…even if you can’t see the next!
Three things I learned from watching this video:
1. Don’t run from the police!
2. Don’t ride a motorcycle through a shopping mall!
3. Let the Royal Canadian Mounted Police edit your next chase sequence!
It was a rickety fence that ushered me to the tired ocean’s edge. Beach grass grew from the dunes like the whiskers on a fisherman’s chin. Dotting the beach were blocks of ice, seawater on vacation from the constant ebb and flow. In another five months the sand will soften, the water will lap, and Brad, Chad, and Summer will arrive.
Last week Emily and I were given free passes to the Indian Motorcycle Exhibit inside the Museum of Springfield History in Springfield, Massachusetts. I was super excited to have the chance to explore the museum for two reasons. First, I love motorcycles. Second, I wanted the chance to learn more about the city I was born in. Anyway, below are some of my favorite motorcycles in the collection and a little bit of information about each… but not too much because I encourage you to make the pilgrimage yourself.
I hope you enjoy!
Here is the 1917 Model O Light Twin, Indian’s attempt to capture riders looking for an affordable mode of transportation. Unfortunately, the Light Twin only packed four horsepower and clocked in with a top speed of 36 mph. With those stats, the Light Twin was unable to gain the attention of true motorcyclists. Simultaneously, the cost of automobiles was dropping and people no longer had to turn to motorcycles to get around cheaply. What I like about the Light Twin is the horizontally opposed motor running front to back, not side to side, like on my BMW R bikes.
By the mid 1920s, automobile sales had made a sizable impact on Indian Motorcycles and in 1925 their solution was the Prince. Weighing in at 265 lbs and costing $185, the single cylinder was aimed squarely at the entry-level rider. The marketing campaign included the slogan, “You can learn to ride it in five minutes!” By 1929 the Prince didn’t win back the market share Indian had hoped and production ceased.
This 1926 Indian Scout was purpose-built for Bob Armstrong, a Hill Climber in the 1920s. Hill Climbing competitions are a challenge to see which riders can pilot their motorcycles up the side of a treacherous mountainside. Bob’s motorcycle has a custom rear end, a more aggressive gear ratio, lacks a front brake, and runs on wood alcohol for fuel.
This Flat Tracker was built from a 1927 Indian Prince. Flat Track racing takes riders around and around in a left-handed circle at speeds almost unheard of. On the right side of the motorcycle you’ll note a metal bracket where the rider would wedge his knee in order to stay connected with the bike. This is my favorite motorcycle in the collection- I love the simplicity, the colors, and the racing pedigree.
You can’t go wrong with a simple Scout. The lines of this motorcycle are absolutely wonderful. The cherry red paint, gold pinstriping, a tan leather solo seat, and blacked out wheels are obviously timeless. Sadly, Scout sales were never strong.
The 1932 Indian Scout Pony was based on the Prince frame, but instead of a single, housed a twin cylinder motor. Indian hoped that the Scout Pony would win back some of the market share held by Harley Davidson and their popular single cylinder motorcycle. In 1932, at the height of the Depression, the Scout Pony came with a price tag of $225 and a claim to be the most affordable twin cylinder on the market.
The 1934 Indian Sport Scout was known, amongst other things, for its speed. In 1936 at the Los Angeles Speed Trials, Fred Ludlow piloted a Sport Scout to 128.57 mph on Muroc Dry Lakebed. In 1937 Ed Kretz won the first Daytona 200 on his Sport Scout.
Another one of my favorite motorcycles is Freddie Marsh‘s 1951 Indian Warrior. The Warrior was made between 1950 and 1951 and was one of the last models developed before Indian Motorcycles went out of business in 1953. I love this bike because each stone chip, each dent, and each scrape tell a story. They tell Freddie’s story- a story spanning 103 years.
Post World War II, the Chief was one of Indian’s most successful motorcycles. After a shakeup in the company, more emphasis was placed on manufacturing smaller, lighter motorcycles and the Chief fell to the wayside. When Indian dealers noted they were losing buyers to Harley Davidson, the Chief resumed production. In 1951 the Chief had telescopic forks and boasted a 80 cubic inch motor.
Within two years Indian Motorcycles would close its doors.
For the next twenty years, British motorcycles reigned supreme. By the late 1960s Japan had cornered the motorcycle market in America and successfully smothered brands like BSA, Norton, Triumph, and the like.
Over the last few decades, attempts have been made to breath new life into the Indian brand. It wasn’t until Polaris Industries acquired the brand in 2013 that Indian Motorcycles had a fighting chance at success. With a powerhouse like Polaris at the helm and an ever-growing dealer network, lets keep our fingers crossed that Indian Motorcycles will last for another fifty years.