2019 Indian FTR 1200 joins Roadshow’s long-term test fleet

We’re just starting our long-term test of the 2019 Indian FTR 1200 Race Replica but we’ve got lots planned for the coming months.

Kyle Hyatt/Roadshow

One of the bikes I’ve been most excited about lately is Indian’s new FTR 1200. In addition to it just generally being a handsome-as-hell motorcycle, it’s super interesting from a few different technological and cultural standpoints. Specifically, the FTR is a bike unlike anything Indian has really done before and in building it, the folks in Minnesota are taking a pretty serious risk. So what I want to know is, what’s this bike like to live with over the long haul?

Will it be reliable? Will it continue to impress? Will its flaws grow more glaring as time passes and the excitement of newness fades? Those are the questions I’m going to answer over a year with the 2019 Indian FTR 1200 Race Replica.

The first few weeks

I’ve been living with the FTR for a couple of weeks now, and already I’m seeing some of its more unique personality traits, both good and bad. The most important thing I’ve found so far is that the FTR is an easy bike to love. All of the conclusions that I came to during my experience riding a pre-production model earlier this year hold true, and if anything, are reinforced by the serious continued development that the bike has undergone in the time since.

The Indian’s 120-horsepower V-twin engine is a gem, with plenty of torque and character and just enough of that classic American burble to let you know from whence it came. The chassis is well designed and beautifully built, with surprisingly comfortable and forgiving geometry. But this isn’t a sharp-as-a-scalpel canyon carver. It’s longer than you’d expect and with its 19-inch front wheel, it’s very progressive — rather than aggressive — in the way it leans over in corners.

The big four-piston Brembo brake calipers and vented discs up front do an admirable job of hauling this not-so-light motorcycle down from any speed.

Kyle Hyatt/Roadshow

The Brembo brakes in the front are phenomenal, and the ABS system has worked flawlessly in my time with the bike, which is to say that I haven’t noticed it at all. The suspension is almost absurdly soft from the factory, but with the proper twists, turns, clicks and measurements (more on this in a future update), the Indian loses a lot of it occasionally wallowy feel and becomes a much more confidence-inspiring and accurate machine to ride.

Roadshow’s bike is the top-spec Race Replica trim which we chose because we believe that’s how most people will order their bikes, despite the extra cost. And hey, it comes in Roadshow’s official colors. 

A few flaws

Thus far, the most significant flaws or annoyances I’ve found with the FTR have been relatively minor, but at least one of them will likely continue to grate on my nerves for our entire test period. This has to do with filling the bike with fuel: something I’ve found myself doing a lot. See, that tank-like protrusion in front of where the rider sits on the FTR isn’t actually the fuel tank, it’s the airbox. That’s a good thing though because the fuel tank lives under the seat which lowers the center of gravity and helps increase the capacity a little.

The problem with the under-seat design is that the fuel ends up taking a somewhat tortured path through the tank as you attempt to fill it, which means that the area where the filler nozzle goes can quickly fill up as the rest of the tank attempt to equalize. This means that filling the just-over-three-gallon-tank takes a while as you are forced to trickle fuel in and then essentially “burp” the tank. The design of the filler is also such that you can’t pop the gas nozzle in and let it self-shutoff. You have to hold the vapor lock back (at least in California).

The FTR’s fancy, bespoke new engine is a real peach — if you let it warm up first.

Kyle Hyatt/Roadshow

The other annoyance is the bike’s tendency to stall when cold. The reason for this is two-fold. Partly, it’s just a great big two-cylinder engine, and when it’s stone cold, it sometimes needs a little bit to warm up and get all its fluids flowing. Not a huge deal. The other part has to do with the way modern motorcycles are tuned to meet emissions — aka as lean as possible.

A leaner mix from the fuel injection system makes the exhaust hotter, and the fuel is burned more cleanly, but it’s also not ideal for drivability because the leaner mix results in a jerky, less smooth throttle, and a hotter-running motorcycle — in addition to the occasionally troublesome cold starts.

Finally, my last annoyance has to do with the FTR’s cruising range. I have yet to do better than 90 miles on a tank with the Indian, which is extra annoying considering the aforementioned fueling woes.

All things considered, these are relatively minor gripes for a bike that I’ve genuinely been enjoying. Keep your eyes on Roadshow to see future updates on the long-term Indian and let us know what you’d like to see us do with it in the comments.

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