Wikipedia describes a “Mustang” as a “free-roaming horse of the western USA”. The very word Mustang conjures up images of a lean, powerful animal with a free spirit, roaming far and wide across the American plains. Ally this image to that of the Native American, or “Red Indians,” as these indigenous people were known and once again you get an image of a free-spirited people, living simply with a spiritual respect for the land. This imagery always bounces around in my head when I consider Indian motorcycles. With a heritage going back to an era when life was, in fact, simple. One of the last Indian tribes to be subjugated and forced onto a “reservation” [smacks of homeland, doesn’t it?] was the Nez Perce, under Chief Joseph, as he was named by the US government intent on expropriating his land without real compensation. Chief Joseph’s Nez Perce name was Hin-ma-too-yah lat-kekt, [try saying that after a few lemonades!]. OK, so here is the relevance to the Indian FTR 1200 S Race Replica which is the subject of this piece. His name means “Thunder rolling down the mountain”. Ride the FTR and I guarantee that you will agree that it is the Chief Joseph of the range!
I have always maintained that a huge part of the appeal of a motorcycle is the way it looks. The FTR so smacks of Mustang. Lean and muscular, it promises performance from every angle. Now here’s the thing, what sort of performance is it built to emulate? Is this an American take on a Ducati Monster, or perhaps a Scrambler Ducati? Is it a gauntlet thrown down to team Orange’s Duke? Triumphs Scrambler or Speed Twin? After much consideration, I think none of the above. Why not, you may ask? After all, it sports a strong oversquare performance motor designed to rev. It has decent ground clearance and puts the pegs where God intended, [for sportbikes anyway] under your bum. It has quality Sachs suspension, fully adjustable on the RR [Race Replica], together with performance engine modes, lean-sensitive traction control, stability control and proper Brembo radial brakes.
Surely, these are the attributes of a weapon with serious sporting pretensions? You are spot-on, but for me, the answer lies in the detail and the sports heritage which Indian has as a brand. Indian rules American flat track racing in the 750cc twin class. You know that what wins on Saturday sells on Monday, so what better model to bring to the fans than a Replica of what is kicking butt on the big dirt ovals all around the States. In fact, you can go one better. You aren’t constrained by homologation rules, so why not make it a 1203cc with proper power?
So there you have it, the worlds first street-legal flat track racer! Now the 150mm suspension travel and 18” rear, 19” front wheel size, shod with deeply grooved flat track Dunlops, makes total sense. Toss in a slipper clutch, chain vs belt drive and upswept Akropovic megaphones exiting on the right-hand side and Voila! The picture is complete. And what a picture! The bike is pure flat track styling with a short stubby seat which rides atop a 13-litre fuel cell, keeping weight low and making the bike “tossable” considering the 225 kg weight.
Maroon, black and cream, vintage Indian colours are combined for real visual clout. The only criticism and this is a personal opinion, is the metallic fleck in the black paint which is a little coarse and, for me, detracts ever so slightly from the classy overall look. The other issue is the BMW GS style remote rear mudguard which encompasses the number plate, taillight and indicators. Obviously this is to keep things legal, however, I have no doubt that the aftermarket custom boys will come up with a solution that does not detract from the overall look.
The FTR is an absolute hoot to ride!. The motor is a peach. Strong linear power is ever-present and it pulls with authority all the way to the 9000 rpm redline. Having said that, I most enjoyed short shifting the seamless gearbox to drink from the deep well of creamy torque that this mill pumps out. You will never tire of the top-end hit.
Sitting in sixth you just whack the throttle and the FTR bolts forward with a willingness that really entertains. Hot weather does make you aware of significant engine heat which washes over the bottom of your thighs. In the early morning chill, it is rather pleasant, but as mentioned, it can be an issue on a really hot day. Vibes are of the rumbly mellow kind, not intrusive and never increasing as revs rise. A reassuring thrum reminding you that there is a big lusty V twin doing duty.
The FTR is a fast motorcycle, yet remains super stable at speed and the suspension, whilst firm and controlled, is surprisingly supple over bumpy surfaces. The tyres will always be a limitation when it comes to all-out performance. Their block patterned tread squirms under hard acceleration, especially if the bike is canted over. Somehow this is in keeping with the tracker nature of the bike, so rather than detract from the riding experience it almost enhances it. Prospective buyers need to understand what this bike is about. If you are buying it to bait Sportbikes and Super Dukes on racer road it is going to come up short, despite the stonking engine performance. 17” wheels shod with Pirelli Super Corsas will give you levels of grip with corresponding handling that the Indian can’t match on its rubber.
For me, this is a big plus for the Indian because you don’t have the racer image to live up to. Kind of like the racing bicycle vs the mountain bike fraternity. The lycra-clad racing snakes just don’t get the baggy shorts boys and vice versa. What the Indian comes with is an element of cool that has its origins in a rider with a steel shoe strapped to his left boot, pitching a 120 horsepower behemoth sideways on dirt and body talking it to the limit! This is allied to the aural assault from a big booming V twin at full chat. If you get that, then this may just be the only bike for you.
Prices range from around R210000 for a more basic model, to the Race Replica with all the bells and whistles at a smidgen under R270 grand. Here you get fully adjustable suspension, Akro pipes, a full touch screen TFT display giving you everything short of your underpants size. The tootie.
Accessories allow you to equip your bike for touring or whatever. Smooth dirt roads will be well within its ambit. The 13-litre fuel tank may be a challenge for touring but not a show stopper. The seat is firm but nicely shaped hence reasonably comfy. Getting my head around the price of the RR, it brought to mind the review that Wesley Reyneke has just done for Bike EXIF: www.bikeexif.com/arch-motorcycle-review.
The bike reviewed is the creation by Keanu Reeves called the ARCH. It is a power cruiser, yet not unlike the FTR in application. It features a big cc S+S motor in a capable chassis. Whilst obviously low volume, unique and exclusive, it sells for around $85000. If the riding experience is the thing for you rather than the bragging rights and you are intrigued by the rich heritage of bikes like the Indian FTR 1200 S Race Replica, then the FTR is a bargain and a rewarding and extremely enjoyable one at that! Get your butt down to Melrose Arch to that Mancave of note that is the Indian motorcycle dealership and ride an FTR. It may just be the start of a new chapter of freedom that you never dreamed existed.
Reflecting on the FTR and bikes in general, a quote by Winston Churchill concerning horses, but so applicable to bikes, comes to mind – “No hour of life is wasted that is spent in the saddle”.
For more information visit: www.indianmotorcycle.co.za