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Indian Motorcycles: Back on the Warpath

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On: Mon, Sep 16, 2013 at 2:03PM | By: Karen Cook


Indian Motorcycles: Back on the Warpath

I grew up on a motorcycle. My father bought his first Honda at 16 and that’s all he rode until he was 50 when he bought a Harley-Davidson. I was disappointed, having been raised to believe that Honda was the ONLY bike to ride. It felt like a betrayal. A Harley sounds different and feels different and I had a hard time making the transition. I’ve come to terms but this is an example of how loyal bikers generally are to a brand. Good news then for Indian Motorcycle lovers. They are making a comeback and will be available any minute. A sizable portion of the intended production has already been sold, sight unseen, so if you want one you better get on it.

The Indian motorcycle was first produced in 1901 and looked like a motorized bicycle, which is what it really was. It had a 1.75-bhp single cylinder engine and topped out at around 50 mph. The public loved them and production went from 500 in 1904 to 32,000 by 1913. Two wars interfered after that and even though the bike was made for use by soldiers, the company went bankrupt by 1953 by which time Harley had cornered the civilian market.

The rights to the Indian are now owned by Polaris Industries and they are committed to producing an authentic iconic Indian bike merged with all the current technology. It will still have its distinctive rumble with an updated V-twin Thunder Stroke 111 engine. It was shown at the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally last month in South Dakota and created quite a bit of excitement.

Indians are considered high-end luxury motorcycles and, in the past, had a price tag to match, but the new models are more competitively priced at around $19,000. This is a $100 million chance that Polaris is taking, betting that they will be able to compete with Harley with the pricing about even. They are counting on the history and the heritage to make this gamble a success. Beginning in 2011 the company began the plans for the revival and began producing the 20 unique parts this bike needs, adding more plants, and hiring more workers. They are planning to put out 3000 to 4000 in this first production year. There will be three models available: the Indian Chief Classic, the Indian Chief Vintage, and the Indian Chieftain. Originally the bike came only in red but modern buyers will also be able to choose black or blue.

After 112 years of successes and failures, motorcycle enthusiasts should be thrilled to see a bike with so much history back on the market.


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