The press release on Indian’s promise of a production FTR 1200 hit my inbox late in the day Saturday – 8:20 pm, to be exact. This moto-bloggin’ life* is 24-7, y’all, but I’ll admit I don’t think of myself as “on the clock” at that moment. I was standing in line to buy pizza and was already two beers into the evening.
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I did a little happy dance in the street, which the people around me assumed – based on the fact I had been looking at my phone then suddenly started jumping up and down and yelping – was some kind World Cup-related celebration, and later borrowed the computer at a wine shop to quickly publish a story before anyone else (#humblebrag), but I feel that my overall marking of this potentially historic point in motorcycling was a little subdued. The story I wrote Saturday evening lacked the sort of OMGWTFBBQ ALL CAPS WRITING you would expect from such an avowed Indian Motorcycle fan as myself.
So, let’s get into this properly, shall we? Let’s try to guess what the forthcoming FTR 1200 will look like, how it will perform, when we’ll first see a glimpse of the actual bike (remember that the FTR1200 Custom is, as the name suggests, a custom bike, so the FTR 1200 will look different), when it might hit dealerships, how much it might cost, and what it might all mean. In other words, let’s crank our Wild Speculation Machine up to 11.
First of all, let’s start with the stuff we know, which isn’t a whole hell of a lot. Seemingly out of the blue, Indian announced during Wheels and Waves that it would be bringing the FTR 1200 into production. Note the space between “FTR” and “1200” – different to the way the brand writes the name of the custom bike that we’ve been drooling over for the past several months, “FTR1200.” One wonders if this naming convention isn’t the result of Indian’s new head of product design, Ola Stenegard. You’ll remember that Ola has spent most of his career working at BMW, responsible for bikes like the HP2 Sport and R nineT. BMW loves to put a spaces in its model names, eg, “R 1200 GS.”
It would be too early, however, for any of Ola’s actual design influence to show up in the FTR 1200. Instead, the credit will go to Senior Designer Rich Christoph, who is also responsible for the FTR750 and FTR1200 Custom.
I find it interesting that Indian chose a random Saturday at Wheels and Waves to make this announcement. I wonder if perhaps that was a last-minute decision. Maybe Indian felt it had spilled the beans with too many blabbermouth fanboys like me and decided it was a waste of time to play the “Oh, gee, will we make it?” game anymore.
Wheels and Waves is a pretty big event, though. Markedly European in its spirit, it is one of the few such events that lacks a really strong Harley-Davidson presence. As a sponsor, Indian could arguably call Wheels and Waves a “home” event. And Wheels and Waves speaks to the sort of demographic that Indian seems to generally be targeting in Europe – different to the one that gets the bulk of its focus in the United States. European dealerships do not give away free bandanas with test rides.
It’s my feeling that, although Indian will be eager to sell the FTR 1200 in every dealership around the globe, there will be a particular focus on the European market, where naked bikes are incredibly popular and the Scout has sold well. So, an announcement on this side of the water made sense. But I was under the strong impression the announcement would come at one of this year’s big moto shows: Intermot in October, or EICMA in November.
So, that’s why I wonder if the announcement was somewhat last-minute. I wonder if it wasn’t a pre-emptive move. Next month sees a whole bunch of European Harley-Davidson fans rolling into Prague to celebrate the MoCo’s 115th birthday. If Harley were to want to unveil an overhauled Sportster line-up (as was slightly hinted at in an interview with Harley-Davidson CEO Matt Levatich earlier this year), Prague might be the right place to do it – in Europe, where the Sportster is easily Harley’s best-selling model. Alternatively, Harley could possibly introduce an improved version of the Street Rod – pegs a teency bit further back and the exhaust no longer getting in the way of the rider’s foot.
I’m riding to Prague on the Street Bob with the team from Harley-Davidson UK, and there’s nothing in my itinerary about a launch, but that doesn’t mean they can’t surprise me. So, you know, maybe Indian picked up some scuttlebutt about such a thing and decided to get in its announcement first.
Hold on, the Wild Speculation Machine is smoking a little…
What Will it Look Like?
So let’s get back to some of the stuff we know. For example, we know – because Indian told us – that the FTR 1200 “will have a flat tracker style, a trellis frame, and be powered by a V-twin engine.”
The trellis frame lets us know this will not be a Victory Octane situation, where a super-cool naked bike “inspired” a cruiser. The Scout’s frame isn’t trellis; the FTR1200 Custom’s is. Additionally, there’s the fact that Rich Christoph’s designs of the FTR750 and FTR1200 Custom are pretty similar. The FTR 1200 reportedly draws its “inspiration, design and performance cues” from those two bikes while maintaining “a look and style all its own” but I wouldn’t expect that look and style to diverge too far from the source material.
The carbon fiber will go away, of course, as will the Öhlins suspension, but by and large I think the bike will look pretty much the same when viewed from a distance. Heck, it might even keep the Brembo brakes. Standing 30 feet away, I suspect the biggest visual difference between the FTR1200 Custom and the FTR 1200 will be the tires. The 19-inch Dunlops on the FTR1200 Custom’s front and rear aren’t street legal. Additionally, I’m not sure a 19/19 set-up is ideal for street riding.
Because I’m a dork who can’t ever fully let go of his practical side, I would like an FTR 1200 that could accommodate sport-touring tires, but I accept that this would affect the look quite a bit. A roundabout conversation with the folks at Pirelli** a while ago makes me think they’ll be the ones supplying the FTR 1200’s tires (as the company does for the Scout), so if anyone wants to spend an hour or so clicking through all of Pirelli’s offerings and guessing what would work with the FTR 1200, please do so and get back to me.
How Will it Perform?
The bike’s name and the promise that it will be “powered by a V-twin engine” means that it’s a pretty safe bet that, like the FTR1200 Custom, the FTR 1200 will be driven by the same 1133cc liquid-cooled V-twin engine found in the Scout and Scout Bobber. Indian claims 100 horsepower for that engine. When the same engine wore a Victory badge in the Octane it mustered a claimed 104 hp.
Everything I’ve read, however, says it shouldn’t be hard to boost the engine’s power output considerably. Victory never gave figures on the Project 156 bike it raced at Pikes Peak (a custom bike that also housed a Scout powerplant), but I’ll bet it was a hell of a lot more than 104 hp. Keeping pending Euro V regulations in mind, I’d expect the FTR 1200 to clock in with something around 115 ponies.
Not an impressive number when compared to super nakeds like the Triumph Speed Triple or Ducati Monster 1200 S, but such an output would mean the bike would more than hold its own against the BMW R nineT – and that’s one of the most enjoyable bikes I’ve ever ridden.
It’s important to note Indian’s language when talking about the FTR 1200.
“We’re thrilled about the character this bike possesses and its ability to take American V-twin motorcycles into new territory,” Christoph said.
American V-twin motorcycles. That is the same sort of language Victory used to use – language that attempts to create a different category. It seems someone in Polaris has this vision of creating a muscle car brand of motorcycles, of having bikes that exist on their own plane. The Ford Mustang is not the fastest car out there – not by a damn sight. Any number of European cars can outgun a Mustang. And most Mustang owners – if they’re honest with themselves – know that. But no one cares because the Mustang is loud and torquey and brash and looks cool.
I’m fine if that’s the sort of thing Indian is gunning for, but it needs to deliver on all accounts. My hope is that Indian will tune the FTR 1200 to be torquey as f—. The Scout engine already has the ability to give you whiplash with a hard crack of the throttle but I think that a performance character that inspires people to gleefully shout, “This thing is nuts!” would go a long way to ensuring the bike’s market success.
When Will See the Actual Bike?
At Wheels and Waves, Reid Wilson, Indian’s senior director of marketing, told the crowd: “We’re gonna launch it this year, and it’s gonna be in dealerships next year.”
With 2018 more than halfway over that means we won’t have to wait too long to see the bike that will hit dealerships in 2019. Since Indian has told us all that much, I can probably safely reveal that the info I had from a friend back in February leads me to believe the reveal will take place at Intermot. They’ll probably change it now just to make me look like an idiot.
But a European reveal does make sense to me, as opposed to showing it off at Sturgis (not exactly the right crowd) or one of the Progressive motorcycle shows in the US (not nearly as much clout as Intermot or EICMA). Meanwhile, an October reveal would still allow Indian to display the FTR 1200 at all the US shows.
From there, I’d expect the FTR 1200 to start hitting dealerships in the second quarter of 2019.
How Much Will it Cost?
Myself and Drew Faulkner were having a discussion about this in the comments for the original FTR 1200 story: I would not blink if the FTR 1200 came in with a price tag at the £12,500 mark. Adjusting for the absence of VAT, that would mean, roughly, a $14,000 machine in the United States. Pricey, but not outrageous in comparison with a BMW R nineT.
I think it’s safe to assume it will cost more than a Scout Bobber, and less than a Chief Dark Horse. If it’s equipped with cornering ABS (I saw some Indian head honchos talking to some Bosch head honchos a few years ago at EICMA) and traction control I’ll have even less will to argue for a cheaper bike. Put heated grips on it and I won’t say a word. I mean, yeah, I want bikes that I can buy with pocket change but I understand that good stuff costs money. That’s just how it is.
What Does it All Mean?
I’m a fanboy, so, of course I would say this, but my gut feeling is that Indian will get this right. It won’t be right simply in the “good first effort” sense of the Harley-Davidson Street Rod. It will actually manage to appeal to folks who are not brand loyal, who are not solely focused on buying US bikes. Having loved the Scout powerplant for so long, I feel it is entirely possible for Indian to win the heart of someone who might otherwise buy a BMW R nineT or Ducati Scrambler 1100.
Whatever Indian does beyond the FTR 1200, though, won’t be showing up anytime soon. Polaris, Indian’s parent company, is notoriously cautious when it comes to motorcycles. I’m certain there are plenty of folks within the company structure who doubt the possibility of financial success beyond the world of heavyweight cruisers. The FTR 1200 will have to prove itself.
Cynically, I can see the higher ups needing two years of FTR 1200 sales success before giving the nod to other not-cruiser machines, and those then spending a few more years in development.
I especially don’t see this leading to a street FTR 750 anytime soon, because that would require development of a new powerplant. The FTR 1200 will be using the existing Scout engine. The engine used in Indian’s FTR750 flat track racer is, by every account I’ve read, far too race-focused to be easily repurposed for street use. It would need an entirely different transmission, dramatic retuning, and possibly some structural work to make it the sort of don’t-need-to-rebuild-it lug that people expect from a street machine.
Profit margins on middleweight bikes are inherently lower, so the FTR 1200 would have to be an unprecedented success for Indian to consider spending the R and D money to expand the platform in the 750cc direction.
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*Still trying to work out what to call myself.
**NOTE: No one at Pirelli told me anything specifically, they just smiled and shrugged when I asked specific questions. But, you know, Italians smile and shrug a lot anyway. So, my assumptions here may be wrong.