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A look at Bike Week — Cowboys and Indians

By Paul Viau | Mar 26, 2014
Photo by: Carol Viau WANABE INDIAN CHIEF — Bike Week in Daytona never disappoints. This year, I got to ride my good friend, Doug's Indian replica. Great fun, and no cowboys (or girls) were harmed.

In early March, my wife and I visited friends and family in Florida, starting with a couple days of ‘play time’ at Bike Week in Daytona Beach. This was the 73rd annual Bike Week Festival in Daytona, and we stayed with a dear friend, Doug Mercer, who I’ve known for more than 58 years.

I pause to reflect on this for a moment. Bike Week in Daytona started in 1941 — just 15 years before Doug and I were in third grade together. We were oblivious to motorcycles back then.

As I recall (which is not nearly as good as Doug can recall) we were more into baseball, marbles and playing ‘Cowboys and Indians.’ That was a good thing for our parents.

Our only motorized transportation growing up in the 1950s was a go-cart that Doug’s dad had fabricated from a used lawnmower. Oh how I loved to ‘tool around’ our neighborhood on that wonderful machine.

Fast forward. The now-Dr. Mercer who was our host in Palm Coast, Florida, has a stable of motorized vehicles, including beautiful Kawasaki Drifter. The Drifter was modeled after the circa 1940 Indian Motorcycle ‘Chief.’

Dr. Mercer has so well detailed and accessorized his Drifter that it often fools owners of genuine Indian motorcycles. In fact, I stopped to ‘gas up’ his Drifter on the way to visit Bike Week events. I was approached by a rider who asked, “What year is your Indian?” I didn’t know quite what to say — and, believe me, that doesn’t happen very often.

At Bike Week, Dr. M and I naturally ‘drifted over’ to the Indian area where we saw the all-new, 2014 Indian Chief.

Did you know? — Polaris® Industries acquired the Indian brand a couple years ago and has worked tirelessly to resurrect this iconic and truly American motorcycle.

We spoke at great length with Lonnie Hannah, senior designer for the company, who explained how the new design team painstakingly examined the history and ‘soul’ of Indian motorcycles. They examined and rode hundreds of Indian motorcycles, from all eras of Indian’s 100-plus-year history. They spoke to owners, past and present as well, and gained unprecedented access to private collections.

A few Polaris engineers also spent quality time at Wheels Through Time motorcycle museum in Maggie Valley, examining the impressive collection that Dale Walksler has preserved.

Polaris’ goal in the re-design process to: (1) capture the soul of the Indian motorcycle, (2) preserve and honor the past; and (3) make changes that would power Indian Motorcycle brand well into the future — ambitious, indeed.

But if Polaris does as nice a job on the new Indian as they have on their Victory motorcycle brand, Indian Motorcycles will be around for a long, long time.

The buzz about Indian Motorcycles at Bike Week was incredible. Even die-hard Harley-Davidson owners (are there any other kind?) said things like, “Now this is a motorcycle.”

Unfortunately, I didn’t have the time to ride a new Indian at Bike Week — just my friend, Doug’s Indian replica. It was a very nice ride.

That being said, I have three very nice rides in my garage right now, and my wife reminds me often that, “One’s got to go.”

Let’s see, as Doug and I would make choices ‘back in the day’ — Eeenie, meenie, miney, moe.

BTW, I just Googled that expression to check spelling and learned that Justin Bieber has a song by that name. Jinx!