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Paying it Forward at the Family Reunion

By Brian Riegel

It started out in the usual way, old friends filtering into the fairgrounds from various parts of the US and Canada. With fond greetings and hugs shared between folks who may only see each other once a year or perhaps even longer. Add in a mix of friendly new faces resulting in new found friendships, and you have a typical Indian 4 Club Annual Meet in Tiffin Ohio.
The unique style and beauty of these majestic machines brings is all together once a year, but the sharing of knowledge, respect, and a helping hand is what it is really all about. It may be the love of the bikes that brought us together, but it’s the people that bring us back.

I’ve been a member of the Indian 4 Club since 2010. I signed up about 10 minutes after sealing the deal on the machine I had always dreamed of, but never thought I would ever be lucky enough to acquire, an Indian 4.

I had been riding vintage Harleys, Indian Scouts and Chiefs for years, but when I got an Indian 4 it was like jumping into the deep end of the pool. It can be a little intimidating. I had always assumed that the Indian 4 crowd with their fancy and expensive motorcycles, were also a little bit “fancy” and I would never fit in. You know what happens when you assume, boy was I ever wrong. At my first Tiffin meet in 2010 the people were very friendly and I was welcomed with open arms. A couple hours or so after my arrival, while sheepishly attempting to kick start my newly found pride and joy, an older gentleman who I had never met before, just walks on over, takes out his pocketknife, makes a couple magic turns on the old Schebler DLX, and opens the choke one notch. He says only five words, “give it a little air” and walks away. Two or three kicks later the angels all sing as the bike comes alive. This type of thing happens at every yearly gathering in Tiffin Ohio. Sometimes it’s the soldering up of a broken oil line while lying on the concrete floor of the barn. Sometimes it’s the pulling out, cleaning and re-assembling of an oily clutch basket by the beam of a flashlight, while kneeling just outside the barn on the asphalt. Sometimes it’s one of the many other spontaneous group projects I have seen blossom over the years.  

It seems there is always someone willing to help. Many other things go on as well, like late nights hanging out in the barn telling tales. It’s always a great time, but I won’t get into that, it’s another story in itself.

Which brings me to my point. We have all wondered and discussed how we can keep our wonderful hobby alive. How we can gain the interest of the younger generation. We need to continue the heritage of this great hobby we all love. Here is a fine example that I was fortunate enough to witness at this year’s 2017 Indian 4 Club meet. No names will be used as the folks involved know who they are.

So… on Saturday morning a young fellow in his early 20’s, who happens to be the son of a regular attendee at the meet, arrives with his buddies and siblings. He was observed sitting on the ground, next to an old 1929 Indian 4. He was rooting through a few plastic tubs and boxes of miscellaneous parts. Turns out, the bike was once his father’s and had not run in many years. He was on a mission. He was attempting to get the tired old machine running again. In passing, a fellow member happened to notice that the carb was leaking fuel. Before you know it, the gentleman had the carb off and was showing the next generation the issue. The repair was made and the carb went back on. The young man commenced to kicking, but after many tries the bike would not start.

I happened to walk over closer and noticed the spark plug wires. The firing order was incorrect. So I pointed this out and had his buddy and him change the wires to the proper order. y two cents. Then it was noticed that the mag had no spark. He said “I just rebuilt it but I have another one in the tub, and also one for parts in one of those boxes.” Really? He had three mags, some people would love to just have one. Enter another longtime member, after some further investigation that gentleman discovered the problem. It seems the spring for the carbon in the rotor is missing. Together they cured that issue.

They continue with some more various adjustments and decide to give it another try, the young man commences to more kicking and finally the bike awakes from its long slumber. It runs, barely, but it runs, although quite rough. They continue to give it some more tuning and soon it runs much better, actually pretty darn well.     
The experience and savvy of the composite crew, along with the energy of the young bucks found success. It was fantastic! Oh… but that wasn’t enough, now he wants to ride it. Hmm… I asked a question… “Have you ever ridden a foot clutch hand shift bike before?” His answer… “No, but let’s push it over onto the gravel road and I’ll try to ride it down that way.” I suggested… “No, go the other direction, put the sun at your back, you’re going to have enough to deal with.” He said… “Good idea, now how do you find 1st and 2nd gear?” That’s when another friendly member, who had been in on all this, explains the shift pattern and we both instill upon him “Don’t be concerned with 2nd gear, just leave it in 1st for now.” On his first attempt to ride it he stalls. We’ve all been there. And then following a little tutoring on the nuances of the foot clutch, he was ready to go. On his second attempt he does it, and away he goes. This produced a loud eruption of cheers and applause from the crowd. He tooled on out toward the bike games and turned it around in first gear, all right, good job! Then on the return trip, he sticks it into second. Kids these days! He rolls up with a big grin on his face and asks “How do I turn it off?” Someone proceeds to choke the carb and the engine shuts down. No kill button.

He dismounts, props the bike onto the side stand, and is greeted with an array of back slaps, handshakes and congratulations. I shook his hand, looked him square in the eyes, and told him he should be proud of himself, that I was proud of him, and that today he had accomplished something that most people will never do. I doubt that fine young man will ever forget that day. I know I won’t. I bet he will be back next year. It worked for me. Just like at my first 4 club meet, someone whom I had never met helped me out. He didn’t have to, he just wanted to. We are a family. We pass along the knowledge. We help each other out, without attitudes, and with a shared mutual respect.

It’s what we do.

Brian Riegel