Saturday, April 30, 2011

Entrepreneur #2 - George Hendee; two-wheel demon, and dreamer

George Hendee saw the advantages of electric starters for motorcycles, and argued with his chief engineer, Oscar Hedstrom - pushing him to include the newfangled feature in 1914. The electric lights and starter in those models were disastrous, and Hedstrom left the company in frustration. Hendee himself was forced out of Indian a couple of years later, although without him, sales gradually decreased.
Hendee was one of the most successful bicycle racers in Massachusetts at the turn of the century – at one point, he won 302 races out of 309! He started a company making his own bicycles, which sold well, thanks to his racing reputation.
Many of the very first motorcycles were “pacers” used to train bicycle racers. They were typically unreliable but Hendee noticed that Oscar Hedstrom’s ran very well. In 1901, Hendee approached Hedstrom and told him that his dream was to start a company devoted to making motorized bicycles. They called their company Indian, and in short order it was America’s leading motorcycle manufacturer. In 1912, Indian sold over 20,000 units.

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