When a traditional cruiser maker decides to take a step in the sporty direction,we must stand up and take notice. And what a direction this is!
When a traditional bagger-builder goes against the tide, there are bound to be ripples. Take the case of Indian Motorcycle for example. On one hand, the company is still selling pushrod-based, vibey baggers while it also makes refined, modern cruisers. But the real agent of chaos in its lineup is the FTR 1200. We know that Harley-Davidson already tried its hand at a tracker way back in 2008 (remember, the short-lived XR1200?). Well, Indian too is going the same way, but is more determined than ever. The FTR has a retro appeal to it but it’s unlike any other machine on the planet. And mind you, Indian is planning a global onslaught with this one, having Europe in it’s viewfinder. It ain’t sporty like the Ducati Monster 1200, adventure-oriented like the Triumph Scrambler 1200, and neither is it a cruiser like its sibling, the Scout. But then what exactly is the FTR 1200 and does it have what it takes to change our perception about American bikes?
The FTR feels special and unique in several ways as soon as you set your eyes on it. The devil is in the details, they say, and Indian has taken it to the next level altogether. Take the looks for example. There’s nothing like it in the market today. It has the madness of the Joker with its stance and at the same time has a very brooding appeal to it like Batman, especially in this black over grey shade. The attention to detail is amazing and the way it’s put together reminds me of an Apple iPhone. The industrial build is unambiguous, the cluster is idiot-proof and can be operated via the toggle switch located on the handlebar and the buttons located next to the screen. That’s like a Blackberry and iPhone integrated into one! Unlike the German and Italian clusters that come with a coding language of their own, the 4.3-inch Command screen feels like the iOS.
Saddle up and the upright riding stance makes you slightly uncomfortable at first but it hasn’t forgotten its American roots. The seat is large and well-padded and once you realise that there’s space to move behind, you’ll love the FTR. The grips are properly flat tracking capable and so is the Protaper bar along with those exquisitely finished serrated pegs.
The odd feature here are those 19-18 rims which come shod with Dunlop DT-3Rs. Those are flat tracking-spec tyres, mind you, and though they look absolutely great, they fall short when it comes to grip but more on that later.
The 1203cc motor is one of the best I’ve ever tested. Of course there’s ride-by-wire, so you can choose between Rain, Standard and Sport. I chose to begin the ride in Rain mode for damp conditions. The throttle felt like a rubber band and the bike refused to move and I had already begun judging it but then I shifted to Standard and there began the chaos. The throttle is extremely aggressive and the FTR doesn’t really know when to shut up. It’s a proper extrovert that’s wanting to go out there and play. And it never holds back until you wet your pants and shut the throttle. The gimmicky tyres simply cannot cope up with the massive reserves of torque and the FTR goes sideways even in a straight line! Trust the VBOX on which it passed the 100kmph barrier in just 3.3 seconds, which is astonishing for a 221kg street tracker. The tractability is mind-boggling, and you can go to speeds as low as 35kmph in sixth gear and then whack open the throttle; the FTR just refuses to slow down! 100kmph comes at a measly 3,800rpm in sixth and mind you, the redline is far away at 9,000rpm. It’s a gem of an engine and Indian hasn’t gone all-out with it yet. I think there are reserves of power at the top end but there are more applications coming in the future so it’ll be interesting to see what Indian does with it.
The FTR was tested and honed on Spanish roads which clearly shows. The Scout, despite being a cruiser, handles like a dream so you can imagine what a tracker would do with that Indian badge on it. It’s not really agile thanks to its heavyweight construction, but the handling is superb and with a 45deg lean angle, you can really hit the road, literally. The stability is excellent thanks to that 19-18in setup but it obviously hampers agility.
Priced at `15.99 lakh for the S variant that we rode, I think the FTR 1200 makes a very strong case for itself. Indian hasn’t put a foot wrong with the launch of the Scout and the FTR takes the game to Europe, head on. It looks badass and has serious grunt to keep the whacky riders happy. The industrial build will put even the likes of Triumph and Ducati to shame. And if a tradition-steeped bikemaker is opting to offer the Thrill of Riding, should we really complain? I know I wouldn’t.