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Motorcycle enthusiasts soak in the exhaust at Cannonball Run (09/10/14)


One of the oldest of the antique motorcycles that sat arrayed on Spanish Street on Tuesday afternoon was a 1916 Harley-Davidson, just a shade lighter than robin’s egg blue with a wide leather seat and broad, rounded handlebars.

Navy, red and gold pinstriping curled finely across the bicycle-looking frame, and the long, boxy gas tank bore the moniker “The Frankfurter.” Across the street, lounging in the shade on a bench outside the Brick Street Gallery antique store was the bike’s owner, Thomas Trapp.

He was one of more than 100 vintage-motorcycle enthusiasts rolling across the country in the motorcycle Cannonball Endurance Run. They started in Daytona, Florida, on Friday and made a pit stop in Cape Girardeau on their way to Tacoma, Washington.

Trapp runs a Harley Davidson dealership in Frankfurt, Germany, and says the run is the apex event for old-school gearheads such as himself. As he talked about the run, his blue eyes turned bright with the type of devotion to craft, bikes and lifestyle that motorcyclists are known for.

“Let me tell you,” he said in a round German accent, “I am riding vintage bikes for 40 years. I’m racing vintage for a long time. When you are into vintage stuff, I am always searching for the new thing, a new challenge.”


A 1916 Harley Davidson F owned by Thomas Trapp of Germany is displayed for the Motorcycle Cannonball Endurance Run on Tuesday in Cape Girardeau.
(Fred Lynch)

He explained Erwin “Cannon Ball” Baker’s legacy is one of the most potent allures of the run. Baker set more than 140 driving records in his day, and his reputation for marathon rides is what inspired the event.

“He made it [across the country] in 12 days,” Trapp said, “in 1914 on an Indian [motorcycle].”

The motorcycles turn heads, to be sure, but some followers had traveled a distance to see the classic machines. Dave Sickmeyer has been following the competition online since it left Daytona. He and his wife Cindy came from Steelville, Illinois, to see them. He said the engineering of the Hendersons are his favorite part.

“How long have I been riding? Oh boy,” he said.

“His whole life,” Cindy assured.


Ron Roberts of New Hampshire rides his 1936 Indian Chief across the Bill Emerson Memorial Bridge for the Motorcycle Cannonball Endurance Run on Tuesday in Cape Girardeau.
(Fred Lynch)

“Yeah, I’m 63; I’ve been riding since I was 12,” he said. He shifted his weight to ponder the midnight blue four-cylinder Henderson in front of him.

“Boy, I’d like to be able to buy an old bike like this, but you’re talking around 50 grand right off the bat.”

“What intrigues me is that they come from all over the world,” said Cindy. She said she was impressed by the German bike and at how old some of them were.

At 98 years old, Trapp’s bike isn’t much different from Baker’s original Indian, and the similarities don’t stop at the antique V-twin engine. The rules of the run allow for modification in the name of safety, Trapp explained, pointing at another driver rolling off his Henderson four-cylinder to fix a flat.

“See? He’s changed the wheelbase to get modern tires and a front brake from a BMW,” he said. “Which is totally fine for safety.”

But as he detailed his ride’s specs, a smile cracked across his sunburned face. He hadn’t installed a front brake. He hadn’t altered his wheelbase. What he’d done is position himself to compete in the run as a purist.

“There is nothing more in the world than the Cannonball on a Harley Davidson,” he said. “We are just about five or six people whose bikes are 1915 to 1919.”

When he brushed back his weather-beaten white-blonde hair, the inside of his right forearm bore an intricately inked rendering of a motorcycle: a 1916 Harley Davidson with a V-twin engine and a long, boxy gas tank.

“Yes, it’s the same one,” he nodded, beaming with pride.

Source: Local News: Motorcycle enthusiasts soak in the exhaust at Cannonball Run (09/10/14)

Indian Motorcycle riding high as retro chic rules the road – Houston Chronicle


Richards and White are among a number of local enthusiasts,

mostly baby boomers, drawn to the Indian Motorcycle brand’s distinctive lines, described by one design expert as “horseback meets machine,” and famous for such retro features as curved fenders covering half of each wheel and Native American imagery like the “war bonnet” lamp in the shape of an Indian chief’s head. After a bumpy ride for much of its 113-year history – including multiple ownership changes and a pair of bankruptcies – Indian Motorcycle is making a 21st-century comeback. “Retro chic is making a big comeback in lots of areas of retail, because it feels authentic and harkens back to a time when it was easier to trust businesses and life seemed simpler,” Kit Yarrow, professor of business and psychology at Golden Gate University in San Francisco, said this week. Indian and the much larger Harley-Davidson have similarities, said Darrell Harry, chief operating officer of Team Mancuso Powersports, which has seven Houston-area locations and is the exclusive Indian dealer in Houston, selling the bikes at 10222 Gulf Freeway and 10430 Southwest Freeway. Harry said Harley did a better job of developing dealer networks. Since being acquired by Polaris, Indian is increasingly investing in its own dealer infrastructure. The company has signed licenses with 150 U.S. dealers and expects to have 300 in three or four years, wrote Robin Farley, an analyst at UBS Investment Research, in a recent note to investors. Indian Motorcycles come in three models: the entry-level Chief Classic; the Chief Vintage, which has leather saddlebags; and the upper-end Chieftain, named 2013 Motorcycle of the Year by RoadRunner Motorcycle Touring & Travel magazine.

Source: Indian Motorcycle riding high as retro chic rules the road – Houston Chronicle

Fast Indians At El Mirage –



Fast Indians At El MirageBy Freelance

11/17/2014 4:54 PM  Gary Gray stands by his Scout.Over the November 8-9 weekend, stealthily but quickly, Indian motorcycle made history. A new production 2015 Indian Scout and the fabled Chief named “Elnora” tore across the El Mirage dry lake bed in the final Southern California Timing Association event of the season. It was the last chance for the factory to earn an SCTA certified run, and both machines proved their lineage and durability with strong debuts by the rookie land speed riders.  Gray stretched the Scout’s legs to 128.447 mpg.The Indian Scout was ridden by none other than Gary Gray—the Director of Indian Motorcycle Products. Gary leads a team that interacts with both the design and the engineering groups to define the current and future products for the brand. Shepherding the product direction for such an iconic brand take somebody who isn’t afraid to get their fingers dirty. Gray spent several weekends in 2014 racing vintage Scout motorcycles in FIM and USCRA, and twisted the new Scouts throttle to a very fast 128.447 mph on the dusty mile and 1/3 course. The motorcycle Gary rode featured a stock engine, and was built to the P-P 1350 class and only modified the handlebars to race. This same motorcycle will be tweaked by the engineering team for a return to the venue just to go faster and “see what she will do”.Elnora was piloted by Indian Motorcycle PR Manager, Robert Pandya. The very same Chief that traced Cannon Ball Baker’s centennial route from San Diego to New York City in May, was re-fitted with stock fenders (though the back of the front fender was cut off) an accessory air cleaner, and a custom 2-1 exhaust pipe. Slotting into a modified class (A-PG 2000), Elnora featured custom 17” wheels and racing rubber, relocated footrests, and different handlebars designed to tuck the rider into the wind. She ran a stock Thunder Stroke 111 however, including the stock belt drive system, and despite being a hard-ridden development bike (ultimately destined for the crusher) she pulled out a 130.227 mph top speed.

Source: Fast Indians At El Mirage – Cycle News

Indian Motorcycle roars back into business with new shop in Olathe | The Kansas City Star


When 92-year-old Bobby Hill was a young man he raced Indian motorcycles in Dodge City, Kan., and other tracks across the country, going toe-to-toe with Harley-Davidson bikes in a fierce rivalry.But the Indian motorcycle company, an iconic brand that counted movie stars and racing fanatics among its customers, filed for bankruptcy in 1953 and Hill stopped racing them. Next month, though, Hill and the other two members of what was known as the Indian Wrecking Crew will be honored for their exploits at the AMA Vintage Motorcycle Days in Ohio.They’ll also get to see new Indian Motorcycles that are once again being made and are being featured at the event.“I don’t ride anymore but good luck to them,” said Hill of Columbus, Ohio. “I’m sure they’ll do good.”Related A 1939 ad for four models promised performance. | Wood Museum›‹Photo gallery: Indian Motorcycle brand makes a comebackPhoto gallery: Indian motorcycles – In the beginningThe Indian motorcycle is trying to rev up a comeback and it’s going after the Harley-Davidson hog.Last year, Polaris Industries, with $3.8 billion in annual sales in 2013 mainly from off-road vehicles such as snowmobiles, began assembling the Indian at a plant in Spirit Lake, Iowa.They’re being sold through more than 200 dealerships in the U.S. and other countries. A dealership has opened in Olathe, and has sold six. Channel 5 weather guy Gary Amble bought one.Founded in 1901, the company became the world’s largest motorcycle maker before succumbing to bad luck and poor business decisions. Several efforts to resurrect the brand since its bankruptcy stumbled as well.The new model is a cruiser called the Chief, named after the vintage model, and it comes in three versions that recall the Indian’s halcyon days with flared fenders, teardrop gas tanks and the V twin-cylinder engine the company pioneered.And for the brand’s fans, the housing for the front fender light is shaped like a war bonnet, just as it was decades ago.Those features along with performance helped make the vintage models of the Indian treasured by collectors. A 1946 Indian Chief formerly owned by the late actor Steve McQueen recently sold for $143,750.But nostalgia goes only so far. Before production began, Polaris spent more than a year retooling and preparing to go against Harley-Davidson, which towers over the market for heavy cruisers.“This is not like the previous attempts,” said James Holter, a spokesman and managing editor for the American Motorcyclists Association. “This is a real effort to get Indian back into the business.”Wisconsin-based Harley-Davidson has a huge lead, with combined sales of motorcycles of $5.6 billion in 2013. The company also sells its Street line of motorcycles that are lighter and less expensive along with heavier models and the company’s well-known heavy cruiser.Both the new Indian cruiser and the traditional Harley cruiser go for roughly $19,000 and up. They both have the classic V-twin engine and are built in America.“You now have a choice with an American made motorcycle,” said Craig Keating, the owner of the Olathe dealership which also sells other Polaris vehicles.Harley-Davidson said it always takes it’s competition seriously including the Indian. There are also several other motorcycle companies in various weight classes such as Honda, BMW and Ducati.“We are very excited about our current line-up of products and what we have in development,” said John Mink, a spokesman for the company.Harley-Davidson’s Kansas City plant produces the Street, Dyna, Sportster and V-Rod motorcycles.Polaris’ motorcycle business, which includes the cheaper Victory cycles, in the fourth quarter of last year doubled to $69 million mainly from Indian sales and it expects motorcycle sales to increase 65 percent to 75 percent this year.The new Indian bikes have gotten some good reviews. USA Today said the Indian Chief was a successful modern cruiser that respects the nameplate .Amble, the weatherman and long-time motorcycle enthusiast, waited a long time to buy an Indian bike. He snapped his up soon after the Olathe dealership opened. The bike looks like it rolled out of the 1940s, he said, and the craftsmanship and art of the leather seat and saddlebags are some of the best he’s ever seen on a regularly produced motorcycle model.He plans to give the bike a good workout on a trip to Connecticut.“I should know much more about the bike after I put nearly 3,000 miles on her odometer in the next week,’’ he said in an email.Among Indian collectors, the reaction is mixed.Doug Strange is an expert on vintage Indian motorcycles who owns several, including a 1948 Chief that was once displayed at the Guggenheim Museum. He said if anyone can rescue Indian, it is Polaris with its engineering and financing resources.The company nailed the appearance to resemble the vintage model but he’s disappointed that they are now bigger and heavier.“I’m on the fence,” he said.The image of Indian motorcycles was burnished by owners like James Dean, star of “Rebel Without A Cause.” When the company’s financial problems worsened it tried to reverse its fortunes with advertisements featuring movie stars like Jane Russell and Robert Ryan.The name lived on in the 2005 movie “The World’s Fastest Indian,” which chronicled the story of Burt Munro, who modified a 1920 Indian motorcycle and in 1967 set a world speed record of 222 miles an hour.Indian at its height had 3,000 employees, most working at the company’s “Wigwam,” the name for its Springfield, Mass., factory.The company was co-founded by George Hendee and Oscar Hedstrom, who built a prototype of an electric bicycle to be used as a pacer in bicycle races. Each year brought improvements and by 1913 the company was selling 32,000 motorcycles, a high mark for the company. The Ford Model T competed as cheap transportation cutting into sales.Indian increasingly sold motorcycles for leisure and enthusiasts. In World War I, it temporarily suspended civilian production to provide military motorcycles. That turned out to be a boost for Harley-Davidson in the U.S. market.In World War II, Harley supplied more military motorcycles and emerged the stronger company, said Guy McLain, director of the Wood Museum in Springfield, which has a large Indian motorcycle exhibit and archives.“Both world wars hurt Indian,” he said.Its fate was sealed after World War II when it rushed out with the Indian Arrow model, an advanced design that proved to be poorly engineered and unreliable.“The motorcycle brand with a great reputation was really damaged,” McLain said.The company closed its doors in 1953 and over the decades efforts by other owners to revive the brand relied on imports that did further damage. In 2004, two investors who resurrected the Chris-Craft Boat Co. purchased the rights to Indian and improved the motorcycle. But the motorcycles were expensive and in limited production.In 2011, Polaris added the brand to its business.Left lingering in the volatile history is why the company that started it all more than a century ago still fascinates. The Antique Automobile Club of America Museum in Hershey, Pa. sought to answer that when it described its Indian motorcycle exhibit that opened in March.It said the Indian motorcycle company witnessed both capitalism’s glory and greed, and saw dizzying success and painful failures. But it emerged as a tenacious symbol of America that refuses to be forgotten.“It embodies an ever-changing idea of what America was and continues to be,” according to the museum.To reach Steve Everly, call 816-234-4455 or send email to

Source: Indian Motorcycle roars back into business with new shop in Olathe | The Kansas City Star

Part Two: A Closer Look at Indian Motorcycles – CraveOnline


A Closer Look at Indian Motorcycles

We wrap the ride today with the input of a veteran bike industry analyst.

October 30th, 2014 John Scott Lewinski

As part of our ongoing automotive and motorcycle coverage, we’re taking a couple days to take a close up look at Indian Motorcycles and the business of challenging an industry giant like Harley-Davidson. Today, we check in with an industry expert for an objective look at Indian’s operations.

Basem Wasef, motorcycle journalist, author and industry expert explained that Polaris’s resuscitation of the Indian brand has been both “brilliant and painfully obvious.”

“Polaris has applied considerable financial investment toward bringing back a legendary nameplate, creating relatively reliable modern motorcycles that pay homage to bikes which were arguably better in nostalgic retrospect than they were in reality,” Wasef said. “But at its core, Indian is less about the motorcycles themselves, and more about the power of a brand.”

Menneto evidently agrees: “We can’t build to match Harley’s capacity, but we can build a brand that’s popular as an alternative — that’s popular with a dedicated customer base with which we can build a relationship. Rather that match the size and capacity of Harley-Davidson, we’d rather compare with premium brands like BMW or Ducati.”

Wasef stressed that challenging Harley-Davidson’s market share would have been unthinkable if Polaris had created a new brand altogether.

“When it comes to brand perception, established Japanese manufactures like Suzuki, Yamaha, and Honda still can’t touch Harley-Davidson in the areas of authenticity and that inscrutable sense of cool,” Wasef added. “But by adopting a nameplate that’s older than H-D and happens to be associated with larger-than-life personalities like Steve McQueen and Burt Munro, Polaris has taken on a serious challenge and dipped their toe into a potentially lucrative business.”

Indian’s slow build is still in effect. For three years, all Indian Motorcycles built were the Chief and Chieftain models — ranging in price from about $19,000 to $23,000. For the first time since the company made its return to business, it introduced new bikes this year — expanding its line at the top and bottom with the $27,000 Roadmaster and the $10.000 Scout.

The latter is especially important as it reaches out to less affluent buyers with its smaller price tag. If Indian wants to compete with H-D, they’re now trying to get to riders when they’re young and equipped with less disposable income.

Steven D. Menneto, Vice President for Motorcycles at Indian, admitted that Indian is still not building to full capacity as that all-important five year business plan unfolds. The next phase for Indian looks to be expanding to more international markets in Europe and South Africa to diversify that brand loyalty. Only time will tell if this classic American make will stand the test of time in a new business era of high-tech and international competition.

Wasef insisted it will still take significant amounts of time to make a dent against the Harley-Davidson juggernaut.

“But, considering the aggressive product development that has occurred since the new Indian models were revealed one year ago, Indian looks like it will be a serious force to be reckoned with moving forward.”

Source: Part Two: A Closer Look at Indian Motorcycles – CraveOnline

Best Cruiser of 2014


Cruiser of the Year Winner: Indian Chief

By Evans Brasfield

By now you’ve read all of the praise surrounding Indian’s return to selling motorcycles in the 2014 model year. We don’t think the kudos are at all hyperbolic, either. What Polaris accomplished in rescuing the American marque out of the morass of litigation and production of me-too Harley clones bearing the Indian name is notable on its own. Seeing the motorcycles (all three of the models) that came out of a mere 27 months of development has been inspiring. Polaris knows motorsports (being the number-one powersports OEM in North America) and is clearly applying what it’s learned from developing Victory over the past 15 years to the Indian revival.

So, how’d Polaris do it? The key ingredient is the Thunderstroke 111 engine. The 49-degree air-cooled V-Twin perfectly straddled the line between the historic styling of Indian engines (downward-facing exhausts, anyone?) and the requirements of a thoroughly modern powerplant with a ride-by-wire throttle, letting prospective customers know that, while Polaris clearly respects Indian’s past, it plans on producing motorcycles that utilize current technology.

When the motorcycles were revealed to the public, the proof of concept was immediately apparent. Where most manufacturers stick cruisers with tubular steel frames, Indian chose to pursue lightness and strength with an aluminum frame that weighs in at 58 lb. Other systems on the Indian showed a similar level of focus on performance. For example, dual 300mm discs squeezed by four-piston calipers in the front and a 300mm two-piston unit out back – with standard ABS.

Polaris made it very clear that it plans on Indian being seen as a premium brand. The fit and finish of the bikes – from the paint to the quality and amount of chrome – announced that Indian is here, here big, and for the long-term. The same can be said of the Indian logos on just about every visible piece of hardware. The overall feeling is one of quality. Premium is a word that Indian’s representatives like to toss around, and it fits. For example, the entire Indian line comes with cruise control and keyless starting standard.

You may have noticed that, up until now, we’ve been referring to the Indian brand in text that’s supposed to be about the Chief. The reasoning behind this is that all three of the 2014 Indian models were produced around the same platform. Riders have a choice of two Chiefs: the Chief Classic and the Chief Vintage. The Classic is just as the name implies, the archetypical cruiser design: a saddle, floorboards, a pulled-back bar, and deeply skirted fenders. The Vintage takes the Classic and adds supple, tan leather to the seat, a classic cop-style windshield, and leather saddlebags color-matched to the seats.

About the only real complaint anyone had with the Chief (other than your typical moto-journo niggles) was that it required more effort to turn than the Chieftain touring model. How’s that? While the Chief’s rake was 29-degrees, the Chieftain’s was shortened to 25-degrees, bringing about the odd situation where the bigger, heavier bike felt more sprightly than the stripped-down version.

Still, when it comes to riding the Chief, our reviews have been glowing: “These bikes make use of their aluminum-cast frame to dive into corners with nary a bow or flex,” and “You have to give it to Polaris for creating such an authentic machine.” Authentic, that’s the right word for the Indian Chief, the proper blend of history and technology seemingly without compromise. For these reasons, we chose the 2014 Indian Chief our Best Cruiser

Source: Best Cruiser of 2014

Starklite Cycle Behind the Scenes Part2


Starklite Cycle as shown on American Thunder. They interview Bob Stark about his dedication to keeping the Indian Motorcycle Brand alive for most of his life.

Starklite Cycle Behind the Scenes Part1


Starklite Cycle on American Thunder:

The Story of Starklite Cycle – told by Bob Stark