U.S. 101 by 1948 Indian Chief — Classic Motorcycle Touring — Motorcycle Classics

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Indian Chief Touring

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Back in the Fifties, I celebrated my from high school by my functional 250cc NSU and buying big and flashy — a well-used Sunshine 1951 Indian Chief. It was and it certainly attracted the girls at the AW but it wasn’t too handy in the curves in the hills of Massachusetts, nor were the anything to be proud of. I sold it a year.

That was a long ago. In more recent I have had the opportunity to ride a few Indian Chief motorcycles, Larry Kahn’s 1948 Chief, a bike he’s since 1992 and renovated 15 years ago with the help of Indian specialists Starklite Since then, he’s put 3,000 miles on his “Harley A while back, Larry a website with a 1948 map of our California county, San Luis where U.S.

Highway 101 is the main north/south

Two hundred years ago, 101 was a dirt track called El Real, The Royal Road, from Los Angeles to Monterey. It its 101 status when the feds numbering roads in 1926. In the and Sixties, 101 was widened and most of it limited-access, but looking at the map, we that a good deal of the two-lane road still We decided that a “48-48” (1948 route, 1948 was in order.

Larry would the Indian one way while I took and then I would ride the to re-acquaint myself with the of a 65-year-old Indian.


Like many an old bike, a certain protocol to starting an Chief motorcycle. Fortunately, the drill for Larry’s Chief is easy, at least for sizable this is no lightweight operation. with the Chief on the sidestand and in make sure the clutch is and kick the engine through a or two.

Next, turn the on. If the engine is cold, pull up the lever. Retard the spark by the grip on the non-throttle side of the (it could be either side, on the particular bike).

Open the throttle grip a tiny bit. Raise up, then come down on the kickstarter and you should be rewarded a healthy roar! Advance the by twisting the non-throttle grip and the engine should settle a happy idle.

Conscientious will take off the oil cap and look the tank to ensure oil is being back in.

You are now running, but you still to get moving. Lift the sidestand lean the bike a bit to the right, as you soon have to lift left foot to disengage the That slight lean is a any hand-shifter soon learns. the gear lever back to first gear, doing so as there will be the inevitable as a spinning gear meshes a stopped gear; don’t this is just the way things back then.

Rotate the back slowly, give the a little gas, and you’re It’s very simple,

Moving down the road a make the long shift neutral to second, then go for The Indian Chief is perfectly rolling along at 60mph, plenty of throttle left. that, the engine feels a bit but 60mph was pretty fast in the day. The feel of the engine is tractorish.

It’s low-revving with of torque, and the narrow-angle V-twin has a vibration starting at perhaps There’s no tachometer here, but I the claimed 40 horses come on an estimated 4,400rpm — few riders want to spin the engine any The 1948 Indian Chief benefit from smooth as the suspension — girder springer and plunger shocks rear — is a lacking by 21st century

The road calls: Traveling on 101

Santa Margarita, where our journey begins, had its start as a town back in the 1880s the Southern Pacific, now Union was digging tunnels and laying to get over a mountain ridge, the hurdle between LA and San Francisco. north on old 101, now officially as El Camino Real, the road is paralleling the railroad until a divergence as we approach Atascadero, the sticking close to the Salinas the road drifting slightly to the

That name — Atascadero — from the Spanish atascar . to get the Spanish/Mexican ranchers of 160 or more ago, carrying their to market in the town of San Luis would have to cross the River here and sometimes got Back in 1916, a developer Edward Gardner Lewis up much of the land and asked a what the place was called. he was told, but he never bothered to its meaning. He built a planned along with an impressive hall in the Palladian style, and the place as a retirement haven.

Crossing over the Paso Creek a few miles north of we come to Templeton, an unincorporated with an old-fashioned Main that was once U.S. It still has a huge granary and of the old covered sidewalk.

Back in the of dirt roads and lots of shopkeepers built sidewalks of so the ladies could keep skirts clean; now the road is and the sidewalk is concrete, but some still have the covers the sidewalk. Less than 5 up the road is Paso Robles, used to be part of a Spanish called Pass of the Oaks.

the economy changing from to grape-growing and tourism, the area has a worthy competitor to Napa as a wine-lover’s destination. Upward of 150 are clustered here, as well as of tasting rooms. The Paso Inn has been offering hospitality on old now Spring Street, in the center of for more than 100 years; a newer motels are on the new 101 exits.

North of Paso Robles the old 101 has been renamed Monterey which stays close to the Pacific railroad tracks it rejoins the new 101 a mile or so south of San a Spanish mission town. As we U.S.

101 into San Miguel a points right to the Rios-Caledonia which is on the old, old 101. The adobe building served as a inn in the 19th century, the road paved in 1915, with a and gas pump opening to service the Powerplus motorcycles and Ford T cars that happened to be by. Stagecoach Road became

101 in 1924, until the highway was a little to the west in 1938.

The San Miguel was founded in 1797, but a destroyed much of the mission 10 later, and work on the present began in 1816. The main through town, old U.S. is now called Mission Street, the railroad tracks on one side and on the other. The Shady Rest which may actually date 1948 — nobody seems to — still stands on Mission but it probably hasn’t seen travelers since the new 101 bypassed the in the 1960s.

Today, the free-standing units become mini-apartments.

North of Mission Street merges U.S. 101, and we decide had our fun. We cross over the River here and head to Santa Margarita on the old River enjoying the thrill of riding 1948 Indian Chief for a while longer.

The Indian good on these roads, even. Maybe Larry’s spent its youth in these and enjoys a whiff of nostalgia for past, as many of us still do. MC

more about the history and of this classic bike in The Indian Chief .


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