Original Indian Wrecking Crew member and AMA Hall of Famer Bill Tuman died on November 16, 2020 in Bettendorf, Iowa. He was 99 years old, and leaves behind family and friends who loved him, as well as the indelible mark he left on motorcycle racing history.
Tuman started in flat track racing in the 1940s, and had a successful professional racing career from 1947 through 1955. Over that time, he won five AMA Grand National championships, and earned the nicknames “Rockford Rocket” and “Bullet Bill.”
When the original incarnation of Indian Motorcycle was struggling, the Wrecking Crew was leaving its competition in the dust. Between the years of 1950 and 1953, Bill Tuman, Ernie Beckman, and Bobby Hill just kept chalking up the wins. Eventually, the three Indian Motorcycle factory riders had a total of 14 AMA National wins between them.
All racers have different personalities, and Tuman was the type of guy that other racers went to if they were having problems with their bikes. He was both a helper and a problem-solver—and he also knew what he was doing. This approach earned him the title of “Most Popular Rider” in the paddock in 1950, because he was just that kind of person.
When the modern incarnation of Indian Motorcycle introduced the FTR750 at Sturgis in 2016, both Tuman and Hill were in attendance (Beckman died several years prior). In 2019, friends and family worked together to reunite Tuman with his original Big Base Scout race bike, which bears the name “Tuman” as its serial number. It lives full time in a collection in Australia, but Tuman got to sit on it one last time, at age 98.
Tuman is survived by friends and family, including numerous grandchildren and great-grandchildren. The family plans to hold a celebration of his life at a later date, to be determined. We at RideApart send our condolences to all the family, friends, and people who loved and were inspired by him.