Conceptually, motorcycles are simple. Two wheels, a motor, a place to sit and something to hold onto. This is their very essence. Naked motorcycles embrace this more strongly than all others. And yet, not all naked bikes are so similar, let alone the same.
That’s because with each iteration these simple principles become complex via interpretation. Engineers, stylists, accountants, and designers must all have their say. More often than not, they create something good -- an amicable intersection of form and function. But every now and then we get something great: A motorcycle you both need and want to hold onto tightly.
At first blush, the revised 2022 Indian FTR R Carbon appears to tick both of those boxes.
With its roots in flat track racing, the styling is an unsullied blend of old-school racer and modern minimalism. There is an exposed tubular-steel trellis frame, a low riding fuel tank, and carbon fibre appears everywhere. It’s a look that is somehow both raw and refined. I’d argue it is one of the best looking motorcycles on the market today.
Swinging a leg over its low (780mm) and bespoke FTR-badged saddle, the R Carbon feels approachable. The reach to the narrow bar forces a comfortable lean and the slightly rearset footpegs sit low enough to not induce cramping. Sure, it's not exactly lightweight at 232 kgs, but even at a stop the FTR feels balanced with most of its heft carried down low.
Instead of the traditional, round analog gauge its aesthetic might imply, there is a richly coloured, 4.3-inch TFT display mounted atop the triple-trees. There are two different displays that can be toggled via the switchgear on my left, and I can also pair both my phone and helmet mounted communications device via Bluetooth. With the proprietary Indian Ride Command app installed, I can see who’s phone call I’m ignoring and cue up music for the ride. Except I’m not exactly sure I can arrange a better soundtrack than what Indian has produced.
Fire up the 1,203 cc liquid-cooled V-Twin and the confident growl from the Akrapovic exhaust is just loud enough to stir loins without waking the neighbours. More than just a noisemaker though, this motor produces 120 horsepower and 87 lb-ft of torque. Those numbers aren’t exactly class leading, but I can assure you that you won’t be left longing for more.
Whether from a standstill or on the move, the FTR accelerates with gusto. The sculpted seat cradles a tucked position and the engine knows no quit. Redline appears at 9,000 r.p.m. but even in first gear, civil disobedience rouses before the rev limiter. Throttle response -- thanks to a recalibrated ECU -- is clean, clear, and communicative. Even in Sport mode (the FTR’s most aggressive tune) modulations feel intuitive although I’d argue Standard mode most closely resembles the precision of a mechanical connection.
The only algorithmic misstep I could suss was when the pistons were pumping at 3,000 rpm. At that engine speed, the ECU feels a bit befuddled by a steady throttle and produces a bit of herk and jerk. For riders accustomed to cruising in 4th while holding steady at 60km/h, this will be off-putting, but a shift into 5th smooths attitudes.
Riding beyond the confines of urban limits, both posted and geographical, the FTR comes into its own. Bombing into a twisty section of empty road, the howl from the intake mounted beneath my chin serves as the devil, egging me to keep the throttle pinned. Grabbing late for the matched set of 4-piston Brembos up front, and dabbing the twin-piston unit out back, the FTR stays relatively flat. I shift my weight to follow inertia, while the (fully adjustable) 43mm Ohlins fork compresses a smidge.
Initial lean in is quick. The matched 17-inch wheels (which are new for this year) certainly help, but the bike still responds best with my arse planted between seat and tank. Mimicking the position familiar to riders of the dirt ovals, except with feet on the pegs and a knee tightly bent, the FTR is responsive. Over on its side, the long-ish wheelbase (1,524 mm) and the fact the bike buries its 12.9-litre fuel tank down beneath the seat keeps the FTR steady and stable throughout. Lean angle maxes out at 43-degrees but my devil shuts up before any hard parts start to drag.
With a quick twist of the throttle exiting the apex, I slide back in the seat and the front end begins to lighten, but it doesn’t loft. Indian has equipped the FTR with a six-axis inertial measurement unit (IMU), so traction control and ABS braking are lean-angle sensitive, but this also means Wheelie Control and Stoppie Control are included as well. Should you be on more convivial terms with your devil, the e-nannies can be defeated. To paraphrase Bukowski, “it’s mad but it’s magic. There’s no lie in its fire”.
When it debuted in 2019, the Indian Motorcycles FTR 1200 came very close to achieving greatness. The bike combined racing pedigree, good looks, top shelf components, and an incredible motor. But it lost marks for the unnecessary complexity the development team baked in. There was a quirky mismatched set of wheels (19-inch front, 18-inch rear). Those hoops were shod with less-than-stellar rubber (Dunlop DT3-R tires) and the throttle map behaved like a light switch. They were elements employed to tie the bike to its flat track roots, but they made for a machine who’s handling was less than precise and who’s fuelling manners made everyday riding a chore.
For 2022, Indian Motorcycles simplified their design. Both wheels and their rubber are street focused. Geometry has been massaged to stress that change and the ECU is now compliant. In making these changes, Indian has delivered a motorcycle that maintains the style and attitude of the original while being a better performer. It’s a bike that feels as good to ride as it does to gawk at. The 2022 Indian FTR R Carbon is a bike you both want and need to hold onto tightly.
The vehicle was provided to the writer by the automaker. Content and vehicle evaluations were not subject to approval.