The editorial team at India’s popular motorcycle magazine XBHP doesn’t shy away from a challenge when they’re asked to put a bike through its paces, no matter how testing the conditions.
After so many plans were disrupted by two years of Covid, the guys at XBHP got back into the groove with a long journey through the high mountain region of Ladakh in the Himalayas of northern India.
The average altitude in Ladakh is over 3,000 meters and to reach the remote valleys of Zanskar in the south, and Nubra in the north, you have to ride along one of the world’s highest passable roads and tracks through the Kardung Pass at 5,359 meters.
In the face of such extreme and highly unusual conditions – the stuff of dreams for every adventurous globetrotter – XBHP’s editorial team decided to go with the FTR Rally. Here they tell us the tale...
“We’d ridden the Indian FTR a lot and we know how well it performs. But Ladakh is a region that can bring even the best of machines to its knees. Whatever bike you pick, Ladakh is a real gamble. But after nearly 2,600 km of riding it through every kind of weather condition you can imagine, we can confidently report that the FTR wasn’t a gamble – far from it!
The FTR has everything you could ever want when it comes to highway riding: lots of power, great stability, appealing and comfortable ergonomics, and most importantly, cruise control! No matter how much you love riding a motorbike, highways can be exhausting. The FTR’s cruise control is perfectly tailored and very easy to use.
The engine is nice and placid, with minimal vibrations and a soft rumble from the exhaust that not only keeps you alert, but also gives a good indication of the power you have control of in your right hand.
On winding roads the FTR's suspension stays nicely supple, but it’s on the corners that it really comes into its own and allows you to let rip. Road handling feels very good and the brakes are simply excellent to contend with all eventualities. We've never been short on praise for the way the geometry and design of the chassis come together on this bike to make it one of the best handling models on the market.
After the smooth tarmac, what we were about to encounter was perhaps one of the hardest tests ever, both for man and machine. As we got closer to Ladakh, there were no roads for stretches of several kilometers. All there was, was a treacherous track of dust and gravel, scattered with lots of water crossings. Even the best of these roads was narrow and very winding, lined with rocky hillsides on one side and canyons on the other.
The Indian FTR isn’t a full -fledged adventure bike, but once again, it surprised us. It did very well on those precarious roads and tracks, with the option of deactivating the ABS when conditions permitted so you could just go hell for leather!
The power of the engine is colossal and once you get the hang of staying out of skids, riding becomes a real pleasure and is manageable whatever driving mode you’ve chosen, Rain or Standard. Imagine what the Sport mode could do! Rest assured, that can also be deactivated – and that's when the Indian FTR really comes into its own, freed from its electronic shackles.
Overall, the Indian FTR is a capable bike. But the more time we spend with it and the further we push it, our love for it just grows stronger and stronger. It's not an all-around machine, but in the right hands the FTR Rally comes out a winner in almost every domain.”
XBHP Editorial Team – India