2019 Indian FTR 1200 S | First Ride Review

2019 Indian FTR 1200 FTR1200
Inspired by the championship-winning FTR750 flat track racer, the Indian FTR 1200 S Race Replica is powered by a 123-horsepower V-twin and has a high-performance chassis. (Photos by Barry Hathaway)

“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.

2019 Indian FTR 1200 FTR1200
Top-spec Indian FTR 1200 S Race Replica model has fully adjustable suspension, riding modes, lean angle-sensitive ABS and other rider aids, a Ride Command LCD display and an Akrapovic exhaust.

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.

2019 Indian FTR 1200 FTR1200
Lean it like you mean it, the Indian FTR 1200 S is ready. A wide handlebar, moderate weight, a firm chassis, ample cornering clearance and cannonball low-end torque give the FTR serious chops in the twisties.

Greg’s Gear
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.

2019 Indian FTR 1200 FTR1200
The Indian FTR 1200 S has an aggressive, hunched-forward riding position without being extreme or uncomfortable. Reach to the high, wide handlebar is just right, and the footpegs are well positioned. The 33.1-inch seat will be a challenge for some.

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.

2019 Indian FTR 1200 FTR1200
The Indian FTR 1200 S Race Replica looks the business with its red trellis frame, compact V-twin, FTR750-inspired “tank” (fuel is carried under the seat), laydown shock and Akrapovic exhaust.

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.

2019 Indian FTR 1200 FTR1200
A hot bike in a cool location–Indian hosted its press launch in Baja California Sur, Mexico, where there is plenty of sand, sun and surf.

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.

2019 Indian FTR 1200 FTR1200
Doing our best Jared Mees impression on a sandy, rocky coast road near San José del Cabo. With the FTR 1200 S in softer-throttle-response/low-power Rain mode and ABS/TC turned off, it was easy to initiate a controllable power slide.

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.

2019 Indian FTR 1200 FTR1200
Don’t try this at home. Even though we had fun sliding and scrambling the FTR 1200 S for 40 miles on a sandy road, Indian strongly emphasized that the FTR is designed for the street, not off-road. When in Cabo….

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).

2019 Indian FTR 1200 FTR1200
Among the things the $2,000 upgrade for the S model over the standard FTR 1200 pays for is the fantastic 4.3-inch Ride Command LCD touchscreen display, which can be operated like a smartphone.

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.

2019 Indian FTR 1200 FTR1200
Although the FTR 1200’s Dunlop DT3-R flat track-style radials squirm a bit when pushed because the tread blocks are small, they grip well and transition easily from side to side.

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.

2019 Indian FTR 1200 FTR1200
We could do with less heat and vibration, but the Indian FTR 1200 S is a sexy, rowdy bike that’s a total blast to ride.

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)
Website: indianmotorcycle.com
Engine Type: Liquid-cooled, transverse 60-degree V-twin, DOHC, 4 valves per cyl.
Displacement: 1,203cc
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.
MPG: NA

2019 Indian FTR 1200 FTR1200
Sleek headlight cowl on the Indian FTR 1200 houses a distinctive looking LED headlight. Flat track-style aluminum handlebar is made by ProTaper.
2019 Indian FTR 1200 FTR1200
Cast aluminum wheels on the Indian FTR 1200 are in 19-inch front, 18-inch rear diameters. Superbike-spec Brembo M4.32 monoblock front calipers are strong and precise. ABS is standard, upgraded to cornering ABS on the S models.

32 COMMENTS

  1. 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?

      • 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?

  2. 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 . . .

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

    • 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 )

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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. …)

  11. 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?

  12. 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?

  13. 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.
    But…
    My desires don’t sell.

    • 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.

  14. 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!

  15. 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?

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