Monday, September 24, 2012

He grew up with Royal Enfield, now has the 'first' C5

He now owns the first Royal Enfield C5 sold in the U.S.
Royal Enfield motorcycles — usually badged as Indians — figured early in the life of Gary Friddle, a truck driver who now lives in Eastern Oklahoma.

His dad and grandfather before him raced Indians. Gary grew up believing that Harley Davidson was "the enemy."

Gary was the youngest of nine children. His dad had a 1960 Indian Chief, built by Royal Enfield, purchased about 1962. He would put five or six of the kids on it. There's a picture of this somewhere, probably misplaced in a move, Gary said.

One brother, serving overseas with the Air Force, brought back an early 700cc Interceptor and talked about the Mods and Rockers and "doing the ton."

The boys in the family rode and raced British motorcycles including Ariel and AJS. Growing up in Michigan, Gary remembers clearing a "track" by plowing snow off a frozen lake for ice racing.

"I tried to keep the track as curved as possible; the Harleys could catch us on the straights!"

The ice-rink track would get rutted and unusable after a few races, giving everyone the chance to head inside to warm up.

As a teen he got custody of a 1959 Indian Woodsmn with a Fury head on it, "an awesome bike." This was only possible because his father had a buddy who was an Indian dealer in Battle Creek, Mich. The Woodsman had been intended for the dealer's son to race but plans changed and it came to Gary's family.

The Woodsman was "about 20 years old" when Gary got it. After he went into the military another brother sold off the Woodsman.

Gary hadn't ridden for 30 years when the urge returned. In fact, it had been so long that he wondered what it would be like to ride now that most motorcycles shifted on the left, instead of on the right as he remembered. He knew Royal Enfields were still made in India.

He wrote me recently to tell me that he had found his Royal Enfield on this blog. His motorcycle turns out to be the first C5 sold in the United States, and he has a certificate proving it. Gary is the second owner, having purchased it from Dannie Mullins. Mullins was kind enough to deliver the motorcycle to Gary.

"My wife was amazed because one of the first things I asked him was 'what's its name?' She said 'how did you know he had given his motorcycle a name?'

"I just knew."

The name was "Rosie," appropriate for the color.

Gary also wanted me know about Michael Baker, of Royal Enfield of Fort Worth. I mentioned the dealership recently, noting that it claims to be the largest pre-owned Royal Enfield dealer in the U.S.

Odometer shows 16,000 miles.
"Imagine my surprise when I saw my friend Michael Baker's dealership featured in your article about used Royal Enfields," Gary wrote.

"Mike and I met in New Ulm, Texas at the 28th Annual British Motorcycle Owners Association Motorcycle Rallye this summer. 2012 was the year of the Royal Enfield and Mike brought out a fine display of not only bikes but hats, shirts and swag from his dealership.

"The Royal Enfields showed a very respectable rating in the events, winning about a third of them, as I recall. We had great fun and Mike is a real stand up guy. After the event he answered questions over the phone I had about my bike and helped in so many ways, as I don't have a dealer locally here in Oklahoma.

"Since meeting Mike and the team from Fort Worth, he's now my dealer and go-to guy for anything Royal Enfield related!"

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