Flat track motorcycles are really, really cool. They look stripped back, mean and purposeful. They also sound furious and don't weigh much which means they are seriously fast. Unfortunately, they also don't have essential things like front brakes, headlights, turn signals, brake lights, starters or emissions controls so riding one on the street is kind of not an option.
Thankfully, the two foremost purveyors of racing flat track bikes in America -- Harley-Davidson and Indian understand the appeal of these unique race-inspired motorcycles, so Harley introduced the XR1200 Sportster which kind of aped the look of their legendary XR750 racer. Now, 10 years later, with Indian back in the flat track game, they did the same thing with the FTR1200 concept, which we're stoked to say is going to go into production.
The FTR1200 concept was built in-house by Indian and features the 1,133-cubic-centimeter v-twin engine from Indian's production Scout. This makes it around 400 cc bigger than the race bike, and it has a wider angle to its cylinders at 60 degrees compared to the 750's 53-degree v. The concept bike weighs in at just 427 pounds, which isn't exactly a featherweight, but over 100 lbs lighter than the production Scout.
Indian has been playing things pretty close to its chest where the production version of the FTR1200 is concerned, but we can feel pretty confident that it will lack the concept's carbon fiber bodywork, Roland Sands Design wheels and S&S pipes. The worry with this concept going into production is that Indian will turn it into a boring basic Scout. There is a precedent for this, with former Polaris-owned sister brand Victory and its Octane Ignition concept.
The light at the end of the tunnel is that earlier this year Indian hired Ola Stenegard, aka the man behind BMW's achingly gorgeous and much-loved R nineT, to be its head of product. If Ola is given sufficient creative freedom to dictate what the FTR1200 would look and feel like in production form, then we should all be very excited.
The American motorcycle industry (and by that we mean Harley-Davidson and Indian) are in some real trouble right now, with their primary demographics aging out of riding and new, younger riders are not only slightly less abundant but also with less purchasing power and a desire for something more than big, chromed dad-mobiles. If Indian is able to knock it out of the park with this new flat-track inspired Scout, maybe Harley will give something similar a go and then we'll all have plenty to smile about.
Correction 6/19/18 8:05 A.M.: A previous version of this story said that the FTR1200 concept was built by Roland Sands when it was, in fact, built in-house at Indian. The story has been changed to reflect this.