The Breakdown

The Indian FTR 1200 S is a blast to ride, easy on the eyes and ears, and performance-focused in all situations. On top of that, it hosts a slew of electronic aides and customization options that help make the bike ready to take on any type of adventure. I personally don’t think it needs anything extra to make it a fantastic machine worth considering for your next epic adventure. I all but guarantee it will excite and delight any skilled rider with miles on the brain.
Aesthetics 10.0
Performance 10.0
Standard Features 8.0
Ease of Use 6.0
Value for Money 10.0
Pros
Generous standard equipment / the looks / plenty of power from the torquey v-twin
Cons
130-mile range is limiting / not ideal for short riders / engine needs several minutes to warm up / stock tires don't like grooved roads

Last summer I rode an Indian FTR 1200 S from Vancouver, Washington to Robbinsville, North Carolina. For context, I’ve ridden extreme long-distance trips on several motorcycles before.

Here they are in case you’re curious: 2009 Triumph Street Triple R 675, 2011 Yamaha VStar 650 Classic, 2012 Kawasaki Concours 1400, 2018 Suzuki GSX-S 750, 2019 Yamaha XSR900, and 2019 Yamaha MT-09.

As you can see, I’ve got an eclectic list, with one feature that is common in all but one of those bikes – naked/minimal faring styling. So, no, this was not my first rodeo on a bike not purpose-built for touring.

I feel like that needed to be said upfront because we all know long-distance on a naked sportbike isn’t for everyone. I’m just one of the weirdos who love it. The touring accessory package, which I will review below, helped in a big way.

Indian FTR 1200 S with Tour Accessory Package in Badlands National Park
Photo Credit: Brittany Morrow

For the first 500 miles, I compared the FTR to my favorite motorcycles of the past. However, the flat track roots, modern tech, V-twin configuration, sleek styling and high-end touches meant the Indian FTR 1200 S was simply unlike anything I had ever ridden before.

Once I got over the idea that this bike should be compared to anything else at all, I started to really focus on what it had to offer, and where it could improve. Nearly 4000 miles later, I’ve been able to nail it all down and express my feelings eloquently, and hopefully do this marvel of a motorcycle some justice.

Indian FTR 1200 S with Tour Accessory Package through Great Smokey Mountain National Park
Photo Credit: Killboy.com

The FTR 1200 S Has Curb Appeal Out The Wazoo

Indian FTR 1200 S by a Lake
Photo Credit: Mike Waller

There is no denying the visual appeal of the FTR. The model I tested came in the “Titanium Metallic over Thunder Black Pearl” color scheme, which might be assumed as more subdued compared to the “Indian Motorcycle Red over Steel Gray” and the “Race Replica” color scheme.

However, there is nothing subdued about it, because the black paint possesses a deep layer of flake that catches the light and glistens in an array of colors. I was pleasantly surprised when I saw it in the sunlight for the first time.

A closeup of the tank cover on the Indian FTR 1200 S in Titanium Metallic over Thunder Black Pearl paint A closeup of a steel braided brake line on the Indian FTR 1200 S

Photo Credit: Brittany Morrow

Beyond the color scheme, the shape of the FTR does not disappoint. The “tank” (not actually the tank, but a plastic cover made to look like the tank – more on that later) is wide and low and accented with 2 chrome stripes up the center to add some extra flash.

A single scooped seat extends all the way back from the tank to the tail, ending in a cool and uniquely-shaped LED tail light. The naked front end features wide and almost flat handlebars, braided lines, a sleek display in place of a traditional gauge cluster, gold fork tubes and a single round LED headlight.

A simple tubular frame allows the engine to stand out and the dual Akrapovic exhaust muffler to shine.

Indian FTR 1200 S with Tour Accessory Package parked in Yellowstone National Park
Photo Credit: Brittany Morrow

This whole look, I feel, is super classy, aggressively sporty, and cool. The public agrees – the FTR got more compliments from strangers than any other bike I’ve ever ridden. When people found out it was an Indian, I got extra street cred and a few air first bumps (thanks, Covid).

All in all, it seems like everyone loves the way it looks and the reputation that comes with the brand name. I can’t disagree.

The FTR 1200 S Performs Like A Champion

In the fewest words possible: the FTR 1200 S is extremely powerful, agile, balanced and fun to ride on the street (wet and dry) and the dirt.

 Indian FTR 1200 S with Touring Accessory package US129 The Tail of the Dragon
Photo Credit: Killboy.com

In more words, the 1203cc V-twin engine is strong in a way that you can feel at every RPM. On the low end, the torque is impressive and punchy. Zipping around town or in the twisties is fun and easy. At the higher end, everything is smooth and never buzzy.

Cruising at highway speed is effortless. The FTR’s impressive engine delivers progressive power that drives the bike forward without hesitation even at higher speeds, making long sweeping turns the most satisfying way to ride this bike.

Indian FTR 1200 S with Touring Accessory package US129 The Tail of the Dragon
Photo Credit: Killboy.com

Remember when I mentioned the tank wasn’t really a tank? The fuel actually sits under the seat, lowering the center of gravity on the FTR and making it extremely well balanced and agile.

The bike is heavier than a sportbike, but it doesn’t feel heavy, hard to control, or unwilling to corner in any way. It was impressively cooperative when I asked it to perform in the switchbacks like my Street Triple R, and in the big sweepers like my Yamaha R6.

Indian FTR 1200 S with Touring Accessory package on a wet US129 the Tail of the Dragon
Photo Credit: Killboy.com

Fully adjustable front and rear suspension allowed for precise preload, compression and rebound settings that fit my preferred riding style. Further adjustability came in the form of three different ride modes (rain, standard, sport) to help me tailor the fuel mapping, ABS and traction control to my current situation.

I never, after covering nearly 4000 miles, found myself wanting more power from the engine or control over the settings.

The FTR 1200 S Has Extremely High “Standards”

Front view of the Indian FTR 1200 S with Touring Accessory package -
Photo Credit: Mike Waller

Oh FTR 1200 S, how did your standard features impress me? Let me count the ways!

Standard Features of the FTR 1200 S ($13,999)

  1. ABS and Brembo brakes – awesome response, fantastic stopping power, and superb feedback with an anti-lock braking system in case of a compromised road surface or other extreme circumstance.
  2. Fully adjustable suspension – a tailored setup with full control, enhancing both performance and comfort.
  3. Traction Control – like having a backup plan for unexpected and uncontrollable poo-poo road conditions when traction is the goal. Can be turned off for off-road excursions as well.
  4. Stability Control – this means the bike is smarter than it’s rider, or at least much better at physics and math. Stability control is lean-angle sensitive ABS and traction control, so it adjusts the amount of braking and traction control applied depending on the current amount of lean. Admittedly, I never tested this feature, but absolutely love knowing that it’s there if I ever lose traction or brake too hard in a corner.
  5. Multi-plate power-assisted slipper clutch – there’s nothing cooler than a bike that blips the RPMs for you when aggressively downshifting. If the clutch is released too quickly, the clutch slips to prevent unwanted loss of traction. Oh, so racey!
  6. Two words: cruise control. Need I say more?
  7. Three ride modes (sport, standard, rain) – mentioned already, this is a true performance enhancer for different riding situations. The “track” feature also allows Traction Control and ABS to be turned off. Who’s ready to go flat-tracking with me?
Indian FTR 1200 S 4.3 inch LCD Touchscreen in modern view mode
Photo Credit: Brittany Morrow
Indian FTR 1200 S 4.3 inch LCD Touchscreen in Classic view mode
Photo Credit: Brittany Morrow

8. 4.3-inch LCD touchscreen – makes the bike feel high-tech, looks cool, and also helps with quick adjustments to ride modes and other electronic features (there are also buttons on the left handlebar for mid-ride adjustments).

Indian FTR 1200 S 4.3 inch LCD Touchscreen using bluetooth to pair with a smartphone for playing music
Photo Credit: Brittany Morrow

9. Ride Command / Bluetooth – allows you to sync your smartphone to the bike for commonly-used features like music and phone calls, plus you can keep a maintenance schedule handy.

10. USB charging port – no explanation needed.

The only standard feature I truly disliked was the stock tire. I will go into that in detail in just a moment. But first, more good stuff.

Touring Package Add-ons ($3,250)

Indian FTR 1200 S with Akrapovič Exhaust
Photo Credit: Mike Waller
  1. Low Mount Slip-On Exhaust by Akrapovič – forces a deep growl without being too loud, and straight up just cooler to look at than stock exhaust.
  2. Polycarbonate Mid-Windshield with mounting bracket – blocks enough wind to be effective without blocking any of the view. This piece single-handedly saved my upper body from the Million Grasshopper March (basically an all-out insect assault) in South Dakota.
Indian FTR 1200 S Tail Rack from the Indian Tour Accessory Package
Photo Credit: Brittany Morrow

3. Tail rack with mounting bracket – strong, multiple mounting points, and extends the rear seat enough for a large capacity dry bag.

Indian FTR 1200 S Side Rack for Messenger Bag from the Indian Tour Accessory Package
Photo Credit: Brittan Morrow

 

4. Side Rack for messenger bag – easy to secure the corresponding bag and very stable when tasked with carrying a travel tripod as well.

Indian FTR 1200 S all-weather vinyl messenger bag and tank bag from the Indian Tour Accessory Package
Photo Credit: Brittany Morrow

5. All-weather vinyl messenger bag – rugged retro look, medium capacity, waterproofing.

6. All-weather vinyl tank bag – high capacity, weather ready, and rugged retro look.

Indian FTR 1200 S brown all-weather vinyl aviator seat from the Indian Tour Accessory Package
Photo Credit: Brittany Morrow

7. Brown all-weather vinyl aviator seat – extremely comfortable for long-distance riding.

This package is absolutely essential for long-distance touring, and although pricey, it keeps the FTR well-under $20,000 and makes sure you’ll be well-equipped on all sorts of long trips.

The FTR 1200 S Has A Learning Curve

Indian FTR 1200 S with Touring Accessory package on a cliff edge in the Bighorn National Forest, Wyoming
Photo Credit: Brittany Morrow

Curveball # 1: Reaching the kickstand after a perfect mount was simply not going to happen. With my right toe holding the weight of the FTR, my left toe sat 4 inches off the ground and wasn’t anywhere near the kickstand.

Admittedly, my inseam is way short for this bike, but as a confident rider I didn’t care – I just wanted to figure out how to make it work. If you are a taller rider, you’ll have no problem, but if you have 32” inseam or less, keep this in mind.

As I am a performance snob, I didn’t want to adjust the suspension out of ideal sag range – and it probably wouldn’t have made much difference in my ability to reach anyway.

Thankfully, an ingeniously-placed and expertly-mounted shock spring clamp-thingy allowed me to flick the kickstand with the tip of my left big toe (both up and down) and my problem was solved.

You can see the clamp-thingy in several of the photos throughout this review. However, if I stopped on any surface that wasn’t 100% flat, getting the kickstand down was an Olympic-worthy performance in timing and balance.

Indian FTR 1200 S with Touring Accessory package parked on Lolo Pass in Idaho
Photo Credit: Brittany Morrow

Curveball # 2: The FTR 1200 S is a cold-blooded killer thanks to emissions regulations. The engine needed one good warm up every morning before ever rolling on the throttle. I can’t tell you how many times I forgot to run the bike for at least 5 minutes before attempting to take off with my group, only to immediately stall the bike and have to play catch up like a newb. Oi.

Curveball # 3: The stock knobby Dunlop DT3-R tires (that were developed specifically for this bike) certainly excelled when rolling through the gravel, but they did not play well with grooved roads or metal grated bridges. At all.

Considering that my very first ride after taking possession of the FTR was on a grooved Washington highway, you can only imagine my slight panic when I thought I had two flat tires while riding at 60mph in heavy traffic.

This clearly proves one thing: I am not a flat track racer, and I’m ok with that. For the sake of being open-minded, I decided to give these puppies a real try at long-distance.

Indian FTR 1200 S with Touring Accessory package parked on a gravel road with old pickup trucks in Montana
Photo Credit: Brittany Morrow

Unfortunately, the wander/weave/wobble struggle was real, and it never got better.  Adding a few extra pounds of air pressure didn’t help. Removing air pressure didn’t help. I just got used to screaming “help!” inside my own head anytime I found myself on a non-standard surface.

I had to force myself to relax more than I ever have on any other motorcycle. Low and behold, the easy fix was simply to change tires, and the sport-touring Pirellis that Music City Indian hooked me up with (3400 miles later) absolutely changed everything about the “feel” of the rubber on the road and the subsequent feedback.

I was a happy camper once again, and I absolutely railed my final 600 miles like it was my job (it kinda was). I even returned to the infamous Tail of the Dragon for a weekend so I could test the FTR’s abilities without any excuses. Needless to say, the Dragon was slayed.

Dealing with each of these issues forced me to focus, pay close attention to every move I made, and eventually create a new routine for warming up, mounting, riding on grooved pavement, and parking while traveling across the county.

It wasn’t “bad” but it was different from what I was used to. I suppose a little switch-up every once in a while is good for keeping me on my toes (literally) and alert as a rider. The FTR definitely did just that.

In addition to the major curveballs mentioned above, there were a few more items that created small hassles, which were easy to brush off, but warrant a mention nonetheless.

First, adding a tail bag would have made it impossible for me and my 29” inseam to”swing a leg over” the 33.1” seat, so I was limited to one messenger bag, one tank bag, and a small accessory bag on the tail rack during my trip. The only way for me to carry more was to wear a backpack, which I did. Less than ideal.

Indian FTR 1200 S parked at a coffee shop with an old pickup truck in Montana
Photo Credit: Brittany Morrow

Secondly, adding the tank bag made it extremely hard to access both the ignition and the fuel cap. I had to remove my tank bag every time before turning off my ignition and/or filling up with fuel. Speaking of the fuel cap, there was no hinge, so the cap needed to be placed “elsewhere” while filling the tank. Not a huge problem, but not my favorite thing, either.

In addition, filling up the tank was difficult because of the location of the opening – bumped right up against the seat and therefore very close to my crotch – combined with the fuel tank being located under the seat and extremely hard to fill.

I eventually learned to sit on the passenger seat while filling my tank so I could regulate the flow speed from the nozzle without dismounting. About half-open on the nozzle allowed for continuous flow into the tight opening, making fill-up time take twice as long as usual.

Finally, the 130 mile range was a bit limiting when it came to touring. I am absolutely used to smaller fuel tanks, so I wasn’t bothered by this feature, but an extreme adventurer might find it cumbersome on long trips.

The Final Word On The FTR 1200 S

 Indian FTR 1200 S by a lake in North Carolina
Photo Credit: Mike Waller

The Indian FTR 1200 S is a blast to ride, easy on the eyes and ears, and performance-focused in all situations. On top of that, it hosts a slew of electronic aides and customization options that help make the bike ready to take on any type of adventure.

Combine that with the street cred of the Indian name, a 2-year unlimited mile warranty, and high-end standard components where it counts, and you’ve got a winner in my book. At $13,999, and with a new set of tires, the price tag is absolutely reasonable for everything you get.

I personally don’t think it needs anything extra to make it a fantastic machine worth considering for your next epic adventure. I all but guarantee it will excite and delight any skilled rider with miles on the brain.

Indian FTR 1200 S in a tall grass field in West Yellowstone, Montana
Photo Credit: Brittany Morrow

FTR 1200 S Technical Specs

Engine

Bore x Stroke 4.016 in x 2.898 in (102 mm x 73.6 mm)
Compression Ratio 12.5:1
Displacement 73 cu in (1203 cc)
Drive/Driven Clutch Assist & Slip, Multi-Plate
Electronic Fuel Injection System Closed Loop Fuel Injection / 60 mm Bore
Engine Type DOHC, 4-Valves per Cylinder, Graded Buckets
Exhaust  2-1-2
Horsepower 123 HP (91.7 KW)
Peak Torque 87 ft-lb (117.9 Nm)
Peak Torque RPM 6,000 rpm
Transmission/Final Drive 2.882 : 1
Transmission/Primary Drive Gear Drive Wet Clutch

Dimensions

Fuel Capacity 3.4 gal (12.9 L)
Ground Clearance  7.2 in (183 mm)
Lean Angle 43°
Overall Height 51.1 in (1297 mm)
Overall Length 90 in (2,286 mm)
Overall Width 33.5 in (850 mm)
Rake/Trail 26.3° / 5.1 in (130 mm)
Seat Height 33.1 in (840 mm)
Weight (Empty Tank / Full of Fuel) 497 lbs / 518 lbs (226 kg / 235 kg)
Wheelbase 60 in (1,524 mm)

Brakes

Front Brakes Dual 320mm x t5 Rotor with 4-Piston Calipers
Rear Brakes Single 265mm x t5 Rotor with 2-Piston Calipers

Tires / Wheels

Front Tires  Dunlop® DT3-R Radial, 120/70R19 60V
Front Wheel Cast 19 in x 3 in
Rear Tires Dunlop® DT3-R Radial, 150/70R18
Rear Wheel Cast 18 in x 4.25 in

Suspension

Front Fork Tube Diameter 43 mm
Front Suspension Fully Adjustable Inverted Telescopic Cartridge Fork
Front Travel  5.9 in (150 mm)
Rear Suspension  Fully Adjustable Piggyback IFP
Rear Travel  5.9 in (150 mm)

Features

Color / Graphics Indian Motorcycle® Red over Steel Gray, Titanium Metallic over Thunder Black Pearl, Race Replica
Factory Warranty 2 Years, Unlimited Miles
Infotainment 4.3” Ride Command LCD Touchscreen w/ Bluetooth
Lights LED Headlight, Taillight, Turn Signals
Standard Equipment  3 Ride Modes (Sport, Standard Rain), Lean Angle Sensitive ABS, Stability, Traction and Wheelie Mitigation Control, USB Fast-Charge Port, ABS, Cruise Control

 

9 Comments

  1. January 28, 2021
    Reply

    Thanks for this assessment. I haven’t thought of my FTR as a touring bike but am rethinking that. Luckily I’m probably tall enough to get a leg over with a moderately sized dry bag strapped to the back if I become willing to shell out for the expensive tail rack. I’d recommend a larger side bag – several options, including Giant Loop, will fasten to the stock side bag carrier.

  2. Grizz
    January 28, 2021
    Reply

    It looked like an interesting option for a sport tourer until the 130 mile fuel range was listed.

  3. Deb
    January 28, 2021
    Reply

    I appreciated the Curveball section. So many times bike reviews, even the long-term ones, don’t tell you what it’s really like to live with on a daily basis. That 5-minute warm-up is a deal breaker for me, especially for a fuel-injected bike. Had a bike with this issue once but it had carbs (4 of them).

  4. Dave K
    February 1, 2021
    Reply

    Hi Brittany… good review, especially all your little observations of the bike’s personality. Look forward to seeing more of your work!

  5. William Dailey
    February 1, 2021
    Reply

    With the new bike having 17 inch wheels the tire choices will be a lot better. I have been sending emails to Indian trying to influence them to use 17 inch wheels and I am not the only one. Seems like a lot of people did and they listened. Now I need the money to buy one. Please start a go fund me and let’s get William a new Indian.

  6. Kreton's Love Child
    February 1, 2021
    Reply

    These days nearly any bike bigger than a Grom can be toured on if you throw enough stuff on it. But if touring is an important element of your riding you’ll be much happier on a bike designed for it that offers good protection from the elements, heated grips, a large gas tank, and shaft or belt drive (IMO at least). Always being reminded of a bike’s touring shortcomings really detracts from the experience.

  7. February 1, 2021
    Reply

    Brittany; thanks for a well written article. I believe you have covered many excellent points, and with humour. I don’t know why this bike wasn’t on my radar for the last purchase, but it will be for next purchase. Keep up the good work.

  8. Daniel Campbell
    February 1, 2021
    Reply

    As i read this review, i couldn’t help but wonder why Brittany was so fond of this bike. Every flaw she pointed out are the ones most women have with motorcycles these days. With this in mind, when it came time to replace my wife’s Yamaha FZ6. None of the “normal” motorcycles fit the bill. Until i came across a Suzuki GSXS-1000SF. 31 inch seat’ 475 lbs. with a full 5 gallon tank. ABS, three mode traction control, Brembo brakes, fully adjustable suspension, and a 145 horsepower bullet proof motor. I added a Givi tail trunk, Hepco-Becker hard saddle bags, a taller windshield, and we have a motorcycle that is not only comfortable, but can keep up with any sport touring motorcycle on the road. As plus, she gets 48 mpg on average. Manufacturers are losing sales, by not marketing towards women with bikes designed for their shorter stature, and weight. All the extras to her bike cost me less than a thousand dollars.

  9. TERRELL GARREN
    February 8, 2021
    Reply

    I appreciate the time you put in to experience the FTR1200 and really good writing on the review. Loved the part about grasshoppers. I rode from NC to CA last year and hit the grasshopper plague for 100+ miles on a desolate two lane highway in Montana. My bike was caked with them and smelled to high hell of cooking grasshopper by the time I got to Red Lodge. A year and a half later, I still find an occasional grasshopper body part wedged on my HD Heritage.

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