Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Why Anyone Waiting For A Factory Street Tracker Should Stop Waiting...

Someone left a comment on the post below - about the Indian FTR750, that echoes a thousand comments being made around the world, the gist is: If they made a street tracker version it would be great/I'd buy one/I'd give my left ball for it, etc.

Well, sorry to rain on your parade, but Indian never will, and no other OEM will either. A GNC Twin race bike is so goshdarn handsome and lean with an incomparable stance, because it does not look like a conventional showroom-fresh road bike. And vice versa, homologated DOT/EU approved showroom bikes cannot look like dirt track racers, however hard they try.

No factory has built a good looking 'factory' street tracker, since the Bonneville TT of the mid-60s (except the early Honda FTR250s with the duplex frame, though the later FTR223s are kind of cute). When it comes to twins, nobody has come close. VT500 Ascot? Meh. Too heavy above the waistline. The H-D XR1200 was compromised, a midling effort, but not good enough. The Scrambler FT Pro isn't right either. Storz kitted Sportsters can look right, but they're not factory. Plenty of people can build great looking custom street trackers, but manufacturers cannot. The Zaeta is the only thing that comes close, but they're made, and sold, in tiny quantities, and they're singles.

Big factories need to sell reasonable quantities. The man on the street, the kind who buys brand new bikes, thinks they want something that looks like a road legal GNC bike, and perhaps they would right up until they read the first road test or lived with it for a week.

A dirt track bike has a 6 or 7-litre tank. These tiny tanks are essential to the looks, but no one would buy a road bike with a 50-odd mile range. Put a bigger tank on it and the looks are gone (see VT500 and XR1200).

Modern bikes require airboxes for fuel injection and noise regulations, not big K&N filters. Where does the airbox go? Indian are hiding the FTR's airbox in the tank area, but their race bike only needs to run 26 miles (a fast 25 miles and, they hope, a slow victory lap, but only 26 miles all the same), so their airbox won't ruin the looks. Road bikes need indicators, mirrors, front brakes, front mudguards, license plate hangers that extend beyond the back of the rear wheels, lights, electric starter, alternator and a battery big enough to start the bike repeatedly in sub-zero temperatures. It also needs a chassis strong enough to deal with a 30-stone rider riding through potholes for 30,000 miles, unchecked. And road bikes need a big wiring loom to run everything I've described and that needs hiding somehow. Also, GNC bikes have short wheelbases and steep steering. They're as twitchy as the cast of Watership Down. Look at the VT500's rake!

It is not impossible for a clever factory to build a trick street tracker. Ducati are pushing the edge of the envelope of what the public will tolerate with the Panigale, truly a racebike for the road, but it still has a proper tank range and all the legalities.  Plus a lot can be hidden under a Panigale's fairing. A size zero GNC flat tracker is as naked as a jaybird. Look close enough and you can tell what it had for breakfast.
So if Indian do build something they say is related to the FTR, those who reckon they're waiting with credit cards locked and loaded will get a compromise. The compromise might look a lot like Roland Sands' Indian Superhooligans (see SB24). They have a brutal charm, and they're based on decent road bikes. I've ridden a Scout around Oregon, and can vouch for them as a good basis even if I didn't like the riding position of the road Scout. But Superhooligans are not GNC bikes. I do think the Superhooligan Scout would sell. I don't believe the buying public, those with $12,000/ £12,000 to spend, is ready for hardcore street tracker in the numbers that would make it worthwhile for a factory to build.

So stop waiting for the factory to release your dream street tracker and build your own. Or buy a Zaeta. G
FTR750 photo: Indian/Cycle World

12 comments:

Garrett302 said...

Well-said, Sir!

Chris said...

testify!

tin-tinovici said...

...just a taller & shorter Scout would make many people happy...(Sands' Superhooligan alike...maybe)...I've ridden my brother's Scout and the engine's great!...just cannot get my head around that chassis....(so long & so low...:|... good , beautiful engine wasted)...

tin-tinovici said...

(something like a triumph bonneville/ scrambler , an enfield continental GT or a guzzi V7 with an indian engine maybe?!)

Harley said...

Harley got close to The Look with the XR1000 - big K&Ns, twin pipes up the left hand side of the bike etc. - but there was too much of the stock Sportster in the mix to make it a truly convincing lookalike. And, if I remember correctly, they didn't exactly fly out of dealerships (worth a few bob nowadays of course) so, if HD couldn't use their XR750 heritage to shift flat track styled bikes, then can any other manufacturer really make it work?

Andrew Charlton said...

Yes Gary, Id say you hit that right on the head,old bean.
a factory tracker would be far to expensive on the left hand indicator switch recall.
big tanks would ruin any visual balance too....although someone in the middle east must be developing a jacket for carrying fourty litres of fuel...:-)
pass me my smoking jacket, jeffery

Sideburn Magazine said...

Harley (if indeed that is your real name...)
The XR1000 was an even bigger missed opportunity than the XR1200! The back end is so low it looks like a Cocker Spaniel with worms dragging its arse along grandma's hearth rug. They make great modified bike, and they have a charm, but not even seven-pint beer goggles would be enough to convince me it was a street tracker!
Gary

Sideburn Magazine said...

Ps I know it's you Harley, but I couldn't resist.

Harley said...

Sideburn branded seven-pint beer goggles - for the hidden street tracker in your life!

martin.huening said...

Had an xr-750 on the road. It is not built for this. I found it is a real pleasure on the dirt only.

martin.huening said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
JonDowd said...

Excellent and accurate summation of why we're never going to roll one off the showroom floor. I've built 2 vintage Triumph Street Trackers ('67 TR6C & '67 T100) both turned out great, but if that's not your hobby, you can't pay me (or someone who's more capable of pulling it off) for their labor, and still have any $$$ for food. If that were possible, every shade-tree guy would do if for a living - it has to be what you do for fun after your paid-job day is over. That said... I'm pretty sure if you put a number plate and two 19" Maxxis' on anything, you'll get an extra $3000 on ebay - folks love 'em : -)