SPIRIT LAKE, Iowa -- Motorcycle enthusiasts and summer vacationers alike are flocking to the Spirit Lake plant where Indian Motorcycle bikes are made.
Indian Motorcycle's history dates back to 1901 when George M. Hendee and Oscar Hedstrom opened its first factory in Springfield, Massachusetts. More than a century later, in 2011, Indian Motorcycle joined the Polaris family. The Indian Motorcycle lineup includes cruiser, bagger and touring models, as well as the Scout and FTR 1200.
Attached to the motorcycle factory, 1900 Highway 71, is the Indian Motorcycle Experience Center, which features current and historic Indian motorcycles and vintage artifacts and memorabilia.
Complimentary guided tours of the factory are expected to return after a two-year hiatus. Check with the plant in late summer to see when tours will resume. Call 712-336-3797 and choose option 4, or email email@example.com for more information.
But, in the meantime, visitors can checkout the exhibits, as well as view an 8-minute video tour of the manufacturing facility. The Experience Center is open from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday.
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"We have different bikes -- custom bikes, current bikes, history bikes that are available to look at," said Administrative Assistant Perian Kummrow. "There's some history memorabilia as well that has been acquired and brought into the lobby to show."
When tours of the physical plant floor are being provided, they typically run on select Monday or Friday mornings.
"When I'm allowed to give tours, they're full," Kummrow said. "Lots of people constantly request to have the tours here because they want to see where Indian is assembled."
Tours, which range from 40 minutes to an hour, start in the lobby. Leave your flip-flops and sandals at home, as closed-toed shoes must be worn in the factory. You'll also want to keep your smartphone in your pocket or purse and your camera in the car, because photos are not welcome once the tour begins. You can bring your young children on the tour with you, but you must adhere to some guidelines.
"I have had individuals that have their kids in a stroller," Kummrow said. "If they are young kids, they have to be, at minimum, holding their hands at all times, because there's a lot of moving parts."
After going over some safety procedures, Kummrow shows a video of the liquid paint process.
"We are not able to take individuals through that part of it because it's a controlled environment," she explained.
Next, Kummrow takes groups down a hallway, where they talk about Polaris purchasing the land and bringing Indian Motorcycle to the Iowa Lakes area, before moving on to the raw parts department.
"Then, we go to engine and take them through the entire assembly process," said Kummrow, who noted that she is asked "anything and everything" about America's first motorcycle company.
Some common questions are: "How many bikes are made in a year?" and "How many different paint colors are available?"
Kummrow said that number of motorcycles produced annually is not made publicly available. Since the paint colors vary year to year, she recommends visiting indianmotorcycle.com or checking with your local Indian Motorcycle dealership.