Roland Free

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18 Nov 1900
Chicago, Illinois


11 Oct 1980
Los Angeles, California


United States

Indy 500s:

2 (1930-1948)

Ran a gas station for years. A motorcycle racer in the 1920's and 1930's, he set the American motorcycle one-mile speed record in 1948, riding a British bike, the Vincent HRD Black Shadow, at 150.313 miles per hour on Bonneville Salt Flats, in Utah. To help break the record, Rollie stripped virtually naked, wearing only tight-fitting swimming trunks, laying flat on the bike to help reduce wind resistance, an image that became iconic in American motorcycle history. Rollie started riding motorcycles in 1913, then became a motorcycle salesman in Kansas City. In his spare time, he tried many speed records, as well as races on both tracks and long-distance road races. Free became a dealer of the Indian motorcycles in Indianapolis in 1927. Always a bike man, his stature as a fast racer led to a drive coming about for Indianapolis on four wheels, which he tried out, but racing on four wheels was never a serious career. During World War II, Free entered the Air Force and was stationed at Hill Field in Utah, which helped introduce Free to the Bonneville Salt Flats. Until his death, Free became a spokesman and after-dinner speaker on motorcycles, attending many historic and contemporary events.

Biography last updated 2 Jul 2017