There’s a particularly winding road near my house that undulates up to the Uinta National Forest. You get fast-flowing sweepers, arrow straights for high-speed dalliances, and enough 180-degree off- and on-camber switchbacks to test a motorcycle’s full cornering capability. It’s perfect.
After sufficiently warming up the Metzelers, through those hairpins I’d pull my rear off the seat, push my elbows toward the apex, and lean the motorcycle over, getting my knee close to the pavement. That’s normal operations for a sport naked motorcycle, but on multiple occasions, the front end of the FTR S would shift off the line I initially set up for tight corners. And during a few runs, it wiggled around enough that I felt as if the tires had gone cold and I’d just hit sand—I definitely hadn’t.
Initially, I suspected the tires were the problem. Tires warm and cool fairly evenly, motorcycle tires especially, as you’re not loading up the sidewalls as often as the middle rubber. But during subsequent outings, the point where things would get sketchy on those tighter corners changed. Zero consistency. It almost felt as if the suspension’s rebound load setting was adjusting itself midway through a corner, but not in every corner or even the same corner I’d just gone through.
Weirder, this was only an issue for when the bike and I encountered 180-degree or more switchbacks and corners with tight apexes. Flowier, less severe curves elicited the handling I remember from the FTR 1200 S, though. I’d set myself up, set a speed, lean, and the bike would go exactly where I pointed its nose.
The ZF suspension is adjustable, just like the Ohlins, but the Ohlins came from Indian in the right setting. After my many days in the saddle, I would’ve had to fiddle with the ZF Sach’s settings to dial them in—I’m not a fan of doing that on vehicles I don’t own, so I left it as it was. And while that adjustability may intrigue many, why couldn’t Indian be bothered to dial in the ZFs when it had done so perfectly for the FTR1200 S’ Ohlins? Maybe there’s an answer in those settings, though.
(Iron) Horses Are Still Excellent Wild West Companions
On roads without technical turns, like the one that slices through the Timpanogos, overlooking a reservoir, and ends in Sundance, the FTR S is the boxer I remember. The 120 hp and 87 lb-ft of torque are delivered in such a way, the V-twin feels—and yes, this is cliche but no less true—as if it becomes an extension of your being.
From one corner to the next I’d flow, getting onto the throttle and laughing in my helmet from the V-twin’s oomph, poise, and noise. An Akropovic exhaust comes standard on the FTR S and yeah, it’s great, delivering the sort of gravely and gnarly bark a V-twin should have. The new, shorter bars make it easier for directional changes, and the seat remains supremely comfortable for long rides.
The Indian’s Brembos are solid and shed speed with urgency, though the action on the brake lever is a little longer than I’d like. I personally prefer it to be closer to the throttle in travel for easier adjustment. Same goes for the clutch. The shifter, however, gives a solid ka-chunk with each shift, and it’s almost as satisfying as a Mercedes-AMG G63’s door locks.
On my outings with the FTR, I may have even lost track of time and angered my wife on a number of occasions, who was home by herself with our three children. There’s just something about an American motorcycle, the mountains, and the verdant spring in the West that makes time seem meaningless.
A Lot of Competition
But while the FTR 1200 S didn’t have any home-grown competition, the FTR S now does. Apart from its suspension tuning, I really like the Indian Motorcycles FTR S. When put into market context, though, its competitors knock it down a couple of notches.
Harley-Davidson just dropped the new Sportster. It’s a spec-sheet wunderkind, a ready-to-rock, mid-control (available), naked motorcycle powered by Harley’s new 1,250cc “Revolution” motor, the same as the company’s Pan America ADV. I haven’t ridden the Harley just yet, but from friends and colleagues’ reactions, it’s a barn burner of a bike. And, along with its main competitors, that may spell trouble for the FTR S.
The naked segment is wildly competitive, with bikes like the aforementioned, but pricier, KTM 1290 Super Duke R ($18,699) and Ducati Streetfighter V4 S ($23,995). After riding those two extensively, they can do no wrong in my eyes. Indian’s FTR S isn’t quite on par with those, however, rather swimming in the same pond as Yamaha’s MT-10 ($12,999) and Harley-Davidson Sportster S ($14,999).
Yamaha’s offering is solid and the cheapest of that group, but the throttle-by-wire isn’t as direct as I would like it. And I’ll have to reserve my judgment for the Sportster S until one shows up on my doorstep. What this means for the Indian is that while the FTR S is good, because of its bevy of growing opponents, it can’t just be good.
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