Through a long-term demo provided by Indian Motorcycles, I was given the keys to a 2022 FTR1200S for the month of November.
A 1203cc liquid-cooled V-twin of pure American muscle between my legs for the sole purpose of ripping it as hard as I can and taking some pretty pictures? Yes, please.
The sweet folks at Indian equipped the bike beyond stock form with Rizoma mirrors, and an Akrapovic black baffled exhaust. The original equipment was more than up to snuff, but they mentioned to me the changes were done purely for my aesthetic benefit - it made a huge difference. The punchy contrasts of the trellis frame with the bright red spring on the rear shock are now even more substantial in view. It is a mean silhouette, and in my opinion an absolute stunner.
The month of November in Los Angeles was an inextricably damp span of time- it dashed my idea of a blue-skied safe haven away from the grim realities of winter. November landed me in the first rain showers of the season, with downpours showing up seemingly at random, showing off cracked asphalt awash in the prismatic hues of slick oil. The FTR1200S comes equipped with Metzeler Sportec M9 RR's, a 100% silica compound "hyper-sport" tire. As far as I was aware, they handled fine in the slippery conditions, albeit aided with the more moderate meandering of the FTR1200's "Rain" rider mode.
The ride-by-wire throttle mechanism fashioned to most modern machines today is a tough nut to crack; it allows multiple kinds of engagement from the bike to the rider by way of variable tuning on the fly, some bikes offering 2 variations to almost limitless possibilities with adaptive suspensions and engine dynamics. The FTR1200 offered me three; Rain, Standard, and Sport. It rained on most of the rides I had, usually catching me out miles from home.
I remember one afternoon, I was soaked through to my bones seeking refuge in the entrance of a Costco, shivering up at the radiant heat elements that welcomed the card-carrying patrons.
Otherwise, the Rain mode was much appreciated in the first mile of the motorcycle as I got comfortable on the saddle... and then was completely forgotten about as I flicked the engine straight into "Sport" for almost the entire duration of my time with it. The extremely quick-responding engine became a voracious beckoning, draining the measly 3.4gal tank by 80 to 100 miles. In fact, don't expect much more than 100 miles to a tank, no matter the way in which you ride it. My average miles per gallon on my more calm outings resulted in 30-33mpg. Definitely not a bike for long distance, although in my case it allowed me ample opportunity to save the cheapest gas stations around my area into my phone, as California had abandoned all rhyme or reason in it's fuel cost crisis.
$10/gal? You're out of your damn mind.
Altogether though; I refused to let a free motorcycle sit idly by while I had the good fortune to throw a leg over it, and a full tank in it.
It drained my wallet all the same.
The overall experience was exhilarating every day I flickered the TFT dashboard to life. A brightly designed FTR1200S logo illuminating my eyes as I pressed the start switch to ON, just the one time. Some lovely electrical trickery allowed a single tap of the switch to cause the bike to fire to life, no need to hold it down.
The digitized gauge cluster was comical to me at first; a ramp-like design, with the engine RPMs spread along even intervals at the bottom and then shooting straight up to redline on the right hand side of the screen, cuddled by a fuel gauge that was always halfway to empty. The designers were almost goading you to hold to peak power, a claimed 120hp at 8,000 RPM with peak torque at 6,000... the exact number that the ramp starts its sharp ascent upwards, in fact the largest portion of the ramped curve.
A shimmy and a shake out of the driveway and I was on my way.
The engine was nonplussed with every twist my wrist could give it; finding power throughout the band it would obliterate the asphalt mile after mile, rocketing towards "completely-legal" speeds while the traction control system bit for grip.
The careful planned actions behind which I survived for several years on my 1976 Honda CB750F became an illusion on the FTR1200S; any overtake became a blink, any red-streetlight-turned-green turned into a blur.
Today though, I miss its bark-like exhaust note and feel cheated by the devilish grin that marked my face on the undulating and ever-faster highways of Los Angeles.
With the improvements of the smaller wheels and finely-tuned fueling, Indian has a winning formula on their hands moving forward.