Saturday, September 13, 2008


Now here's an opportunity which doesn't arise every day... I was contacted by a fellow who wants to sell his 1911 Indian, 500cc ioe belt-drive single, in original, unrestored, running condition.

Indian from the very first (1901) offered chain-drive motorcycles, and by 1910, offered a two-speed gearbox and clutch. Dealer (and public) pressure were the impetus of offering a belt-drive motocycle from 1910 - a retrograde step from an engineering standpoint, but there were good reasons for this move; belts were simple and light, and American buyers understood the belt drive system, it being the standard in many forms of industry at the time - most powered saws, lathes, sewing machines, etc, were driven by a belt from an overhead shaft or distant motor.

The belt is tensioned by a jockey wheel just behind and below the engine pulley, controlled by the long lever on the left side of the tank. Slip was controlled by the lever in a manner similar to a clutch - if the jockey wheel was dropped completely down, the belt would slip over the pulleys, just like being in 'neutral', and grip could be gradually increased as necessary, or a partial-slip condition used in case of difficult terrain.

In 1910, planetary gears inside the engine pulley gave three speeds, but this proved troublesome and was dropped by year's end.

Some of the early 1911 Indian Motocycles had the old 'block letter' Indian logo, but later in the year they adopted the cursive style seen here.

The bike is started by pedalling off, bicycle-style, with the valve lifter open, then releasing the valve lifter while opening the throttle, and chuffing off in high style. I haven't ridden one, but I understand they're comfortable at 20mph, but will do much more, at your discretion (or peril). The leaf-sprung fork became an Indian trademark from 1910 until 1946, and gave a stable ride, as these flat springs have self-damping properties.

If you're interested, the owner wants $75k for this motocycle; contact me directly and I'll put you in touch.


Tiago said...

it's a beauty ! Maybe one day...

Anonymous said...


I'll have that lovely 1911 Indian (when the Lotto numbers come up). What a great way to run a fixed speed veteran, with a jockey wheel and lever acting as a surrogate clutch. Would still prefer an 8 valve board tracker, but have to admit this one is miles more practical and in my preferred state of possessing an authentic patina.

Mark Lesek said...

I am building a 1911 belt drive Indian single the same as this. Can anyone give me photos or know of an owner who I can correspond with to finish this project? email