October 14, 2021 By Maynard Marcelo Photos by Juanito Vinluan

Bike Review: 2021 Indian FTR 1200 S

When I first saw the Indian FTR 1200 in Eicma a couple of years ago, I said to myself, “Whoa, finally a new American bike that’s not a cruiser!” Save for Eric Buell’s creations mainstream American bikes are almost always a cruiser. So Imagine my surprise when I saw the FTR 1200 at the Indian booth in Eicma back in 2018. I was instantly captivated by its flat tracker inspired design when almost all the motorcycle manufacturers are creating cafe racer and scrambler inspired bikes. It’s new, it’s fresh, and it’s refreshingly different. I can’t wait to get my hands on one. 

A year after and I’m standing next to an Indian FTR 1200 S Race Replica, courtesy of our friends at Access Plus who gave us first dibs on the test unit. After familiarizing myself with the bike’s 4.3 inch full color Ride Command TFT touchscreen user interface and instrument cluster, which by the way is intuitive and easy to use, I fired up the 1203cc V-twin motor that it shares with the Scout, albeit with a ton of modifications to qualify it as all-new.

Using only the basic engine architecture as the Scout, Indian engineers optimized the V-twin motor for the FTR 1200 with new cylinder heads, cams, crankshaft, valves and engine covers. The FTR 1200 also get ride-by-wire system and three ride modes; Sport, Standard, and Rain. In Sport and Standard modes the motor pumps out the full 120 hp and only differs in throttle response. In Rain mode power is reduced to 94 hp. 

Swinging a leg over the FTR 1200 for the first time I was surprised how tall the bike actually is. The FTR 1200 may look small and slender but it actually is a fairly large bike. Perhaps the bigger diameter wheels; 18-inch in the rear and 19-inch in front make it appear smaller than its actual size suggests. Sitting on the 841 mm tall saddle, at 5 foot 7 I still find myself on tiptoes just to reach the ground with both feet. Thankfully the FTR 1200 has a slim waistline to allow a direct path to the ground. Shorter riders will have a more difficult time I surmise, especially when you consider that the FTR 1200 weighs a rather hefty 234.5 kgs curb weight.

All this heft disappears once moving, though. Just be careful with the throttle on your first go. Its eagerness to lift the front wheel may catch you off guard because I was. Thankfully the FTR 1200 has wheelie mitigation control otherwise I would’ve planted myself at the back of an suv. From that moment onwards, any preconceived association with the Scout motor I had evaporated into thin air. This is definitely a different animal. But once you’re dialled in, you will discover how much fun the FTR 1200 is to ride. 

From the Access Plus showroom in P. Tuazon in Cubao, Quezon City I brought the FTR 1200 to our office in Makati and on my way there I was caught in horrendous traffic in EDSA. I saw this as the perfect opportunity to test the filtering abilities of the FTR and quite surprisingly, it’s very easy. Thanks to the FTR’s wide handlebars that provide plenty of leverage with equally wide steering angle lock-to-lock. Riding position is on the sporty side of comfy, with a slight forward lean to the handlebars.

Footpegs are placed low directly beneath the seat and there’s plenty of legroom. Engine heat management is also good with tolerable heat coming from underneath the seat while sitting in traffic. Other motorists are often aware of your presence or arrival because of the beautiful sound coming from the twin upswept titanium Akrapovic exhaust system that comes standard on the FTR 1200 S and Race Replica, but not on the base model. Speaking of which, the base model also doesn’t get the Ride Command touchscreen TFT and fully adjustable suspension of the top spec bikes.     

The following day I brought the FTR to our favorite proving grounds in Infanta, Quezon. Early morning traffic was light and the ride from my residence in Makati City to our meeting place along Marcos Highway in Marikina City took less than 30 minutes. After feasting on pancakes and brewed coffee, we headed towards the serpentine roads of Tanay.

For a V-twin the FTR 1200 is uncharacteristically smooth. Power builds up progressively until you reach 6000 rpm where it has a pronounced kick until 7500 rpm where power tapers off gradually. It’s fun but if there’s one thing I wish the FTR 1200 has is a quick shifter for the 6-speed transmission for seamless gear shifting. But that’s just me. At least the clutch pull is light and very progressive in operation.

On the open road and faster speeds the FTR 1200 S revealed something quite unexpected of a dirt born street tracker; its handling is pretty darn good! At first I was hesitant to push the bike hard considering the skinny tires, but after negotiating a variety of slow corners and fast sweepers I discovered that those Dunlop DT3-R tires actually had plenty of grip in them. In fact, I think their relatively narrow profile compared to the common 17s greatly contributes to the FTR’s agile and spritely handling. Placing the fuel tank underneath the seat also helped lower the bike’s center of gravity for better low speed handling. What used to be the fuel tank is actually the airbox. 

 

The suspension is also a revelation. They may feel a tad firm for everyday riding but they certainly deliver the goods when the roads get twisty and fast. Braking duties are handled by a pair of Brembo M4 32 monobloc front calipers biting on 320mm discs and a single Brembo P34 caliper on the rear biting on a 260mm disc that are plenty powerful.

Both ends are controlled by a Bosch six-axis IMU that controls cornering abs, traction control, and wheelie control, electronic rider aids usually found on sportbikes and sport nakeds. Turning the abs and traction control off for dirt riding is easily done either on the touchscreen interface or by using the toggle switch located on the left hand switch gear. 

After indulging in the FTR 1200’s impressive road handling abilities, I decided to play with it on the dirt, but not before turning off the abs and traction control, of course. There the FTR 1200 continues to impress.

Those Dunlop DT3-R tires have superb off-road traction, and the bigger diameter wheels are perfect for riding on compacted dirt roads and the occasional fire trails. Twist the throttle in the first three gears and the rear tire will create rooster tails on dirt all day, showing its dirt tracker DNA, especially if you ride it like an enduro bike on steroids. 

I must admit it took a short while before I warmed up to the FTR 1200. But at the end of the day I found myself wanting to ride the FTR 1200 more and more. It’s not the fastest or the sharpest tool out there, but its characterful motor, predictable and stable handling, superb build quality, attention to detail, effective electronic rider aids, and most of all, its beautiful street tracker styling, will endear itself to you.

Finally here’s a bike that’s not wanting to be anything but itself, a dirt tracker for the street with styling unlike any other. So if you want to stand out from the sea of scramblers and cafe racers out there, the FTR 1200 is the bike for you.  


Specifications:

Engine: liquid-cooled V-twin cylinder, DOHC, 4 valves, 4 stroke

Displacement: 1203cc

Max Power: 120 bhp @ 6000 rpm

Max Torque: 85 lb-ft @ 6000 rpm

Transmission: 6-speed

Seat Height: 841 mm

Fuel Capacity: 13 Liters

Tire, Front: 120/70-19

Tire, Rear: 150/80-18

Brakes, Front/ Rear: Dual Disc/Disc ABS

Curb Weight: 234.5 kg.

Top Speed:  170.59 Km/h (Estimate)

Price: PhP 995,000 (base model), PhP 1,195,000 (1200 S), and PhP 1,298,000 (1200 S Race Replica)  

+: Superb build quality, touch screen instrument panel, characterful motor, predictable handling, and beautiful styling 

-: No quick-shifter

C! Rating 9.5 / 10 


© C! 2003-2021. All Rights Reserved. Designed by