Subscriber Exclusive: MSL sits down with Ben Lindaman, the International Motorcycle Product Director, and lead of the FPR1200 programme.
I started with, at the time, Victory Motorcycles and then I’ve been working with Indian for 15 years now and really since the first day I started, this is the bike that wanted to make and now we’re finally getting to do it.
Q: So how long has the FPR1200 been in the works?
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We started about two and half years ago, on this project itself, on the 1200 but we started talking about this probably about four years ago when we started development of the race bike. So we wanted to develop the race bike, we wanted to go out and win and we wanted to leverage that then to get outside of our core cruiser/touring market with a bike like this.
Q: Is this the future for Indian? Is this going to be a big part of Indian’s future output?
Yeah, sure, when we look forward at our product plans, this is a huge piece of where we want to invest and where we want to grow and the biggest strategic objectives for us is international growth and of course, right now, cruiser/touring is primarily a US dominated market. So we’re interested in growing around the world and this is our first product that does that.
Q: And is there more to come in this line? Maybe different classes?
Yeah, sure, we’re going to continue to expand. I can’t tell you anything about anything but this is the beginning and they’ll be some really cool stuff coming.
Q: What’s behind the decision to go for the 1200 as opposed to sticking with the 750 unit?
So, the 750 motor we built was a purpose built race engine and as such, doesn’t go through any validation, doesn’t go through any durability testing, simple things: it doesn’t have a starter and it was built to be as light as possible. So all those things, really that engine is a long way from being a production engine. So we would been substantially starting from scratch with whatever we want to do and we’re a premium brand and we wanted to come out with a very premium product offering and that’s why we used the 1200.
Q: Was the 1200 an existing unit you had?
No, if you look from the engine from architecture standpoint, 60 degree V and liquid cooled, it shares similarities with the Scout but there’s hardly a single part number the same between them, so it’s a new engine.
Q: Have you had chance to spend much time on one of these?
I have, a lot of time. I’ve been lucky, I got to spend time on these when we become engineering mule bikes, and we built the first one, we had the execs come ride them and the feedback was they were excited and how fast can you do it.
So every step of the way we have our development bikes, our validation bikes and so I’ve got to ride it all the way along. I have to say that the bike is just an amazing bike. What I like about it is that guys who don’t have a lot of experience can get on the bike and have fun but if you’re a race rider, you can still push this thing and have a blast.
The main differences? There’s more differences than there are similarities but what we tried to do was use some of the core things from the race bike to inspire this bike, so just a couple off the end on the race bike. We did a lot of work to get the airbox volume right on top of the dual throttle bodies because that’s where it works the best.
So on this bike, the airbox basically takes up most of the front area and it gets all the volume right there, which means we had to move the fuel tank down underneath the seat; so it centralises the weight and lowers the mass and really adds to the agility of the bike. So it’s things like that we tried to leverage from what we learned on racing to bring to this bike but substantially this is completely new, a whole, from scratch, designed bike.
Q: Aside from the 750 engine, what are the main differences between this and the FTR flat tracker/racer?
We also did some other things like on the swingarm, there’s different ways we could have done the swing arm but we wanted to use an architecture that looked like the race bike, so that’s why we ended up with the mono shock right-hand mounted.
Q: Obviously you are involved in development, what specifically have you been involved in over the last two and half, three years?
So with this, this started when we had discussions round the race bike and how we would go to a street bike from that. So we had the idea and then it would’ve been about early 2016, we had a summit and I worked with engineering, marketing, industrial design team where we got all of our ideas out and really started to bring all that together to what exactly is this thing going to be.
We started putting preliminary plans on all the specs, we started buying some benchmark vehicles so we could bear, then ultimately figuring out how much it’s going to cost, leading the presentations or the meetings for executive approval. Really so from day one to all the way to today we’re launching. Every step of the way, I’ve been involved.
Q: Just as a matter of interest, you mentioned benchmark vehicles, what were they?
We took a wide variety, because our main purpose of the bench marking was we wanted to make sure we are creating something unique to Indian. We didn’t have any one bike that we were saying “ok, we want it to be like that”.
We had a stable of bikes and we were saying “ok here’s how this one performs, here’s how this performs and how do we sit in that competitive set with something unique”. And for us we always wanted it that flat track feel and the number one thing is agility and feeling light and nimble and then balancing that out with being comfortable for a longer ride, so really we had the benchmark bikes to make sure we were creating something unique in the market. We had all kinds of competitive bikes.
Q: Is it comfortable for longer rides?
The longest ride I’ve done was for about 10 hours. It’s really comfortable for two hours and then you want to take a break. I really do appreciate, I don’t know if you’ve had a chance to sit on it, but the ergonomics put you in a position that’s very neutral, very comfortable and I also think it’s unique. If you go compare to the other bikes, it feels different; you’re up a little higher. It is unique and if you get a chance to compare, you’ll see.
Q: Favourite bit about the bike? A difficult question for a man who’s been involved from the ground up!
Favourite thing about the bike? A couple of things I like: the ergo’s I really like; so the ergo’s to me are almost perfect. The engine; so the V-Twin engine has great character, you got a really flat torque curve, so your power is very linear and very good. Also, I’ve talked a little about it already but the cornering and the handling, it just gives it confidence. Even if you’re just out riding, leisurely ride or you’re really going to push it, you feel comfortable and in control, it gives you a lot of confidence.
Q: Obviously it’s quite as capable as a 750 on a flat track but is it pretty decent on the dirt?
You know, I’ve never ridden it on a flat track, I have taken it on gravel/dirt roads and it does a great job but I’ve never ridden it on tracks.