I'm just back from Wheels and Waves in France where I spent a lot of time with some of the senior staff and wider family of Indian Motorcycles. After a day of hooligan racing at El Rollo (which they dominated with Leah Tokelove taking the win on her Krazy Horse Scout) the firm made a big announcement that they are to build an FTR1200 - a 1200cc street tracker, 'inspired' by the dominant FTR750 AFT racer. But wait, because this is important...
They had the bike above on display, the FTR1200 Custom. This is the chro-mo framed concept bike with the FTR750 bodywork that has made mouths all over the world salivate with expectation. It's currently competing in the European Sultans of Sprint races, and winning its class.
Indian didn't share any representation of what the FTR1200 production bike would look like, but said that they'd showed it to a small group of VIPs, (who were all asked to sign NDAs - non-disclosure agreements - to ensure no details were leaked). Indian chose not to share it with the press or public yet. Launching an idea is not unusual. It strings out the story. They're likely to really launch, and let the public see it, at EICMA or a US event in late-Autumn. In the meantime, they are getting an expectant potential audience to sit tight, and save their money for the FTR1200, rather than spending it on a competitor's bike. Clever, eh?
Indian's head of marketing, Reid Wilson, said the public will see the production bike this year and it will be on sale in 2019.
There are some huge questions...
WHAT WILL IT REALLY LOOK LIKE?
Look at the image above. If there was a desire, the road bike could look quite similar to the concept, but does Indian want to do that? With the Caballero (below) Fantic has proved that a manufacturer can make a street tracker EU and TUV-approved and still make it look unmistakably flat track inspired (we test the Caballero 125 road bike in Sideburn 33).
So a lot of how radical the FTR1200 can or will look is down to how brave Indian are and what they think their customers will put up with.
Indian say... 'The full FTR 1200 specification is yet to be announced, but it will embody a flat tracker style, housed in a trellis frame and powered by a new V-twin engine.' But...
Will it be a one-seater or have pillion option?
Will the bodywork be this one piece cover or conventional tank and seat unit?
Will the front fender be more practical or just enough to show it has one to pass regulations?
Will it have a rear hugger/fender?
Will it have 19s and flat track DOT tyres?
The rear wheel needs covering with a licence plate hanger device, but that can easily be removed by customer, but how long will the seat unit be?
We're pretty sure the bike will have a high-level twin pipe, but do they think customers will accept a pipe quite as close to the seat/thigh as the concept bike's?
The flat track gas tank hold less than two gallons/9 litres. How much will the road bike need to hold and where will it store it?
A lot of these questions are purely down to attitude, some are down to clever packaging and fitting things like batteries in places where road bikes have them, not where race teams can fit them and extending fuel tanks low down behind the rear cylinder .
Indian's closest rivals, Harley-Davidson, has always, in my opinion, made their race-bike inspired machines too road-based to really excite the market. Consider the 1979 XLCR, then the XR1000 of 1983, and the 883R of the early-2000s.
Harley's XR1200 (above) is Milwaukee's most recent attempt at making something that was inspired by the XR750. It was released in markets outside the US in 2008 and in the USA in 2009, being discontinued in 2013. Back then no one made DOT approved 19in flat track style tyres, even if H-D had wanted to fit them, so the sportsbike alloys are 18in front, 17in rear and don't look quite right. Even with a low-level pipe H-D felt compelled to cover the pipes with large heat shields to avoid the risk of riders being burnt. They add a huge amount of 'visual' weight to the machine. Then there's the fuel tank, which isn't ugly, though not a cool as an XR tank, and looks like that because H-D decided it needed to carry a reasonable amount of fuel (3.5 US gallons - 13.2 litres) and to cover the Fi system's airbox.
It weighed 30% more than a 1200cc Buell from the same era, with lazier geometry and less power. Then H-D felt compelled to make a seat unit that could carry a passenger despite the fact EVERY other H-D in the market had pillion options. Why not make this hardcore?
You can be damn sure Indian has studied the XR1200 and has an opinion of what worked and didn't ten years ago. They have Scouts and Chieftains for riders who want to cruise and carry pillions. There's no need to make a street tracker that does that. Indian Senior designer, Rich Cristoph said, 'We wanted to make sure that the FTR 1200 wasn’t merely a regurgitation of the FTR1200 Custom, but something uniquely ‘street,’ albeit flat track inspired. We’re thrilled about the character this bike possesses, and its ability to take American V-twin motorcycles into new territory.'
Despite the NDAs, we've heard encouraging noises that the street bike will look quite close to the concept, but we wait to see. Bear in mind, the father of the BMW S1000RR, Ola Stenegard, is now an Indian employee. Indian is not solely staffed by former H-D designers.
There is no talk of price yet. Indian could, it looks to me, easily make the FTR1200 a premium hardcore product like a Ducati Panigale of the street tracker world. Then make a more road bike Scout platform-based tracker, like Krazy Horse do with their £4950 Street Hooligan kit (below). Whatever happens, we'll keep you informed.
Brad Hardman has pointed out that Indian are running a competition (for US & Canada residents only) to register or a chance to win an Indian FTR1200 and say the prize is worth $15,000 so that's an indication of the price. Thanks Brad.