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Archive for September, 2020

In August 2016, Harley-Davidson agreed to pay a $12 million civil fine and stop selling engine “Pro Super Tuners” deemed illegal after-market devices that caused its motorcycles to emit too much pollution.  I previously posted about this topic HERE.

The motor company also agreed to spend about $3 million to retrofit or replace wood-burning appliances with cleaner stoves to offset excess emissions from the sale of “tuners.”

It’s important to note that the EPA legal action had a significant chilling effect on the performance parts market at Harley-Davidson dealers and many other after-market manufactures.

As previously disclosed, the settlement resolved allegations with the EPA, that the company sold about 340,000 “tuners” enabling motorcycles since 2008 to pollute the air at levels greater than what the company certified. Harley-Davidson did not admit liability and has always maintained that it disagreed with the government, arguing that the tuners were designed and sold to be used in “competition only.”

Even though the settlement had not yet taken effect, a U.S. judge this week approved a revised settlement with Harley-Davidson and dropped the requirement that it spend $3 million to retrofit or replace wood-burning appliances with cleaner stoves to offset excess emissions.

Multiple environmental groups along with a group of 10 states sharply objected to the revised settlement by U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan.

Photo courtesy of Harley-Davidson

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1916 Indian Powerplus

Let’s start with a bit of history… on America’s first motorcycle company.

In 1897, George M. Hendee founded a bicycle production company called Hendee Manufacturing. Hendee Manufacturing would eventually come to be called the Indian Motocycle Company (without the “r”), shortened to simply “Indian” and became Hendee’s primary brand name due to a need for recognition in foreign markets as an American product.

1916 Indian Powerplus

In 1901, bicycle manufacturer, racing promoter, and former bicycle racing champion George Hendee hired Oscar Hedstrom to build gasoline engine-powered bikes to pace bicycle races. The machine he created proved to be powerful and reliable, establishing the company’s reputation for outstanding performance. Later that year the company’s first factory was established in downtown Springfield, Massachusetts.  The first Indian Motorcycle was sold to a retail customer in 1902, and later that year an Indian Motorcycle won an endurance race from Boston to New York City in its public racing debut.

This activity predates Harley-Davidson by two years.

Indian Motocycles Porcelain Signage

I’m not disparaging or trying to exploit Native Americans. The “wokerati” will undoubtedly object and fan the flames of hysteria on the signage reference, but the first half of the 1900s is when Indian Motocycle featured depictions of Native Americans on their products, signage and in their advertisements.

In 1916, co-founder George Hendee resigned as company president.  It was the same year that the United States was embroiled in a conflict with the Mexican revolutionary Pancho Villa, as he repeatedly made raids into the U.S.  It was also the first year of a new 61ci (990cc) ‘flat head’ (Gustafson side-valve) V-twin – the Powerplus, which replaced the F-head (inlet over exhaust) type.

1916 Indian Powerplus

The Powerplus motor was designed by Swedish immigrant Charles Gustafson. He was spurred on by Indian’s defeat at the 300-mile board-track race in 1915 by Harley-Davidson.  He knew a side-valve motor could be made more reliable than the F-head design and could be tuned for speed more reliably than Indian’s 8-valve racer.  The motorcycle oil consumption was stated at 30 mph, 400 miles/qt.; at 50 mph, 100 miles/qt. with an estimated top speed of 60 mph.

Then in 1917 the United States entered into WWI. Indian Motorcycle dedicated much of its production to the war effort. As a result, dealers had limited inventory and retail sales dropped significantly. The company provided the U.S. military with nearly 50,000 motorcycles from 1917-1919, most of them based on the Indian Powerplus model.

1916 Indian Powerplus

In 1923, the company changed its name from The Hendee Manufacturing Company to The Indian Motocycle Company—no “r” in motocycle when the word was used with the name Indian. Indian Motorcycle Manufacturing Company ceased operations and discontinued production of all models in 1953. In 1955, Brockhouse Engineering purchased the rights to the Indian Motorcycle name and sold imported Royal Enfield models branded as Indian Motorcycle models until 1960.  More Indian Motorcycle history is HERE.

In 1999, Indian Motorcycle Company of America (IMCA) emerged. America is at a crossroads … they opened and started operations in a different social climate than that of the original Indian Motocycle Company. IMCA was sued in 2000 by the Cow Creek Umpqua of Oregon under the Indian Arts and Crafts Act of 1990 for their use of “Indian”. Today, the company is now a subsidiary of Polaris Inc. as Indian Motorcycle International, LLC, having refocused its branding with far less focus on Native American imagery.

Edison-Splitdorf Magneto

You might recall that I previously posted articles on “Bob”… a remarkable motorcycle restorer and his vintage motorcycle collection in the northwest.

This original motorcycle is from that collection and shows an aged patina as one of the first-year Indian Powerplus V-twin’s from 1916.  It is in excellent running condition and was ridden and showcased regularly at vintage events. The Powerplus is a 61ci (997.6cc) ‘flat head’ (Gustafson sidevalve) 42-degree V-twin. The bore and stroke is 3 1/8 x 3 31/32 (18HP), the primary drive was a single-row chain under stamped metal dust cover, the suspension in front was cradle spring front fork with a single multi-leaf spring; the rear had an optional swinging arm and leaf spring, or the rare rigid version.  The transmission is a three-speed, hand-change gearbox and foot-operated clutch.. The Powerplus was an influential design of sidevalve engines and encouraged rivals such as Harley-Davidson to follow suit.

1916 Indian Powerplus

This Indian Powerplus is the rare “hard-tail” configuration, which implies to have been manufactured in Toronto Canada and made for the export market.  At the time, it was approx $25 less than the rear suspension model.  It was purchased in somewhat of a dismantled state and restored using Indian original components. Refurbishment included a complete reconditioning of main-shafts, bearing, cylinders, valve seats and various springs and gearbox bearing/pinions along with spokes and tires.  Bob also reconditioned the carburetor, but had to replace the original magneto with an Edison-Splitdorf magneto from the 1930s.

This motorcycle is a fantastic older restoration of a desirable early Indian in original patina condition. It might even be ready for use in an upcoming Motorcycle Cannonball!

1916 Indian Powerplus idling video:

UPDATED — Another post on this vintage motorcycle collection is a deep dive on a restored 1937 Harley-Davidson Model UL Flathead (HERE).

UPDATED — Another post on this vintage motorcycle collection is at: Every Restored Motorcycle Has A Story — The 1913 Single

Photos and video taken by the author.

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UPDATE September 10, 2020:
Scrutiny, then disagreement of methodology and then harsh criticism of the academic modelers from San Diego State University’s Center for Health Economics & Policy Studies arrived quickly after they published their findings in a 63-page report. The researchers sought to quantify the Sturgis Rally COVID-19 impact in South Dakota and nationwide by analyzing the (anonymous) cell-phone data of attendees.

South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem said the study was “fiction,” and criticized journalists who reported on it.  “Under the guise of academic research, this report is nothing short of an attack on those who exercised their personal freedom to attend Sturgis,” Noem said in the statement. “Predictably, some in the media breathlessly report on this non-peer reviewed model, built on incredibly faulty assumptions that do not reflect the actual facts and data here in South Dakota.”

Media References:
USA Today
WSJ (paywall)

The Associated Press as of last week identified 290 cases from 12 states tied to the rally. Instead of looking at contact tracing and trying to identify specific people who had the disease and passed it onto others, the San Diego researchers looked at the areas that sent the most people to the rally and how case trends changed after the event.

*****

A scientific “Discussion Paper” (dp13670) was recently released referencing preliminary work, which documents the spread of COVID-19 due to a mass gathering conducted during a pandemic against the guidance of the CDC.

The document explicitly refers to the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally and how a single superspreading event can be leveraged to impose restrictions on future mass gatherings.

Discussion Paper Highlights:

  • The per 1,000 case rate increased by 10.7 percent after 24 days following the onset of Sturgis Pre-Rally Events.
  • A total of 263,708 additional cases due to the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally.
    These cases represent a cost of over $12.2 billion, based on the statistical cost of a COVID-19 case of $46,000 estimated by Kniesner and Sullivan (2020).
  • The cost is enough to have paid each of the estimated 462,182 rally attendees $26,553.64 not to attend.

The document concludes that the spread of the virus due to the Sturgis Rally was large. The authors provide descriptive evidence and suggest stricter mitigation policies to limit exposure due to the behavior of non-compliant events and those who travel to them.

Photo courtesy of IZA Institute of Labor Economics Document.

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Montana Border on Highway 200

Last month I posted about plans to ride through Glacier National Park.

I started making plans a couple of months prior to the ride looking for the slowest, curving roads with mountains and throwback motel stopping points to minimize pandemic exposure.

The reopening of Montana’s tourism amenities and services started in early June, which meant they were open a couple months prior to our arrival, with the exception of the Blackfeet Indian Reservation which was closed “until further notice.”  Canada also blocked all non-essential travel into the country so any mini-tour loop into BC or Alberta was off limits this trip.

It turns out that 2020 was a record-breaking year for the fact that there were NO forest fires during the days we visited the park to disrupt the spectacular views. There has been a fire in Glacier National Park almost every year of its existence with the exception of 1964 as the only year with no fires on record. Fires are a naturally recurring part of the forest lifecycle, but seeing Glacier with pristine clear air was an exceptional gift this time.

We traveled northeast crabwise across Washington state and spent a night in Sandpoint, on the northern tip of Idaho. It’s located on the magnificent 43-mile-long Lake Pend Oreille, surrounded by the Selkirk and Cabinet mountains. The next morning we traveled east on Highway 200 alongside the lake, then alongside the Clark Fork River.  We made a breakfast stop at a terrific family owned bakery in Clark Fork, called The Pantry.

Once we crossed over into Montana, we took a short detour to the remote end of Sanders County and traveled over the new $13.5 millon Heron Bridge.  It replaced a 95-year-old, one-lane bridge connecting Montana Highway 200 to the community of Heron. The original bridge had the ribbon cut on Nov. 23, 1952, but was originally fabricated in California and was already 32 years old when first installed across the river.  It had been deemed insufficient for growing traffic across the Pend Oreille River near Metaline Falls, Washington when it was moved and re-constructed at Heron.

“Sun Road” Glacier NP

After the bridge tour we rode north on Highway 56, Bull Lake Road, which is about 36 miles long and dead ends at Highway 2 just west of Libby. The landscape in the area is very diverse from low elevation timber and lakes to the outstanding peaks in the Cabinet Mountains and Scotchman Peak area.  We rode along the Kootenay River on Highway 2 to Kalispell then north on Highway 93.  We overnighted in Whitefish, MT a gateway to Glacier and a nice resort town. With a mixed array of shops, coffee houses and restaurants it reminded me of Jackson, WY charm.  There are plenty of places to enjoy a Going-to-the-Sun IPA with a great view of the mountains.

Glacier National Park, MT

The Blackfeet Indian Reservation closure created an impediment to traveling the Going-to-the-Sun road through the park and then looping back on Highway 2.

The road/gate entrance to the park was closed at St Mary. An optional route from Glacier north across the Canadian border to visit the Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park was a barrier as well since the Canadian border was closed.

At any rate, we began at West Glacier for a slow out-and-back ride on the 50-mile-long road.  There were incredible views of glacial-carved valleys, jagged peaks and pristine wilderness. A benefit of the pandemic was those famous red busses which departed from Lake McDonald Lodge were shut down and not running on the roads this year.

The Going-to-the-Sun Road was the National Park Service’s first to cross the trans-continental divide. It’s a landscape impossible to adequately describe in words or capture in photos when riding into that ‘big sky’ that Montana is famous for.

The west tunnel–a 197-foot long tunnel features two arched openings that let you look out to Heaven’s Peak and the Upper McDonald Creek valley while behind the handlebars. The Alpine section–is a six percent climb between the Loop and 6,646-foot high Logan Pass. There’s a section of the road called The Weeping Wall. A waterfall cascades 100 feet down, over the rocks and onto part of the road and down the other side of a 4500 foot cliff drop-off.

The Posse

The views! The curves! It’s like a real life painting.

For all its scenic wonders, the “Sun Road” is not without a few negatives: overall, the roads were in good shape and well-maintained, but there were a couple of rehabilitation projects and construction delays can be a major buzz-kill with all the crowds. The speed limit is slow-to-stop with much of the ride quality depending on the crowds and RVs.

The end of our round trip ride took us back into touristy West Glacier, town. Afterward we headed back to a Whitefish pub (via a motel shuttle) to try out a flight of their whiskeys and celebrate the completion of a beautiful ride.

Glacier is a place to be savored and a place to come back to again and again. It was great to get a break from the relentless protest, COVID-19 media drum beat and to reconnect with the land by motorcycle.

Photos taken by the author. 

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