A Woman’s Take: 2019 Indian FTR 1200 S First Ride Review

A woman’s perspective on riding Indian’s FTR 1200.

2019 Indian FTR 1200 S on the beach.
Yes we rode the FTR 1200 and FTR 1200 S in the sand. No, we wouldn’t recommend it.Barry Hathaway

When Indian first made news with its FTR 750, there were no doubt throngs of riders who simply could not wait to get their hands on one for themselves. After participating in the American Flat Track series, the FTR 750 has proven itself to be a strong contender and winner. Everything else bearing the Indian badge is 999cc at the smallest, which Indian considers its "midsize," and as large as 1,800cc. So to see something truly midsize coming from America's oldest motorcycle brand was especially exciting. Indian finally decided to bring an FTR to the public, but, surprisingly, it's not a 750.

2019 Indian FTR 1200 S leaning into a corner.
Leaned into a corner aboard the Rally packaged FTR 1200 S…Barry Hathaway

I won't insult my fellow female riders who are out there riding large-displacement bikes by saying the FTR 750 would be an ideal size bike for women riders. Truthfully, there are plenty of women who ride 1,200cc or 1,800cc bikes of different styles, but many riders (of any gender) see a displacement number and immediately think they know how that bike will behave. So when Indian sent the invite to attend the FTR 1200 launch, I'll admit I was a little intimidated. I've ridden a few large-displacement bikes but, honestly, when it comes to engine size, past a certain point it becomes a concern more about weight than being able to manage the power. But I certainly wasn't going to let a little size intimidation stop me from trying out Indian's new flat-tracker built for the street.

2019 Indian FTR 1200 S beside the ocean.
The FTR 1200 S in its Race Replica livery adds a pop of color with the red frame.Barry Hathaway

Surprisingly, our trip to Mexico’s Cabo San Lucas to ride the new FTR 1200 and FTR 1200 S would actually include a bit of dirt riding. I consider myself a beginner-intermediate rider when it comes to the dirt; I still have some form and techniques I need to work on. But when led by more experienced riders, I’m game to try a lot of off-road riding, to a point. I’m no Vicki Golden, but I dabble in dirt when I get the chance. Funny thing is, Indian doesn’t advertise the FTR as a dirt riding machine, or even a dual-sport. Flat-track riding is generally done on hard-packed dirt, but the FTR 1200 is touted as Indian’s “Flat Tracker for the Street.” So most of us were prepared with street riding gear.

When we saddled up aboard the fleet of FTR 1200 S models they had lined up for us (with only one or two standard models, and one each of an S model kitted with certain accessory packages), I immediately noticed the height and heft of the bike. I’m average sized for an American woman, and my inseam is about 30 inches, which meant the 33-inch seat height of the FTR 1200 S was a bit tall for me, only allowing the ball of each foot to touch the ground. I’ve ridden plenty of tall bikes, especially in the dirt. But those are generally a bit lighter than the 518-pound (claimed, wet) FTR. This was about to get interesting.

2019 Indian FTR 1200 S LCD infotainment screen.
The LCD infotainment screen on the FTR 1200 S delivers all the usual motorcycle info, plus ride mode selection and ABS and traction control on/off. You can swipe up or down to switch from a more digital design or an analog design displaying the same info.Barry Hathaway

The ergonomics are certainly built for a larger rider, say a taller woman or average size guy. Aside from the tall seat, the reach to the bars are a bit longer than would fit me best, but I didn’t feel completely stretched out. I actually found the taller handlebar of the Rally package more comfortable than the mid-rise ones of the FTR 1200 and FTR 1200 S. The width of the handlebars are super handy for easy steering, but are also a bit wide for my reach. Again, I’m just waiting for a street-legal version of the FTR 750 ’cause I suspect it would fit my frame (and many other women’s frames) so much better.

As we took off from our hotel, the throttle response was immediate in Standard mode. It didn’t jump off the line or anything, but also didn’t need super finely tuned input from my wrist to have a civilized launch. Sport mode definitely was more spirited, as you would expect, and when we got to the dirt, the slower, smoothest throttle response of Rain mode was much appreciated. The clutch lever had a light feel, but the friction zone was short, so taking off from a standstill was near effortless, and a comfortable reach for my smaller size hands.

2019 Indian FTR 1200 S exhaust.
The throaty growl of the upgraded Akrapovič exhaust, which comes on all FTR 1200 S models, will grab anyone’s attention.Barry Hathaway

Indian claims the only similarity between its FTR 1200 and Scout engine is the crankcase, claiming 150 new parts went into this new engine. If you’ve ever ridden a Scout, you’ll know, aside from the ergonomics, that the FTR 1200 is a whole different beast. The FTR pumps out a 123 horses (claimed), a significant improvement over the Scout’s 100 hp. And we could feel that power as we ripped through the hills of Baja, following a two-lane stretch of asphalt. The flat-tracker’s 87 pound-feet of torque (claimed) came in handy when we needed to make our way around the sleepy train of traffic on the small back roads. Passing was not an issue at all, and neither was getting up to the speed of traffic on the freeway. To top it off, the single-sided, dual Akrapovič exhaust has an aggressive growl, commanding attention everywhere it goes.

2019 Indian FTR 1200 S front end.
The front end of the FTR 1200 and FTR 1200 S has an intimidating look, with a small cowl surrounding a fierce-looking headlight.Barry Hathaway

I tell you what else is aggressive about this FTR 1200 and 1200 S: its design. Rich Christoff, the main designer of Indian’s new flat-tracker (both the 750 and the 1200), says that while he designed the silhouette to be more streamlined and classic, he wanted the engagement with the bike to reveal harder lines and crisper breaks in the design of the bike. “I was inspired by [designers] Glynn Kerr and Massimo Tamburini,” Christoff says, “how strong and muscular and bold Italian detailing and styling was: very sensual, very voluptuous. It was like wrapping skin over muscle and tendons and bone; it’s very intimidating, it’s very strong, and something we are innately attracted to.” He hits the nail on the head, as the FTR 1200 does have a strong, intimidating presence, between the shape of the tank, the slightly aggressive riding stance, and the small cowl cupping an almost angry-looking headlight. The new FTR looks like it means business.

2019 Indian FTR 1200 S riding on road beside ocean.
Indian offers a few accessory packages, including a Sport package that has carbon bodywork, seen here on an FTR 1200 S.Barry Hathaway

The most intimidating part of riding this 518-pound flat-tracker was riding it in the dirt. To be clear Indian is not selling the FTR as a dirt bike, dual-sport, or ADV machine. That is not its intended purpose. It's being sold as the "Flat Tracker for the Street." But flat track is a dirt sport, technically speaking, and the intel we had on the 40 miles of dirt that would take us along Baja's southern coast was sold to us as a "graded truck road." Theoretically, that would give us enough dirt to kick the rear end out in corners (for those of us comfortable throwing a big bike around like that), but nothing too gnarly. Our intel was straight up wrong. There were plenty of graded truck road sections, as promised, but they were interrupted by plenty of sandy sections as well. Kids, don't do this at home.

2019 Indian FTR 1200 S riding on street in front of brick wall.
Indian’s current customer base will have some adjusting to do, as the ergonomics of the FTR 1200 and FTR 1200 S puts the rider in a slightly forward leaning upright position.Barry Hathaway

Riding through sand is a challenge no matter what bike you’re on, but it’s especially difficult when the bike you’re riding has suspension made for the street. On pavement, the FTR 1200 S’s fully adjustable suspension transferred bumps in the road to both the seat and handlebars without being jarring. We were told our test bikes were set up in the middle of the range of adjustability. The standard FTR 1200’s nonadjustable suspension was comfortable enough, though a little softer than the S. Neither were soft enough to be riding in sand, for the record, and the bike danced around like an anvil being dragged by a semi; the faster we went, the easier it was to keep on top of the sand, but I didn’t dare slow down, lest the front end got buried and the bike came to a jarring halt. That never happened for me, thankfully, but the fear of it happening kept my throttle hand twisted back as far as my nerves would tolerate. Those 40 miles of dirt turned into an hour-long pucker moment. The Baja heat wasn’t the only thing making me break a sweat.

During our off-road escapade, I was relying more heavily on the rear brake than on pavement, and discovered the FTR’s single two-piston Brembo rear brake felt pretty soft. The brake pedal position is rotated a little far forward, which at times made it awkward for me to reach with my foot. On pavement, the dual Brembo four-piston front brakes felt strong, and it was comforting knowing that both the 1200 and 1200 S come standard with ABS, though the S model offers the option to turn it off. The 1200 S also comes with lean angle sensitive traction control, which, along with throttle response, can be adjusted through three ride modes: Standard, Sport, and Rain, or disabled entirely.

2019 Indian FTR 1200 S riding on the beach.
Indian Motorcycle has something special for boys, and for girls, with its FTR 1200.Barry Hathaway

I was relieved to make it through the dirt and sand without any incidents, except a couple of low-speed tip-overs during U-turns for photo passes, but dropping a bike in dirt is far more common than on pavement, and the bike I dropped hardly showed any signs of it. Slow maneuvers in the dirt and sand were where the weight and height of the FTR felt the most obvious and challenging for my size and strength. By the end of the two days of riding, I had gotten used to the bike, and simply made small adjustments to my mental preparation when coming to a stop or taking off, to decide which foot I would place more weight on to balance the bike. If you are a fellow female rider, unless you’re taller or really used to taller, heavier bikes, I wouldn’t recommend this one. Regardless of gender, it will be a challenge for any rider with a 30-inch inseam or less, especially if they don’t already have years of riding experience under their belt. But, hey, if you’ve been itching for a flat-tracker made for the street and you have the coin, don’t let me be the one to deter you. It’s a fun bike worth looking into, and if you get the chance to test ride one, do it.

2019 Indian FTR 1200 S riding on road.
Those taller handlebars of the Rally accessory package would have been far more appreciated on the dirt road section, but made for a more comfortable upright riding position on pavement.Barry Hathaway

The standard FTR 1200 is available for $13,499, and is available in Thunder Black, and with a single round analog speedometer. The FTR 1200 S starts at $15,499 for the Red over Steel Grey, and Titanium Metallic over Thunder Black Pearl. For $16,999 you can get the S model in the Race Replica livery. The 1200 S’s higher price gives you a Ride Command LCD touchscreen that displays all the usual bike info, plus ride modes, and ABS/traction control on/off, as well as fully adjustable suspension and more color options. Both models should be available at Indian dealerships by the end of May 2019.

2019 Indian FTR 1200 S with 1,203cc motor.
Sharing just the crankcase with the Scout Sixty engine, the FTR 1200 and FTR 1200 S use 150 new parts to make the 1,203cc motor, according to Indian.Barry Hathaway
2019 Indian FTR 1200 S Specifications
PRICE $15,499 (starting)
ENGINE 1,203cc, DOHC, liquid-cooled V-twin; 8-valve
BORE x STROKE 102.0mm x 73.6mm
COMPRESSION RATIO 12.5:1
FUEL DELIVERY Fuel injection
CLUTCH Wet multi-plate slipper clutch; cable actuation
TRANSMISSION/FINAL DRIVE 6-speed/chain
FRAME Steel trellis
FRONT SUSPENSION 43mm inverted fork adjustable for spring preload, compression and rebound damping; 5.9-in. travel
REAR SUSPENSION Sachs gas-charged shock adjustable for spring preload, compression and rebound damping; 5.9-in. travel
FRONT BRAKES Radial-mount four-piston calipers, 320mm discs
REAR BRAKE Twin-piston caliper, 320mm disc
WHEELS Cast aluminum; 19 x 3-in. front; 18 x 4.25-in. rear
TIRES N/A; 120/70-19 front, 150/70-18 rear
RAKE/TRAIL 26.3°/5.1 in.
WHEELBASE 60.0 in.
SEAT HEIGHT 33.1 in.
FUEL CAPACITY 3.4 gal.
CLAIMED CURB WEIGHT 518 lb.
WARRANTY 2 years
AVAILABLE May 2019
CONTACT indianmotorcycle.com