Grant Bester, the Vice President for Europe, Middle East and Africa, focussed really on Indian Motorcycles.
How long have you been working for Indian?
About five years now, I really started at the beginning when we acquired Indian and relaunched, so kind of been there for the whole ride, which has been great.
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Q: The new FTR is orientated towards the European market slightly more so than other Indian’s other products. How do you think it’s going to go down?
Well, I would be very disappointed if it didn’t go down well. I think we’ve been thinking about a bike that really handles the European roads really well: the torque, the lean angle, the performance. This has been a real collaborative project between the International team and the US team.
The guys have spent a lot of time riding the competitive bikes, riding the roads, different conditions and everybody said ‘Hey, you know what? We’ve got some great heritage on the track, we built an epic FTR750, maybe we could do this in the streets’. So that was the idea.
Q: Do you know way they chose the 1200 engine over the 750? Just out of interest.
Well, I think we’re comfortable in that space, I think the characteristics of the bike you really wanted something that would have typical behaviour with a typical horsepower and may be would give you a little bit of room to move in the future. So, I think creating an epic halo product and then kind of going in other places, which is something we might do, would be easier than using something which is far away from what we usually do and then trying to pull it off.
Q: Potentially a 750 to come in the future?
Q: Have you had chance to ride the new FTR?
Quite a number of times; I spent a number of hours with the different cycles when we had the base model we were putting together right up until a few weeks prior to launch and I had some serious miles in the US and I rode the bike against all competitive bikes, key competitive bikes and it’s always a good sign on bike speed when you go I want to have the last five minutes. I really enjoyed it, it was fantastic.
Q: Just out of interest, what were the bikes you pitted it against?
So, first of all, it’s important to say I don’t think we see this bike in a category with a bunch of other bikes. We rode the Monster and the Monster R, R90, R90 Scrambler, the base we had the Ducati Scramblers, we had a broad array of different motorcycles.
I think it’s a great platform this, and obviously we’re thinking about what we could do with this bike. It’s always important to really experience the high end, very powerful, very sporty naked right down to scrambler and see what the performance was like, what the ride was like. So, we do a lot of benchmarking.
Q: You mention you’ve been involved right through the process. How has the 1200 changed from its initial form through to what it is today?
I think we thought that we could really take what we had with the FTR right in the beginning and adapt that and then this bike is very, very different to what we originally did with the FTR.
In terms of output, in terms of components, so it’s a little bit of a disease, I guess, when we sit back and say ‘if we do this, we go and do this properly’ and that’s what we did. I think we’ve got a great platform here, very versatile; you can do a lot with it. But I think we did it right.
Q: For people that might not know, what’s some of the differences between this FTR and this other prototype, the major changes you’ve made to make this?
The travel on this bike is a little bit different. I think the first thing, the most important thing, just to go back to the beginning was: if we were going to do the project, we always wanted to be as close as possible to the race bike; the feel.
A lot of it was refinement; we wanted to make sure that it had the luxuries that are expected by the more performance focused European customer. And I don’t mean that in a bad way, it’s just we have different expectations here (in Europe) in terms of the roads, the rides, the components. So I think refinements, there was a lot of work done on refinements and then also the bikes versatility.
If you look at where the tanks sits, under the back seat, great balance. So when you look at what you can do with the tank, in terms of styling, and how you can style a bike, I think there’s more to come there.
Q: A more flat track focused version maybe?
Well, I think we have some more news in the next number of weeks, it could be another chapter to the book.
Q: You’ve ridden in America but have you ridden in Europe?
Briefly, a masked version of the bike and again, it was interesting. Extreme hot weather conditions, cool wet weather conditions. I think the thing I like is you’ve got rider modes on the bike now which I think is great. I ride a number of different brands and I have for a long time. The power piece is great, performance is great, we’ve done some cool things with the tyres, they handle fantastically on European roads, the project with Dunlop directly, so really done for us. Again, we didn’t cut corners.