I’ve been fortunate to have a 12 year career in the motorcycle business. In that time many people have come and gone and the industry has drastically changed. There’s no way I could have made it this long without the people that have taught, inspired and motivated me.
I was reminded of this last week when I came across a magazine article featuring Indian Larry and his infamous custom Panhead, “Grease Monkey”. Like many people, I was fascinated with Larry when he rode into our living rooms via the Discovery Channel. He had a colorful personality, amazing technical abilities and an effortless charisma. And of course I was mesmerized by his bike. At a time when wide tires and billet motors ruled the motorcycle world, Indian Larry showed up on a kick start only, ridged framed Panhead with a skinny rear tire, magneto ignition and spoke wheels. He displayed a cool confidence and self assurance that impressed the hell out of me then and still inspires me today.
I met Indian Larry at Daytona Bike Week in 2004. I was looking over a Billy Lane custom chopper when someone asked me what I thought of the foot controls. I realized the guy, wearing sweatpants, flip flops and a tank top, was Larry. I was floored, here I was, next to my idol and he was talking to me about bikes! I mustered up something generic about the controls looking good, still dumbfounded he had asked for my opinion. He was more then happy to take a picture with me and when I told him I really liked the bikes he built he gave me what seemed like a sincere thank you. I was amazed at how willing he was to take pictures, sign autographs and talk with the people at his booth. During a time when many bike builders acted like elite rock stars that didn’t have time for the Average Joe, Larry seemed to embrace fans. He was pleasant and friendly and had a way of making everyone feel welcome. No elitist mentality at all.
Indian Larry died in 2004 performing motorcycle stunts for his fans. The year after he passed away I
saw his final build, “Chain of Mystery”, in person for the first time and was floored. To this day it is without question, the coolest bike I have ever seen. The lines are tight, the radical paint is timeless, every piece is artistically customized yet nothing is there for the sake of being there, its all part of the greater function of the bike. This bike showcases everything that made Larry a world famous builder and then you notice the frame is made of an actual tow chain and your mind is blown.
I didn’t personally know Indian Larry and he’s been gone for a long time now, but I still admire him for the obstacles he overcame and his amazing out look on riding and life in general and of course his immense talent as an artist and bike builder. Sometimes this business becomes too much of a business and I forget what brought me here and what keeps me coming back. All I have to do to remember is to look ads like the one below or pictures like the ones above. I’m lucky to be here and can’t wait to see what’s next!