#192 Matt Lyman
1918 Indian Powerplus
Hello New Friends and Cannonball Enthusiasts!
My name is Matt Lyman. For the past decade I’ve read stories about this great adventure called the Motorcycle Cannonball! In 2021 I’ll become a first-time Cannonball rider myself! Riding the back roads of our beautiful country, from top to bottom, on a century old machine, will be an actual dream come true for me!
I’ve had the privilege of living my entire life in rural Wisconsin, where I grew up on a dairy farm during the 1960s and 70s. This was a time when a family could make a good living working 80 acres of land and milking 30 Holstein cows twice a day. Farm life, and my parents, taught me to work hard and be persistence. Farming also taught us to care for the land, our animals, and machinery.
My twin brother and I received a well-worn Honda 50 step-through for our 13th birthdays. Within a few days of riding the fields and woodlands of the farm I was hooked! While in high school I made the progression to a 160 Scrambler, and then an old Dream 305.
In the late 70’s I found an old Harley flathead sitting on rotting tires in an elderly farmer’s dirt floored machine shed. When I asked about the bike, he told me that his son had bought it shortly before leaving for Vietnam a decade earlier. Sadly, his son never made it home. The old farmer wanted it gone. On the spot, he wrapped a logging chain around the Harley’s triangular frame, and used the hydraulic hoist on his John Deere tractor to lift the bike into the back of my pickup. I eventually learned it was a 1942 Model U. After replacing the bike’s tires, battery, and secondary chain, and with much learning and tinkering, the old beast ran. Regrettably, I sold this un-chopped survivor to pay for my last year of college. That old Harley was the beginning of my fascination with older machines.
During the past 50 years I have rarely been without a motorcycle. How wonderfully amazing these early machines are! How enjoyable it is to putt along a back road, smelling fresh cut alfalfa drying in the fields, and watching red-winged blackbirds dive from overhead phone lines as they defend their territories.
As a youngster, my grandparents lived far away, in Illinois. We were rarely able to visit, as we needed to be home every 12 hours to milk the cows. My dad had told me that my grandfather rode motorcycles in the early 1900s. Unfortunately, Grandpa had lost his sight in an automobile accident in 1935. He was hit by a drunk driver. I knew relatively little of Grandpa’s early motorcycling days till after I got that first little Honda. On a rare visit to my grandparents sometime around my 14th year, Grandpa told me much about motorcycling in his youth. He said he’d owned Indians, Harleys, and Excelsiors. I asked him which he liked best? He told me that they were all great machines, but that for some intangible reason Indians were his favorite. Our shared love of riding became a special bond between us.
One of the last times that I saw Grandpa, before he passed away in 1974, he asked me to go to his dresser and pull out an old cigar box. I brought the box to him. He felt through its contents and pulled out a bronze badge. Although he had not ‘seen’ this badge in over 40 years, he clearly described every detail of it to me. On the badge were the initials S C M C and the number 92. He told me the initials stood for South Chicago Motorcycle Club, and that 92 was his membership number.
He described rides the club would take from Chicago to the Indiana Dunes area, and to early board track races. He told me about a time when a horse had eaten a flower off of my grandmother’s Sunday hat as she sat in the sidecar attached to his Indian Powerplus.
At the end of our visit Grandpa said that he wanted me to keep the bronze badge. He told me that if I ever owned an Indian motorcycle to mount the badge on its front fender tip. I told him I would. For several years that badge had resided on the front fender of my 2014, Polaris made, Indian Chief Classic.
This Spring the badge moved to the front fender tip of a 1917 Indian Powerplus which I purchased a few years ago, in original, unrestored condition. This Powerplus had not been run in perhaps 50 years, but other than its tires and seat being rotted away, was fairly complete; including its original Dixie magneto and Schebler carburetor. After 3 years of learning, and much help from my good friend and mentor, Kenny Schneider, of Kiel, WI, I’ll be riding the old Indian Powerplus in the 2021 Motorcycle Cannonball in honor of my grandfather and other mentors.
I’m looking forward to continuing the great Cannonball adventure and to making lots of new friends!