Friday, December 4, 2009

Les Clemens...One of my heros!

1984 Wall Stadium Swap meet

Les and Helga in VA

Les putting Jake on every bike in the garage

That bobbed chief on the right was the coolest!
The gas and oil caps had "Gin" "Vodka" and "Whiskey" written on them!

Jake on the 39 Chief

Jake with a Four

Jake on the 47 Chief

Les caught riding a Harley Pine Grove Farm NY state 1985ish

The summer of 1983 I met a guy that I am honored to have called my friend. Les Clemens was an Indian rider and his wife Helga rode Harleys.
I attended my first AMCA meet that year. Me and my buddy Barry arrived at the Electric City Riders Club house and grounds in Schenectady NY looking for a frame for the 47 Knuckle engine I bought earlier that Spring (my first Knuckle). We parked my grandfather's Cadillac that he loaned us for the weekend (big mistake!) and headed toward the swap meet area. The first person I saw was this "old guy" (probably in his early fifties at the time) who was wearing a worn leather MC jacket, engineer boots and cuffed Levis. He gave us two kids (just turned 20) a nod as we walked by. We looked at each other and I commented to Barry, "Pretty cool for and old guy".
Well that "old guy" was Les Clemens. He became a good friend over the next decade. He lived in Farmingdale NJ and we would get together at all the meets and Colonial Chapter events. I would go down to his place and drink brandy and work on stuff. He was a great welder and a better friend!
Les had a basement and shop filled with Indian's and parts. He had a mountain of engines piled up in the middle of his basement There were a few Harleys around for Helga. A 47 knuck a 45 WL a VL, etc.
I used to hang out and look through his photo albums...unfriggin' real! All pictures from the 40's and early 50's from his home state of California as well as NJ. I think every picture had a motorcycle in it.
Les was at Hollister in 1947. How much better can it get!
He would have brandy bottles stashed all over the shop. In old cylinders, empty engine cases, you name it. Even in my twenties he could drink me under the table and get up at 6 AM to chop wood (while I puked my guts up!). He'd say "Come on Young Fella, grab that sledge hammer and wedge and lets get started".
Les moved down to Virginia and I helped him empty his basement into a tractor trailer. Holy shit! He had a lot heavy stuff! He got pissed at me for picking up an old chief bottom end by the connecting rods. "Hey be careful with that Young Fella!" he was gonna pop a top end on it and ride down the road! (I've never picked up a bottom end that way since).
I have a bunch of stories about Les. He was the best. I can't remember when he passed away...probably over ten years now.
The pictures above (in the middle) were taken at his house in Virginia in August of 1990. My wife at the time and first two sons took a ride down to see Les and Helga and two other friends (John and Bonnie) that moved down that way. Les put my oldest son (who was about 20 months old at the time) on every motorcycle in the garage. He really got a kick out of it (Les that is).
The top pic is of two of Les and Helga's bikes (His Chief and her Knuckle) at the Wall Stadium meet in 1984.
The bottom pic is Les trying to hide his face because I caught him riding my friend Bonnie's Harley (an Indian man through and through!). That shot was in the mid 80's at Pine Grove Farm in NY state (another AMCA meet).

Original guys like Les are few and far between these days...I miss them.


  1. Great story :-) Have had simmilar experiences as young lad when I first got into motorbikes. Its not until getting older myself I realize how much those guys did influate on what I have become. Unfortunately I didnt use the camera much back then.

    Glad to see you uppdated your blog as I apprechiate it!


  2. this is a great story. wonder if that why i surround myself with the older guys, they sure do know a lot.... happy holidays :)

  3. Give us more Les stories as you remember 'em...

    Good stuff. Sounds like a real character.

  4. In fact (editor's hat on) ... how cool would it be to have a first hand Hollister story, with photos? Wow.