The concept of a tracker may be alien to most Filipinos, but what the Indian FTR 1200 delivers is something very many will appreciate.
Being Indian's first offering that's not a cruiser, it's about time the brand has ventured outside its comfort zone. While other cruiser brands seem to struggle at deliver in these new segments, the FTR succeeds.
Indian's seemingly odd choice of starting with a tracker is actually deeply rooted in its heritage. For decades, Indian and Harley-Davidson have been battling it out on race tracks, salt flats, and dirt ovals for sporting supremacy. Performance Harleys may have been known for their ability to jump and tackle rough terrain like the early scramblers and stunt bikes of Evel Knievel. Indian in the mean time stayed mostly on level ground, going for speed records, road races like the Isle of Man TT, and flat track dominance.
Or perhaps it's because Indian simply didn't want to follow the tiring trend of scramblers. Whatever the case, we got the FTR 1200, inspired by the successful FTR750 flat track race bike. It's a refreshing change too, as tracker style still carries a few hallmark scrambler style cues with a more stripped-down look. This particular model is the Race Replica in red, white, and black, with Akrapovic exhaust.
The FTR 1200 has an imposing stance with its massive tires, bright red steel trellis, and loads of engine underneath. The classic Indian script on the tank is a nice touch, and the black paint actually has metallic flakes upon closer inspection. Despite appearances, the fuel tank is actually under the seat, while the air box occupies the space on top. Finally, the battery has been moved to the front of the engine, under the radiator.
Propelling all this is a liquid-cooled 1,203cc 60-degree DOHC V-twin which makes 121.7 PS of power and 115.2 Nm of torque. It's paired to a 6-speed with a slipper clutch that delivers power to the rear via a chain drive.
Bringing that power to the ground are specially designed Dunlop DT3-R tires on 19-inch and 18-inch wheels. 43 mm inverted forks in front and a rear monotube-style IFP monoshock keep it aloft. Finally, dual 320 mm front discs and a single 265 mm rear disc, both governed by ABS bring it to a stop.
This is quite a lot of bike to handle with a seat height of 841 mm and a wet weight of 222 kg. Nonetheless, get it rolling and it turns into a surprising delight to ride.
True to its flat track inspiration, the FTR has rather stiff suspension, designed for manicured dirt ovals. The Dunlop DT3-R tires even sport a retro-looking dirt-track tread pattern. Yet quite surprisingly, it's a delight to ride in the street. It's all thanks to the quick response of the ride-by-wire throttle, slipper clutch, and surprisingly grippy tires.
Unlike most cruisers, much of the engine's usable power comes in the mid rev range. It certainly likes to rev, and well tempt you through all the gears. Be warned as the power really begins to surge above 5,000 rpm. This results in mounds of torque and frighteningly quick acceleration that can easily lift the front wheels. And thanks to the slipper clutch, you can really treat it like a sport bike up until its redline of 9,000 rpm.
Need to stop? No sweat with the Brembo calipers that will quickly kill the speed, with barely any chirp from the tires.
It likes to bank quite a bit too. And though the tires may not look it, they return quite a lot of grip and confidence even when leaning over. In spite of its size and heft, it can be quite agile when cruising on city roads.
Putting even more fears aside is the comprehensive suite of rider aids with Rain, Standard, and Sport modes, Track which disables lean sensitive ABS. It's quite easy to fiddle through thanks to the Ride Command system controlled by a small joystick on the left handlebar.
That data is then displayed back to the rider on a 4.3-inch TFT color screen with a choice of modern sport bike style rev counter or a more classic combination of round dials. The screen even has a USB plug beneath and is Bluetooth compatible to pair a phone with.
We did take the FTR to a dirt track, and it was expertly piloted by Cho delos Santos. While we never attempted any of the jumps, it handled the flatter areas quite easily, kicking up a few rooster tails in the process.
Despite its racing and off-roading style, the FTR truly shines when used as a bike for touring. For this photo shoot, I rode it from North Quezon City on a Sunday morning all the way to the south border of Muntinlupa and Cavite. The empty stretches of EDSA, Skyway Stage 3, and SLEX were a real delight to roar through. It may be long, but it's quite narrow, making it great for squeezing between traffic.
There's quite a bit of heat from the engine when in crawling traffic. Yet that heat quickly dissipates the moment you get moving.
It doesn't quite have the range to rival real touring bikes, with its 12.9-liter tank quickly emptied by the thirsty V-Twin. Yet it will at least let you cover some 100-150 kilometers; more than enough to at least take on the entire stretch of NLEX. Best of all, it also comes with cruise control for those that simply like to take it all in at a leisurely pace.
Indian may have designed the FTR for the street, and perhaps kicking up some rooster tails in flat tracks. Yet for many interested buyers that will likely use it to cruise around the country, the intoxicating power, comfortable riding position, and surprising agility will be reward enough.
The FTR may not really have a direct competitor locally, but I imagine owners of large scramblers like the R nineT, Ducati Scrambler and maybe even Kawasaki Z900RS may take a liking to it.