Seriously, Indian, you had better be planning to build this damned motorcycle. Because if this FTR1200 hype doesn’t lead somewhere satisfying I’m pretty sure there will be riots.
For those of you who don’t wake up each morning wondering: “Have they built it yet?” Minnesota-based Indian Motorcycle has over the past few weeks been cranking up the intensity with which it’s promoting its Scout FTR1200 Custom, releasing two YouTube videos as part of a series called “Heroes of the FTR.”
It’s worth remembering that the Scout FTR1200 Custom was originally unveiled as a self-congratulatory homage to Indian upon the completion of its successful return to American Flat Track in 2017. The bike was unveiled in Europe, a few months after the season had ended, because, yeah, that makes sense.
Indeed, it immediately became clear the brand had bigger ambitions for this machine than simply displaying a one-off custom. Announcing it would be taking the bike to events and shows around the world, Indian said it wanted to ask riders if they’d like to see such a moto brought into production.
READ MORE: Let’s Tell Indian Motorcycle What to Do
I can’t imagine there is a single motorcyclist who has said no to that question, who has said: “Nah, you guys need to be focusing your efforts on bikes that come equipped with CB radios.”
Indeed, every bit of feedback I’ve seen or heard has been positive. And more and more it seems to be a given that the FTR1200 will – some day – become a reality. Firstly, there is that conversation I had not too long ago with an insider friend who told me the brand was working on something with which I’d be “very happy.”
Secondly, there is the fact Indian has stopped referring to the bike as the Scout FTR1200 Custom, now simply calling it the FTR1200. To me, that implies a bike headed for production; the company is no longer emphasizing the “custom” element of the bike which suggests it’s planning on making more than just one.
‘If the FTR1200 was an animal I’d say it’d be a grizzly bear. Thing’s a beast.’ – Brad Baker
Thirdly, there is this “Heroes of the FTR” series of videos. The second video hit YouTube on Tuesday. Amusingly, Indian are doing a thing I joked about in an article earlier this month. In imagining what Indian might be working on, I teasingly recalled Victory’s Octane fumble in imagining that whatever Indian might under-deliver. I wrote: “Indian would spend weeks and weeks bombarding us via social media channels… It would dig up some cool dude with tattoos to offer a soundbite.”
And, well, now we have Indian sharing images of the FTR1200 at least once a week (it has even come up with the hashtag #FTRFriday) and videos that include the very tattooed Carey Hart saying: “This bike is like riding a bronco. This thing’s meaty, nasty, it bucks. It’s like slapping a wild stallion on the ass.”
‘This is an all-around bike’ – Carey Hart
In fairness, though, this doesn’t feel like an Octane swerve in the making. If we had a bunch of builders offering their take on the FTR1200 but confining themselves to using the chassis of a Scout that would be cause for concern. But here Indian is showing the same bike being used in different applications.
Admittedly, the first one – ice racing – was pretty niche. But there are a hell of a lot of Americans (Indian’s top market) who ride dirt, and a hell of a lot of Europeans who tell themselves they’d like to. Meanwhile, pay attention to what Hart says in his video: “This is an all-around bike. I’ve been mashing around out here on trails… I can take this thing to the speedway and run the oval, or I can jump on the asphalt and just rip from town to town. I’d ride this bike daily if I could.”
Note the video lets that final statement stand alone. To be honest, I no longer question whether Indian is planning to release the FTR1200 as a production machine. The only unknowns as far as I’m concerned are when it will be released and what – exactly – it will look like.
Actually, I think I know when. So, let’s focus on the the question of how closely the FTR1200 will resemble the Scout FTR1200 Custom. Obviously there won’t be any of the carbon bodywork that exists on the Custom, but Indian may choose to style it with carbon-effect. Meanwhile, I can’t imagine those pipes will pass Euro V regulation, so expect something clunkier and less upsetting to the neighbors. Though, I think Indian will try to match the look as best it can, à la the Triumph Street Scrambler‘s high pipes. Also to comply with European regulation, I’d expect the radiator will need to be larger.
Indeed, the act of complying with the law may force quite a few changes to the FTR1200’s look. ABS is required in the EU for bikes with a displacement greater than 125cc, so there has to be some place to hide the ABS unit. I wouldn’t be surprised if the production-version FTR1200 ended up looking just a teency, teency, teency bit like the custom Octane that stunt rider Aaron Colton built back in 2016.
Related to that, I also wouldn’t be surprised to see Colton showing up in one of the forthcoming “Heroes of the FTR” videos. He was at the Scout Bobber launch last summer, doing burnouts with the bike on stage. He would be a logical influencer/brand ambassador to demonstrate the FTR1200’s street worthiness.
Additionally, he fits with what appears to be Indian’s marketing strategy for the FTR1200. Effectively, it seems Indian is finally building the Scout Scrambler that I asked for on RideApart three years ago. But, rather cleverly, it is not calling it a scrambler. Not yet, at least. The boys in marketing may feel it is important to label things clearly – as with the Scout Bobber – but if Indian sticks with the FTR1200 labelling it helps the bike avoid a few pitfalls.
Firstly, there is the question of whether we have achieved peak scrambler. There’s the Triumph Street Scrambler, as well as a rumored larger-capacity scrambler from the same brand, the BMW R nineT Scrambler, and some 11 different takes on the theme from the Scrambler Ducati line. Indian risks getting lost in the scrambler sea by using that word for the FTR1200 – even if that’s pretty much what it is by definition.
Secondly, there’s the fact scramblers are often thought to be aimed at hipsters, which doesn’t seem to be 100 percent Indian’s focus. Hipsters don’t wear flat-brimmed baseball caps. Hipsters don’t know the words to songs by Florida Georgia Line. True, hipsters attend Wheels and Waves and various other events that Indian is happy to associate with, but I get the sense Indian wants to make sure it doesn’t close the door on the flat-brimmed hat guys.
For better or worse, that’s good business sense and gives the FTR1200 a better chance at succeeding.
I am desperately eager to see the FTR1200 succeed. Partially because I’m an Indian fanboy, of course, but also because I really feel that its success could mean hugely important things for American motorcycling. I feel American manufacturers are due a renaissance. Harley is doing its bit to push toward that with some great bikes (eg, most of the updated Softail line-up), but I think Indian has the ability to rocket things forward.