FIRST RIDE: INDIAN FTR1200
We loved the FTR from the start, and still do.
You can’t help but admire Indian. Their big and brash 2013 cruiser relaunch forced Harley into a refresh and Polaris into realizing there was no point continuing with their Victory branded bikes. That’s quite a feat. From 2015, Indian’s entry-level Scouts and Bobbers gave Triumph a run for their debit cards, too. And then, in 2019, came their boldest and most Eurocentric bike – the FTR1200. Flat-track inspired and launched on the back of Indian’s revived Wrecking Crew’s dominance of US dirt oval racing, the FTR was also Indian’s sportiest bike.
Its Scout-derived V-twin was reworked by Swissauto to give a riotous, and a bit raw, 118bhp spread over three riding modes, all strapped into a new tubular trellis frame sporting quality Sachs suspension and Brembo radial brakes. It looked great (think American take on a Ducati Monster) and came in three different specs, the middle ‘S’ boasting slick 4.3in touchscreen TFT, modes, adjustable suspension and so on.
Although impressive, with entertaining performance and a refreshing style, the FTR wasn’t perfect. Its power delivery, especially in the S’s edgiest ‘Sport’ mode, was too abrupt and its high and wide riding position limited practicality. This situation was only made worse by big, flat trackinspired 19/18in wheels and specially-developed, semi-knobbly OE Dunlops that didn’t inspire confidence. Especially in the wet.
Which is why Indian have brought out this improved version for 2021 – an impressively speedy response to the aforementioned. The biggest difference is the wheels/ tyres: in come conventional and wider 17s with grippy Metzeler Sportecs – a 180 section, rather than the previous 150, out back. In addition rake’s been sharpened up half a degree and trail reduced to compensate. Also getting the reduction treatment are the 40mm narrower bars and 36mm lower seat height.
Initially I thought all this faffing a bit of a shame as the FTR’S profile is now definitely more conventional and less distinctive than was. From the saddle, though, the situation is much improved. The FTR is now easier and less extreme to climb on board and has a more compact and slightly inclined attitude that encourages sporty riding.
Less conspicuously different is the rest of it, but that’s good too. The 60-degree V-twin has been ‘recalibrated’ to be more refined, is now Euro5compliant and gains a couple of extra bhp. Helping things along even further is the introduction of rear cylinder deactivation at idle, when it’s hot. Oh and the suspension settings have been revised too.
On the move all this adds up to a roadster that’s slim, tractable and so easy at pedestrian speeds it immediately convinces as a stylish town bike. But it’s also one which, if you get a wiggle on, blasts towards the horizon with a meaty roar, snicks through its quickshifter, then cants convincingly into fast corners like only a twin or triple cylinder sporty naked can. Before, the FTR’S steering was slightly tiller-like and flighty – now it’s intuitive with the front digging in the faster you go. Before you had slight concerns about rear grip, now you just grin and go. And yes, that ballsy, blustering twin is more refined, but it’s still fruity and fast. Criticisms? The 13-litre tank’s a bit small, its filler awkward, the sidestand too vertical and its durability, residuals and dealer experience uncertain. As before there are three main versions – base FTR1200 (no Tft/modes, with fully adjustable inverted forks – £12,295), S with TFT, three modes and other electronics, premium paint and Akrapovic for £1400 more and a limited edition FTR-R Carbon with Öhlins, carbon etc for £15,595. (There’s also an FTR Rally with most of the upgrades but 19/18in wires and Pirelli Scorpion tyres). However, before you get hasty, stop and reconsider the original base version, currently being offered for £9999.
‘Before you get hasty, stop and reconsider the original base version, currently being offered for £9999’