New Bike Review: Indian Motorcycle FTR 1200 S

Nope, we’re not giving the keys back

By Tricia Szulewski, Editor

Indian Motorcycle has been supporting women in motorcycling for years by sponsoring female events, rides, racers, and media sources like (WRN). Since being purchased by American powersports manufacturer Polaris in 2011, Indian has been producing excellent quality motorcycles that female buyers have been gravitating toward, like the beloved Scout cruiser and the mile-chewing Challenger Porsche Taylor loved and bought after reviewing it here. And now some women like us are loving the FTR 1200.

new bike review indian motorcycle ftr 1200 s v-twin roadster tricia szulewski riding
Riders who enjoy a sit-up mid-peg riding position with wide handlebars who prefer a quick pace and modern technology without the crouched over sportbike seating position will love the Indian FTR 1200 S as much as I do. You can get down and lean in, but you won’t be scraping a knee or a peg on this bike. (Photo by Kurt O’Hare)

Indian has put a lot of effort into American Flat Track (AFT) racing and has dominated the series for the last several years with its “Wrecking Crew” team. Racers compete on Indian’s Scout FTR 750 flat track race bike. In this kind of motorcycle racing, riders compete on a flat dirt oval track. The motorcycles are fast and lightweight, with tires that are good in dirt and wide handlebars that riders who sit upright grip while keeping a leg out for stability as they “power-slide” around corners.

new bike review indian motorcycle ftr750 flat track racer
Flat track motorcycles have little or no fenders, high upswept exhausts, deep treaded dirt tires, almost flat wide handlebars, mid mounted foot controls, a flat seat, and tapered rear section. The FTR embodies the flat track look and feel while offering riders technology and features required for the street. Shown here is the FTR 750 flat track race bike from which the FTR 1200 is derived.

In 2019, Indian introduced the consumer street legal version, the 1203cc FTR. That bike is currently available in three versions: the base FTR 1200, the FTR 1200 S, and the FTR Rally. Built very specifically to mimic the 750cc dirt tracker, the big FTR will appeal to more experienced riders who like to sit up tall, grab hold of the wide handlebar grips, twist the throttle, and feel the throbby V-twin torque and power.

new bike review indian motorcycle ftr 1200 s v-twin roadster
The FTR 1200 S V-twin roadster looks nothing like the other swoopy fendered Indian motorcycles on the dealership floor. With a high seat height (33.1 inches), light weight (518 pounds), and 123 horses of torquey power, the FTR is quick and fun on asphalt, gravel, and dirt.

WRN’s Sarah Schilke took possession of her favorite color (black and grey, which is called Titanium Metallic over Thunder Black Pearl) FTR 1200 S to ride around her home in Portland, Oregon, for the 2020 season while I scored my own S model in the red, black, and white “race replica” color scheme to test on the east coast. With no specific reason for getting two bikes to test other than we are both insanely attracted to the sporty flat track style of these motorcycles, we convinced our friends at Indian to let us use them as our regular rides for a season, then we’d compare our notes for a long term wrap up.

new bike review indian motorcycle ftr 1200 s v-twin roadster tricia szulewski editor
How lucky are we to have not one, but two Indian FTR 1200 S models to test for an entire riding season? I love the red frame and rear shock on the race replica color scheme. Attaching a Nelson Rigg tail bag to the bike’s rear section of the one piece seat is all I needed to giddy up and go. With no storage compartments, no wind protection, and a fuel range that requires fill ups every 130 or so miles, the FTR is better suited for day rides than long tours.
new bike review indian motorcycle ftr 1200 s v-twin roadster sw-motech bags
Sarah outfits her FTR with a host of luggage items from SW-MOTECH. Indian also offers bags, windshields, custom accessories, and more for the FTR.

The FTR 1200 S, the model we both tested, is $4,000 more than the base model. For that additional money a buyer gets upgrades including an Akrapovic exhaust, fully adjustable suspension, three ride modes (sport, standard, rain), lean angle sensitive ABS, and a 4.3-inch LCD touchscreen with Indian’s Ride Command and Bluetooth features that sync your smartphone to the bike for a host of useful features.

new bike review indian motorcycle ftr 1200 s v-twin roadster race replica
All the FTRs have a DOHC 4 valve 1203cc liquid cooled engine with a 6 speed wet transmission, and a multi-plate power-assisted race-inspired slipper clutch.
new bike review indian motorcycle ftr 1200 s v-twin roadster sarah schilke mount hood
Since the FTR is based on the dirt-loving flat track racebike, it’s only appropriate to give it a good test on dirt and gravel. Sarah is proficient riding off road, so she took her FTR 1200 S out exploring on and off her west coast roads. That’s Mount Hood in the distance. (Photo by Quentin Wilson)

Again thanks to the bikes dirt track roots, Sarah finds the FTR handles well with great stability and control even in deep gravel roads. With its larger size wheels and chunky deep tread tires, the bike performed much better than a pure street bike off road.

new bike review indian motorcycle ftr 1200 s v-twin roadster woman rider
With a seat height of 33.1 inches, many female riders of average height won’t be able to touch the ground with both feet flat. Sarah is 5 feet 4 inches tall with a 29-inch inseam and is on tip toes when she puts both feet down. Shorter riders might need to employ some of our tips and techniques for shorter riders who want to ride a tall bike. (Photo by Quentin Wilson)
new bike review indian motorcycle ftr 1200 s v-twin roadster seat height tip toes
At 5 feet 6.5 inches with a 31-inch inseam, a slight lean to the left is all it takes for me to get a foot flat on the pavement. But the FTR is so well balanced it takes no effort to keep the bike up on level ground with just tip toes. (Photo by Kurt O’Hare)

The FTR 1200 and 1200 S come with the Dunlop DT3-R flat track racing tires that were developed specifically for this bike. Made to resemble a retro look, the tires are mounted on alloy rims, and grip well in wet and dry street conditions and fair well off road too. The FTR Rally gets Pirelli Scorpion Rally tires mounted on spoke rims for a more classic look.

Braking feel and power is excellent—it’s easy to stop very quickly on this bike with little effort. All the FTRs are equipped with ABS (anti-lock brake system) and the S gets traction control and lean sensitive ABS that adjusts the amount of braking and traction control at a given lean angle. This is helpful in cases when you might accidentally squeeze the brakes too hard and suddenly or if you lose traction while cornering. It’s a smart system that luckily we didn’t test out first hand!

Speaking of losing traction in a corner, in flat track racing the bikes power-slide around a flat circular dirt track, breaking traction in the rear wheel while the rider steers quickly around corners. Deactivating traction control and ABS is the only way to achieve this and can be done with the push of a button on the FTR while stopped. Most of us wont be flat track racing anytime soon, but experienced dirt bike riders know that modulated braking (which is what ABS does) on loose surfaces is a lot less efficient way to stop. So its best to turn off ABS and traction control before heading off on a dirt or gravel road.

new bike review indian motorcycle ftr 1200 s v-twin roadster brakes
A bike that can go fast quickly needs brakes that can stop it quickly—Indian knows this and gave the FTR a great braking system. The FTR’s 19-inch front wheel sports two 320mm rotors with 4 piston Brembo calipers. The 18-inch rear wheel gets a single 265mm rotor with a 2 piston Brembo caliper.
new bike review indian motorcycle ftr 1200 s v-twin roadster shock
The FTR has a generous 5.9 inches of front and rear suspension travel that makes for a smooth, comfortable ride. The S has fully adjustable suspension both front and rear, and features this piggyback high performance rear shock. Road bumps are easily absorbed and the suspension worked well to keep the bike stable on deep gravel roads as well.
new bike review indian motorcycle ftr 1200 s v-twin roadster headlight
The FTR gets all LED lighting which is brighter, and “daylight” coloring makes it easier to see and be seen than dimmer yellow halogen lighting. The FTR’s design works well at night to spread the beam wide and far.
new bike review indian motorcycle ftr 1200 s v-twin roadster taillight
The FTR’s brake light is also bright and uniquely shaped. It’s high up where car drivers can see it easily during the day and at night—a nice safety feature.
new bike review indian motorcycle ftr 1200 s v-twin roadster rear wheel chain
A unique style item on the bike is the low mount of the rear turn signals and taillight. They are attached to the swingarm mounted fender support/license plate. If you prefer a more traditional look, Indian offers a high license plate mount ($250) that relocates the signals to be up high with the brake light that allows you to remove the stock fender bracket.

As previously mentioned, the FTR 1200 S has three ride modes: standard, sport, and rain. This is the same technology that is in some of Indian’s other bikes, like the Challenger and Chieftain, but with customized throttle maps specifically for the FTR. Each mode adjusts the amount of power and torque translated from the throttle to the engine. Because the FTR is so torquey (the power is instantaneous when you roll on the throttle), finessing the FTR’s clutch lever release with the amount of throttle roll on required a bit of practice in order to make smooth shifts. I found it helpful to be in rain mode while I got used to the bike’s instant throttle input. Rain mode gives a little more “relaxed” rider input to prevent a quick wheel spin, perfect for wet roads or those times when you just want a more mellow ride.

After about a day riding and shifting in each of the FTRs six gears at varying speeds in rain and standard modes I was totally comfortable with timing the clutch release with the throttle roll on. For most riding situations, standard mode offers plenty of power and quick takeoffs. For track days and more adrenaline pumping rides, sport mode is there to offer even quicker takeoffs. The first time I engaged sport mode while I was rolling along in fourth gear, I wasn’t quite ready for that extra torquey power. Luckily, when I upshifted and twisted the throttle I was holding on tightly when the bike shot forward!

new bike review indian motorcycle ftr 1200 s v-twin roadster woman riding position
Whether you want to cruise or ride quickly with the sportbikers, the FTR 1200 S bike can do it all well. After all day in the saddle, however, my butt and knees got a little tired. With a slightly bent forward sporty riding position and footpegs directly under the hips, pressure is relieved from the lower back, but I find myself ready for a stretch every two hours or so. (Photo by Kurt O’Hare)
new bike review indian motorcycle ftr 1200 s v-twin roadster seat
The one piece seat is fine for all day riding, although it’s a little on the stiff side so I tend to take regular breaks every 120 to 130 miles (which is about when you need to stop for gas anyway). It does have enough room to attach a large tail bag as seen in previous photos.
new bike review indian motorcycle ftr 1200 s v-twin roadster handlebar
The FTR’s wide handlebar offers easy maneuverability whether riding quickly or doing super slow u-turns.
new bike review indian motorcycle ftr 1200 s v-twin roadster brake lever
An adjuster allows you to customize the reach on the brake lever, while the clutch lever has just the standard cable adjuster. But the clutch pull is easy so even smaller hands shouldn’t have a problem using the lever.
new bike review indian motorcycle ftr 1200 s v-twin roadster clutch lever
All FTRs get cruise control—a premium feature not often included on non-touring motorcycles. There are also thumb activated control buttons for the touchscreen that allow you to keep both hands on the grips while riding. The grips are standard sportbike diameter grips, smaller than cruiser grips, which are usually 1 inch in diameter.

The FTR 1200 S has two different designs for the “main screens” that display the speed, RPM, gear, fuel level and miles to empty, ambient temperature, two tripmeters, odometer, time, as well as all the usual safety indicators (traction control, sidestand, high beam, turn signals, etc.) You can flip between these and the other display screens at will with the touchscreen or by using a pushbutton with your right forefinger or with the buttons up next to the display.

new bike review indian motorcycle ftr 1200 s v-twin roadster lcd touchscreen
The colorful 4.3-inch LCD touchscreen on the FTR 1200 S is the bike’s “control center.” A plethora of display options are at your fingertips that can be customized for your preference. The screen is auto dimming (if you choose that option) which makes it easy to see in bright sunlight and low light conditions. It will change on the fly to adjust to changing light situations so you can always see the display clearly.

Indian’s Ride Command app will sync your smartphone with the bike via Bluetooth so you can keep information like maintenance schedule and history, the owner’s manual, warranty info and more handy. Additionally, you have some control of your phone using the touchscreen. For example, I like to ride with a Sena Bluetooth communication system. So, with my iPhone synced with my Sena 20S and the Indian FTR, I can play music and make and receive phone calls with the touchscreen display while keeping my phone safely stored away.

The only thing I am disappointed about regarding the touchscreen is that it doesn’t have navigation or the ability to display a smartphone navigation app. To solve this for me, I added a mount to the handlebar for my GPS device and plug it into the USB port located under the FTRs display to keep it charged while riding. Incidentally, you can also play music from a properlly formatted (ex-FAT or FAT32) USB stick inserted in this port.

Sarah and I purposefully did not talk about our experiences with our separate FTRs until we had adequate time to ride them for a while and form our own opinions. When we did finally share, it was interesting that we both had the same exact things to say about these bikes—both the positives and the negatives.

Here’s the short list of what we love and dislike about the FTR 1200 S:
What We Like

  • The motorcycle is super cool looking and in a class all its own. We like that the FTR fits respectably into any riding group, meaning capable of cruising, keeping up with sportbikes, and doing some off-roading.
  • V-twin torque and race based power offers a ton of ride character and “fun factor.”
  • Seating position and ergonomics offer exceptional maneuverability. You can move around in the saddle when riding sportily, stand on the pegs when off road, or just relax and ride.
  • Easy to see and full featured touchscreen display.
  • Strong throaty sound that is loud enough to hear while riding but not so loud that you’ll annoy all the neighbors.

new bike review indian motorcycle ftr 1200 s v-twin roadster aprakovic exhaust
My FTR 1200 S has the low mount Aprakovic slip-on mufflers that give off a satisfying throaty rumble without being obnoxiously loud. On the base model, this is a $1,500 upgrade option. A high mount option and a ton of aftermarket exhausts are also available for the FTR to suit your own style.

What Could Be Improved

  • The FTR is cold blooded, in other words, the fueling runs lean at start-up due to emissions regulations. It needs time to warm up to operating temperature for the first ride of the day no matter what the temperature is outside. If you take off too soon the engine will sputter and may stall. But once the bike’s been ridden, it’s good to go from start-up for the rest of the day.
  • The fuel filler position is awkwardly placed very close to the rider’s crotch on what looks like the gas tank but is actually a plastic cover. The actual fuel tank is located under the seat. It takes a long time to fill up with a lot of stopping and starting the fuel pump while the gas makes its way down and settles into the Indian’s tank. One of the benefits of the oddly placed fuel tank is that it makes for a lower center of gravity and easier handling which all riders can appreciate.
new bike review indian motorcycle ftr 1200 s v-twin roadster fuel filler
Both Sarah and I like to stay seated while filling up our motorcycles when we don’t need to stretch. But because the Indian FTR fuel filler is so close to the rider’s crotch, it’s awkward to fill up while seated. Also, the filler cap is not connected to the bike, so you need to find a place for it when filling up. Harley-Davidson and Indian riders are used to this nuisance, but many other motorcycles have hinged caps that avoid this issue.

  • No heated grips are currently offered as an Indian Motorcycle option. Those of us that like to keep riding when the weather turns love heated grips.
  • The sidestand is placed where it is hard to find and deploy with a foot.

new bike review indian motorcycle ftr 1200 s v-twin roadster sidestand kickstand
You have to angle your foot inward and reach around the footpeg to find the FTR’s sidestand.
new bike review indian motorcycle ftr 1200 s v-twin roadster bmw rninet scrambler
Of all the motorcycles I’ve tested, the FTR 1200 S reminds me most of the BMW R nineT Scrambler (in the foreground) that I had a chance to ride with Sarah (she was riding the R nineT Racer) in 2017. Although the Scrambler and FTR look very different, both bikes have standard sit-up seating positions, off-road capable tires and a wide handlebar and footpegs—that make standing up and staying in control easy—and strong throbby engines. The R nineT has been BMWs platform for its own dirt trackers.

Our Collective Conclusion
Every once in a while, a special motorcycle comes along that breaks the mold—exactly what Indian did when it created the FTR 1200. It just so happens that this bike checks all the right boxes for both Sarah and me who enjoy responsive power, a sporty-standard riding position, and a V-twin pulse. One season with this motorcycle is just not long enough. A hot looking bike that is this much fun to ride is too hard to let go. Sarah has already purchased and accessorized her FTR 1200 S and I am hoping to buy mine by the time the snow melts in Connecticut.

Specs At A Glance: Indian FTR 1200 / Rally / 1200 S
Engine size: 1203cc
Seat height: 33.1 inches
Fuel capacity: 3.4 gallons
Wet weight: 508 pounds / 527 pounds (Rally) / 518 pounds (S)
Colors: Thunder Black (base) / Titanium Smoke (Rally) / Indian Motorcycle Red over Steel Gray; Titanium Metallic over Thunder Black Pearl; Race Replica (S)
MSRP: $11,499 / $13,499 / $15,499

WRN Recommendation:
The FTR 1200 is loaded with character and sounds as good as it looks. Experienced riders who can handle a taller bike and enjoy a sporty ride and the throb of a powerful V-twin engine will have loads of fun on it. It’s ability to transition from the street to dirt and gravel roads works well due to its flat track roots. Because of limited packing options, no wind protection, and a fuel range that requires fill-ups every 130 or so miles, day rides on curvy back roads is where this bike really shines. You will want to outfit the FTR with some extras like luggage and a windshield if you plan to take this bike on a long adventure.

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