indian ftr

Indian FTR R Carbon – First Ride Review

Swapping the dirt track boots for more civilized footwear, the 2022 Indian FTR grows up… Just a little bit.

Indian Motorcycle’s FTR has grown up. No longer the long-haired hell raiser it was back in 2019 with its 19-inch front and 18-inch rear wheels wrapped in Dunlop DT-3 dirt track-style rubber, the FTR has a new, more civilized demeanor.

Now a fully-fledged member of the naked bike establishment, the FTR (no longer named the FTR 1200) comes complete with the class’s ubiquitous 17-inch wheels wrapped in sporty Metzeler Sportec M9 RR rubber. New fuel injection mapping has cleaned up the jerky throttle response that plagued the first generation FTR1200. And the R Carbon member of the family gets a pair of shiny new gold fork legs from Sweden to show off its new level of worldly sophistication.

But as they say, a leopard can’t change its spots.

When you strip away the façade, the FTR is still an American brat with a middle finger squarely up at the Europeans and Japanese who dominate the big-bore naked bike category. It’s a four-strong in a line-up that consists of the $12,999 base model, $14,999 FTR S, the $16,999 FTR R Carbon and the $11,499 FTR Rally that still uses the 19-inch/18-inch wheel combination. The FTR is the only true American performance naked bike if you’re looking for an alternative to the norm. And being the posh bastards we are at SportBikes Inc Magazine, we decided to go straight to the top and review the King Daddy FTR R Carbon. Only the finest here at SBI…

indian ftr

So what do you get for the $17K? Well, for one thing, you get lots of carbon fiber. Carbon tank shrouds, front and rear guards, headlight nacelle abounds. The woven black exclusiveness matches beautifully with the fully adjustable gold 43 mm Ohlins fork and shock that pivots directly off the swingarm with no linkage. The fitment of the Ohlins makes for a far more tolerable ride than on the Sachs units on Gen 1 FTR, with better damping control, less shock transmitted to the rider over bumps and better overall braking and acceleration performance.

The brakes remain unchanged in the Brembo four-piston monoblocs. And the Akrapovic exhaust is now a blacked-out unit on the R Carbon.

indian ftr

There are little cosmetic improvements everywhere. Like the now silver seat unit that accentuates the ribbed design aesthetic. The premium seat cover with lovely red stitching and the sharper angle of the tail light all giving the FTR R Carbon a very premium feel.

indian ftr

And you get cruise control as standard on the R Carbon. Halle-fucking-lujah!

Indian’s Ride Command electronic control center is also unchanged in the 4.3-inch touchscreen TFT dash that allows you to change riding modes and switch traction control on and off. Although hooligans out there will lament the fact ABS can no longer be switched off. So backing the bad boy in under brakes is sadly a thing of the past. Sometimes, growing up hurts.

Ride Command gives you three modes with which to play in Sport, Standard and Rain. And after the first hour on board in Sport, I dropped a level to Standard and kept it there. Sport is, well, sporty, to say the least. The throttle response is ultra-direct. Which is great fun if you’re getting after it on a track or in the twisties. But it’s a bit too much everywhere else.

There’s a claimed 120 hp on tap with the FTR R Carbon, and it’s a rowdy party between your legs. The FTR has performance to burn. You don’t need 160 hp to have a good time, especially when you look this good. This is a motor that likes to lug. Keep the revs in the medium range of about 5-7000 rpm and you’ll have a happy Indian below you. Revving the FTR out isn’t the name of the game as the vibes coming from the motor into the frame will kill your vibe. So it’s best to take everything with a bit more a relaxed frame of mind.

But the elephant in the room is the question of the wheels. Do they make the difference? Absolutely they do. The 17-inch wheels and sticky-as-honey Metzeler RR rubber turns the FTR from a wayward headbanger into a dance partner you’re happy to tangle with. Everything is improved. Braking stability, initial cornering performance and feel, and exit acceleration thanks to a tire that wants to bite and grip. Not just spin for show.

You can now hustle the Indian FTR with the kind of speed reserved for Europe’s finest. And the individuality born into an FTR R Carbon especially will ensure no one will ever mistake you for being on any other machine on the road.

The Indian FTR is now a functioning member of the naked bike society. Although it’s lost a touch of its charm with its new 17-inch shoes, it’s gained so much more in the process.

indian ftr
Images: Jordan Pay

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