From Indiana Farmland to the Wild West

Exploring the Wild West: The Motorcycle Legacy of John Binkerd

John Binkerd, born in March 1904 on a farm in Butler Township, Miami County, Indiana, was captivated by the allure of the Wild West from an early age. Inspired by tales of American ranchers and cowboys, he embarked on a journey that would leave a lasting legacy for generations to come.

Early Years and First Motorcycle

From the rumble of passing trains to the wind in his hair as he rode freely, John became the first in his family to own a motorcycle, sparking a tradition that would span generations of Binkerds.

Venturing West

After a brief stint at Purdue University, John realized that college wasn’t his path. Drawn by his fascination with the West, he embarked on a journey to explore America, particularly the vast expanses of the American West. Traveling by freight train, he ventured to farmlands out West whenever he could break from the duties on his father’s farm. His grandson Chuck Binkerd fondly recalls, “I learned how to safely hop on trains and protect my money while sleeping from my grandpa.”

Making friends with ranchers and farmers, Binkerd continued to journey West by rail for years, working on farms and as a thresher, separating grain from plants. Chuck Binkerd shared, “We found a ledger from El Paso that proves he spent enough time there to need a bank account.”

Motorcycle Adventures

In 1927, John realized his dream of owning an Indian Motorcycle from Carter’s Motorcycle Shop, where James Dean also made his first motorcycle purchase. Despite encountering his first wreck on a solo ride to Delphi, he pressed on, traveling as far as the Yowaka River bridge in Colorado, where he paused for a memorable photo with a hitchhiker he met along the way.

Family and Legacy

John’s travels took him through Utah, Montana, and Texas, where he made regular visits on his bike, working on farms and embracing the nomadic lifestyle. After a tragic accident in Pocatello, Idaho, John retired from his travels, settling down to work on farms in the West.

He married a neighboring farmer and had three sons, all of whom inherited his love for motorcycles. His grandson, Chuck Binkerd, fondly remembers his dad’s 1957 Indian Chieftain and the spirited races between his uncles and father on county road 124. Today, Chuck continues the tradition, riding a Yamaha Venture, and cherishing the memories of his grandfather’s adventures. He and his brother have even embarked on their own journey out West, following in their grandfather’s tire tracks.

Preserving the Legacy

John Binkerds story is a testament to the spirit of adventure and the enduring legacy of motorcycle enthusiasts. By preserving stories like his, we ensure that the rich history of motorcycling lives on, inspiring future generations of riders.

Preserving Indiana’s Motorcycle History

Stories like this remind us of the importance of preserving motorcycle history and the journey of those who came before us. By preserving images, memorabilia, and stories, we ensure that the legacy of Indiana’s motorcycle history lives on, inspiring future generations of motorcyclists.

Share Your Story

As a historical society, we also focus on research. Do you have a story to share about motorcycling or motorcycle racing in Indiana? We are collecting motorcycle photos, memorabilia, and stories throughout the state of Indiana to share on our website, social media, and annual event. Email, or call (765) 268-0535.

Call for Support

Donations can be made online through PayPal or to our endowment through the Community Foundation of Grant County.

Thank You!

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