Indian Uprising

In the industry he is often referred as Kiwi Mike or Indian Mike. His full name is Mike Tomas and he is the President of Kiwi Indian MotorCycle Company. His career with Indian Motorcycles has spanned some 30 years. Mike moved from New Zealand to start Kiwi Indian Motorcycle Company in Riverside CA. His company specializes in manufacturing and innovating parts for classic Indians. Today his business has grown to creating over 2000 different part numbers, designing and building complete motorcycles and engines, creating specialized parts and assemblies, publishing books and riding hundreds of thousands of miles upon classic Indians. Nobody understands better than Mike Tomas what Indian is all about. So, a few months before the launch of new Indian motorcycles announced for Fall 08, it is important to listen to what Mike has to say. (Cyril)      

“Why has a brand that has tried to be revived so many times since its demise in 1953 without success still survived? The answer lies in its classic heritage rather than in any reincarnation attempt of the brand. Classic Indians are just that, classics, plain and simple, fully skirted fenders, engineering masterpieces, sleek lines and timeless elegant beauty.

History is an important part of our motorcycle culture, without it we have nothing. Some choose to ignore it, some choose to forget parts of it while some choose to build upon it. I believe in the rich history of our American motorcycle past and build upon it and respect those that have created the past. I am dedicated and specialize in Indian motorcycles ever since leaving school and buying my 1st Indian some 30 years ago. I find myself respecting those original factory engineers that have gone before me that have given me the tools to be able to do what I do today.

Indian was born in 1901 and is billed as America’s 1st motorcycle but more correctly it was America’s 1st “production” motorcycle. The motorcycle industry flourished until around 1914 when Henry Ford introduced his Model T which was the beginning of the end for several hundred American motorcycle manufacturers. Ford’s Model T was cheaper than a “motocycle” (as it was called in the early days), could seat several people and keep them dry and somewhat warm. The motorcycle industry was greatly reduced and then after the great depression to mainly Indian and Harley. Indian had going for it some great engineers and one of the greatest stylists to ever make a mark on motorcycle styling history, Mr. Briggs Weaver. Briggs was hired by E Paul DuPont and was highly respected even within the automotive industry. He later on introduced the full skirted fenders in 1940 which at that time was a shocker, but it certainly made a statement so much so that it took Harley Davidson until 1949 to bring about their answer, the Hydra-Glide front end.  

Indian in its early days developed many 1sts in the industry and was about racing and innovativeness. In the late 30’s and 40’s it was reduced to just style as Indian lost the technological battle in the later 30’s to Harley. While Indian still had a hot running flat head that would run well against Harley’s over head valve engines, Harley also had a superior transmission which was a far cry from Indians never changed (since 1920) 3 speed crash box (non synchromesh). Indian has ever since been left behind and is the follower and depends on its past heritage for marketing.       

Indian has had troubles re inventing itself ever since the original factory closed in 1953 and none seem to have understood what Indian is truly about. Many have had big money believing they could buy their way into it only to leave with a lot less. People are its greatest asset and companies would do well in respecting and acknowledging those who have kept marks alive over their dead years. Without them, there would be nothing today. I like our Native American heritage, and just like the Chiefs of yesteryear used to do, they’d pass around the peace pipe and enjoy what was around them. United we stand, divided we fall”. Mike Tomas, President Kiwi Indian MotorCycle Company.

Zipper's

21 Responses to “Indian Uprising”


  1. 1 Chief Greg Jan 3rd, 2008 at 10:15 am

    Mike is an authentic Indian. Period.

  2. 2 Kurt Jan 3rd, 2008 at 4:12 pm

    I have nothing against the launch of a new Indian motorcycle. But the new company should respect the old timers and produce a true new bike, not a harley clone dressed like an Indian. The company needs the endorsement and the support of the orginal Indian bikes riders. Or they will face a PR nightmare

  3. 3 Donnie Jan 3rd, 2008 at 5:54 pm

    With the help of Mike Tomas, Indian rules .

  4. 4 Big Joe Jan 3rd, 2008 at 7:57 pm

    Thanks Kiwi, may you be blessed in 2008!

  5. 5 Indian Scout Jan 3rd, 2008 at 8:36 pm

    Kiwi Indian, the real thing.

  6. 6 David Gross Jan 3rd, 2008 at 8:41 pm

    Saw Kiwi built bobbers & indians. Very period correct

  7. 7 J Jan 4th, 2008 at 4:42 am

    Mike Tomas is the epitome of a motorcycle company CEO; If I were part of the new Indian financing, I’d insist on Tomas to run the company- period.

  8. 8 A 1 CYCLES Jan 4th, 2008 at 10:37 am

    isnt it great when your passion and your expertise become one..you become an industry leader and well respected, any up and comers should always look to those before us to see the formula for success. one shining example is mike from kiwi. watch learn apply grow. dont copy

  9. 9 rodent Jan 4th, 2008 at 10:51 am

    Amen!!! Tell it like it is….Al the pretenders to the Indian starting with Wayne Backman of Albuquerque are not even knock-offs….Indian is DEAD… died in ’53 just like the model T is dead.

  10. 10 Nevada Bob Jan 4th, 2008 at 12:45 pm

    I’d like to share this with the “New” Indian owners. First, I wish you success. Second, as a VP of Marketing for a major Las Vegas casino corporation, I understand that the bottom line comes first. Third, I know for a fact that a company’s marketing will make them or break them.

    Having said that, one of the major faults of the Gilroy clan was that they tried to let the Indian name carry their marketing, without embracing the heritage it encompasses. If you look at what Kiwi Mike did in 2001, organizing at great expense to himself the “Century Ride Home” from California to the site of the original Indian factory in Springfield Mass. The Gilroy folks led him along that they were on board with his vision, only to pull the rug out from him a few weeks beforehand and announce their own Century Ride from Springfield Mass. to Gilroy. It was an utter failure. Then the Gilroy folks showed up in Springfield acting like they sponsored Mike’s endeavor. Horrible PR for Gilroy ensued, and the rest is history. By the way, Mike’s ride was a huge success, and his efforts got him on national news, a video was produced of the ride, and positive PR came in bucket loads.

    Flash forward to today. The Stellican folks have plans to revive the marqeee yet again. At first pass, it seems from my trained perspective they are implementing the exact same business model that failed so miserably for the Gilroy clan. I notice on their website they had some factual errors. I wrote them more as a good samaritan than anything to point out the errors and offer factual corrections. Never heard back nor were the changes made. There’s something telling there………..

    I’ve got a little bit of sage marketing advise for you folks from Stellican. The antique motorcycle world is not a poor man’s sport. Look on ebay and you’ll see antique Indians go for more than Gilroy Indians. Nearly all of the Indian owners out there own modern bikes as well. I personally own over a half million in antique bikes, and my lone modern bike is a Screaming Eagle Harley. We’re in the 40 age category that buys bikes like your “new” Indian. Coddle us, act like you actually give a damn about the Indian marquee, and we’ll give you positive press, buy your tee shirts, and might just buy your bikes. Treat the community like trash and we’ll trash you to the masses in return and avoid your bikes like the Ebola virus.

    Stellican, the ball’s in your court. Right now, you look like you are headed for a double fault. Convince me otherwise.

    Nevada Bob

  11. 11 David Hanan Jan 4th, 2008 at 12:49 pm

    Mike

    After all of your hard work, you deserve all the success anyone could have.

  12. 12 Eric Schumann Jan 4th, 2008 at 1:19 pm

    If “Kiwi Mike” were as the helm of Indian Motocycles after WWII, Indian would be a huge company now! my hat is off to Mike and his attention to detail.

  13. 13 hoyt Jan 4th, 2008 at 2:35 pm

    Mr. Tomas – congratulations. Your hard work is very appreciated. May you have continued success.

    Isn’t it interesting that the attempts to resurrect Indian have gone directly to the Chief-era as the first model? That market is saturated, meanwhile a huge market exists for a sport-oriented American racer.

    Indian’s racing & performance heritage is impressive and pre-dates the Chief. A mass-produced, modern American racer with hot looks priced in the range of a Ducati 1098 would fill a gaping market gap. This sportbike would take a “tip of the hat nod” to Indian’s early success, while coincidentally showing HD the way (again). Get James Parker and possibly Pierre Terblanche involved. (Pierre’s available now). Then, introduce a beautiful vintage cruise bike.

  14. 14 hoyt Jan 4th, 2008 at 2:42 pm

    …James Parker’s RADD single-sided front-end on a mass produced racer posseses loads of potential not only functionally, but also as a marketing tool. It goes along with Indian’s & American innovation.

  15. 15 David Gross Jan 4th, 2008 at 2:48 pm

    Went on the website of kiwi indian. Very nice stuff, but the site is difficult to navigate. Should hire Cyril!

  16. 16 CLIFF BISSETT Jan 4th, 2008 at 7:55 pm

    MIKE TOMAS LOVES THE INDIAN MOTORCYCLE CULTURE . ANY ONE WHO HAS BEEN TO HIS AWESOME FACILITY CAN FEEL IT. HE HAS THE SAME TENACITY AS BERT MUNROE, A FELLOW KIWI. HE DONATED UNTOLD HOURS TO THE MOVIE HELPING AND ADVISING NOT TO MENTION ORGANISING THINGS ON THIS SIDE. HOW HE KEEPS A POSITIVE ATTITUDE THROUGH ALL THE NEGATIVE JUNK HANDED HIS WAY IS TESTAMENT TO HIS OVERWHELMING LOVE OF THE INDIAN MARQUE . GIVE HIM A CALL WITH A WORD OF THANKS FOR HIS DEDICATION OR TAKE A TRIP TO HIS PASSION IN RIVERSIDE, THE TIME WILL NOT BE WASTED

  17. 17 Rick Jan 4th, 2008 at 11:11 pm

    I had to say something about Mike that draws a different perspective. He represents an immigrant that came to our Country, embraced it’s people, emulated it’s successful and historical working model, and waves the Flag of his new Country proudly. This is what made America great. Outside of that, he’s always willing to bring the donuts.

    I would consider making an offer of some sort to Mike if I were the new Indian investors. No doubt, everyone wants to buy from a company that knows and believes in their product or service. Mike has been in touch with the market that kept Indians alive (since the closure in the early 50’s) for over 20 years. Perhaps he might have some insight?

    Lastly, common sense tells us all why Harley survived- but I guess Indian runs a close second! Ha! Sorry Kiwi, but you just have to keep the Harley/Indian rivalry alive…….set you up…..ha, ha, ha…are you ready to convert to the evil empire’s side yet??? We’re always recruiting…

  18. 18 Jimmy Jan 5th, 2008 at 1:12 am

    I agree with Rick. Indian investors should hire Mike Tomas for his Indian insight with Cyril huze for his design skills and motorcycle industry deep understanding and professional connections. And then the biking world would embrace the new Indian models. BTW, Mike & Cyril are both immigrants. (I think Cyril is now a US citizen. But it seems to me that the new Indian owners act like investors and don’t understand that the motorcycle industry is like no other industry. It takes years and years to understand it. It’s why the new Indian may fail again.

  19. 19 Rocky Rocklin Jan 5th, 2008 at 2:13 am

    I am 70 yrs old. I 1st threw a leg over an Indian in 1952. I still have an Indian….this one a 46 Chief. I say God bless Mike the Kiwi and all those many folks around the world, folks in the cottage industry, who make and refurb parts for our old steeds and the repro that Mike makes. When I was a kid we thought the Harley crowd were lowbrows and they thought we Indian guys were snobs. Today any Harley rider who sees my old Chief lavishes praise on her. My how things have changed. They are the way they ought to be. If you write me at rocheux@yahoo.com I will be happy to send you of a pic of me on that Indian in 1952 and one of me and my ride today. Thanks Mike!

  20. 20 Donnie Jan 5th, 2008 at 2:59 am

    INDIAN MOTORCYCLE…..A TRUE CLASSIC
    MIKE TOMAS…………A TRUE CLASS ACT
    THE TWO TOGETHER……A TRUELY MAGNIFICENT MACHINE AND AN EVEN MORE IMPRESSIVE PERSON

  21. 21 Antone Jan 10th, 2008 at 12:59 am

    When I think Indian Motorcycles MIKE TOMAS comes to mind,,he should have the Indian name and if he was behind the New Indian making them like the way he makes his bikes the company would indeed be successful…

Comments are currently closed.
S&S
S&S
S&S
Thrifty Rent-A-Car System, Inc.
Affliction Holdings, LLC

Socialize

Facebook Google+ Twitter