Indian motorcycle restorer preserves family tradition

Publish Date: 
Apr 13, 2011

EASTHAMPTON, Mass. - You might say Indian motorcycles are in Michael Baer’s blood. He’s the great-grandson of an American motorcycling legend, the grandson of a famed racer and the son of a former motorcycle dealer. That heritage has led him to become a leading authority o the storied brand.

Baer has spent the last decade restoring and researching the bikes, which were manufactured in Springfield between 1901 and 1953. He's worked on about 50 Indian motorcycles over the years and helped restore about 25 of them.

"He's so knowledgeable about Indians he's a real resource for us here," Guy McLain, director of the Lyman & Merrie Wood Museum of Springfield History, told the Hampshire <a data-cke-saved-href="http://www.gazettenet.com/2011/04/08/mike-baer-last-indian-motorcycle-craftsmen" href="http://www.gazettenet.com/2011/04/08/mike-baer-last-indian-motorcycle-craftsmen" "="" target="_blank">Gazette.

"I don't know anybody doing work like he does. It seems to me what [Baer] is doing is fairly unique."

Baer’s grandfather, Butch Baer, and his great-grandfather, Fritzie Baer, worked for the company in its heyday. Fritzie Baer was a racer who later became a dealer. He’s also an AMA Hall-of-Famer.

Baer, 37, spends as much or more of his time immersed in archival research to get his restorations just right.

His family helped build the era of the Indian and he refuses to let it fade away. "I'm one of the few guys who does the whole thing," he says. "I do it so the knowledge is known. I do it for the love of it. I want people riding."

Right now he is working on a 1918 Indian Commercial Powerplus motorcycle for his grandfather, the oldest bike he’s ever restored and one of about a dozen Indian bikes his grandfather owns.

McLain says Baer was key to bringing Indian Day back to Springfield last year. This year's event is set for July 17 on the grounds of the Springfield Museums.

"We had 2,000 people here and more than 50 vintage motorcycles" last year, McLain says. "It's an incredible chance for people to see lots of great Indian [motorcycles] and talk to collectors. It was a sea of motorcycles."

Posted by Holly Wagner