“Win on Sunday, sell on Monday” has been an adage of the motorcycle industry as long as there has been a motorcycle industry. By investing in racing, manufacturers not only develop new technologies that trickle down to their production models, they also elevate their brand in the eyes of potential customers. After an absence of more than 60 years from flat track racing, Indian created the FTR750 race bike, signed top-name racers to recreate the legendary Wrecking Crew and won back-to-back American Flat Track Twins titles in 2017 and 2018.
Not only do those wins help Indian sell cruisers, baggers and tourers, they give it credibility when it comes to building a high-performance motorcycle. That’s where the new-for-2019 FTR 1200 comes in–a light, fast, agile street tracker inspired by Indian’s championship-winning race bike that breaks free of the cruiser orthodoxy that has dominated American-made motorcycles for decades.
Helmet: Arai Defiant-X
Jacket: Joe Rocket Classic ’92
Pants: Spidi Furious Tex Jeans
Boots: Sidi Scramble
With a liquid-cooled, DOHC V-twin that makes 123 horsepower and 87 lb-ft of torque (claimed), a lightweight tubular-steel trellis frame, Brembo brakes, Sachs suspension, an aggressive riding position and a wet weight said to be 518 pounds, the FTR 1200 has more in common with European and Japanese naked sportbikes than it does with anything else in Indian’s or Harley’s lineups. The higher-spec FTR 1200 S further raises the bar, with fully adjustable suspension, a 4.3-inch Ride Command LCD touchscreen display with Bluetooth, a six-axis IMU and an electronics package that includes three riding modes and lean angle-sensitive ABS, traction control, stability control and wheelie mitigation control.
The FTR 1200 has been a long time coming. Teased with the high-piped FTR1200 Custom at the Milan show in 2017, the FTR 1200 and FTR 1200 S were finally shown to the public at the Cologne show last October. Perhaps, like us, you had a chance to throw a leg over an FTR at a motorcycle show and had visions of sugar-plum hooligans dancing in your head. Especially on the FTR 1200 S Race Replica, with its red-painted frame and swingarm, there’s no doubt that Indian nailed the styling.
Like the FTR750 it’s based on, the FTR 1200 has a bulldog stance with a tank that flows smoothly into the seat (on the 1200, fuel is carried below the seat so the “tank” is primarily an airbox cover with a fuel filler and removable side panels), a sharply pointed tail section, cast wheels with dirt track-style tires and chain final drive. When the FTR 1200 was unveiled, some complained that it didn’t have the high pipes of the FTR750 or the FTR1200 Custom, but, according to Indian, for a street-legal motorcycle high pipes aren’t practical due to heat and the added width up high where the bike should be narrow. As it is the FTR 1200 has a 33.1-inch seat height, so a set of double pipes just below the rider’s right thigh would make it even harder to get both feet on the ground.
After months of anticipation, Indian hosted a press launch for the FTR 1200 on the southern tip of Mexico’s Baja peninsula, where we got two full days of riding not-quite-production-ready FTR 1200 S Race Replicas. For those accustomed to the low-seat, feet-forward riding position on cruisers like the Indian Scout, the FTR is very different. With its high seat located close to the center of the bike and midmount footpegs, the rider sits on top of the bike rather than down in it, leaned forward in an aggressive stance. The seating position reminds me of a scrambler, where moving forward on the seat to weight the front wheel makes it easier to hang the tail out in a slide. Since the FTR 1200 is based on a race bike whose primary purpose is to slide around corners, the seating position makes sense.
Early in our test ride, we rode 40 miles on a sandy, rocky road that wound its way along the coast, providing countless opportunities to power slide around corners. Although the folks at Indian strongly insist that the FTR is a street bike and not designed to be scrambled off-road, the low-traction conditions gave us a chance to evaluate the bike’s balance, maneuverability and power delivery. With the FTR in Rain mode (less horsepower with softer throttle response) and ABS and TC turned off, it proved to be imminently capable and easy to ride. I slid forward on the seat, kept a light grip on the wide ProTaper handlebar and used the throttle to help steer around corners, right-now torque breaking the rear tire loose with a flick of the wrist. The Dunlop DT3-R tires, which are modeled after flat track race tires and were developed for the FTR 1200, hooked up well and their 19-inch front, 18-inch rear diameters rolled over bumps and washboard with ease. Even though the Brembo M4.32 monoblock front calipers are superbike-strong, they offer precise modulation and even if I overcooked a corner I was able to rein in the FTR with control.
Although the FTR shares a 60-degree Vee angle and 73.6mm stroke with the Scout, its engine is all new. With a larger 102mm bore (the Scout’s is 99mm), the FTR displaces 1,203cc (73ci) and it has a 12.5:1 compression ratio, high flow cylinder heads and dual throttle bodies. A low-inertia crankshaft helps the FTR rev up fast to its 9,000-rpm redline, and the Race Replica’s Akrapovic exhaust is assertive without being too loud. Throttle-by-wire enables cruise control as well as riding modes that adjust horsepower, throttle response and traction control (full 123 horsepower in Sport and Standard; 97 horsepower in Rain). Being able to change displays or riding modes, turn off ABS/TC and adjust settings using the LCD touchscreen was so intuitive that I wonder why more motorcycles don’t offer such a familiar, smartphone-like interface (there are also buttons on the switchgear so changes can be made without taking a hand off the handlebar).
Since most FTR 1200 owners will never take their bikes off-road, the 260 miles of pavement on our two-day route were ideal for testing the FTR in its intended environment, including mountain roads, straight-line highways and potholed city streets. Attacking curves at a fast pace, the FTR was in its element. Plenty of torque throughout the rev range launches the FTR like a cannonball off the line and out of corners, and its chassis is robust and responsive. Stock suspension settings are on the stiff side, good for spirited cornering but a tad firm for cruising around town; adjust as you see fit. An assist-and-slipper clutch makes it easy to change gears even when riding aggressively, but the lever has a very narrow friction zone. A quickshifter would be a great addition to Indian’s extensive list of accessories, which offers a wide range of customization options with Tracker, Rally, Sport and Tour collections.
The Indian FTR 1200 S is the make-no-excuses, American-made performance bike we’ve been waiting for. It’s not perfect—there’s too much vibration in the grips, which repeatedly left my throttle hand numb and tingling (cruise control to the rescue!), and the engine radiates a fair amount of heat, which roasted my thighs during the hottest part of the day and when riding at a slow pace. But a few rough edges hardly diminish what the FTR 1200 S represents—a cool-looking, hard-charging, corner-carving street tracker with state-of-the-art technology that’s made right here in the good ‘ol U.S. of A.
Check out Rider’s Guide to New/Updated Street Motorcycles for 2019
2019 Indian FTR 1200 S Specs
Base Price: $13,499 (FTR 1200)
Price As Tested: $16,999 (FTR 1200 S Race Replica)
Engine Type: Liquid-cooled, transverse 60-degree V-twin, DOHC, 4 valves per cyl.
Bore x Stroke: 102.0 x 73.6mm
Transmission: 6-speed, cable-actuated assist-and-slipper clutch
Final Drive: O-ring chain
Wheelbase: 60.0 in.
Rake/Trail: 26.3 degrees/5.1 in.
Seat Height: 33.1 in.
Claimed Wet Weight: 518 lbs.
Fuel Capacity: 3.4 gals.
I have to say articles like this can be infuriating. I love the looks and the image of this bike, and have been thinking about test-riding and buying it ever since it was shown as a concept. This article goes through all the great points, gets my blood flowing, then casually mentions “there’s too much vibration in the grips, which repeatedly left my throttle hand numb and tingling”. Unless you enjoy crazy vibrations, how in the world is that a minor gripe?? Maybe for a journalist that gets to live with a bike for 260 miles, but not for a buyer, unless it’s all about posing.
I didn’t say it was a minor gripe, I said the FTR “isn’t perfect” and then mentioned my experience with vibration and heat. I spent two days on the bike, and vibration was a problem for me, but I also didn’t set up the suspension, tire pressures, etc. None of the journalists complained about vibration (that I know of), so individual results may vary. Also, if vibration in the grips really is a problem for someone, there are ways to deal with it. Depends on how bad you want this particular motorcycle.
Point taken, but I’ve spent too much time fighting bad vibes on bikes to want to do it again. Almost made a mistake of buying a Super Duke GT based on the stellar reviews. Fortunately my dealer knew what I cared for, and told me to test ride it first – great bike with horrible vibes in upper RPMs that would make it a chore to ride for me longer distance.
I just wish in general that vibrations (and heat too) were part of every review. Not just a side note, or a mention, but a discussion section.
Who rides a Super Duke GT long distances at high rpms? Did they eliminate traffic and lay off all the cops where you live?
Sounds like you need a Honda V4 or a Flat Six. The Suzuki V Stroms are also extremely smooth.
Thing is, this Rider review is more supportive of the bike than others that have been posted from the same Indian sponsored event. Condemnation by faint praise aside, this manufacturing trend towards style over substance is alarming, and not solely due to the manufactures. If the marketing geniuses attend to riders who privilege fashion over substance continues, what will those who don’t see riding reduced to a fashion statement be able to buy? I guess it’s bikes like the Indian FTR 1200 S. Yikes. America can do better, no?
This review is almost exactly the same as all the other reviews except for the aforementioned vibration, which many of the other riders probably felt but didn’t mention. I would say that this is a slightly more honest review than any of the others
Wait a second. The Indian FTR 1200 S is, “the make-no-excuses, American-made performance bike we’ve been waiting for: too much vibration in the grips, which leaves the throttle hand numb and tingling, and the engine roasts the thighs.” Really? This is the bike we’ve been waiting for? Hell, I had an American bike that did those things to me in 1976 . . .
Great looking bike, with the power to run anywhere. It handles and stops pretty good too…a little hot on the legs, and your fingers vibrate when you ride it hard. I am 71 so I would probably call you guys who pick at little things like this on performance bikes “wussies”, but if I wore a Flannel shirt in the summer and had a beard, then vibration and heat would be my first concerns too.
You know, this is not the 50s, you don’t have to be in pain to have fun on a bike anymore, really! Curious though, what does age have to do with it? Are you one of those “real bikers” because you like bugs in your teeth, burnt flips-flops and numb hands for half the day? No pain no gain?
I currently have a Z900, which I bought new for $8,200. In every objective way, save possibly for suspension quality, which I remedied for under $1,500, it is a better bike. I ride it to the office, on weekend trips, do track days, and my hands don’t go numb, my boots don’t get hot, and my wallet is sane. I love the FTR looks, happy to see an American company do something different, and will still get a test-ride, but I’m not spending that kind of money to be miserable. I like to ride, not pose.
You haven’t ridden it but you’re sure you’ll be miserable, but you’ll take up some salesman’s time just to tell him you were miserable? That’s miserable.
LOL at Terry’s comments…
I saw this bike in Daytona, and It was not what I was expecting. It maybe a great sport bike but it looks massive. The rear wheel looks cartoonish. The race bikes look light and fast and are 750s . This bike looks like the cocoon the race bike developed in. Just another to much of everything bike. It’s a shame I believe a smaller lighter platform , weighing 100 lbs less, would open Indian to a whole other group of riders. Think American KTM.
Think Buell S-1 Lighting 425 lbs with a sportster engine making 90 hp
I had a Buell S-3T that had a claimed 91HP. It was a slug and shifted poorly. I’ll bet it made more like 65 HP. It was comfortable with good seat, handled good, etc. Engine shook a lot at low revs but rubber mounts worked at speed. Three recalls – quality very questionable. I traded it in on a Speed Triple, which was MUCH better in nearly every category EXCEPT the seat. BTW, the Buells weighed closer to 500lbs too. Manufacturers tend to over state HP and understate weight.
Just saw and sat on one – thought it was a very good looking compact purposeful machine. Nice proportions – good ergos.
Guess I am just too darn old. That bike looks about as appealing as a pogo stick……Fun for about 10 minutes. My knees and neck hurt just looking at the pics. On another note, I don’t understand why everyone is trying to cram more CC’s into smaller bikes. A bike of this size and type sure doesn’t need or even benefit from a 1200cc engine. Seems like a de-tuned version of the 750 would have been plenty. But I suspect the marketing people said the public would want a big engine so that’s what they gave it. I think it’s a shame. Furthermore, for the kind of money they are asking it’s right up there with BMW, KTM and Ducati……It better be damn good. Good luck Polaris! I’d love to see American-made iron do well.
It’s not so much the displacement, but tuning them to maximize the power. I have a Thruxton with a 1200 engine and it’s got nice low end power for real world riding, but wasn’t engineered to wring out every last drop of power. Consequently, I can ride it all summer without catching fire and as a side benefit, it will probably last forever too.
Yes – motorcycle fires are a scourge. The detuning of these bikes is even a mystery to tuners. And “real world” riding is really up to the myriad of riders who, to the best of my knowledge, ride in the real world.
Steve makes a great point. I also always wondered why Harly never made a street version of its 750 dirt tracker. That said, I love seeing something that is n’t a cruiser from this manufacturer. Hope it will catalyze Harley into doing a valid competitor. The US needs a healthy Harley, for the good of the whole industry.
Harley thinks they already have the answer to this. You just need to plug it in at night.
HD did make a version of the 750 XR, it was the XR 1000! But HD riders or liter riders weren’t interested in the 80’s. Not unlike the demise of the V-Rod. HD’s problem is they keep cutting corners, read cam bearings etc. Their newest engine uses performance upgrades from the 60’s! ( dual plugs). Seems Polaris is investing in R&D not just clothing & branding. And that is paying off for them. Indian went from 3 bikes in the the HD dominated AFT field to an Indian dominated field in it’s 3rd season of participation. Just saying . .. . . . I’m HOG life member riding a 2001 Victory Vision w/ 125k miles. (with a pan head project in the garage )
I love the idea of this bike and wanted so bad to buy one. But at around the same price my 2017 Ducati Monster 1200S is lighter, more HP and torque, great rider position, and lower seat.
In the late seventies Harley offered the XR1200 with XR750-like heads and high exhaust. The critique was the same but likely the magnitudes were greater.
Not a fan of the stubby tail, wish it kept the flat tracker styling. Indian says the high pipes don’t work? Hmmm, Triumph makes them work in a few applications esp. their very cool new 1200 scrambler. Dynamically this sounds like a pretty fun bike and welcome alt. in the sporty naked field.
truly an awe inspiring motorcycle, damn the naysayers , i love it. it is just too bad it took so long for this type of bike to come on the market! go america !
A similar (maybe better?) bike was made by Harley in 2006- the Buell Lightning Long – powerful, light, excellent brakes and handling- “just too bad” nobody wanted these things back then. But it was here on the US market. I still ride mine and love it.
All told, however, the FTR1200 is — perhaps, maybe, kinda, sorta — the most significant U.S.-made motorcycle since, oh, when H-D first introduced the Sportster. Though the vibration issue is serious, Indian/Polaris has everything pointed in the correct position.
It would be nice, though, for an American manufacturer to break out of the V-Twin mode. (And Polaris knows very well that its Springfield-based predecessor did, in fact, build a four-cylinder machine. Just saying. …)
First saw the 750 race bike at Daytona Bike Week 2017, fell in love with it and wanted one. Unfortunately the production bike bears little resemblance to the 750 race bike. Too bulky, too heavy, and partially hides the engine, shame. But I understand that legislation for road-going bikes contributes to this. Reckon Indian would sell more 750, light weight, stripped down versions. It doesn’t need to be crazy fast. And do we really need cruise control on a sports bike?
WOW! Never wrote in before, but have two cents. Like many, pleased usa is in the game, hats off to AFT efforts that have yielded heavy. Great bike, if money weren’t a thing, I would buy. I am 61 years young, owned over 40 bikes – H1, Z1, Bandit 12, SV 100 etc, – all great rides that were top of the heap. When FZ 09 hit, I could tell it was to be mine. Never met a bike that was such a willing partner in crime, yet extracts no real penalty for its abundant power and light weight. Bought clean used example for $4500, pocketed a wad o cash and see the FTR in my mirror! Questions?
I went from a tuned Fz09 to now an FTR 1200S R.R. I can tell you, off the line the FZ might still edge it out slightly assuming you could get a perfect launch and manage to keep the front wheel down. But 9 times out of 10 the FTR would stomp it because it’s way easier to put the power down. As far as roll-on power? Forget it. The FTR wrecks the FZ/MT on rolling starts at ANY speed. And for all those reading this, as an owner of both an FZ/MT 09 and An FTR 1200, I can tell you the vibes on the FZ/MT are worse at highway speeds. In fact, I don’t really notice the vibes on the FTR when cruising at 70-80 mph on highway. I will say your right thigh will cook in stop and go traffic on the FTR, but as soon as you get moving again the bike cools off super quick. The big concave radiator just eats cool air.
Overall the FTR just feels so much more quality than Japanese and dare I say Italian counterparts. At the end of the day a Monster 1200 is still an ugly monster in the looks department. Look at one of these FTR race replicas in person compared to your fav street fighter bike and you’ll immediately see what the fuss is about. It’s a work of art really with an engine, chassis and electronics that are state of the art. It’s long, lean and mean with that huge wheel up front. There really is just nothing like it on the road.
You had me up to the point when you suggested that the quality of Japanese motorcycles were inferior and Italian was superior. Sorry, but this is directly inverse. Japanese bikes since the 1970s have been known for the quality of their products. Their bikes simply work – back in the day while European brands leaked oil and had electrical issues, the Japanese motored on. They have continued their quality control to this day. The Italians on the other hand, just like their super cars, look great (many of us see the Monster as beautiful), but lack in reliability. I’ve never had issues with a Japanese motorcycle, but I do have friends who ride Italian that have ongoing complaints. I like the looks of the FTR. Let’s hope it mimics Japanese quality and not Italian.
It’s 2019. How is it possible that engineers at Indian could not replicate the look and weight of the race bike? Answer: The CEO doesn’t understand what a 1960s Triumph Bonneville or Harley Sportster were. Good looking, light weight, relatively powerful.
My desires don’t sell.
Just a note: I think the bike has a 9000rpm redline and produces max HP at 8500.
You are correct. Redline on the Ride Command LCD display is 8,000 rpm, but when we put the FTR on a dyno (after publishing our First Ride Review) it redlined at 9,000 rpm and we recorded peak horsepower (115.5 at the rear wheel) at 8,300 rpm. Thanks for pointing this out–we’ve made the correction in the text.
Great looks but,50 yrs riding and 409 races have taught me patience.
Maybe next year it’ll be cooler with no vibration…but dam/love that look+
it would be my first American made bike!
I like this bike, I really don’t know shit about it. And you guys aren’t helping. My last five bikes have been Ducati‘s. Thinking about changing up to something a little more rugged looking. Maybe take these New Orleans potholes a little better. I had a second generation Diavel..So I don’t mind a little ugly….Has anybody put some real miles on this bike. Squeezed his balls. Does it make you smile?
All good comments mostly and liked the test. Very familiar with baja and recognized most picture riding areas. Good to see it handles fire road/ coastal roads/ studder bumps well too.
What I didn’t read was Mile report. How far on a tank before Reserve?
Thank you. Steve from Chula Vista, Ca.
I placed a deposit on one last Oct, while there I purchased a Bobber and glad I did. It’s a great bike for what I use it for(bar hopper) and gets 100 times the comments any Harley I have ever owned did. Glad to see Indian back on the streets.
As time went on waiting for the FTR I read more and decided I wanted a superlight fast bike for the twistys. I looked at the Ducati’s first then BMWs but read so many bad reviews of breakdowns, problems and lack of support /warranty issues I ended up with a KTM 790 duke. Love it for this purpose The tighter the twistys the better. That said the FTR would have probably worked just as well for me and I’m happy to see them out there vibrations and all. Thanks for an honest review.
I got to ride the standard version at an Indian demo ride in August. I loved the looks of the bike and the touchscreen (I guess Canadian trims are different?) The Low end power is substantial and held its line through corners well, but was surprised it didn’t transition side to side as quickly or easily as my Magna. Overall it was fun to ride for the hour I was on it, however the vibrations did get too me as riding a Honda v4 I have zero vibrations, but the real dealbreaker was the heat coming up the right side, as we went through a series of stoplights I couldn’t help but think, it’s only19-20 degrees today and this thing is literally cooking my leg, how unbearably hot is it on those 30-35 degree days? Even at highway speeds the heat was still noticeable!
It’s impossible for European to understand, why all American bikes are made of showing, not for riding ?
Hi, I test rode the s model in Scotland UK in August this year. I truly loved the bike. I thought the engine was strong, brakes were great and it handled well. The only gripes I had were the heat from the rear cylinder did cook me a bit (I will probably love it in the colder months) and the fuel range was poor. That being said it was a hot to ride and left a big smile on my face and will be my next bike