Saturday, August 22, 2009
My First Bike
I'm don't know exactly where it came from, but I am pretty sure that time spent at farm auctions and antique stores with my Dad as a kid twisted my perception of what was cool towards old, broken stuff, forsaking new and shiny stuff. He adjusted my focus to see a beautiful restored antique platform rocker (now sitting in my living room) while looking at a grubby old chair in a pile at the dump. It got me looking at cars and bikes in the same way. I have never been particularly impressed with pretty motorcycles, preferring basketcases and ratty old bikes with a soul over sleek, pretty, new boringly reliable stuff.
It was with that perspective that I selected my first bike in the spring of 1982. I was a junior at Michigan State reading my favorite periodical, the "Wheeler Deeler", a local free classified rag in the Lansing area. My eyes locked on an ad for a 1941 Indian Military 741. The guy wanted $750, a ridiculous amount in my estimation, but it was close by so I went to check it out. Once I saw it, I could see it was clearly going to need some work, but it was so damn cool; Flathead V-twin (albeit a little small), spring mounted solo seat and a foot clutch/tankshift set up.
After a little dickering, I peeled out $450 from my student loan funds and I was loading it in my friend Ron's pickup. Once it was home, I gave her a valve adjustment, filed the points, installed new carb gaskets and a wrong-sized m/c battery from Meijers. Much to my surprise, while following the starting instructions in the manual, it fired up almost immediately.
Although a 30.50" flathead is no asphalt burner, I put a bunch of miles on that bike. It was very cheap to own. Anything that needed to be fixed was easily accomplished with a very basic set of tools and just a few bucks.
It all ended on a humid August 25, 1986 night while riding home along with my buddy Rob on his 73 Honda 350-4. We were in "Deadman's curve" on Charlotte Hwy. between Mulliken and Portland. As we cut into the curve, I caught some loose gravel and went down and over the handlebars into a guardrail. As I laid there wondering what just happened I realized the old Indian was laying there on it's side, still running. I think Rob shut it off and stood it back up. As I sat there trying to regain my composure, I realized something was not right with my right shoulder. Rob assured me it was probably just dislocated, but I wasn't buying it.
I decided I needed to go to the hospital, so we did what any pair of clear thinking 25 year old males would do. We left the scene of the accident riding double on Rob's Honda and rode back to his house where he could take me in his truck to the hospital. There is alot more to the story that I would love to tell, but of course afterwards I would have to kill you. Suffice it to say my collarbone was broken into three distinct pieces and at my wife's behest the bike was for sale the next day. I sold it to an older guy from Ohio wrecked for $1,200 and patted myself on the back for being such a shrewd salesman. I won't tell you what these bikes are selling for now....