Indian Motorcycle’s FTR1200 has been a godsend for fans of upright, sporty riding and a big brutish V-twin. It’s comfortable, quick, and packs modern flat-track style into a great chassis. With the help of Ex-BMW Motorrad designer Ola Stenegärd, Indian has started making tweaks to the FTR to make the same base bike appeal to different market segments. The resulting FTR1200 Rally is a style king that rides like a dream.
(Full Disclosure: Indian Motorcycle invited me to ride its new FTR1200 Rally in rainy cold Portland, as well as attend the 11th running of The One Show. It also put me up in a posh hotel and kept me full of coffee and food. I also have plenty of experience with the FTR1200S Race Replica, because Indian has loaned me one long-term.)
I’ve been dying to get on a more basic version of the FTR1200 since I first rode a top-spec model in early 2019. The Rally — what most would call a scrambler-style motorcycle — is based on the back-to-basics FTR, eschewing the fancy touch screen, traction control, adjustable suspension, and ride control modules for an analog speedometer. I was initially a little bummed by the lack of traction control because the February weather of the Pacific Northwest threatened with nasty stinging rain and wet roads all weekend.
As it turned out, I needn’t have worried. The ride went off without a hitch, and the bike proved its mettle. Despite being wet and cold for two days, I came away from the experience loving this bike, the glorious riding roads in the area of Multnomah Falls, and the entire experience. Which is what a good bike should do, right? If you’re in a shitty mood on this motorcycle, you’ve got bigger problems, pal.
The most notable change to make an FTR into a Rally is the wheel and tire package. Instead of the standard alloy wheel and flat-track inspired Dunlop, you’ve got a perfectly streetable Pirelli Scorpion STR knobby. These tires don’t ride half as chunky or squirmy as they look; they’re actually a more stable and tractable tire than the Dunlop, especially in the wet. I don’t know if I’d trust them as far as I can throw them on a proper off-road ride, though.
Visually, the Rally gets a much more understated urban bomber kind of look with a blacked-out frame, a brown leather seat, a Titanium Smoke matte-grey “tank” cover, and a short — pretty much only for aesthetics — flyscreen headlight fairing. From an ergonomic standpoint, the already comfortable FTR is made even more so with a 2-inch taller Pro Taper handlebar set.
It’s still got the same 123 horsepower, 87 lb-ft engine, the same ratios in the same six-speed gearbox, the same Brembo brakes, the same 527-pound curb weight with a full tank of fuel, the same 33.1-inch seat height. While it is largely an aesthetic change from the standard FTR, it makes the change smartly. It’s different enough to appeal to a different rider. It’s a lot less flashy, it has a lot more of a laissez-faire attitude. The Rally is the cool kid with a leather jacket, while the S is the cool kid with the letterman jacket. The Rally doesn’t need to prove how cool it is.
Both days of riding included short stints of disturbingly cold rain that took several hot showers to overcome. On a bike without a proper windscreen or heated grips, that kind of ride is always going to be one which your bones won’t soon forget. There were four of us on the ride, and all we could talk about at lunch was how cold we were. We all ordered hot water in addition to our coffees in an attempt to warm up again. It was brutal, but in the end absolutely and totally worth it.
I am reminded of the winters of my youth spent snowboarding nights and weekends for hours at a time. There is a little extra rush of excitement that comes from being uncomfortable while having a blast.
The roads through the coastal range of Oregon, just outside of Portland, are next level. I have been on some great riding roads before, but none have quite the views that these had. With waterfalls on the left and a wide-open valley to the right, there is always something worthy of a long gaze. Every tree along the road is coated in a thick film of moss. The wet roads look and feel like they have been wet forever, and will remain wet in perpetuity. At least with a canopy of evergreen branches above, the rain doesn’t hurt.
We twist and turn our way up to a gorgeous overlook with the entirety of the Willamette Valley stretching out below us. With the raucous V-twin switched off, the world seems a bit more still and quiet. Who wants that, though? Fire them up and let’s get back to riding! I’ll be plenty warm when I’m in hell. Time to have some frigid fun.
To put it mildly: Fuckin’ great.
This bike doesn’t take itself too seriously. It’s not a master of any one discipline, but it can easily be pushed into service across all of them. No matter what you throw at an FTR, it’ll handle it with ease. Whether you’re negotiating traffic for hours at a time, ripping block to block in the city, eating miles on the highway, or cruising the back roads looking for corners to carve, this is a great companion. It’s a rowdy and ready partner in the battle against the streets, and it’s compliant enough to remain composed and comfortable when the pavement is at its most shoddy.
This 1200cc V-twin is a gem of an engine. Having learned it in and out, it’s just so special. You can ride the FTR1200 like two different bikes depending on your RPMs. Down under 4500 revs or so it has a great wave of torque that allows you to sit up on the bars and ride it like a heavy dirtbike. Up high, say 5,000 to 7,500 RPM, it rides more like a big standard with as much highway pull as you could ask for. It isn’t as buzzy as Indian’s smaller motor Scout, or as thumpy as its large-bore cruiser.
Ergonomically, this bike rules. I’ve had over a thousand miles in the saddle on the FTR1200S and it’s easy to rack up miles in a day without getting too fatigued. While I only did a couple hundred miles on the Rally, it was, if anything, slightly better with the higher bars.
The chassis of the FTR is incredibly forgiving, allowing mid-corner adjustments and sharp throttle inputs. The advanced lean-sensitive ABS works a charm at preventing wheel lockup, even in the nasty wet weather. It’s all been very well designed. You wouldn’t expect a 500-something pound bike to feel as light and agile as this one does. It’s not a scalpel-sharp sportbike, but it leans over really well and can scrape a peg with the best of them.
I can, and do, ride this bike all day long. It’s great on the highway. It’s great for carving canyons. It’s great for big sweeping hilly roads in the countryside. It’s an incredibly versatile and fun ride.
Stylistically, the FTR1200 Rally is a phenomenal bike to look at. Apart from the behind-the-wheel license plate holder (which can easily be swapped for a high mount), there isn’t a single angle I can find faulty. It’s tough and delicate at the same time.
That big V-twin sounds so sweet. The optional Akrapovic exhaust, which my long-termer is fitted with, adds a bit of bark, but even in stock guise, it sounds pretty great. It’s not overly loud, and it doesn’t rattle windows like the American V-twins you’re thinking of. Especially at high revs, it sounds much more European than anything else.
The six-speed sequential gearbox has a wet multi-plate clutch and a slick smooth shift action. The clutch pull is light, super forgiving, and easy to use even in heavy traffic.
The price! With the base model reduced to $11,999 for the 2020 model year, this Rally model comes in at the $13,499 that was the 2019 model year base price. While it doesn’t have a lot more equipment than the base, that $1500 jump is less than the cost of all the parts to make a base model into a Rally.
Every FTR I’ve swung a leg over has the same few problems. It’s such a good bike that I could really only find four gripes, and boy howdy are they minor.
1. For as much money as you’re spending, this motorcycle really should have heated grips. A cold morning run gets really painful on the digits. This can be fixed with an aftermarket install from your Indian dealer, but it really should be included equipment.
2. Cold starts are a big problem for this bike. Firing it up on a cold morning you’ll see it conk out a couple of times, and it’ll be really rough in the mid-range for about the first four miles. Indian changed the fuel map for the 2020 models, and it was better, but still not perfect. Admittedly, the Rally I was riding was a pre-production model, so maybe it’ll be tweaked better by now?
3. Fuel economy and range are quite poor. With a 3.4-gallon tank, I found I could really only reliably go 90 miles or so on a tank. I have not run out of fuel in any car since I was in high school, but I had the FTR1200 run out of dino-juice on me while on a road trip.
I was at the top of Highway 33 going north out of Ojai when the low fuel light came on. I coasted down the northern face of the mountain with the engine off, then rode in a full tuck all the way to the nearest gas station in New Cuyama, about 42 miles away. The engine died as I coasted into the gas station.
I didn’t plan ahead well enough, which is my fault, but range anxiety is real on an FTR1200.
4. The big V-twin pumps out a lot of heat. Despite being water-cooled, I could feel the heat radiating in between my thighs on a hot summer day. It’s not bad on most days, but it can become quite uncomfortable, especially in traffic, on days over 90 degrees.
That’s it. That’s all of the bad things I could find to say about this bike. It’s really that good.