Builder, Artist, Stunt Rider & Biker.
Indian Larry was a chopper builder, artist, stunt rider, and biker. He became known as Indian Larry in the 80s for riding a chopped Indian motorcycle around the streets of New York.
While still a young man Larry learned how to weld from Conrad Stenglein in the Newburgh, New York area. He showed an attention to detail most teenagers didn’t have. If he wasn’t satisfied with his work he would cut it off and start again.
He briefly moved from New York to California to join his younger sister Diane, a free spirit soaking up the 60’s vibes of peace, love and drugs. Sadly his sister was murdered in 1971 and Larry brought her body back to New York.
He continued using drugs and needed money to buy them, this led to him being arrested for robbing a bank in 1972. Larry was convicted and spent 3 years in Sing Sing prison. this was a turning point where he refocused and started building on his skills and passions.
Larry spent his 3 year incarceration taking welding & mechanic courses and reading philosophy books. Rather than spiral down, he built himself up.
After his release he began building choppers and working in various motorcycle shops. In 1987 IRON HORSE Magazine featured his 1950 Indian Chief Chopper. This is when people started calling him Indian Larry.
A Genuine Legend
Indian Larry continued building choppers and became recognized as one of the greats. It wasn’t just his bike building skills that built his popularity. His personality, his philosophy on life, his genuine nature was magnetic.
As his reputation grew from Local to National and then International recognition he continued to struggle with his celebrity status.
He continued to struggle with drugs as a form of self sabotage. a pressure we now know as “The Imposter Syndrome” when someone feels they are not worthy of the status others put on them. He knew he was flawed but overcame his humble nature in the late 90’s.
In 2003 he competed in a Biker Build-Off TV program. He won the build-off against Paul Yaffe with his Daddy-O (AKA Rat Fink) Motorcycle.
He won again with his entry of “Wild Child” against Billy Lane.
Going for the Hattrick Win he did a Biker Build-Off against Mondo. this is when he built “Chain of Mystery”. This may be his best know build due to it’s use of welded Tow Chain Links as the frame.
Unfortunately this was to be his final Bike Show. During the show he was performing stunts for the crowd and fell off his bike severely hitting his head, he later passed away in hospital.
Indian Larry - Master Chopper Builder
Larry’s personal ride. First Indian Larry Bike featured on cover of Easyriders magazine (No. 303 September 1998). Panhead transplanted from his previous bike, Voodoo Chili, into Grease Monkey in 1996/97. Modified Paughco frame. Four-speed transmission. Ceriani front end. Frame and jockey shifter are nickel-plated. Black leather seat by Paul Cox. Rear display, orange oil filter (as with all of Larry’s bikes, the oil filter was mounted behind the transmission to hang near the rear tire). Bike that Larry is shown riding on Motorcycle Mania II program.
Built during Indian Larry’s first appearance on Biker Build-Off (vs. Paul Yaffe) which culminated at the Laconia rally. Bike appeared in the December 2004 issue of Easyriders. Inspired by hot rods with dual carbs to increase fuel/air intake. 88″ motor. Baker 6-speed transmission. Mustang gas tank. Indian Larry twisted Springer front-end. Hand-spoked wheels. Chrome oil filter. Paul Cox hand-tooled, red buffalo hide seat. Large question mark symbol on sissy bar. Shifter knob is white ball with red spirals. Bike a tribute to Ed “Big Daddy” Roth who Larry said was his inspiration to get into the business.
Mr Tiki’s shop Droppings
Tribute to 1960s Tiki culture for Bambi the Mermaid; Constructed for Easyriders Centerfold Tour 2004. Underlying frame consists of steel rings welded to the frame. Name comes from incorporating different parts lying around the shop to keep costs low – “backyard building”. Panhead motor. Dark brown tiki shifter knob. Paul Cox leather seat made to resemble Polynesian weave.
Second Build-Off appearance (vs. Billy Lane at Sturgis). Larry said during the taping of the program that up to that point it was the “best bike” he had “ever-ridden,” and “ever-built” in “his whole life”. Chromed twisted down tube. Shovelhead front cylinder, Panhead rear. Twin carburetors. Baker six-speed transmission. Paul Cox created the concave sides of the gas tank by welding round stock and then hammer dishing it. Inverted Ceriani front end. Billet wheels. Jockey shift knob is white ball with blue spirals. As Larry explained it, “You’re riding out of the 60s, but on 2003 equipment.” Was featured on cover of Easyriders magazine (No. 322, p. 18-22).
Chain of Mystery
Built during Larry’s third and final Biker Build-Off (vs. Mondo from Denver’s Choppers). Was originally started as Larry’s personal bike. Original, innovative frame made from welded tow chain links. Combination Panhead front cylinder – Shovelhead rear cylinder. S&S L Carburetor in front and S&S B Carburetor in rear. Brake rotor laser cut with question marks (also referred to as question crosses). C J Allan engraved parts, including panhead rocker box cover with Indian Larry question marks. Jockey shift knob is a white ball with red spiral. Paul Cox hand-tooled, American cowhide leather seat of cartoon of Indian Larry as the Grease Monkey.
The video below shows the detail of workmanship on Grease Monkey and Chain of Mystery. This was recorded just prior to these bikes going to auction 15 years after Indian Larry’s passing. many people have commented on this video that the Black Cat must have a link to Indian Larry based on the way it reacts while the bikes are being talked about.
A Short But Remarkable Life, A True Legend!
Indian Larry: Chopper Shaman
If you’re looking for more info and insights on the life of Indian Larry, this is a great read.
A stunt man and side show performer made famous by the Discovery Channel, Indian Larry Desmedt is best remembered for his remarkable custom motorcycles, his wild tattoos, and his love for building and riding rolling art.
This book, by those who knew him best, offers a closer look at the life that made Larry into the chopper shaman so many admired.
Not an easy book to find in Australia but it is available to order through Amazon or other online book stores.