Indian Motorcycle History

Indian Motorcycle History ~ shared by  your smart phone Motorcycle Mount resource…

At Rider’s Claw we like to bring you fun facts and history related to motorcycling. We recently received this wonderful email from one of our Indian customers after he installed his iPod motorcycle mount from Rider’s Claw.

Dear Rider’s Claw:

I installed your product on my new bike this morning while the tribe was sleeping! The quality is top notch and the design is excellent.

I (think) I have a very important sales matter to bring up. The first time I looked at your website, I dismissed your products because I didn’t think they would fit on an Indian “Vintage”. Your fitment guide only lists the Indian “Chieftain”. It turns out that all Polaris Indians (Chief Vintage, Chief Classic, Chieftain, and Roadmaster) all share the same design. Thus, a friend with another Indian Chief Vintage (not nearly as beautiful as mine!) told me that the Rider’s Claw does indeed fit ALL Indians. You may be losing many sales based upon this confusion and hope that you will revise your website to correct this confusion (Sorry for the suggestion, but when I see a great product, I want the company to succeed and motorcyclists to have access to your great products!).

Here are the pictures!

Cheers, Keith in PA

iphone motorcycle mount IMG_0145

This customer’s love for his Indian and his Rider’s Claw, prompted us to share a bit of history about the Indian Motorcycle Company. We hope you enjoy.

Indian Motorcycle History

Indian is an American brand of motorcycles originally produced from 1901 to 1953 in Springfield, Massachusetts, US. Hendee Manufacturing Company initially produced the motorcycles but the name was changed to The Indian Motocycle Manufacturing Company in 1928.

The Indian factory team took the first three places in the 1911 Isle of Man Tourist Trophy. During the 1910s Indian became the largest manufacturer of motorcycles in the world. Indian’s most popular models were the Scout, made from 1920 to 1946, and the Chief, made from 1922 to 1953.

The Indian Motorcycle Manufacturing Company went bankrupt in 1953. Various organizations tried to perpetuate the Indian Brand name in subsequent years, with limited success. In 2011 Polaris Industries purchased Indian Motorcycles and moved operations from North Carolina and merged them into their existing facilities in Minnesota and Iowa. Since August 2013, Polaris have marketed three modern Indian motorcycles that reflect Indian’s traditional styling.

The “Indian Motorcycle Co.” was originally founded as the Hendee Manufacturing Company in 1897 to manufacture bicycles. These were initially badged as “Silver King” and “Silver Queen” brands but the name “American Indian”, quickly shortened to just “Indian”, was adopted by Hendee from 1898 onwards because it gave better product recognition in export markets. Oscar Hedstrom joined in 1900. Both Hendee and Hedstrom were former bicycle racers and manufacturers, and they teamed up to produce a motorcycle with a 1.75 bhp, single-cylinder engine in Hendee’s home town of Springfield. The motorcycle was successful and sales increased dramatically during the next decade.

In 1902, a prototype and two production units of the diamond framed Indian Single were successfully designed, built and tested. The first Indian motorcycles, having chain drives and streamlined styling, were sold to the public in 1902. In 1903, Indian’s co-founder and chief engineer Oscar Hedstrom set the world motorcycle speed record of 56 mph. In 1904 the company introduced the deep red color that would become Indian’s trademark. Production of Indian motorcycles then exceeded 500 bikes annually, rising to a peak of 32,000 in 1913. The engines of the Indian Single were built by the Aurora Firm in Illinois under license from the Hendee Mfg. Co. until 1906.

In 1905, Indian built its first V-twin factory racer, and in following years made a strong showing in racing and record-breaking. In 1907 the company introduced the first street version V-twin and a roadster styled after the factory racer. The roadster can be distinguished from the racers by the presence of twist grip linkages. One of the firm’s most famous riders was Erwin “Cannonball” Baker, who set many long-distance records. In 1914, he rode an Indian across America, from San Diego to New York, in a record 11 days, 12 hours and ten minutes. Baker’s mount in subsequent years was the Powerplus, a side-valve V-twin, which was introduced in 1916. Its 61ci (1000 cc), 42 degree V-twin engine was more powerful and quieter than previous designs, giving a top speed of 60 mph (96 km/h). The Powerplus was highly successful, both as a roadster and as the basis for racing bikes. It remained in production with few changes until 1924.

“Wouldn’t You Like to Be With Them?” A 1915 advertisement for the Indian Motocycle. Competition success played a big part in Indian’s rapid growth and spurred technical innovation, as well. One of the American firm’s best early results came in the Isle of Man TT in 1911, when Indian riders Oliver Cyril Godfrey, Franklin and Moorehouse finished first, second and third. Indian star Jake DeRosier set several speed records both in America and at Brooklands in England, and won an estimated 900 races on dirt and board track racing.[5] He left Indian for Excelsior and died in 1913, aged 33, of injuries sustained in a board track race crash with Charles “Fearless” Balke, who later became Indian’s top rider. Work at the Indian factory was stopped while DeRosier’s funeral procession passed.

Oscar Hedstrom left Indian in 1913 after disagreements with the Board of Directors regarding dubious practices to inflate the company’s stock values. George Hendee resigned in 1916.

There’s plenty more fascinating Indian history on Wikipedia at Indian Motorcycle History and on the Indian Motorcycle Company website.

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