Indian is Back in SA

Ok to be fair, they never really left, but… as we told you a few issues back, the brand has been taken over by Bidvest, one of the giants in the South African motorcycle market. Bidvest? Yes that lot who are listed on the stock exchange and all sorts. They import stuff like musical instruments, boats, outboard motors, generators, motorcycles. Yup! Yamaha and Kymco, in addition to a massive variety of accessories for all the toys. Indian Motorcycles now joins their arsenal.

They introduced us to the range just the other day. Indian Motorcycle headquarters is based at the World Of Yamaha premises just off the M1 freeway Sandton side. Go and have a look, this is a veritable playground, bikes, boats, musical instruments and… Indian Motorcycles and jackets, boots, pants helmets, it’s brilliant. Oh yes, they have a coffee station with the friendliest brewers on the planet and grab a toasty while you’re there… It’s great! Indian Motorcycle also has a branch in the Lynwood Yamaha premises in PTA and plans are afoot for expansion into other major centers in the next few months.

The launch:

We all gathered one bright Highveld morning and were greeted by a gleaming fleet of interesting looking cruisers and tourers. Hold on… there was a flat tracker in there too! We’ll need to tell you about that one! Anyway, off we went for a really lekker ride. From Sandton, on to the freeway and out towards Fochville along that lekker road to Parys. All the while we stopped and ate and chopped and changed bikes… and it was a fantastic! As you can imagine, chopping and changing between all of the models meant a relatively short ride on each machine but it was enough to give us a good idea of what the bikes are like.

A day of great bikes, reasonably good company and some very cool biking routes.

From Parys, the guys let us to the very salubrious Duck point which is situated on the Vaal River somewhere in millionaires row. Chaps and chapettes, If you want to visit a lekker spot and spoil your nearest and dearest, go and pay Duck Point a visit. Great rooms, amazing food, (No seriously), swimming pools and beautiful riverfront views. South Africa really boasts some properly lekker spots!

What was really cool was that we actually got to enjoy the venue. The launch team took us for a cruise along the river for sundowners where they showcased their products in the form of massive pontoons with outboard motors bigger than, well an Indian motorcycle. The evening was spent rocking away to the sounds of the very talented Nick Rush and his friend Paton where they showcased even more musical products that sound almost as good as the bikes. It was awesome! After a tasty breakfast it was time to head for home, once again sampling all the different bikes on the return route. From Vereeniging, Meyerton, past St John Bosco college, around to the gridlocked Golden Highway and back to reality. A cool ride and a great route even for just a day in the saddle. Not too many potholes, great scenery… just “lekker, lekker!”

The bikes:

You’ll need to bear with us because there are lots of different models and lots of different features on each bike. And to be fair, we only spent a short time on each model so we can give you our impressions with more in depth features on each bike in future issues.

Day 2:

While the rest of the guests opted to enjoy a second cruise across the Vaal River, some of us opted to grab the bikes for some early pics and a flip to the fuel stop to assist with filling them up for the run home. There is simply nothing better than a crisp early morning ride when the roads are quiet and the looks of astonishment and all of the questions from the patrons and attendants at the fuel stop were very rewarding. The biggest challenge for us was trying to work out how to open the fuel cap on the… Challenger, but Google is your friend and despite the fact that the bike still had a range of 260KM’s we got her filled up too.

My first ride for the day was the Indian Scout:

This is an iconic bike in the Indian motorcycle lineup. It’s the most cost effective of the pack and you get exactly what it says on the box. A no-nonsense fun to ride, comfortable, quality ride. Classic wind in your hair, or lack thereof take off and go. Chatting to Don from The Bike Show, who had one of these as a long termer, his words were “You cannot be unhappy on a Scout.” And he is quite correct. It’s an honest bike, fun to ride, lots of torque, nimble, a really well balanced package. Despite the fat, 130-section front tyre, the steering remains light and precise, the ride quality consistent and smooth. It has a great motor and refined power delivery, and the chassis offers nice feel.

The twin pot single disc front brake is basic but braking power is more than adequate for this type of bike. Handling is surprisingly good. The low center of gravity makes you want to bury the Scout into every corner you approach, but then you’re reminded it’s actually a cruiser. The only niggle we have and it’s a small one. The stylists have mounted a small decorative plate into the leather seat and after a while you can feel it on the small of your back. We hope to borrow this one again soon.

The Indian Chief Vintage:

“Hollee cow this thing is… BIG!! And Shiny”. The full-skirt front fender that hails back to the early 1900s and the war bonnet ornament that joins a chrome valence adds some bling right up front. Chrome wire wheels mount the tyres with the whitewalls out for some of that original-gangster panache. And that it is. All chrome, leather, tassels, engine and big, typical American muscle. The kind of bike that guys like Elvis and James Dean would have ridden and to be frank, we fully expected not to really enjoy it. Just pushing it around in the parking lot at Duck Point for pics it felt… well large and a tad unwieldy.

But climb aboard, open the throttle and you soon start to understand it all. Real American muscle… king of cool! The sheer size and rolling mass of the thing makes it big, bold, plush and luxurious. It was actually quite an eye opener to ride. This part of the route back to GP was so lekker, that windy road from Henley on Klip, through Daleside to the South. 1800 cc’s of thrust, a sonorous roar and absolute comfort. Ok I am waxing lyrical here, but that’s exactly what this bike is about. And I have to give a nod to the suspension setup, potholes and irregularities are quite simply a nothing on this one.

Old-school touring goodies come stock to include a large windscreen and voluminous saddlebags. Don’t tell any of my mates, it’s great fun to ride. Seriously, it’s a well put together, proper posers machine.

The best for last?…

Urban Streetfighter FTR Carbon:

I spoke briefly about the FTR carbon at the start of this feature and to be fair, that bike was in such high demand that I eventually had to beat the other guys off with a crash helmet to ride it on the very last leg back to the Indian Motorcycle HQ. In fact at the swap, our pack leaders gave us the go ahead to open wide and send it all the way back. But that was not to be. GP traffic had other ideas. We did pick up a little dice with a rider on an adv bike as we entered the double decker freeway and the FTR really was in its element. Light smooth, nimble… we need to get this bike on to some real twistys soon. This is the one bike that is polar opposite to all of the others at the launch. There is nothing nostalgic or old school about it.

No! Hold that thought. This brand is all about Nostalgia!

The original Indian Motorcycle “Wrecking Crew” became icons of American flat track racing with championship wins in 1951, ‘52 and ‘53. Back in 2018, Indian wasn’t shy about the FTR’s inspiration: “I couldn’t be more proud to turn the FTR750 into a flat tracker for the street and help launch Indian into a new era.” Yup, this brand has roots that stretch back through the ages, but this one is a study in modern technology, flat track design and sophistication. This rarity is only 1 of 400 built and it really is quite something to behold.

The 17-inch wheels are shod in Metzeler Sportec M9 RR tyres. The Pro Taper bars give a sporty feel without sacrificing comfort. A 4.3 inch TFT touchscreen interfaces with your smartphone. The FTR is fitted with fully adjustable Ohlins suspension. 320mm discs are gripped by radially mounted Brembo calipers.

And all of this aside, it really is one of those bikes that you actually just need look at and study for a few minutes to take it all in. A magnificent beasty from every single angle. Rock up anywhere and we guarantee that you’ll be the center of attention. Turn the key on and you’re greeted with the original FTR1200 logo, plus a nag screen. The screen is small, sharp, and a quick approval touch gets you to the lightly customizable dash. Starting the FTR is push button, rather than holding the start button until the liquid-cooled DOHC V-twin fires up. The sound from the Akrapovič mufflers is husky and properly sets the tone for the ride. The FTR R Carbon’s motor has three different power deliveries, Sport, Standard, and Rain. Sadly, the sport setting was wasted in this manic traffic.

It’s not too racy to ride. You are not hunched over with all of your weight on your wrists, it’s actually quite comfortable. The 1200cc engine is more than peppy enough to make you grin like a lunatic as that Akrapovic pipe serenades you along. With 120 horses and 87 ft/lbs. of torque on tap, the FTR motor is neither a slouch nor a rocket ship. It really is my kind of bike. It’s a short-shift motor, and you learn to use the torque to your advantage while you keep things smooth. And most of all… it’s just so much fun. We need to grab it for a longer ride, but we’re pretty sure that this one will be snapped up quite quickly.

In Final:

Guys I’ll say this… If you are keen on some American muscle, cruisers, Baggers, heritage bikes or classic retro machines, you need to swing a leg over Indian Motorcycles range of machines. Gone are the days of clunky, shaky old school roughness. These bikes are all well engineered and put together and most importantly, Indian Motorcycle has moved with the times with a range of thoroughly modern bikes that are mighty impressive. The attention to detail on each bike is really impressive. The components used are top drawer and we cannot fault the build quality, paintwork fit or finish.

But that’s what you’d expect from any bike of this ilk. The biggest consideration is important things like parts, service and backup. Bidvest is a giant with loads of experience in all things motorcycle, so I reckon that you can rest assured that they will have this all covered. Go and have a look. Try and get your butt into a saddle. I am pretty sure, that like us, you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

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