Jacob De Rosier is considered one of the greatest motorcycle racing champions of the 20th century.Sponsored by Indian Motorcycle and later Excelsior, De Rosier was the fastest rider in the U.S in the early 1900’s.
Born in Quebec in 1880, he moved with his family to the U.S. when he was four. Facinated with motorocycles, De Rosier persuaded Frenchman Henri Fournier, who brought the first bicycle pacing machines to the U.S., to let him ride one of the motor pacers. Impressed with his natural ability, Fournier hired him to ride the machine in the Paris races and thus started De Rosier’s professional career.
While becoming one of the best pacing riders in the world, he met Indian co-founder, Oscar Hedstrom, which later led to De Rosier’s long relationship with Indian Motorcycles. He raced Indian Motorcycle machines in the endurance runs and bicycle velodrome track races becoming the top rider at the 1908 Federation ofAmerican Motorcyclists (FAM). This led to a full-time racing contract with Indian and from that point forward, he won races nearly every weekend earning most of his victories on the newly built Los Angeles Motordome in the 100-mile record trials. De Rosier’s popularity was so great that track promoter and builder, Jack Prince, hired him to race at the opening of many of the board tracks being built across the country.
In an amazing show of dominance De Rosier held every FAM speed record for professional riders by the end of 1911 forcing hhim to search out new challenges.He travelled to Great Britain and became the first American rider to compete in the Isle of Man TT setting the fastest qualifiying speed and finishing an amazing 12th only to be disqualified for outside assistance. After leading the first lap, he began losing his tools and spares on the rough course and was forced to borrow a spark plug to complete the race after crashing out. But the loss was minor as De Rosier won the hearts of British motoracing fans who adored his magnetic style.
On March 12, 1912, while racing for Excelsior, De Rosier sustained serious injuries in a match race at the Los Angeles Motordrome. De Rosier rallied after an operation on his severly broken leg, but he never fully recovered. He returned to home to Massachusetts for a third operation , but died of complications on February 25, 1913, at the age of 33.Hundreds attended his funeral and Indian flew flags at half-mast and ceased production for five minutes tohonour the greatly loved motorcycle racer.
De Rosier won nearly 900 races during his racing career and was considered one of the most daring racers of his era. He raced everything from the early single-cylinder motor bicycles to the full-fledged motorcycles capable of triple-digit speeds.The motorcycle magazines of the time call him the most famous racer the sport had ever known.
Image via Defunct Speedway Tracks