Sunday, October 24, 2021

New Beginning at end of Indian Bike Trail

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New Beginning at end of Indian Bike Trail

Motorcycle Restoration part of nostalgia trip

BOULDER (AP) — A growing band of once nearly extinct Indians is being resurrected in Boulder, some restored from rusting graveyards while others quietly survived the decades until their time had come again.
Not the red-blooded variety of hos­tiles these, but iron and steel Indian motorcycles built at the old Wigwam factory in Springfield, Mass., before the firm went bankrupt in 1953, leav­ing Harley Davidson as America’s lone motorcycle manufacturer.
“Save a piece of America — restore something,” is how machinist and tool-and-die maker Jeff Grigsby explains why he got into his growing business of restoring the old Indians to better-than-new condition.
Grigsby, born the year Indian went broke, says his customers are a “well-to-do crowd” since his inside-out restoration jobs run $7,000 to $9,000 on the Chiefs, the big 74-to-80 cubic inch V-twin Indians.
Back in the 1950s after Indian went broke, a dollar-short generation of young riders bought up those big, graceful but distressed Chiefs for $150 to $300. They hacksawed the full-skirted fenders into bobtails and destroyed them in street-drag duels with the quicker, lighter British bikes then flooding the market.
Only a few Indians survived.
Grigsby says there are more than 20 of the Indians running around the Boulder area now, ranging from well-worn to concourse condition. They in­clude the rare Indian 4-cylinder ma­chines, mostly the big V-twin Chiefs, and even a 1915 Power Plus twin.
One of those Indian riders is Eldon Arnold, 58, who bought his 1950 80-inch Chief 23 years ago and now has about 60,000 miles on it.
“You can’t wear them out. With a little extra care they’ll run forever. As the years went by, the Indian got more valuable and I hated to go out on the road with it. And at one time, parts were hard to come by. But they’re being duplicated again now,” Arnold said, summing up the nearly three decades since Indian went broke.
Ninety percent of American motor­cycling today is done on Japanese bikes. Grigsby thinks increasing inter­est in the old Indian bikes is because they were American-made and repre­sent a vibrant, classic era in motorcy­cling.
“It’s a study of history, of American engineering,” Grigsby said of the In­dian bikes who battled Harley, Excel­sior, Henderson, Pope and Cyclone for race track and sales supremacy during the golden age of American motorcycle production.
Indian began production in 1901, won the nation’s first motorcycle race (a 10-miler at Brooklyn, N.Y.) in 1902, then entered international Gran Prix racing and swept Britain’s Isle of Man 1-2-3 in 1911.
Every U.S. national motorcycle championship in 1928 and 1929 was won by an Indian.
“A Harley rider looked on an In­dian rider like a racist thing. It was blood for blood back then and Indian still held all the speed records — and that determined the sales of a lot of motorcycles,” Grigsby said.
“The Indian is a rarer breed (than Harleys a desirable unit. People that rode these bikes when they were young now realize they can get one in better than new condition.
“I guess it’s a compensation to give up a gas-eatin’ hog for a piece of clas­sic transportation that gets 60 to 65 miles to the gallon on regular,” Grigsby added.

At 27, Grigsby is an 11-year veteran of motorcycle mechanics. He dropped out of school at age 16 to attend a Har­ley Davidson factory mechanics school and then took a job at a Los An­geles Harley shop.
He took his four-year machinist’s apprenticeship in Boulder with Ed Gitlin at the shop where Grigsby still does his machining trade.Grigsby had balanced, tuned and blue-printed Harley V-twins for sev­eral years before “I fell into a large in­vestment of close to 40 Indian motorcycles three years ago.”
Since then he has restored five of the Indians, with three more under­way for completion in March. He hopes to expand to 12 at a time for the next batch. “Everybody that sees ‘em, wants ‘em.”
Partner in the effort is Jim Arnold, Eldon’s son, who restores the Indians’
instruments, speedometers, switches and does all detail work.
Grigsby says his Indians go through five stages of complete dismantling and reassembly. The final finish and fit is more like that of a hand-built Italian Ferrari than the original, pro­duction Springfield Indians.
Grigsby replaces plain bronze bush­ings with needle bearings wherever possible, Teflon-coats engine parts, mirror polishes combustion chambers and improves on the original lubri­cation system.
If the Indian was such a classic, why did the firm go belly up?
Cycling historians say loss of World War II government contracts when the military opted for the Jeep instead of courier motorcycles and a fatally flawed new British-style engine mar­keted after the war — it consistently blew main bearings — led to Indian’s defeat.
Now, 27 years later, restorers like Grigsby and Arnold at shops scattered across the country are bringing the last remnants of the old Indian line back to showroom condition as Amer­ica’s nostalgia kick moves into the mo­torcycling arena.
And after so many moons, the end of the trail for Indian has become a new beginning.

Editors Note:This reprint is from 1980. Jeff is still active with building musem quality Indian Motorcycles. He is one of many rebuilders who have kept the brand alive!

Worlds Fastest Indian Burt Monro Challenge

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Two motorbikes that featured in The World’s Fastest Indian movie will roar back into life at this week’s Burt Munro Challenge event in Invercargill and Bluff.

The Burt Munro Challenge is being held for the 10th time from Thursday until Sunday and features six events ranging from hill and beach racing to track and road racing.

The event is named after former Invercargill resident Burt Munro who set numerous land-speed records for motorcycles with engines less than 1000cc at the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah in the late 1950s and 1960s.

Munro’s exploits on his motorcycle were based on the 2005 feature film, The World’s Fastest Indian, some of which was filmed in Southland. Actor Anthony Hopkins played the part of Munro.

Burt Munro Challenge committee member Stephen Winteringham said they wanted to do something special to mark the 10th anniversary of the event this year.

So they have got hold of two replica motorbikes, from the Southland Museum and an Invercargill arcade, which featured in the movie a decade ago.

The bikes will be ridden in demonstrations before numerous Burt Munro Challenge events begin this week if the weather permits.

The event organisers wanted the public to see and hear the motorbikes in action for the first time since the movie a decade ago.

The motorbikes on show will be an Indian, which was ridden on Oreti Beach near Invercargill during the movie, and a Ducati which was under a fibreglass shell when ridden on the Bonneville Salt Flats during the movie.

The two people charged with riding the two motorbikes during the Burt Munro Challenge are Rhys Wilson and Francie Winteringham, the 2012 and 2014 winners of the Burt Munro family trophy.

They took the bikes for a spin for the first time on Monday, and Wilson was buzzing after riding the throaty Indian around the Teretonga track.

“Exhilarating. Every motorcyclist’s dream,” he said.

Francie Winteringham said riding the two bikes was a lifelong dream fulfilled.

“Burnt my leathers a bit, both bikes were a handful to ride, definitely unlike anything I’ve ever done.”

Stephen Winteringham also rode the Ducati around the Teretonga track, and, like Munro in the movie, burnt his leg on the exhaust pipe.

“She’s a mission, I take my hat of to Burt.”

The bikes will be ridden at Bluff prior to the hill climb on Thursday, before the Oreti Beach racing on Friday and around Teretonga track on Saturday, Winteringham said.

Along for the Ride with ‘Fast Eddie’

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FOX TOWNSHIP, Pa. — A short film about a Sullivan County man’s love for racing motorcycles was recently released on YouTube.

“Fast Eddie” tells the story of what motorcycle racing life was like in the 1950s.

Ed Fisher, also known as Fast Eddie, began racing motorcycles when he was 16 years old. Now at 94, the former racing legend still enjoys riding, just at a slower pace.

Fisher was born in Lancaster County in 1925, and he loves to ride motorcycles. If you give Fisher two wheels, handlebars, and an open road, he will fly right on by. Fisher brought his first motorcycle, an Indian Scout Pony, in 1941 and hasn’t looked back.

After just celebrating his 94th birthday, the man from Shunk still loves to ride his bike in Sullivan County and beyond.

“You are out in the open. You see your surroundings much better, and normally it is nice fresh air,” said Fisher.

“Fast Eddie” is a documentary on YouTube that focuses on Fisher’s racing days in the 1950s. One of biggest wins of Fisher’s career was the 1953 Laconia 100-mile National Championship in New Hampshire.

“And you went off blacktop onto the sand, then sand onto the blacktop onto a 90-degree turn which got pretty slippery. If you learned to maneuver that good, that is how you make good time.”

Fisher eventually stopped racing professionally in 1957 and was voted into the American Motorcyclist Assocation Hall of Fame in 2002.

“You can’t say I think I have done something better than everybody else, but just being recognized as being one of the top competitors in your day. (It means a lot?) Yeah, yeah.”

Fisher says he will continue to ride his motorcycles until he can’t.

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

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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.”

(Photo)

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.

(Photo)

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