Restoring a 1914 Indian
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   An Old Bike Rolls In
  By Jim Jones

But not on it's own wheels...

Let's step back in time to early October 2000...

After spending a few years restoring a Sport Scout, I had to ride it. The first attempt was at the 2000 Chesapeake (Jefferson) AMCA meet, and did not last long. Parking the bike, I stumbled around the meet in a daze, looking at the bikes and chatting with a few folks. It was pretty strange, after a few years of visiting these meets, to finally attend one with my own bike. Never mind that I could barely operate it. The important thing was that the project was over, and my creation could now be enjoyed!

I still thought about my grandfather and wondered what it was like for him to ride his 1913 Hedstrom Twin. Though old and tractor like, the Sport Scout is a generation more modern than his bike. Bumbling into a twin cylinder Hedstrom basket case at that meet, I barely recognized it for what it was. A picture was taken, and the final Sport Scout restoration article mentioned the bike - more or less as a joke.

Well the joke is on me. Five months later, that same bike was in my garage!

Everyone I spoke to recommended building a Chief as my next bike. "The most practical Indian is a post war Chief" "You're too big for the Scout. Get a Chief." But every time I visited my folks, that picture of Grandfather Jones in the front hall said "Come on! Take it for a spin!" You won, Grandpa! Now I'm starting over, with another old rusty pile of junk.

Even at it's best it won't be safe to ride. Too slow and no brakes to speak of!

So why am I smiling so much?

Since it looks like a practical bike is not in my immediate future, let's get on with the restoration of this old rust bucket! Moen agreed to pay me again (top dollar, too!) for another series of articles. Hopefully you'll tolerate me as I attempt my second clueless online restoration project. Please feel free to stop by and help, send parts, give advice etc. There's always a cold beer in the fridge.

The first thing to do is figure out how the frame works, and which components in the pile are a part of it. For a general overview of the frame try "Motorcycles and Sidecars Construction, Management, Repair" by Victor Page. I have a 1924 edition, but this book was reprinted in the 70s and turns up on eBay from time to time. Lets use it as a period source for information as we examine the way the Cradle Spring Frame operates.

Click on pictures for full size

Fun, but seems so Modern!

That old time flavor!

Some assembly required..

Jim's 1940 Sport Scout 
Restoration Story:

Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3
Part 4 - Part 5 - Part 6
Part 7 - Part 8 - Part 9

Chapter 6 talks about "Design and Construction of Frame Parts". Here is a sketch of the cradle spring frame (marked Figure 217). This is basically what my bike has. The area where the transmission mounts varies a bit. Also mine does not have a rear toolbox, or luggage rack. There is a picture of the Cradle Spring Fork (marked Figure 230) and this description:
Frame (figure 217)
The cradle spring fork which is an important feature of design on the Indian motorcycles is shown at Fig 230. The advantages claimed for this type of spring include maximum flexibility, which is said to be produced by the curved end of the lower leaves, and the quick dampening of the oscillations or absorption of rebound due to the friction between the spring leaves. The spring fork of the Indian motorcycle is of the trailing type, which means that the hub axle follows the forks instead of having the hub mounted ahead of the fork as is also common practice. The advantage of the trailing hub is not as clearly realized as it should be. With the forms in which the hub is carried ahead of the fork, when the wheel is raised, it is apt to produce an upward movement of the entire front end of the machine because a certain portion of the shock is transmitted by the hub carrier link directly to the fixed fork members as the wheel surmounts the obstacle. With the trailing hub construction which is clearly outlined at Fig. 230, any movement of the wheel will affect only the shock absorbing spring. The advantage of the trailing hub construction may be readily grasped by comparing its action to that of a wheelbarrow when it passes over a raised object. If a wheelbarrow is pushed against a curb, for instance, it will be found difficult to force it over the obstruction, whereas if it is pulled over it will surmount a high curb with comparatively little effort on the part of the person wheeling it. The usual method of supporting the front wheel ahead of the fork may be likened to pushing a wheelbarrow over; the trailing hub action is the same as when it is pulled over the obstruction. The fixed fork member of the Indian machine is well braced by a tubular arch member extending from the top of the steering column to the lower portion of the fixed fork. The hub carrier links are attached at their front end to the fixed forks, carry the wheel hub at their center, and the movable forks at the back end. The curved lower leaf of the shock absorbing spring provides a certain degree of flexibility which makes the wheel respond to slight irregularities of the road surface, and when greater resistance is encountered the entire spring is brought in action because the movable fork member exerts its pressure against the lower leaf at a point calculated to bring the remainder of the spring leaves in action. 

There is also a nice picture and a description of the rear fork and its operation.

The cradle spring frame utilized on the Indian motorcycle is conceded to be one of the biggest steps forward ever made in the development of the motorcycle frame. The construction is not unlike that of the spring fork except that two load-carrying springs are used, one at each side of the wheel. The wheel hub is carried in a movable rear fork stay hinged at its forward end to the lower portion of the tube that takes the place of the seat-post mast of conventional design frames. The load-carrying springs are attached to a semi-steel casting member in the form of a horseshoe that takes the place of the usual seat-post cluster. A movable rear fork member is attached to the springs in the same manner as the movable fork member of the spring fork assembly is, and is hinged at its lower portion to the hub carrying plates. It will be evident that with this construction the rear wheel may move independently of the main portion of the frame that carries the weight of the rider and the power plant, and that the combination of this member with the effective spring fork should not only provide for maximum comfort of the rider but contribute to the long life and endurance of the mechanism by insulating it from the destructive road shocks in a much superior to that which obtains in the conventional construction where the air filled tire is the only resilient support.

So that's how the frame works! Sounds like things could get a little bouncy if you ride the way I do!


I purchased a copy of the 1914 parts price list from George Yarocki. Please call him and buy all the literature you need! There can never be too much information. At the front of the parts book is an explanation of Indian part number prefixes. Parts starting with A originated in 1909, B in 1910, C in 1911, D in 1912, E in 1913, F in 1914. The parts are listed in numeric order, ignoring the prefix, and grouped by assembly.

Time to get to work on the bike so I can have something to write about next time. I'm also gonna go get inspired by finding some original and nicely restored old bikes at AMCA meets. See you there!

This is the first installment in a series about the restoration of an Indian designed when the original founders still ran the company.


Front Fork (figure 230)

Front Fork Parts

Rear Fork

Frame and Rear Fork Parts