Indian motorcycle

By Paul Berglund, mmmroadtales@gmail.com

 This past February we got lots of attention for hosting the Super Bowl and then later in the month for supplying lots of gold winning athletes for the winter Olympics. As the winter games wrapped up in Korea, we got a foot of snow here in St. Paul. Just to remind us of who and where we are.
While I was putting away the snow blower I saw my bikes huddled in the corner of the garage, cold and still, silently sipping on the battery tender. I had ordered several parts and some gear over the winter and they were stacked on the seats of the bikes, still in boxes. Not a lot of dignity in a Minnesota winter, just pragmatic survival. But seeing my orange beauties re-lit my pilot light. It was time to come up with a plan. When the ice melts, where would I go for a ride?

First thing on my list was Vintage Torque Fest May 4-5, in Dubuque Iowa. It’s like the season opener for me. I haul my mini bike down out of the rafters, put it in the back of the truck and take the scenic route down along the Mississippi river to the Dubuque fairgrounds. Once there it’s like being a kid again as dozens of men and women relive the joy of being set free on a mini bike all the while looking at vintage motorcycles and hot rods. There’s a dirt oval race track that’s open to the attendees several times during Torque Fest. That alone is worth the time and money it takes to get there.

After that my plan get’s kind of vague. I have several things I want to do, places I want to ride, but for me heading out by myself has lost it’s magic. I’ve ridden around the western US of A on my own in the past, but it feels kind of hollow standing on the rim of Crater Lake in Oregon witnessing such beauty without any one to share it with. So now I have to try and coordinate who wants to go on what adventure with me and when they can take time off. The hardest part is finding people I can tolerate for a full day or more.

Another vague uncertainty for the coming year is the Indian FTR1200. Last fall it popped up on the internet and it grabbed my attention in a big way. It’s a 1200cc V-twin wrapped in a flat track style frame and Indian is hinting they might sell them. Maybe. For me this bike is a game changer because Indian is saying it would weigh UNDER 450 pounds. There is no American made motorcycle like that on the market.

The first Indian Scout made in 1920 weighed 260 pounds and made 11 horses. Not bad for the time. The updated Scout 101 of 1928 made 18 HP and weighed 370 pounds. The original Indian brand motorcycles died in the mid 50s. Harley Davidson stepped up with the Sportster in 1957 and it weighed about 500 pounds. The Current “performance” Sportster, the Roadster weighs in somewhere between 550 and 570 pounds.

While I was looking up the weights of past motorcycles, it was difficult to find the weight of the various Harley Davidson motorcycles. Weights and horsepower figures are rarely talked about when discussing Harleys. When reviewing motorcycles from Europe and Japan this is often the focus of the article. American motorcycle manufactures simply ignore the fact that their bikes are severely handicapped by how heavy they are. Handling and performance are very important to me when selecting a motorcycle, and weight has a big impact on both of those. The result is if you want an American bike, you get a cruiser. There are so many other things to do on a motorcycle. I for one would love to walk into a Harley-Davidson or Indian dealership and see all kinds of bikes. Dirt bikes, sport bikes, adventure bikes, scramblers, trials, beginner or entry level bikes.

This was an impossible dream till I saw the Indian FTR1200 sitting on a stand at the motorcycle show. Was Indian poised to give us a real world class motorcycle? I know what I’m saying is heresy. Most people who buy a motorcycle in America, buy an American made cruiser. But what if there was a crack in this impenetrable wall and a street legal flat track bike rolled out of it? That would be a wonderful way to start the revolution.

Just like a Rupp mini bike set free the ten year old version of me, I’m looking at Indian to give hope to a much older version of me.

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