Common Tread

Indian built the bike Lemmy asked for, but is it real?

Nov 07, 2017

Indian just unveiled a home run. Problem is, they only built one. So far.

I’d bet we would see something from them in our Common Tread EICMA planning meetings. (We have to make sure we have adequate amounts of Red Bull and Skoal on hand to acquire, organize, and get our readers the info as fast as we can.) The Scout FTR1200 they showed off today at EICMA was exactly what I have been clamoring for, rooting as loud as I could: a flat-track tribute bike. The bike they rolled out is not a production bike, but I’m betting it’s not far off from something we could buy.

Indian looks to have crushed it. There are no end to the challenges of bringing a dirt-track-styled street bike to the masses and making the product not just rideable, but fun — all without losing the spirit and essence of the flat-track ripper it pays homage to. To me, this category is a difficult one to do right, but the payoff should be immense. The time is ripe for a fairly light, not overly powerful, standard American bike that has some history without having that “trying-on-Dad’s-clothes-from-the-closet” look that seems to be the way the popular “retro” bikes are leaning. In my estimation, Indian’s on the right track here.

Scout FTR1200
Indian Scout FTR1200. Indian photo.

What we’re looking at

In an effort to bridge the gap between their Scout street bike and the FTR750 race bike, Indian packed the Scout’s 69 ci engine into a tube-frame chassis, like the FTR uses. It’s wearing 19-inch wheels front and rear, carries a high-mount exhaust, and has the typical tank-flowing-into-tail bodywork found on many track bikes. This bike could probably pass for an FTR to those who didn’t know better (especially at a TT event, where a front brake is permitted.) Ultimately, this looks like one of the most convincing "street trackers" I've laid eyes on.

Street Tracker
Indian Scout FTR1200. Indian photo.

It’s rad. It’s also a full custom. But is it a harbinger of things to come? Well, I think so.

Why I’m betting this ain’t complete vaporware

Let’s start at the frame. This chassis is neither fish nor fowl. It’s different from the FTR’s frame and it’s also different from the Scout’s. There is no way Indian built a one-off frame for a one-time show bike. Let that sink in, because I think it’s one of the most telling aspects that the hoped-for performance standard from The Other American company is coming.

Frame diffs
Even a casual glance shows major differences in the frame. Indian Scout FTR1200. Indian photo.

I compared notes with Nick Murphy, who used to handle homologation efforts for Zero Motorcycles, on what I might have missed. He had me look for DOT/ETRTO markings on the wheels. (Those are hard to see from the materials I have access to.) The bike is wearing 19-inch wheels with Dunlop DT3 tires on them. (Those are legit, spec FT tires.) They are not suitable for the street.

Dunlop K180
It's not a flat-track bike, but that tire sure looks familiar. Suzuki photo.

However, Dunlop makes a tire called the K180. I run them on my own flat-track bike. (That bike is plated, though it’s not particularly streetable. The tires wear quickly on asphalt, but they work just fine, unlike a true FT tire.) I actually have to get mine overseas; that tire has been unobtainium in the United States for a while. However, they’re still in production, because the Suzuki Van Van wears that same tire from the factory. The rear is a 14-incher, but the front… well, that’s a wide 18-inch tire. The K180 is also made in a 19-inch and 21-inch sizes. I could absolutely see Indian spec’ing this bike with a K180 18-inch rear and 19-inch front wheel and tire. I’ve also heard through the grapevine that the K180s in the 18-inch sizes are slated to be available stateside in the United States once again.

Nick also pointed out some other things. “Look for a sidestand switch, or some other means to keep you from riding away with the kickstand down.” I can't see that stuff, but I can see what looks like a fairly complex setup by the sidestand. Sure seems like it would be a lot of work to figure all that out for one custom bike, eh? Or maybe... maybe they're going to build more than one of these.

See the differences in the swingarm? Indian Scout FTR1200. Indian photo.

Check out the swingarm, too… that looks a touch longer than the FTR’s, and the main tubing is of a larger diameter, as well. Axle plates are also different.

What's under the carbon fiber? Indian Scout FTR1200. Indian photo.

Nick and I both spotted some street equipment. I see a headlight, one mirror (all that’s required in most states to be legal), a license plate bracket and light, and a very stock-looking instrument cluster. Turn signals are said to be integrated. The fuel tank appears to be carbon-fiber, but that’s a cover. My guess is that a production-like steel unit is encased within.

Hey, a speedo! Indian Scout FTR1200. Indian photo.

Let’s also take into some account the strategy here. I was bullish on Victory’s Ignition concept they brought it out at EICMA in 2015, but I did point out that many items did not appear to be production-based. Fairly or unfairly, I soured more and more on that bike until the Octane was finally released. I think there were others who felt that what was debuted as a concept strayed quite a bit farther by the time it was offered for sale. Polaris likely has not forgotten that, and while Indian is a different company from Victory, I’m sure the people there were not unfamiliar with the heat that Vic took on that move.

Additionally, concept bikes have always been a way for OEMs to gauge interest. If people love it, it can be modified for production. Look at the Yamaha MWT-9 concept that has morphed into the production version for a good illustration of this. If the idea flops, of course, it can be scrapped without as large a loss. The closer it is to looking like production probably means… surprise! It is closer.

And lastly, I highly doubt they brought the Wrecking Crew all the way to Milan to hock T-shirts.

What ain’t likely to stay the same if this happens

The battery appears to be tucked way low, back by the rear wheel. This seems like a nightmare for warranty and repair. There’s copious amounts of carbon fiber on this machine; expect to see that turn to plastic to keep costs down. (It’s almost overkill… the headlight surround, the body work, the fork leg guards, the rad shrouds… it’s a lot of carbon!)

Carbon bits
That'll be gone. Just as well anyway, I'm a roughneck. Plastic is better for people like me. Indian Scout FTR1200. Indian photo.

The high-spec pieces will go away. No Öhlins suspension, no RSD wheels, no Brembo brakes, and probably no Lyndall rotors. Turn signals will be dorky stalk units, because the NHTSA doesn’t like to party. There will likely be two mirrors, and a normal fuel tank. Nick said, "I'm sure there's a kickstand kill switch hiding in there. There are no mandated reflectors, the plate hanger definitely isn't legal, and I'm fairly certain the turn signals aren't legal either. I also don't see a horn."

The exhaust is an item I can’t figure out. Running it high is about the only way to keep those mid controls, but there would likely be some more shielding on it.

Indian Scout FTR1200. Indian photo.

Normally I would bet that the S&S fancy exhaust would go away, except that S&S is always on the cutting edge of emissions-compliant exhausts. They dang well could be the supplier or designer for the pipes on the FTR1200. The exhaust is large enough that it could contain catalyzers.

But this is stuff we all change up if we don't like it anyway. The bones of this bike — the gorgeous frame, the big honkin’ Scout motor, the rearsets... that's all solid. If we (the masses) can get our grubby paws on that, we can (for the most part) fix the rest pretty inexpensively in the garage.

What I think

I can’t ride a spec sheet. But man, this looks like the bike a lot of people have been begging for, myself included. I am cautiously recklessly optimistic — I think we may have just seen something indicative of the future.

Make me clear out some room in my garage, Indian.