Indian’s FTR Carbon is a Sporty Naked Bike With Flat Track Influences

2022-03-11 10:14:50 By : Ms. Joanna Ho

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If you're looking at an FTR, why not go for the creme dé la creme?

Indian Motorcycle is America’s oldest moto brand — but in recent years, it’s made great, forward-leaning leaps. The FTR (Flat Track Racer) series began in 2019, with a sweet-sounding 1200 V-Twin; this Carbon edition we tested is the top-of-the line version.

Yes, it has carbon cosmetics that add panache, but Indian also partnered with suspension house Öhlins on the fork and shock. That’s good, as the front gets an inverted design and 120mm of travel, and both this and the fully adjustable rear can be customized for pre-load, compression, and rebound. These are sweet features that let you dial in the feel: on a long haul, you can loosen the rear manually to soak up expansion joints and small bumps, so you’re less fatigued; then, in turn, you can screw down the ride when you want to tackle twisties at the bike’s (or your) limits.

Relatively. The 2022 models arrived last summer, and they received some key enhancements. First, they roll on a smaller, 17-inch cast aluminum wheel shod with grippy, Metzeler Sportec street tires. The smaller wheel vs. the prior FTR and adjusted fork rake tightened the steering feel; it also lowered seat height by 1.4 inches, from 33.5 inches to 32.2. That not only makes the bike lower, so shorter riders will fit, it also makes the FTR a bit more agile. (More on that shortly.)

Crucially, for day-to-day commuters, Indian retuned the engine to stutter less at cold start, and claim to have refined throttle response so it’s less on-off and more linear. And they did something I really appreciate, and wish more brands would do: They integrated cylinder deactivation at stops, so the bike runs a bit cooler when you’re stuck at a stoplight.

In addition to the aforementioned updates for 2022, an LCD touchscreen pairs with your phone and allows you to add audio pairing (if your helmet supports it), call/text throughput, etc, plus there’s a built-in USB charge port. This bike, despite the OG vibe, is also very high tech, with LED running lights, cruise control, lean-sensitive ABS braking, stability and traction control, wheelie control, and rear-wheel lift resistance. Sport mode reduces the impact of some of these nannies, but the bike feels plenty fast in standard mode — and you can always dial in rain mode to increase the sensitivity of the ABS and traction control.

Want to stop the old-fashioned way? Dual 320mm front Brembo front and single 260mm rear Brembo brakes offer bang-on grab but are also ultra-smooth, so you can modulate braking with a single finger pull or just a bit of pressure from your right foot. Brakes like these will spoil you for anything meeker or less easily modulated.

With its snaking exhaust pipes and “naked” exposed red frame, the Indian FTR Carbon is a straight-up looker. Everybody who saw this bike (and who knew motorcycles) wanted to take it for a rip. And it does rip: If you wanted to get to 100 mph in a hurry, you’d be hard-pressed to find a bike more capable (at least, one that wasn't a pure crotch rocket).

But the personality of the FTR Carbon was actually a bit elusive at first. Its low stance and fat, grippy, 120/70ZR17 front, 180/55ZR17 rear rubber make the Indian slow to initiate a turn at middling speeds. In the rolling hills, where I could open up the throttle and cane through corners, I suddenly hit the “fun zone.” That’s when the admixture of pace—above 40 mph and, probably beyond 80 mph if you had the courage — and oh-so special asphalt kink melded perfectly, unlocking the FTR’s talent for chasing apexes. The Indian name may connote “bagger,” but the performance is a lot closer to a sport bike, with endless muscle and a refined suspension bred for back-roads slaying elation. Add in an especially pretty song from the Akrapovič exhaust, and you’ll get the nod from owners of rival brands, too.

Never compromise when it comes to your brain bucket.

Still, the V-twin’s a blast even if you’re just blowing through straights. This beast is quick and delivers super-smooth shifts, likes to remain on the boil. That’s fine: Six speeds offer plenty of flexibility and clutch / shift action is precise, with strong feedback. Eventually, you don’t need the gear counter in the display to know exactly which cog you’re in.

Still, the FTR’s 87 lb-ft of torque don’t hit until 6,000 rpm, and the V-twin is sleepy at lower revs. Keep it above 4,000 rpm for maximum happiness. Likewise, the full snot of 120 hp will melt your brain, but just know it’s not going to arrive until 7,750 rpm.

One morning, I took the FTR out with friends to fetch coffee and doughnuts. We could’ve cruised around the corner, but instead took the extra-long way: Over the Hudson River and to an out-of-the-way patisserie. There, we got to talking with an old-timer about bikes and it was almost impossible not to turn the conversation to the Indian. Sure, the Japanese bikes my friends rode in were fine — we all love them. But Indian is American, and so it holds a special place in riders’ hearts. This one — a sort of blurring between legacy and flipping to a new page — is an excellent update to that over-century-old legacy.

The FTR was designed to be a “naked” bike. You can get accessories like heated grips, a low-profile fairing, and a tail bag. Even panniers. But all that’s going to do is mute the message and make the machine look less badass. That said, having a windscreen would allow the FTR to be more day-to-day commuter-friendly...and so would that tail bag.

While I’m niggling, while you can half-stand on the Indian to absorb a pothole hit, the tilted, forward-ish foot pegs make it impossible to stand up completely. The FTR is far more sport than touring in that regard, granted — but I’d at least prefer a flatter peg angle. (The aftermarket could easily provide that alteration.)

One thing you can’t change as easily: Middling fuel economy. With a 3.4 gallon tank, you’d expect to see more than 100 miles per fill — but even when I wasn’t riding hard, and encountering zero traffic, it was hard to squeeze out more than that. Most motos, even powerful ones, are clearing 40-60 mpg, so this part is a bit disappointing. Or it just means you’re stopping for gas (and coffee and doughnuts) more often.

Engine: 1,203cc liquid-cooled 60-degree V-twin

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