The Indian Motorcycle Factory Tour in Spirit Lake, IA offers a unique, up close and personal look at how one of the most storied motorcycle brands in the world is made.
Polaris Industries, the owner of Indian Motorcycles, assembles each motorcycle, along with their Victory brand of motorcycles, at their facility in Spirit Lake. The engines, frames, and other components are assembled in other Polaris factories, then shipped to Spirit Lake.
Factory tours are available Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday of each week, and only by appointment, but they’re free. Tour guides insist that photographs are prohibited. We were able to find photos previously published by Polaris for use in this article.
When taking the Indian Motorcycle Factory Tour, expect no air conditioning. The day Sash and I took the tour, outside temperatures were expected in the mid-90s. Inside the factory, it gets hotter. As a result, all Indian manufacturing was halted for the day. Meanwhile, Victory assembly continued.
For the most part, each Indian and Victory motorcycle is assembled by hand, along an assembly line very much like the one used by Henry Ford with the Model A.
But instead of a guy pulling a platform to each station, each motorcycle frame is mounted to a robotic platform. The robotic platform reads a strip of yellow tape on the floor and drives itself to each station. Project managers can simply pull up the tape, and lay it back down in a different direction if need be.
The Indian Motorcycle Factory Tour takes you right up to each station, close enough to bump and brush up against each worker, watching them bolt on each piece, and move each platform on to its next station.
At any moment, someone at a station can halt the assembly process, and everything comes to a stop as project managers investigate the problem.
Once assembled, a motorcycle is taken into a dyno testing room where its run through several tests. If it passes, it goes to into a specialized crate, and shipped to a dealer. The tour guide allowed us to gather around the window of the testing room as we watched a guy take a Victory 8-Ball up to its limits.
There’s also a woman who randomly pulls out crated motorcycles, and does a quality check going through hundreds of items.
All painting is done in the same facility. The tour takes you through there too.
At the time we did the Indian Motorcycle Factory Tour, Polaris was building Indians for customer orders only. They weren’t building any units for general dealer inventory. That may have changed by now.
All Indian and Victory motorcycles are assembled by non-union workers. Every worker in the factory is employed by Doherty Staffing Solutions. To get a job at the Spirit Lake facility, you apply through Doherty, who has an office at the facility, and you become a temporary. If Polaris determines you’re a good fit, they bring you on full time, though you remain an employee of Doherty. The result is lower staffing costs for Polaris, and easier elimination of problem workers.
2014 is also the first model year where Indian motorcycles were designed by Polaris. With the 2011, 2012, and 2013 model years, Polaris built Indians based on the Stellican, Ltd design.
The Indian Motorcycle Factor Tour runs about one hour. There’s no food and no souvenirs aside from copies of their brochures.
Indian Motorcycle Factory Tour
1900 Hwy. 71
Spirit Lake, IA 51360