|April 2000 Column||www.virtualindian.org|
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the bike and I have shaken off the stale confinement of winter and greedily
quaffed the sunshine and onrushing air and brisk motion that somehow translate
into a state of alert tranquillity. Itís puzzling that the itch to be out
rambling Ė evoking images of unrest and turmoil Ė could open the way to
an inner repose. Maybe some core part of me has always been in transit
in a sense and itís only when I match its pace, throttling headlong into
glinting rays and leafy smells, that I achieve harmony within myself.
After taking the battery back outside and reinstalling it, I gave the bike an extra priming kick because the 50-weight oil felt a little gummy. Then with the first ignition-on prod, the 101 barked to life, expelling winterís somnolence as a gray puff of exhaust the way an emerging retriever flings off water. For the first couple of rides, I dressed warmly and stayed mostly on neighborhood streets, avoiding the sand in the gutters distributed in previous months to give cars traction in the relentless snow and ice. One time at a sharp turn where I was watching for traffic, I let my guard down about the sand and took a minor unplanned sidestep. Then came a day when the air was warm and the engine found its sweet spot for relaxed cruising and I was leaning through the bends with a gauzy glow coming off the nearby water, and I suddenly felt light and free. The grimness of winter had lost its last trace of a grip and was fluttering somewhere behind me, receding fast.
At this time of year, I feel more than the usual kinship with the other motorcyclists I pass on my lakeside circuit because I realize they probably magnify the change in seasons as much as I do. Weíre really a select group in terms of our immersion in the elements. Fishermen may spend more time outdoors and truckers cover a whole lot more ground, but who else takes in as much varied scenery while being out there fully exposed to the sensory feast?
And I think Indian riders have an especially keen appreciation of resurrecting a trusty steed from hibernation because itís a pale reminder of the far more emotion-charged undertaking of transforming a neglected, rust-frozen old spider farm into a gleaming, smooth-running prowler of the roadways. Each spring as we launch back into riding, we notch another small victory against the grinding glacier of time.
have to admit Iíve never traveled the path of a serious restoration. Not
only did I buy my 101 in pretty close to rideable condition, but even now,
after a fair amount of refurbishing around the edges, the paint is kind
of rough in spots, as well as being an odd shade of red bordering too closely
on orange, and the engine seems a little harsher than it should be, possibly
due to gear whine in the magneto and primary drives. Still, once Iíve accelerated
through the gears, this bike cruises down the road pretty smoothly within
reasonable speeds, and folks who donít know much about old motorcycles
tell me it looks sharp to them.
When you get right down to it, though, the splendor of the results canít erase the fact that restoring a basket really is a form of folly, at least from an accountantís point of view. Itís almost invariably cheaper over the long haul to spend more in the first place and buy a machine thatís complete and running. Even minor shortcomings that shave something off the initial outlay may not be such a great idea if they bother you to the point of having to correct them later. Itís not unheard of in this hobby for someone to pay $1,000 for the right speedometer on a particular Indian model. The same person may have bought the motorcycle unaware that this feature was inauthentic, or thinking it would be a cinch to fix. As a broker once told me, if you want a ď10,Ē save a little longer and buy one, because the ď9Ē you thought was a better value will probably never be a ď10.Ē I would add, though, that for someone of my ilk whoís not that particular, any roadworthy bike will pay huge pleasure dividends over a nicer example you canít afford until later. How do you put a dollar figure on losing a season of riding?
As for the baskets and rolling baskets, maybe demand from those like myself caught up in romantic notions of accomplishing a gargantuan feat has driven up the prices. Then the real whammy comes when you add up the costs of all the repro parts needed. We canít blame the suppliers for this in light of the low production runs and exacting demand for correct details. Well, I suppose a person can always dream of inheriting or stumbling across some faded treasure, then discovering that most of the parts can be reconditioned or found at swap meets.
I hope the investment factor will not discourage people from continuing to tackle basket cases. Each ground-up restoration inspires tinkerers who need to do less comprehensive work on their bikes, and those who draw fulfillment from giving form with their own hands to an icon of the road should heed their hearts, not their checkbooks. Letís not forget what matters most: Each Indian back on the road is a triumph worth cheering about. Especially when springtime arrives.
Bob lives in New Jersey
and regularly rides his 37"
1928 101 Scout. Bob is an
occasional contributor to
the AMCA magazine, and
Bob at the controls of
his first 'ride'. Baltimore
in the early 1960s