The 2022 Indian FTR S Is a Refined Hooligan in a Sharp Suit
Not everyone is cut out for flat-track racing, though you can learn the skills. But at least a few motorcycles have tried capturing the racing spirit in street-legal—and street-fun—form. And with Indian’s extensive dirt-track racing history, perhaps it’s no surprise that the rowdy FTR 1200 has proven popular. With its latest updates, though, the FTR has dropped some of its flat-track gear for some fresh street duds. However, while the 2022 Indian FTR S shows its finishing school lessons well, after riding it for some time, I can confirm that its delightful hooligan heart still beats strong.
2022 Indian FTR S: the ‘Flat Track Racer’ gets some on-road refinements
|Spec||2022 Indian FTR S|
|Engine||1203cc liquid-cooled V-twin|
|Transmission||Six-speed manual with slipper-assist clutch|
|Front suspension and travel||ZF Sachs fully-adjustable inverted cartridge fork; 4.72”|
|Rear suspension and travel||ZF Sachs fully-adjustable piggyback IFP; 4.72”|
|Curb weight||514 lbs|
On a surface level, the 2022 Indian FTR models—in order of cost, base, Rally, S, and R Carbon—closely resemble the outgoing versions. In the FTR Rally’s case, the 2022 model is virtually identical externally to the 2021 model. However, Indian has made several notable changes to the entire FTR lineup.
Firstly, the 2022 Indian FTR has different suspension geometry than the 2021 bike as well as less suspension travel. Plus, apart from the Rally, all 2022 FTRs ride on 17” wheels, rather than a 19” front and 18” rear wheel. Also, those new wheels have new Metzeler Sportec street tires, not “chunky dirt-track-inspired Dunlop DT3-R rubber,” Cycle World notes. But these changes mean the bike has a lower seat and can accommodate a wider range of tires. And, like the shorter handlebars, they have handling benefits, which we’ll get to shortly.
While the 2022 Indian FTR has the same V-twin and transmission, its engine has a few upgrades. Like some of Indian’s cruisers, the 2022 FTR has rear-cylinder deactivation to cut down on heat. It also has new engine mapping and throttle programming. However, the 2022 bike loses the switchable ABS, though the Brembo brakes remain.
Stepping up to the 2022 FTR S or R Carbon bumps up the tech offerings
Speaking of ABS, the Indian FTR gets a tech upgrade for 2022. Or at least, the 2022 Indian FTR S and R Carbon do.
The higher trims swap the standard analog gauge for a 4.3” TFT touchscreen display with Bluetooth, Indian Ride Command connectivity, and a USB charging port. Plus, while all 2022 FTRs have ABS and cruise control, the S and R Carbon have lean-sensitive ABS, traction control, stability control, and wheelie control. Also, both trims get Akrapovic exhausts and three riding modes—Rain, Standard, and Sport. However, the R Carbon swaps the Sachs suspension for upgraded Ohlins units and gets several carbon-fiber components as well as a different seat.
Eagle-eyed readers might note that the 2022 Indian FTR S press bike shown in the photos doesn’t have Sachs suspension. That’s because it’s accessorized to roughly the same spec as the R Carbon. So, while it lacks the carbon-fiber tank (airbox) panels, carbon-fiber headlight nacelle, red frame, and R Carbon seat, it has Ohlins suspension.
From a cost perspective, it’s a better deal to get an actual R Carbon than to equip an S to the same level. But purely from an equipment and dynamics perspective, think of this as representing the 2022 Indian FTR at its best. And that best is awfully fun.
The 2022 Indian FTR S isn’t the bike it used to be—and that’s a good thing
The original 2019 Indian FTR 1200 was a direct descendant of the FTR750 flat-track racer, with all the pluses and minuses that entailed. Its knobby tires evoked dirt tracks, but were better on paved roads than in the dirt, RevZilla reports. However, they also weren’t as grippy as genuine street tires, The Drive says. Though, if you liked slides and burnouts, that wasn’t a bad thing, Cycle World notes. But no one appreciated the cold-starting issues and excessive heat.
With these 2022-model-year updates, though, Indian has moved the FTR, S and all, away from the flat-tracker image. It’s now more of a true naked standard bike, or perhaps “a naked sport standard,” as RevZilla calls it. After riding the accessorized 2022 FTR S for about two weeks, though, I don’t think that’s quite the right appellation. It’s not just a naked bike: it’s the closest thing to an American streetfighter.
And while the updates may have refined the FTR’s character, I can wholeheartedly say that at its core, it’s still a rambunctious ride.
Call it Ken Masters, because the 2022 Indian FTR S is an all-American streetfighter
If I could boil the 2022 Indian FTR S to one word, it would be ‘fun,’ in all capital letters. It isn’t sportbike-based like, say, the Suzuki GSX-S1000. However, that in no way hinders the riding experience, especially when the road starts twisting. And it’s here where the handling benefits I mentioned earlier come into play.
Tweaking the suspension and shrinking the wheels doesn’t just lower the seat, RevZilla explains. It also means the 2022 Indian FTR S transitions between and turns into corners more easily. The narrower handlebars help with that, too, The Drive adds. And the new tires grip the road better, adding stability and a sense of security, Cycle World says.
As I haven’t ridden the previous-gen Indian FTR 1200, I can’t confirm how much better or worse the 2022 FR S is. But I can say that this 514-lb motorcycle feels almost like a big bicycle when the corners come—and I mean that as a compliment.
With the FTR S’s upright, neutral riding position and communicative steering, initiating a turn is as easy as shifting your weight on the pegs and countersteering. And because the steering and suspension are so good, you can dial in exactly how much countersteering you need to do. This bike isn’t a tiny scalpel like a sportbike, but it’s no less accurate or stable on curving roads. It’s just that its dimensions dictate a more ‘flowing’ style of riding; think a swooping sword rather than a snipping scalpel. The only downside? My press bike didn’t have the accessory tank pads.
As my press bike didn’t have the standard Sachs suspension, I can’t speak to its efficacy. But the Ohlins suspension’s adjustability means you can set the FTR S exactly to your specs. And while the ride is on the firmer side, it’s still well-damped enough to make going over railroad crossings a dawdle.
The 2022 Indian FTR S is a wild ride that can control itself on the commute
A streetfighter’s powertrain needs to match its handling. And the V-twin in the 2022 Indian FTR S is certainly up to the task.
Even in the gentle Rain Mode, the engine responds instantly to the throttle. Going to Standard and Sport Modes further sharpens the throttle response, traction control, and engine mapping. Standard is great for all-purpose riding, while Sport Mode is the ‘fun wild child’ setting. It might be too aggressive for some, Cycle World muses, but it’s in this mode that the FTR S truly comes alive.
The V-twin engine likes to rev, but makes plenty of low-end torque. It’s entirely possible to find yourself going 10 mph faster than you thought you were going. And even if you accidentally lug it in 4th gear, it pulls strongly and quickly to redline. Doing so also lets the Akrapovic exhaust rip from a liquid burble to a growling roar. Also, the riding modes are linked to the exhaust. So, in Sport Mode, not only is the sound richer but closing the throttle elicits pops and crackles. And while there is some heat throw, it only becomes annoying if you sit with the engine running in direct sunlight for several minutes.
This engine is linked to a forgiving clutch with a well-communicated bite point and light pull effort. And the shifter balances mechanically satisfying weight and slickness well. RevZilla says the Brembo brakes could use more initial bite, but that could take away from their commuter-friendly nature. However, they’re definitely strong—the adjustable brake lever only needs two fingers—and easy to modulate.
Speaking of commuting, the 2022 Indian FTR S is up for it. The bike’s ergonomics “have a bit of black magic,” RevZilla says, and the optional vinyl tracker seat is comfier and more supportive than it looks. And it’s easy to shift your feet as the road conditions demand. Hence the carbon-fiber pad on the exhaust for when the balls of your feet are on the pegs. Plus, the TFT display is easy to navigate and responds easily to gloved input. And the cruise control is operated by one, easy-to-use switch.
The streetfighter dedication has some weaknesses, though
Although the 2022 Indian FTR S is an excellent machine for delivering smiles, its dynamics and design have several drawbacks.
Firstly, what you might think is the fuel tank is actually the airbox. The fuel tank stretches from underneath the seat and up towards the airbox. While this position and design are great for handling, it also makes filling up more time-consuming. That long neck means you have to wait longer at the pump for the gas to settle. And it also means the FTR S has no onboard storage at all.
Secondly, if you plan on riding on the highway, limit yourself to short blasts. That’s not because the 2022 Indian FTR S is inherently uncomfortable at freeway speeds. Although the accessory windscreen is rather small, the riding position braces you surprisingly well against the wind. No, it’s because even in mixed riding, you’ll struggle to get 100 miles out of the FTR’s tank. I couldn’t even get 100 miles, and The Drive and RevZilla struggled to. Plus, while the vinyl seat is fine around town, I started getting some tingly numbness after about two hours.
To be fair, Indian seems to know exactly what kind of bike the 2022 FTR is. That’s why, although it has Indian Ride Command compatibility, it doesn’t offer a navigation upgrade. That would be a problem on a cruiser or a touring bike, but a streetfighter is supposed to be a stripped-down performance machine. However, for whatever reason, Ride Command doesn’t let you program a route within the app. While you can browse maps in the app, route planning has to be done on your computer.
It’s “a genuinely fun” sport standard, Cycle World says, but should you buy one?
With its $15K starting price, the 2022 Indian FTR S costs the same as the new 2021 Harley-Davidson Sportster S. Both bikes make roughly the same amount of horsepower, but the Sportster S is slightly lighter and torquier. However, while the FTR S has a higher seat, it also has significantly more suspension travel. And while the Harley has more riding modes, it doesn’t have stability control.
But then, the 2022 Indian FTR isn’t a cruiser like the Sportster S or its fellow Indian, the Chief. It’s arguably more like the Zero SR/F or LiveWire One, though it’s not electric. And while it’s not as fast as, say, the Ducati Streetfighter, it’s significantly cheaper and more approachable. Think of it as a larger-capacity Ducati Monster, RevZilla muses, albeit with more standard features.
That being said, is it worth considering? If you’re looking for a typical cruiser, this isn’t it. It’s also not a straight-up sportbike. But the 2022 Indian FTR S is a legitimately fun sporty naked standard. The old hooligan has cleaned up its act a bit, but it still knows how to have a rowdy good time.
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