Could you imagine the art world if its exhibits were held in strip mall parking lots? Imagine having to go to a swap meet or burger joint to see the latest from Cindy Sherman or David Hockney. It’d feel off, right? That’s how the motorcycle world treated two-wheeled works of art, at least until 2008 when custom bike builder Keino Sasaki, artist John Copeland and photographer Jeffrey Schad combined forces to create the Brooklyn Invitational: at its roots a motorcycle show, but much more culturally ambitious.
A headless chicken earning $50,000 a month, a female racer beating up on the boys and an Indian Scout with a 1:1 power to weight ratio. These are not old wives tales, stories from someone three sheets to the wind or plucked from an episode of Ripley’s Believe It or Not. All these things are true and they form the foundation of one incredible machine that took home the top trophy at its first race meeting. Having been selected by Indian to undertake the build Nik, Fabien Ale and Zesi at Switzerland’s Young Guns Speed Shop haven’t let down the big American maker. Delivering a tyre shredding 2016 Indian Scout Sprint Racer known fondly as ‘Miracle Mike’.
For the first half of the 20th century, the Indian motorcycle company was flying high. They took all three podium spots at the 1911 Isle of Man TT, won the very first Daytona 200 in 1937 and so good was the handling of the Scout 101 that it was used everywhere from hill climbs to dirt track and is still the bike of choice for wall of death riders the world over. But when the company went bust in 1953, the only achievement of note for the next half century was Burt Munro’s famous 20’s Scout breaking land speed records. But when the giant automotive company Polaris acquired Indian in 2011, fans of the marque could smile; finally Indian’s would be built right again and when Adam of Gasser Customs was called upon by Rebel Yell to build them a custom bike he picked a 2015 Indian Scout, nicknamed it ‘The Outlaw’ and has knocked this build out of the park.
When Clayton Schaefer from Street Spirit Cycles received a phone call from a customer asking whether he would “café my Indian?” his first thought was “there’s no way, it would be a sacrilege!”. He just couldn’t imagine taking the sawzall to a piece of motorcycle history. “But as we went back and forth I learned that we weren’t just talking about any Indian”, says Clayton. “We were talking about the Indian that bankrupted the company: the slow, awkward, 213cc cousin of the beloved big twins”. You see, the Arrow 149 was one of the last bikes to roll out of the original Indian factory floor before they went out of business. It seems the development costs and teething problems of this little motorcycle may have actually been the final nail in the coffin. So with that in mind Clayton took on the job – but decided to leave the sawzall alone.
Triton. The name raises the hairs on the neck of any dyed-in-the-wool café racer. Often cited as the genre’s ultimate engineering expression, it came into being due to the fact that the 60’s best engine and frame just so happened to exist in two completely different bikes. Norton’s Featherbed frame was more than a match for their temperamental 650 and 750 twins, yet Triumph’s T120 650 engine was well known for reliability and a fondness for mods, but alas it was trapped in an average frame. Then hey presto, the Triumph-engined, Norton-framed ‘Triton’ was born. And the Tribsa, the Norbsa, the Norvin… and the Trdian. No, we hadn’t heard of it either, until a few days ago. And now we can’t get enough. Meet the world’s first Triumph Indian, Peace Frog’s rather amazing new ‘Trdian’.
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Earlier this year we featured an Indian Bobber built by Shane at Speed Demon Cycles, and now after 600 hours of “busting his knuckles and burning brain cells” he has finally completed this immaculate Indian project. “The bike has a vintage pushbike theme, with its wide pull back bars, curved frame rails and mid mount foot controls that forces the rider to be transported mentally, back to the past” Shane says. Like many before him, Shane chose the PP100 engine to be the centrepiece for the build. “Many of the top bike builders in the world, have chosen the PP100 engine as the heart and soul for some fantastic build projects. My vision was to design a frame and fork that would compliment the Indian heritage. The hand crafted exhaust system incorporates a punched louver baffle at the top to aid in reversion, while the curved perforated core is packed with ceramic wool to help mellow the bark of this beast. A Biltwell leather seat is mounted on spring dampened shocks for that little bit of ride comfort. The Billet exhaust tip, Gas tank cap, oil filler cap, and outer primary cover, where machined to match the bottle cap rocker boxes”. Shane believes this is “definitely some of my finest work” but is already planning his next Indian build “I’m thinking a salt flat racer, but who knows what will develop”. We look forward to seeing it – whatever it is.
This old school Indian Bobber was built by Shane Cooper from Speed Demon Cycles who are based in Queensland, Australia. Shane started customizing his own motorcycles in 1976 and hasn’t stopped since. Over the years he has owned nearly 30 motorcycles, and every one of them has been customized in some way. “You’re looking at the culmination of about 10 months work” explains Shane. “The plan was to build a modern hot rod Bobber. I chose a Harley Softail style frame and springer forks for their timeless looks and ride ability. Not because they suited any type of Indian heritage, purely because I like the look.”
Another piece of motorcycle history I admired at the Deus shop was this old Indian Scout. I know it’s not a cafe racer but it would have been one hell of a ride back in its day.
In the 1920’s the Scout gained reputation for strength and reliability, which led to the old Indian saying: “You can’t wear out an Indian Scout, or its brother the Indian Chief. They are built like rocks to take hard knocks; it’s the Harleys that cause grief.” Them are fightin words!
I found this shot of a beautiful old 4 cyclinder Ace Motorcycle from 1920 and had to post it. The Ace Motor Corporation didn’t last long after numerous owners. It changed hands for the last time in 1927, when it was purchased by the Indian Motocycle Company. The Ace name was discontinued after a few years. Indian motorcycle production continued for another 25 years until 1945.
Watch the vid if you want to hear how they sound and ride.