggles? It doesn’t have a lot of range. I was having to fill up at about 200 kays. Which meant twice for me on some days commuting. And the fueling up process got old pretty quickly. The fuel tank actually sits under the seat (that’s actually the airbox sitting under what looks like a tank), and so the filler tube angles back and curls under the seat.
The result of that is that there’s not a lot of return breathing for the fuel as it goes in. So it’s a slow process as it gets towards the top. I struggled to know for sure where the ‘top’ was.. As the sticker said not to fill it up into the neck.. You’d fill it up, it’d bubble back down. Fill it up some more.. Rinse and repeat.
I found myself putting about 12 litres in after those 200 kays, but was never too sure how much was left or how full I was filling it. Takes 12.9 litres to fill apparently, so I couldn’t have been far away from empty… No doubt if you owned it, you’d figure that stuff out with a bit of time. But definitely worth mentioning. Put a couple of return breather hoses in there please folks. And another litre or two fuel capacity would be nice.
Even though the bars are wide, there’s still plenty of weight to the steering – it’s surprisingly meaty, and plenty accurate too. The seating position is upright, and the seat is firm but comfortable. That seat isn’t actually the shape it looks like either… that’s a cunning ruse.
The curve behind where the rider sits is more pronounced than the seat covering suggests – as the cover actually hovers above the ‘real’ seat cushioning by an inch or so. So it forms a much firmer more upright ‘back’. It’s still comfortable mind you – and certainly helps stop you sliding about when you crack the gas. I wonder how that covering will wear, being stretched like that? Time will tell. There’s no doubt it’s a nice shape.
That low overall seating position on the FTR 1200 S also necessitates a modest travel suspension setup – 150 mm at both ends. While it’s no long travel setup – it’s fine for tarmac or smooth dirt roads, I didnt need to even touch the clickers on this one.
Just don’t expect it to cope with gnarly potholes or corrugations at speed all that well… Having said that, I rode it up some access tracks in the bush while exploring, that I had no real right to be riding up. Got to the point where it was seriously dirtbike only stuff, so I turned around and found my way back. Another excuse to do more skids!
The FTR 1200 S brakes are fine. I’d probably have preferred a little more power from the front, but for something that’s designed to play in the dirt a little it’s probably about right. I found that the lever came in quite a way after a few days mucking about on it. I reckon that’s just a new bike needing a bleed after its first few rides though. Again, nothing major, but worth mentioning.
Elsewhere on the bike there are plenty of nice design details, paint and fit and finish is excellent. The more you look the more there is to like. Little touches here and there have been well considered and executed. Even the footpegs look cool. I like its quirkiness.
Plenty of branding in place. In the headlight and taillight, and both sides of the engine. And there’s no doubt that from just forward of side profile it cuts a fine pose.
One of my neighbours has recently picked up a Kato dirt bike. He occasionally wheelies past my front door and I give him a wave and a smile, I kindly return the gesture by ripping skids at his letterbox. After a week on the FTR it looks like Mr Squiggle has been delivering his mail…
I like the FTR 1200 S. I like the styling of the other Indians too while I’m at it. Yes there are things I’d want to change, but the guts of this bike have a real appeal – the Jeckle and Hyde thing tickles my fancy.
With that said, my personal commute is pretty extreme and the miles I ride don’t really lend themselves to the range the FTR 1200 S gets. But.. I liked my week or so on this one. At 25 grand or thereabouts for the top of the range model it’s not cheap. And it won’t be everyone’s cup of tea. But for me that adds to the appeal as well.
Why I like the FTR 1200 S:
- Looks tops. I love the styling and finish.
- Big grunt on tap. Everywhere.
- Rips skids for days.
- Riding position is great.
- Split personality. Happy to cruise along, yet…massively hooligan friendly.
- Skids are good eh.
I’d like it more if:
- Not a bad exhaust note, but I’d have to go the Akro’s.
- Could do with a bit more range… and that tank filling process is a bit painful.
- Dash takes a while to boot up… and could do with a redesign.
- I’m assuming the AU fuel map fixes the propensity to stall while it’s still warming up.