The Big Brothers Big Sisters of Yorkton and Area annual Show ‘n’ Shine brought out a wide range of vintage metal. One of the big hits of the show was a 1928 Henderson motorcycle, owned by Tony Medernach.
While the bike looks like new now, when Medernach found it twelve years ago, it was entirely in boxes.
“What I got from the original guy was about 60-70 per cent of the bike. The rest of it I had to find. The motor I got with it was no good, somebody had welded it, and pulled the engine out of line... So I found another set of cases, $7,500 worth!”
Putting the bike back together took ten years, and about $40,000, with a large amount of that money going to getting an engine. Very few people can still work on a bike this old, Medernach said, with special tools and knowledge required.
The main challenge of working on a bike this old is finding parts, and Medernach pointed out that some parts simply don’t exist anymore. One example is the oil gauge. The part for his bike doesn’t match, because they were made for one year and no matter where he searched, he just couldn’t find one.
“Their production was pretty low, and most of it went to police work.”
The reputation at the time was for speed, and police on Hendersons could catch pretty much anybody, Medernach said. And they had a challenge too, because they were driving on dirt, rather than modern paced roads.
The bike is theoretically capable of hitting 100 miles per hour, but the real limit is the bravery of the rider, and Medernach admits that he hasn’t attempted to see just how fast his can go. He admits when you go this old, bravery is required.
“You’ve got no brake lights, you’ve got no signals, nothing!”
However, there are advantages to being built for a much rougher time and place. Driving it today, Medernach said it’s incredibly smooth on modern roads.
Henderson was well ahead of their time, especially in terms of engine design, and many features are shared with modern bikes. But it’s still from 1928, before everything was standardized, and when it comes to controls the bike would be a bit of a challenge to someone used to a modern machine. Most of the controls are hand controls on the left hand side, for example.
“It looks a bit more like a tractor than a motorbike when you look at it!”
While the company is still around in the form of Schwinn, there’s a reason you haven’t heard of Henderson. Like many companies, the Great Depression spelled the end of Schwinn’s motorcycle division. Even if they weren’t around for very long, Medernach said they had a strong legacy, so their products are still sought after.
“A Henderson, what is a Henderson? Well, they started building four cylinders in 1912, they went around the world in 1912,” said Medernach.
Medernach has restored four bikes over the years, and his other one that he currently owns is a 1911 Harley-Davidson.
All money raised at the Show ‘n’ Shine went to support programming from Big Brothers Big Sisters of Yorkton and Area.