LEFT MAKES RIGHT

Cycle World - - Contents - By MARK HOYER

Rid­ing In­dian’s Scout FTR1200 street tracker

RROI is the killer of dreams, the mur­derer of glory. “Re­turn on In­vest­ment,” man­age­ment’s typ­i­cal test for so many things, when ex­pressed to its fullest re­sults in ve­hi­cles like the Toy­ota Camry, the car equiv­a­lent of the killer of dreams and mur­derer of glory. Not that it isn’t a de­cent way to get around.

But “get­ting around” is not what we came for. “De­cent” can go pound it.

We came for dreams and glory. Which is clearly why In­dian lit the fuse on the Scout FTR1200 Cus­tom, this hand-made street-tracker a mashup of the Scout FTR750 race­bike and the Scout cruiser that has served as the vol­ume leader for the com­pany’s on-road sales and is a much-loved laid-back Amer­i­can mo­tor­cy­cle.

But as much love as we have for the laid-back Amer­i­can mo­tor­cy­cle, the col­lec­tive street­bike con­scious­ness is search­ing for some­thing more laid­for­ward but so essen­tially Amer­i­can it can be born in no other land.

“The flat-track bike so in­grained in our brains be­cause we’ve seen it for so long,” says Rich Christoph, the de­signer in charge of turn­ing the no­tion of an FTR1200 into car­bon-fiber, metal, and rub­ber. “And it’s kind of this Amer­i­can spirit, this fight­ing spirit of com­pe­ti­tion and sim­plic­ity and magic pro­por­tion of this mo­tor­cy­cle with 19-inch wheels and no front brake, like a chop­per that’s danger­ous. All these won­der­ful things, danger­ous things, com­ing to­gether to make this beau­ti­ful, per­fect mo­tor­cy­cle.”

If you can’t tell, Christoph is one of the more-firedup peo­ple in the mo­tor­cy­cle busi­ness. He’s also the guy who worked on the orig­i­nal Scout street­bike and the clay mod­els of the Scout FTR750 with Jared Mees, get­ting the look, rid­ing po­si­tion, and the rest right for what’s be­come the most dom­i­nant cur­rent flat-track race­bike with a cham­pi­onship in its first year.

That fa­mil­iar­ity helped with the ridicu­lously short build time­line. In­dian started the project in Septem­ber,

2017, and made the Mi­lan Show de­but in Novem­ber. Af­ter send­ing it to a stunt­ing-and-jump­ing video shoot in the Los Angeles River, “I was like, guys, this is one of one; we have no more! We don’t even have time to fix chipped paint,” Christoph says with a laugh. But it all worked out.

And what’s this “cus­tom” busi­ness? There’s been a bit of head-scratch­ing about a bike like this be­ing called a cus­tom, for is it not re­ally a “con­cept” when the fac­tory builds some­thing like this? “We didn’t do the nor­mal de­sign stud­ies,” says Greg Brew, head of In­dian’s in­dus­trial de­sign. “I think part of it also is a lot of times con­cept bikes, whether you mean to or not, they wind up be­ing, I won’t say over­done, but done to death. Part of do­ing this was to try to keep a lit­tle bit of that raw race edge to it.”

Adds Ben Lin­daman, in­ter­na­tional mo­tor­cy­cle prod­uct man­ager, “Yeah, it just wasn’t quite as for­mal as what we would typ­i­cally call a con­cept, in my opin­ion, so we de­cided to call it the cus­tom be­cause it was a lit­tle bit more un­der­ground.” OK, call it what you will. We will call it loud! I must ad­mit I felt slightly guilty about fir­ing up the

bike one early week­day morn­ing at my house. There is re­ally no muf­fling go­ing on in those gi­ant stacked S&S pipes, but any guilt melted away be­cause the en­gine sounded so good.

The stan­dard Scout 60-de­gree 1,133cc V-twin is pressed into duty here with no in­ter­nal mods. In­take is pretty much wide-open, with air in­lets in the top of the car­bon-fiber “fuel tank” body­work, and the ex­haust is— ahem—less re­stric­tive than stock. Out­put on our dyno was 99 horse­power and 77 pound-feet of torque, with the same broad spread of the stock Scout but with a lot more ur­gency. It also sounds amaz­ing on throt­tle.

The big­ger sur­prise was the over­all ci­vil­ity of this hand­made bike. Most “cus­toms” don’t see much en­gi­neer­ing, but the en­gine map­ping and Öh­lins sus­pen­sion and fun­da­men­tal ge­om­e­try of this bike have clearly been worked on by peo­ple who build and en­gi­neer motorcycles for a liv­ing.

So aside from a bit of ner­vous­ness when I did my cus­tom­ary “shake the han­dle­bars” test at var­i­ous speeds (if some­thing is prone to head­shake, I want to know early), this was a pol­ished and won­der­ful all-around naked mo­tor­cy­cle. I com­muted on it. I rode it on wind­ing back­roads, sat in traf­fic, and lane­s­plit. It’s just a great-feel­ing bike.

Roll the throt­tle open wide, and the sound and speed are richly re­ward­ing, the nar­row, light chas­sis and chunky dirt-track tires giv­ing it a fun and for­giv­ing feel. The chrome-moly steel tube frame and swingarm echo those of the dirt-tracker, and it shows dy­nam­i­cally.

Even bet­ter, we sent it out to a dry lakebed with a

“The big­ger sur­prise was the over­all ci­vil­ity of this hand­made bike.”

for­mer AMA Su­per­bike racer and his steel shoe. Within min­utes, he had it pitched side­ways down to the foot­peg and was lay­ing huge arcs. We also sent it to Per­ris Race­way’s half-mile oval to ride along­side a Scout FTR750, where it did ex­actly what you’d want a 19-inch-wheel flat-track-in­spired street bike to do: rip!

But it is clearly a cus­tom or a con­cept and not a pro­duc­tion bike. The seat foam is laugh­ably thin and, in fact, thin­ner than that of the FTR750 race bike. Those great-look­ing pipes burned the right leg of ev­ery per­son who rode the FTR1200. So, what’s it all mean?

In­dian is coy about what this bike rep­re­sents, but as much as we love this sport for its pas­sion, In­dian is in

the mo­tor­cy­cle busi­ness. It doesn’t seem to us that there is much ROI in mak­ing a cus­tom for no rea­son at all ex­cept that it’s awe­some.

“There are a cou­ple of things go­ing on,” says Reid Wil­son, se­nior direc­tor of mar­ket­ing and prod­uct plan­ning. “We have a com­mit­ment to com­pete glob­ally, not only in North Amer­ica, but all over the world. And that re­quires dif­fer­ent types of motorcycles a lot of the time. We also have a com­mit­ment to live up to the legacy of our founders, who were highly in­no­va­tive and pushed the cat­e­gory for­ward when the In­dian Mo­tor­cy­cle Com­pany first started. And that’s what we want to do— push for­ward.”

Christoph elab­o­rates: “In­dian is tied to his­tory and her­itage, but we’re never hand­cuffed. It’s our nat­u­ral ben­e­fit of be­ing small and hun­gry. We’ve ruled out ab­so­lutely noth­ing. In­dian Mo­tor­cy­cle is about ex­plo­ration and de­liv­er­ing a lot of sat­is­fac­tion to our cus­tomers, who­ever they are.”

Why do we love the Scout FTR1200? It think it’s be­cause the flat-tracker re­minds us of our­selves at our best, the lean ath­leti­cism of our sporti­est self. And if it doesn’t re­mind us of our­selves at our best, it gives us some­thing to strive for, like see­ing a pic­ture of a world-class ath­lete mov­ing with in­tent in their prime.

That is our at­trac­tion to the FTR1200. Even if this bike wasn’t built for rac­ing and it’s as­sem­bled around a “cruiser” en­gine, the beau­ti­ful pow­er­plant is strong vis­ually and me­chan­i­cally, and is only aug­mented by the lean na­ture of the rest of the bike.

And, as far as ROI goes, I’d say In­dian’s al­ready got that. I know I have felt the re­turn on the in­vest­ment in this prod­uct. But like any other pas­sion­ate mo­tor­cy­cle busi­ness, the com­pany needs build bikes peo­ple will buy.

OK, that’s what you’ve done. Hurry up and tell the ac­coun­tants, then get with it.

LEFT: The easy part on this cus­tom street-tracker? Bil­let ma­chined 19-inch wheels. RIGHT: Scout speedo gives a view we’d like to see more of. OP­PO­SITE: Mile eater: play­ing the part on a desert road be­tween stints on the dry lakebed.

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