The Sunday Social with Indian PR guru Steve Cain

Published: 09 July 2017

What better way to spend a Sunday than for MCN to sit down with a fellow biker for a chinwag about life and bikes, of course.

This week we caught up with Indian Motorcycle's External Relations Manager for the UK and custom bike afficionado Steve Cain.

What's on the menu for brekkie at the bike cafe today?

"Full English with black pudding. No exceptions. The unhealthier the better." 

What are you looking for on a Sunday ride?

"I ride for work everyday so when I'm just riding for pleasure it's probably more about hooking up with the boys and having a bit of a giggle."

How many miles a year do you think you cover?

"That’s a very good question because im hopping on and off different bikes. I would say I average 800 miles a week. It’s gotta be close to 50,000 miles in all weathers. Weather doesn’t bother me, just wear the right kit. The most extreme riding experience I've had was riding a Victory Vision in snow. That was interesting. It was good, though. The bike handled it very well, just drifted gently everywhere. Stunning."

And what's in your pannier/backpack when you're out on a ride?

"Camera. That’s the one thing I have to have with me. Other than that nothing else really matters. Camera and a smartphone to always try and be connected."

You’ve got to make sure you get your Instagram pics.

"Exactly, yea! You’ve got it!"

How's the week been?

"Very busy preparing for DirtQuake which is gonna be great fun."

How many bikes have Indian got there?

"We've got three competitors who've been racing all season; a chap from Spain called Ferran Mas who's leading the UK hooligan series with the DTRA, a Krazy horse mechanic called Curly Porter who's purely in it for the fun, and another Krazy Horse mechanic called Lee Kirkpatrick who takes it a bit more seriously. He just won the Malle Mile on a Paton so he's a proper boy. All the bikes are fully prepared race bikes by Krazy Horse. The mutts nuts.

"We've got another three bikes which are for guest riders for a bit of fun. In the Hooligan race we've got extra guest riders including one from your sister publication Bike. Then we've got a lady racing for us in the ladies race. We also ran in the El Rolo race at Wheels and Waves recently."

How was that?

"Epic, absolutely epic. There's nothing like beautiful people, sunshine, all the cool cats and loads of flat track bikes from every era. Very cool.

"It was a full on, very amateur, flat track race with the oval just scratched into the dirt."

Did you win?

"We came third with Geoff Cain. Ferran crashed on the second corner and pulled the bike up thinking the race would be red flagged, but because it was an amateur race they just told him to keep going."

How are you finding the scene lately? 

"I love all that stuff. I've aways been involved in the custom arena so to see the slighty more lifestyle side of biking coming into the mainstream is really gratifying. Us old farts have become cool. Everyone's engaging with fact that you can get in the shed for a couple of hours and have a tinker with their bikes. It doesn’t matter what they’re riding. It could be a £500 spanner that they’ve just put a bit of love and care into or it could be a £20,000 masterpiece. As long as you’re out there and riding. That’s what it's about and it's nice to see that camaraderie."

Do you think it's here to stay?

"I hope so. I don’t think ever went away, it's always been there through my biking career but perhaps it was just a bit more underground. People got tired of worrying about speed cameras on sportsbikes, and they’ve done the adventure bike thing, you know they've had Chelsea tractors and now they're getting back to the core spirit of biking which I think is where the whole custom fraternity really is based. It’s the core of biking basically."

Have you got any projects on the go?

"I’ve got my ZX-6R which I love but I did have to lowside that."

What happened?

"Just a standard track incident, I ran out of talent and lowsided. That’s languishing in the back of the shed waiting to be turned into a streetfighter as the plastics are knackered. I'm currently working on a 1941 Indian Scout, which is my baby, and a 2014 generation one 69 cubic inch Scout which I'm turning into a fast road Scout. Talon hubs, Excel rims, 17 inch wheels, billet calipers. It will still look like a normal 1200cc Scout from a distance but only when you get up close will you realise it's something a bit different."

What are you doing with the '41 Scout?

"It's a bit of a survivor if that makes sense. I'm not restoring it I'm just making it work so I've taken the original war issue fenders off and put those on the shelf because they have a beautiful patina. I have a 1913 BSA rear fender with exactly the same patina so I chopped that to give it a realy cool post war B-mod bobber kind of look. I'm not bolting anything on just taking bits off as they would have done back in the day to go racing. It's looking pretty cool at the moment, but there's still a way to go. Finding the time is never easy."

What's your background in motorcycling?

"I came from advertising back in the day and then I think people liked my attitude and a couple of people asked me to help out with PR. I did that for a while and then well in love with Victory bikes years ago. At the time I owned another American motorcycle which I loved to bits and I thought 'let's give this young pretender a try'. I loved it and ended up working for them. I've never looked back after that first ride on a Victory Vegas in 2003. It changed my life."

How are Polaris doing now that Victory is no more?

"Well I’d never phrase it like that. We made the very well thought out decision to roll assets, design enginerers and budgets into developing what is a stunning up and coming brand in Indian, and we're doing very well with Indian. It's growing at a pace exceeding our initial estimates and that’s the reason why we made the decision."

What got into biking?
"I've always been into bikes for as long as I can remember. I come from an engineering background, my granddad was a race engineer and from an early age all I ever wanted to do was draw bikes. When I was 10 my granddad presented me with a box of rusty bits and said 'if you really want a motorcycle boy you better build it'. We set the engine up on a test bed to prove that it would run and that was a 50cc Gilera which I used to rally around the fields on and have great fun."

And your first road bike?

"First road bike? Crikey."

If you can remember that far back…

"I’m not that old bro, come on! It was a Suzuki but I can’t quite remember the designation, but it was the X series so I think it was the X1 or something like that."

Not an X7?

"No, it was 50cc so I think an X1. Drop handlebars, racing stripe, the works. They made it go 5mph faster."

Has it always been custom style stuff?

Not at all, after the X1 I had a very questionable road bike which was a Yamaha YZ125 with a lighting kit and an L-plate on it. I obviously had a very friendly MoT inspector. Back in those days you could just about get away with things like that so I used to tear around everywhere in the powerband on knobblies laying down darkies everywhere I went. I don’t think you could get away with it in this day and age.

"It was an accident waiting to happen. The lighting kit consisted of an enduro style front light, enduro style rear light and a battery in a bumbag tied around the handlebars."

Would that have been 6v?

"Yes, so it had no generator. It was purely running total loss on a battery, but I think the MoT criteria was a bit more lax in the very early nineties."

What's the funniest moment you've had on a bike?

"In the early nineties I had a Yamaha XV500 which was the grey import version of  the XV535 Virago. I chopped the back end off and made it look a bit more gnarly and I was coming out of a pub in my hometown – after only having a pint, obviously – and a bride-to-be accosted me and asked for a lift up the road to the next establishment, which I graciously accepted.

"Realising that she was perhaps a little bit heavier than my average pillion I dropped the cutch and proceeded to wheelie all the way about a quarter of a mile up to the next pub. Absolutely epic. Everybody thought I meant to do it. Of course I meant to do it, no question. That was an interesting moment."

And she stayed on?

"And she stayed on! She loved it and she thanked me for it!"

What's the future looking like?

"The future's bright, we're building a positive community in the UK with events rocking out most weekends throughout the summer months and it’s going from strength to strength. Machines are developing at a pace and it’s a very bright future I think."

Is the success in flat track in the US having an impact over here?

"Well flat track isn’t as widely known over here and all we're doing is hooligan racing for fun. There might be a time in the future when the US make the FTR available outside the local market and if they ever do we’ll try and get one over here in the UK.

"At the minute we’re just developing the scene with the standard Scout and getting the best out of the machines we’ve got to offer. That’s good for the consumers because they can see that an everyday product they can buy can be turned into something raw and fun that they can go and race at the weekend. That’s gotta be better at  the end of the day, you know. You can go racing for £15,00 with all the parts and accessories."

What events are left this year?

"We’re building up towards Motorcycle Live. There are still a few cool shows supporting dealers so we will be out on the road upto October and Brightona. Then we go to the indoor shows and if everything goes to plan we will have the hooligan bikes at the MCN London Show in February."

Tell us more about the recent Punks Peak event…

"That was absolutely epic. We have a very cool crew in Switzerland called The Young Guns and they have been working really hard all summer to convert a 12000cc Scout to run on a nitrous package. You’ll have to excuse me not having the exact bhp figure but I think it ran at about 150bhp after the final tune. Then we took it to Punks Peak and it just absolutely smashed it. It just goes to show the Scout platform has the potential to be a very serious tool with a few tweaks."

So is Punks Peak like a DirtQuake version of Pikes Peaks?

"Basically, yes. It’s all about the fun."

On a public road, too?

"Yes. There was a broad field of bikes, and the biggest challenger was a Triumph machine which was stunning but we had a lovely rider called Katja and she got her head dow,n nailed it and pulled ahead. She did file a little bit of exhaust off on the way round which the crowd loved so it was a good event all round.

I don’t know anything about nitrous, so would that be like the Fast and Furious films?

"I’ve been a party to one nitrous build and the ones I’ve seen using a Scout basically have a direct injection so what we did was convert the horn button to be the nitrous actuator and then you have a direct injection which goes into the air filter. So when you get the pull through it draws the nitrous air mixture into the combustion chamber, heats everything up, makes it burn faster, makes it burn more efficiently and then you get yor horsepower boost. I’m sure more skilled engineers will tear me to bits for getting it wrong but that’s my understanding."

Have you ever ridden a bike with nitrous?

"I haven’t yet, but it’s on my list alongside a supercharger. I think a supercharger is further up the list though. I definitely need to tick those boxes. I think supercharging is the way ahead when it comes to bikes."

Why's that?

"Just because of the linear power delivery that's on tap whenever you want it. Unlike a turbo where you have lag you just get linear power. I’m all for supercharging anything that moves whether it be four wheels or two. 

Will you be pushing for a supercharged Indian in the future then?

"I don’t know whether they'd follow that lead but when it comes to a custom bike I'd love to."

Don’t ask don’t get.

"Absolutely."

What are you most excited about in the future of biking and Indian?

"Oh that’s a double header question buddy! When it comes to biking in general I'm just absolutely loving the resurgence in the community feel of biking at moment and for me that’s realy exciting and proves all the naysayers wrong. Hopefully we wil be able to develop a growing scene and hopefully as the roads get more blocked up people will turn to biking as a more viable everyday option rather than just being a leisure pursuit."

And indian?

"There’s so much exciting stuff, but I’m not allowed to talk about it!"

I thought that was coming!

"Yea, just watch this space."

Did you ever get into the Orange County Chopper style?

"All credit to them they put custom biking in front of a mainstream audience. It was good televeision so I've got a lot of respect for anybody who can take something which is seen as slightly left field and turn it into something that creates general interest.

"There was almost a wave where on one side of the fence you had Ewan and Charley doing their round the world trip and then the Orange County guys. Between them I think that crescendo of added interest all hit at the same time which I think had a very positive effect in our industry. I think we’re seeing the benefit of that now."

Yea, still 15 years later adventure bikes are huge.

"Oh yea, adventure bikes are huge. I used to have an R1200GS. Jesus they’re unbelievable pieces of kit. You can do anything on them."

Thanks for your time.

"My pleasure buddy."