INDIAN FTR1200 SPORT
By GARETH CHARLTON - 18 Sep 23
“Can I take it for a spin?” I knew it was futile to beg a go on Tokyo Connection, the blockbuster FTR custom build by Sideburn x Cheetah x Indian Motorcycle unveiled at the 2023 Bike Shed Moto Show, but damn I’m glad I did. Of course, hell no was the instant and inevitable answer, but crucially, there was a but. “Hell no. But would you like to borrow a stock one?” Hell yes. Fast forward a month or so and an Indian monikered truck delivered two machines to Bike Shed Shoreditch. For display, Tokyo Connection, every bit as stunning as remembered from the Show, and to ride, a box fresh FTR1200 Sport. To ensure there was no misunderstanding on my part, they only left one key.The Sport is the most recent iteration of the FTR breed, replacing the outgoing S model in the now 5 model line-up. Gone is the Flat Track inspired 19’ front of the 2019 original in favour of street oriented 17’s fore and aft. The Rally and limited “Championship Edition” variants still sport the original 18/19 set-up, but the standard, Sport and R Carbon models all opt for the 17’s. Other updates include a round touchscreen TFT dash (on all but the base model) from which to navigate the host of rider and navigation aids that joined the package in 2021.Still with me? The meat and potatoes, or rather burger and fries of the all-American FTR remain the same regardless of year or model. A sinuous trellis frame and elegant tubular swingarm suspend the hulking 1200 v-twin motor liberated from the Scout production line. That motor is the heart and soul of the riding experience. On its transition from Scout to FTR it wrangled as many additional horses it could find and crammed them within its cases. It still sports the weightiness and low down thump expected of a cruiser, casually pulling lofty gears, but get more eager with the throttle and said horses bray their approval.The given name of Sport provides a none too subtle nudge to give this machine some extra beans. When you do so, the front remains incredibly stable with lashings of grip laid on from those sticky 17’ tyres, something which was reported to be less of a given with the original 18/19 tyre combo. My longest day in the saddle was spent travelling to and from an afternoon of Enduro riding, via as many twisting B-roads as I could factor in, the FTR was in its element. Comfort, although far from this machines most targeted accolade, was surprisingly decent on the outward leg, but on the punishing return journey, my shoddy, forest-beaten body would have struggled to find comfort in a limousine… A fuel stop on both legs revealed the diminutive tank size, perhaps not helped by my over caution of the slightly awkward filling neck, but you quickly figure the knack.So a willing companion to a blast through the twisties, with an inherent ability to relax to a cruise, a compelling combination. I often find when riding a machine with the purpose of writing my opinion of it, my mind wanders to comparable machines. What’s it most like? What might a potential owner consider instead? Whilst there is a sizeable cohort of awesome naked motorcycles out there, none seem to be taking aim at quite the same target as the Indian FTR. Unmistakably American, big power from a classic motor allied to sharp dynamic intent, with a retro aesthetic leaning on the company's motorsport heritage...As I carved through rush hour traffic (a habitat in which the FTR excels) pondering what machinery I would recruit into an FTR group test, I found myself stopped at lights beside a modern day Mustang. Not the randomly monikered EV, but a proper, petrol-swilling V8 fastback. In white, with red stripes. Unmistakably American, big power from a classic engine allied to sharp dynamic intent, with a retro aesthetic leaning on the company's motorsport heritage...It may have been our paired liveries, or the knowing nod of the driver side-eyeing the FTR, but it felt like I had stumbled on a machine (albeit with a few too many wheels) aiming at the very same target. His engine roared me back to attention just in time for the red light to extinguish and for me to give my new buddy an excellent view of the FTR’s splendidly proportioned rear-end…From that point forward I couldn’t shake the idea of the FTR as a bruising American Muscle Car, reincarnated with my preferred number of rotating black bits. A Barracuda, a Challenger, hell the original Mustang even shared its engine with a pre-existing Sedan... This preoccupation with the all-American four-wheeled icon even seeped into my riding style, revelling in the burbling cruise, but seeking every opportunity to light ‘em up. Having an absolute ball...Sadly, that aforementioned Indian van soon found its way back to the Shed to collect my new American friend. And so with my red, white and blue tinted glasses removed and my sensible thinking cap on I returned to my recurring line of thought. What are the FTR’s rivals? From Europe the 1200 Speed Twin or BMW RnineT? Perhaps a Monster? Looking East, the Z900 or Katana? All feel of a different persuasion to the FTR and serve to highlight the sad and quiet death of the once mighty muscle bike class.No, the FTR is doing it’s own thing, in it’s own way, in a class of one. And to me, that is a damn good thing. If your heart aligns with the FTR's target, then the boisterous riding experience, design and engineering details, combined with the overriding feeling of owning something that bit special, will certainly hit the bullseye.